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ALFRED DODD STARBIRD 1912-1983 BY JOHN S . FOSTER ALFRED DODD STARBIRD retired army lieutenant general and authority on nuclear weaponry and military communi- cations systems, cried of cancer on July 28, 1983. Throughout his career of public service, which spanned nearly fifty years, Docicl Starbird exemplified the ideal of a leader with his highly developer! management and leadership skills and his devotion to duty. Dodd Starbird's achievements as an athlete, soldier, engi- neer, and government adviser are well documentecI. Yet, it is his expertise as a manager, a skill often overIookec] in stan- clard biographies, that ctistinguishe(1 him from many other military and civilian leaders. He was in many respects the ultimate manager one who possessed the ability to organize and control the most complex projects and, equally impor- tant, to elicit the best from those who worked with him. His leaclership skills were forged at the U.S. Military Acad- emy at West Point. Upon graduation from West Point in 1933, Dodd Starbird was commissioned as a second lieuten- ant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In 1937 he re- ceived an M.S. in civil engineering from Princeton Univer- sity. This engineering background enabled him to analyze difficult situations and to formulate carefully considered so- lutions. Similarly, his prowess as an athletehe was a mem- ber of the U.S. pentathlon team that won a gold medal in the 317
318 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES 1936 Olympic games afforded him the stamina he would need cluring long, grueling hours spent on critical national security projects. During World War Il. Dodd Starbird proved to be an able combat officer. He server! on temporary cluty with the First Division Staff of the U.S. Army during its landings in North Africa and with the Fifth Corps during its landings ancI early operations in Normandy. He commandecI a Third Army en- gineer combat group from January through June 1945, and then returned to the War Department General Staff. It was cluring the postwar years, however, that Dodc! Star- birct's managerial skills were expanded. In 1949, for ex- ample, he playecI a key role in Sandstone, the first technically significant nuclear test at Eniwetok Atoll. After various as- signments in the Pacific and Europe and two years in the Office of the Chief of Engineers, General Starbird was named (Erector of military applications of the Atomic En- ergy Commission, a position he held from 1955 to 1961. His leaclership helpect accelerate atomic weapons development, which then introclucecl a new American nuclear deterrent capability. Those who worked with Dodc! Starbird in his various roles during the 1950s characterized him as a careful, precise per- son who worked extremely hard to unclerstand all aspects of a problem. Said one former colleague: "He was a great man- ager because he not only understood what the scientific anct technical people were trying to do, but he also thought up practical ways to help." Under Dodd Starbir(l's supervision, outstanding progress was made in transferring nuclear fission and fusion ~level- opment from research to military applications. Yet of equal importance was his work in developing Atomic Energy Com- mission positions on U.S. disarmament proposals to control nuclear weaponry. Dodd Starbircl's effectiveness was reflected in the way he went about his job. He examined each problem in painstak-
ALFRED DODD STARBIRD 319 ing cletail, with the result that he understood all of the key issues thoroughly before making a decision. This macle it possible for program managers to clo their jobs with the ut- most effectiveness. A strong "people" manager, the general took a personal interest in those who worked for him anc! strove to gain their unclerstancting and support for the task at hand. He was neither overly critical nor clict he engage in second-guessing. InsteacI, he secured sufficient information to provide constructive solutions for even the most highly · . . sensltlve projects. Above all, Doubt Starbirc! was a tireless worker. With a spirit of equanimity and good humor, he developed massive advisory reports on many complex technical and political is- sues, most of which were requested on extremely short no- tice. Moreover, despite his total cleclication to national secu- rity, he still found time to go skiing with his wife, Evelyn Wallington Starbirct, and their three children, as well as to pursue one of his favorite pastimes, long-clistance running. In 1961 the general was placed in command of the U.S. Army North Pacific Division supervising a large construction project in Portland, Oregon. In the fall of that year, the So- viets resumed nuclear atmospheric testing, and the Depart- ment of Defense called on General Starbird to leave his po- sition at the North Pacific Division to plan, mobilize, and command the Joint Task Force Eight for Operation Dominic, the final nuclear tests in the Pacific. He accepted without hesitation and accomplished the nec- essary preparations in an unprecedentedly short time to en- sure that the 1962 atmospheric testing program was success- ful. The task force's work hac! barely ended in 1962 when Docld Starbircl was appointed director of the Defense Com- munications Agency, which oversaw all of the command-and- contro} operations for the Department of Defense. During the Vietnam War, General Starbird served as direc- tor of the Defense Communications Planning Group, a cover name for the organization that pioneered the development
320 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES and deployment of the "McNamara Barrier" program. This program used aerial and unattended grounct sensors to de- tect Viet Cong troop movements and systems to contend with the targets identified. In 1967 General Starbird became manager of the Sentinel (later Safeguard) antiballistic missile (ABM) system, a posi- tion he held until his retirement in 1971. Under his leader- ship, this system was successfully tested at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California by the firing of intercontinental bal- listic missiles that were located at radar/missile installations on Kwajalein Island in the Pacific. The system was being de- ployed in the United States to protect U.S. Minuteman mis- sile fields near Grand Forks, North Dakota. Following the ABM treaty in 1972, however, the United States terminated all deployment of its ballistic missile defense system. Although Dodd Starbird's thirty-eight years of commis- sioned military service ended in 1971, his service to the United States continued. He was named clirector of the newly creates! Department of Defense Office of Test and Evaluation, and in 1975 President Forc] appointed him as- sistant administrator for national security in the Energy Re- search ant] Development Administration. When this organi- zation was integrated into the new Department of Energy in 1977, President Carter named him acting assistant secretary for defense programs. In 1980 Dodd Starbird finally retired from government service, forty-seven years after pinning on his second lieuten- ant's bars. Any one of the many positions he held during his last two decades in public life wouIct have been a fitting cap- stone to a brilliant career. Yet to a man so dedicated to public service, each assignment represented another opportunity to serve his country. As one of the U.S. Army's most outstanding engineers, General Starbird received many honors, including four Dis- tinguished Service Medals, two Legion of Merit Awards, two Bronze Stars, commendations from the Atomic Energy Commission, and election to the National Academy of Engi-
ALFRED DODD STARBIRD 321 peering in 1973. But perhaps his greatest achievement was earning the respect of his military ant! civilian colleagues and subordinates. Alfrecl Dotld Starbird general, engineer, manager, and leader was one of the finest citizens America has proclucecl. As the West Point Society said when presenting him with the prestigious Ben Castle Award for outstanding service to his country, "He was a man for all seasons, and for all tasks."