Andrew Marble and Gen. John Shalikashvili

Shalikashvili and his biographer, four months before the general's passing. (March 2011)

The first-ever biography of a remarkably unconventional “riches to rags and then back to riches” American success story: how a European prince-turned-

stateless-penniless-WWII refugee became the highest-ranking officer in the world's most powerful military by developing an unusual personal philosophy toward human interaction.

How did a stateless European WWII refugee become the 13th chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff (1993-97), America's top general and principal military advisor to the president?

Andrew Marble's biography answers this question through lively character study. It first brings to life how the Poland-born John Shalikashvili (1936-2011) actually descended from aristocratic European bloodlines that served with distinction in both battle and government for centuries. Yet during WWII, after barely surviving the Warsaw Uprising, his family fled to Germany to live off the charity of relatives. Sheer luck then brought them to Peoria, Illinois, where he was drafted in the Army, and would face both golden opportunities and punishing obstacles.

Boy on the Bridge illuminates the ways Shalikashvili's Old and New World experiences would combine to create an unconventional leadership style—one based on expertise, humility, straightforwardness, empathy, and collaboration. This softer approach to human interaction surprisingly made him adept at resolving and especially preventing destructive conflict, thereby moving him steadily up the ranks.

By perfecting this leadership style, Shalikashvili was able to play a central role in guiding the US, Europe, and beyond safely through the chaos of the immediate post–Cold War world. Like how, while representing Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Colin Powell, he helped secure “loose nukes” in the former Soviet republics. Or how as a four star serving first as NATO's top military leader and then as the Joint Chiefs chairman himself,

"He's a quiet, decent man and a very hard worker. There is a mistaken notion that you have to have Pattonesque qualities to be a great general. You don't need to rant or rave or be arrogant jerk to be successful. 'Shali' showed that."

- Gen. Colin Powell

on his successor as chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff

Univ. Press of Kentucky

Assoc. of the US Army

American Warriors Series

ISBN 978-0-8131-7802-8

366 pages

Pubdate: 10/15/2019  

6 x 9  

42 b&w photos

2 maps, 1 figure

for the latest on the biography and the author


American Warrior Series

Boy on the Bridge: The Story of John Shalikashvili's American Success



Boy on the Bridge: The Story of John Shalikashvili's American Success

Press Release

Boy on the Bridge Q&A

"This impressively informative, meticulously researched, expertly organized and presented biography is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library American Military Biography collections."

- Midwest Book Review

" ...  a must read for anyone who wants to be a better leader, regardless of the type of organization. And, those who enjoy reading biographies won’t want to miss this one.

Adding to the readability of this biography is Marble’s mastery in putting the reader in the scene without manufacturing a character’s thoughts.

- US Navy Capt. (ret)

Diane Diekman

Internet Review of Books

"Boy on the Bridge ... is not a standard, cradle-to-grave biography. Instead, author Andrew Marble has come up with something much better: a deeply researched, well-written “investigation,” as he writes, “into how an unlikely American success story was made” and “how an unconventional and complex man came to be.”

... In spinning out Gen. Shali’s fascinating and eventful life story, Marble jumps back and forth in time, and concentrates less on dates, times, and places than on illuminating characters, including his Russian and Polish ancestors and Colin Powell."

- Marc Leepson

VVA Veteran magazine

"Because Marble has chosen to avoid the standard military biography, some readers may object to the lack of detail on strictly military matters. But the lack of “drums and bugles” is exactly why this biography work so well. It very effectively places the man in the context of this time without getting lost in the activities of that time."

- Dr. Michael Lynch

Army War College

"How [Shalikashvili] rose to become such a powerful force in the U.S. military while somehow maintaining his humility and nice-guy status is the focus of this highly readable book, and Marble, who clearly spent thousands of hours researching his subject, makes the journey suspenseful and fun."

- Fletcher School

of Law and Diplomacy

"I never thought that I would live to see such a complete, sensitive, and expert a biography of Shali as Andrew Marble's "Boy on the Bridge." ... It is a great biography for sure, but also a psychological study, a great piece of research which explores a very private man ...   I will not reveal the plot twists here, but the reader will be surprised at a dozen places in this superbly crafted volume. In the end, you will come away with a great appreciation of this humble but expert general, his talented biographer, and the soldiers he looked out for and commanded with such great success.  "

- Col. (ret) Joe Collins, Phd

Former CJCS speechwriter and NDU professor

Shalikashvili played a central role in the Clinton administration's Partnership for Peace initiative and NATO enlargement program of the 1990s.

Written in an engaging narrative-non-fiction style that keeps names, dates, and jargon to a minimum and creatively uses flashbacks and jumpforwards to make important causal connections, this biography seeks first and foremost to “show” who he was, not “tell.” And given Shalikashvili was notoriously tight-lipped, it relies heavily on others to do the showing. By portraying the thoughts and actions of his parents, grandmother, and great aunt under the stress of wartime, for instance, it captures how genes, upbringing, and childhood experiences influenced his rise up the ranks.

The multiple Old and New World story lines that appear at different places throughout the book are drawn inexorably together at book's end. There, through a series of unexpected revelations that emerge around Shalikashvili's confirmation for the post, readers will discover the deepest motivators--both benevolent and malevolent--that spurred John Shalikashvili's underdog American success: becoming the first immigrant, first draftee, and first Officer Candidate School graduate to serve as chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.


" Andrew Marble’s thoroughly researched and exquisitely crafted biography of former Army general and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili, is an excellent example of a biography that tells a compelling story and offers the reader a window into the surprising life of an American success story."

- Joint Force Quarterly




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