The General Who Championed French-American Military Cooperation

American general Anthony Smith, who passed away in Virginia on May 31, 2020, played an essential role in military relations between France and America, and directed the French-American Foundation USA for five years.
Anthony Smith (right) receives the Anne Cox Chambers Award from the French-American Foundation, New York, 2017. © Sylvain Gaboury

Anthony “Tony” Smith discovered France as a teenager when his father helped General Eisenhower launch NATO. He attended the Paris American High School in the early 1950s, then enrolled at West Point military academy where he graduated third in his class in 1958 before studying at Sciences Po in Paris.

He was part of the first year of Young Leaders through the French-American Foundation in 1981. During his time there, he met the future French prime minister Alain Juppé, the future defense minister Alain Richard, and the essayist and former France-Amérique director Guy Sorman. “The group we formed remained close friends,” says Sorman. “You have to remember that anti-Americanism was rife in France at the time.”

Smith was devoted to French-American military cooperation, which he deemed essential to maintaining stability in Africa. In 2002, he persuaded Alain Richard to allow West Point cadets to take part in the Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Élysées. In return, the student officers from the Saint-Cyr military academy in France attended the West Point graduation ceremony. “It was perhaps my coolest accomplishment,” said the general in an interview with the French-American Foundation in 2017. He was then receiving the Anne Cox Chambers Award, thus named after the former U.S. ambassador to Belgium, for his transatlantic work.

“The Foundation can dispel the myths that discourage close relations between France and the United States and reinforce the ties that bind our two nations,” he said. With a lifelong military career and positions as a superior officer in NATO within Europe and director of the French-American Foundation from 2001 through 2005, Smith introduced French and U.S. officers into the Young Leaders program – a tradition that continues today.

“He was quite discreet,” remembers Guy Sorman. “But Tony Smith’s true influence in military relations between our two countries could be observed in the high esteem in which he was held by the general staff in Paris and Washington.”