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In Memoriam: Brig Gen Walter Jajko USAF, Ret., IWP Professor

General Walter JajkoLongtime IWP Professor Brigadier General Walter Jajko USAF, Ret., a statesman, strategist, and scholar of unwavering principle and indomitable character, died this weekend after a long illness.

Born the first son of a Polish immigrant family, General Jajko served his country in a distinguished 29-year career in the United States Air Force, as well as for over two decades as a civilian official at the highest levels of government. At The Institute of World Politics, he taught a course entitled “Military Strategy: An Overview of the Theorists of Warfare,” which serves as a critical component of the school’s programs in national security affairs. A dedicated and conscientious teacher, even in the middle of his illness, he hoped to return to his classroom at IWP.  In the last day of his life, his thoughts were with his students and ensuring that their class would continue without interruption.*

General Jajko graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania and later earned a graduate degree and certificate from the East European and Russian Institutes at Columbia University. He did additional post-graduate study at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. He was also a graduate of the Armed Forces Staff College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

During General Jajko’s Air Force career, he served in fighter, reconnaissance, bomber, airlift, special operations, and intelligence units in Southeast Asia, North Africa, and elsewhere. His staff appointments included service as a strategic planner in the Concepts, Strategy, Doctrine Branch of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans and Operations, HQ USAF; as a strategy analyst in the Directorate of Soviet Affairs and a Warsaw Pact analyst in the Estimates Directorate, Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, HQ USAF; as a long range planner for the Secretary of the Air Force; and as Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff, Programs and Resources, HQ USAF.

Following his retirement from active duty, General Jajko served as Director of the Special Advisory Staff in the Office of the Secretary of Defense; as Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Oversight (where he was in charge of oversight of all the intelligence services within the Department of Defense); as Acting Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Support (where he served as the most senior intelligence policy official in the DoD); and as Manager of a Presidential program. While occupying these positions, he was in charge of DoD covert action and DoD support of CIA covert action, wrote DoD’s first public diplomacy doctrine, and rewrote DoD’s psychological operations doctrine.  He was one of the very rare officials to have worked at the nexus of military strategy, diplomacy, public diplomacy, strategic communications, counterpropaganda, psychological strategy, and political warfare.  

Prior to his retirement from government service, General Jajko was the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Fellow at The Institute of World Politics.

In addition to his teaching at IWP, General Jajko wrote and lectured on numerous topics related to such arts of statecraft as intelligence and counterintelligence, deception, covert action, psychological operations, and strategic surprise, as well as various topics on East Central Europe, including the Polish RAF fighter squadrons in the Battle of Britain and the Warsaw Uprising.  He wrote and lectured on such strategic regions as the Balkans, Poland, Ukraine, and Russia, at such institutions as the National War College, the Joint Military Intelligence College, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Hoover Institution.

Most recently, he was the author of Military Strategy: Thoughts Toward a Critique (The Institute of World Politics Press, 2014), a work that discusses the impact upon strategy today of such factors as intelligence, technology, cyberwar, deception, asymmetry, and insurgency. At his death, he was hopeful that he would be able to present a public lecture about this monograph at IWP.

General Jajko will be remembered for his steadfast commitment to the principles of his faith, country, and family, as well as to those of his vocations as an officer, scholar, and professor. A Renaissance man whose many interests ranged from classical music and English literature to history, philosophy, and art, his relationships with colleagues, subordinates, and students were characterized by humility and kindness. He was famous among his students at IWP for his end-of-semester pizza sessions and for bringing cakes and chocolate to IWP interns.

General Jajko’s ability to think, speak, and write incisively about the weightiest issues of statecraft and geopolitics without losing sight of detail enabled his students to develop a greater understanding of the complexities of modern and classical military strategy.

IWP founder and president John Lenczowski comments: “America has lost one of its greatest sons.  General Jajko was a national treasure who served his country nobly, who brought his extraordinarily rare combination of talents in several interrelated arts of statecraft to the classroom, and who helped shape the knowledge, skills, and character of a generation of his students.  We will deeply miss a great friend and comrade-in-arms.”  

He is survived by his wife Marilyn and their stepsons.  

His funeral arrangements are being planned for Arlington Cemetery in early 2015.


*The remainder of his course this semester will be taught by guest lecturers and the Dean.