John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks Upon Presenting the Distinguished Service Medal to Gen. Lauris Norstad

January 09, 1963

It is a great pleasure to welcome you all to the White House to participate in this ceremony honoring General Norstad again for his service to our country.

He is overburdened on his left breast, but I know of no one to whom the people of the United States owe more in the last 5 or 6 years in the field of our national security.

General Norstad held two positions of great importance, and also great sensitivity. On the one hand he was Commander of our forces, the American Forces, in Europe, and therefore was responsible to the Department of Defense and to the President of the United States as Commander in Chief. He was also the Commander of the NATO forces, of which we are one-fifteenth, so that in that sense he was one-fifteenth American.

He was able to combine these two very sensitive tasks, and important tasks, with the greatest of skill. He held the confidence as a distinguished successor to other great proconsuls who represented the West and held command. Beginning with General Eisenhower, General Gruenther, who is here today, and General Norstad--all were men who held the confidence of their own colleagues in the Armed Forces of the United States, but also in a very unique way held the confidence of our allies in Europe and, of course, our partner to the North, Canada.

Alliances are difficult to hold together. Communities of interest--unless there is great, overt danger from the outside, communities of interest are liable to split them apart. We have therefore been very dependent upon the maintenance of this alliance, for such a long period with such a success, on General Norstad and his predecessors.

I have been the beneficiary during several very critical periods of General Norstad's very excellent, careful, and courageous counsel. I remember particularly during the spring, some months ago, when we had particular problems involved with the security of Berlin. I found over a period of 2 to 3 weeks that his judgment in every case was borne out by events, and was unerring, so that I have particular reason to regret his departure. But I am heartened by the fact that he will be available, I am sure, in the coming months and, indeed, throughout his life, to be of service to the United States Government, and we will call upon him.

General, we are glad to have you here today to take part in this. Perhaps the Secretary would read the citation.

Note: The presentation ceremony was held at 12:45 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. Following the reading of the citation by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, General Norstad responded briefly. The text of his remarks was also released.

General Norstad served as Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, from November 20, 1956, through January 1, 1963, and as Commander in Chief, U.S. European Command, from November 20, 1956, through October 31, 1962.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks Upon Presenting the Distinguished Service Medal to Gen. Lauris Norstad Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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