Shinseki, Eric Ken, 1942-

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Eric Ken Shinseki (born November 28, 1942) is a retired United States Army general who served as the seventh United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs (2009–2014). His final United States Army post was as the 34th Chief of Staff of the Army (1999–2003). Shinseki is a veteran of two tours of combat in the Vietnam War, in which he was awarded three Bronze Star Medals for valor and two Purple Hearts. He was the first Asian-American four-star general, and the first Asian-American Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Shinseki was born in Lihue, Kauaʻi, in the then Territory of Hawaii, to an American family of Japanese ancestry. His grandparents emigrated from Hiroshima to Hawaii in 1901. He grew up in a sugarcane plantation community on Kaua'i and graduated from Kaua'i High and Intermediate School in 1960. While attending Kaua'i he was active in the Boy Scouts and served as class president. As a boy, Shinseki learned that three of his uncles had served in the 442nd Infantry Regiment, a unit of Japanese Americans that became one of the most decorated fighting units in United States history. Motivated by his uncles' example, he attended the United States Military Academy and graduated in 1965 with a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as a second lieutenant. He earned a Master of Arts degree in English Literature from Duke University. He was also educated at the Armor Officer Advanced Course, the United States Army Command and General Staff College, and the National War College of National Defense University.

Shinseki served in a variety of command and staff assignments in the Continental United States and overseas, including two combat tours with the 9th and 25th Infantry Divisions in the Republic of Vietnam as an artillery forward observer and as commander of Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry Regiment during the Vietnam War. During one of those tours while serving as a forward artillery observer, he stepped on a land mine, which blew the front off one of his feet; after spending almost a year recovering from his injuries, he returned to active duty in 1971.

Shinseki has served at Schofield Barracks, Hawai'i with Headquarters, United States Army Hawaii, and Fort Shafter with Headquarters, United States Army Pacific. He has taught at the U.S. Military Academy's Department of English. During duty with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Bliss, Texas, he served as the regimental adjutant and as the executive officer of its 1st Squadron.

Shinseki's ten-plus years of service in Europe included assignments as Commander, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, 3rd Infantry Division (Schweinfurt); Commander, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division (Kitzingen); Assistant Chief of Staff, G3, 3rd Infantry Division (Operations, Plans and Training) (Würzburg); and Assistant Division Commander for Maneuver, 3rd Infantry Division (Schweinfurt). The 3rd Division was organized at that time as a heavy mechanized division. He also served as Assistant Chief of Staff, G3 (Operations, Plans, and Training), VII Corps (Stuttgart). Shinseki served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Support, Allied Land Forces Southern Europe (Verona), an element of the Allied Forces Southern Europe.

From March 1994 to July 1995, Shinseki commanded the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. In July 1996, he was promoted to lieutenant general and became Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, United States Army. In June 1997, Shinseki was appointed to the rank of general before assuming duties as Commanding General, Seventh United States Army; Commander, Allied Land Forces Central Europe; and Commander, NATO Stabilization Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Shinseki became the Army's 28th Vice Chief of Staff on November 24, 1998, then became its 34th Chief of Staff on June 22, 1999. Shinseki retired on June 11, 2003 at the end of his four-year term. His Farewell Memo contained some of his ideas regarding the future of the military. At that time, General Shinseki retired from the Army after 38 years of military service.

As of 2009, Shinseki was the highest-ranked Asian American in the history of the United States. Additionally, as of 2004, he is the highest-ranked Japanese American to have served in the United States Armed Forces.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Shinseki, Eric K. (Eric Ken), 1942-. Eric K. Shinseki collection, 1985-2003 (bulk 1997-2003). U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center
referencedIn Killebrew, Robert B., 1943-. Robert Killebrew papers, 1998-2003. U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Caldera, Louis. person
associatedWith Duehring, Craig William. person
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Duke University corporateBody
associatedWith Keane, John, 1954- person
associatedWith Killebrew, Robert B., 1943- person
associatedWith Myers, Richard B., 1942- person
associatedWith Pace, Peter. person
associatedWith Reimer, Dennis J. (Dennis Joe), 1939- person
associatedWith Shelton, Henry H. person
associatedWith United States. Army. Cavalry Regiment, 3rd corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Army. Corps, VII. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Army. Infantry Division, 25th. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Army. Infantry Division, 3rd corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Dept. of the Army. General Staff. corporateBody
alumnusOrAlumnaOf United States Military Academy corporateBody
associatedWith White, Thomas E., 1943- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Līhu'e (Hawaii) HI US
Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Cold War
Persian Gulf War, 1991
September 11 Terrorist Attacks, 2001
Army officers
Cabinet officers


Birth 1942-11-28






Ark ID: w69q3qwb

SNAC ID: 84210436