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Bernard "Burn" Loeffke in 1989, while serving as commanding general of the United States Army South

Bernard "Burn" Loeffke is a retired major general of the United States Army. He fought and was wounded in the Vietnam War and later served as the commanding general of U.S. Army South. He was awarded four Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart. In the 1980s, he was the first American general to serve in the U.S. embassy in Beijing, as defense attache. He wrote the book China, Our Enemy?, which espouses peaceful relations between the U.S. and China.

Biography

Loeffke graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1957. He has a B.S. in Engineering, an M.A. in Russian Language and Soviet Area Studies, and a Ph.D. in International Relations. He taught Russian at the U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Foreign Policy at Georgetown University.[1]

Loeffke was an Army Ranger and a pilot.[2] He commanded Special Forces, an Infantry battalion, and was a paratroop advisor to Vietnamese units during the Vietnam War.[1] He was wounded in Vietnam by Chinese and Vietnamese troops, and received four Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart.[3]

While serving as a junior officer in Vietnam, Loeffke said he was forever changed by the combat death of one of his soldiers, Sergeant Larry Morford. Morford opposed the war, but explained to Loeffke that even during a time of the draft, when his unit was predominantly draftees, he chose to volunteer to be a soldier because "war is a beastly job and the least beastly of us should be doing it."[1] Loeffke dedicated the Friendship Fund at West Point in Morford's honor to inspire cadets to increase their understanding of Russian and Chinese relations. He likened Morford to Chinese corporal Lei Feng, a national icon in China who symbolizes selfless service.[1] During the war, a total of 34 soldiers died under his command and 200 were wounded.[3]

Loeffke giving a speech at Fort Benning in 2016

After the Vietnam War, he served as the Army Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, a staff officer in the White House, and Director of the Commission on White House Fellows.[1] He visited China for the first time in 1973, and befriended the Chinese general Xu Xin, who had been wounded by American fire during the Korean War. In 1982, Loeffke became the first American general to serve in the U.S. embassy in Beijing, as defense attache. He learned to speak Mandarin in the following three years.[3] His experience in China changed his views about the country, and he began to advocate for the U.S. to treat China as a friend rather than an enemy.[3] In 2012, he published the book China, Our Enemy?, which recounts his 40 years of experiences with China and espouses peaceful relations between the two countries.[4]

Loeffke culminated his military career as the commanding general of U.S. Army South.[1] In 1992, he retired from the military and started his medical career. After finishing his studies as a physician's assistant in 1997, he participated in medical missions in war-torn or impoverished areas such as Bosnia, Haiti, Kenya, Iraq, Niger, Darfur and the Amazon jungles. In his view, differing nations perceive and value things differently, and one common language that everyone speaks is health; working to improve the health of a population builds lasting friendships and allies, not enemies.[1]

References

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army.

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).
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