Retired Army Lt. Gen. Edward L. Rowny, a hardline arms control adviser to five American presidents, passed away on December 17 at the age of 100. He was born in 1917 in Baltimore, but his family came from the Ostrowia Mazowiecka area in Poland. His Polish roots were dear to him, so much so that in 2004 he established the Paderewski Scholarship Fund to bring Polish University students to Georgetown University to study American democracy.
Gen. Rowny graduated from West Point. He commanded battalions in Italy during World War II and participated in the Korean War. He later championed arming helicopters for battle, creating an airborne cavalry that he helped implement in Vietnam for counterinsurgency operations.
In the late 1940s Gen. Rowny began studying the Russian language and Soviet negotiating techniques at Yale University. This positioned him to play a meaningful role in U.S. nuclear policymaking when he took on quasi-diplomatic positions with NATO during the Cold War. In 1971 he was appointed the US representative to Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) and held this post under three presidents: Nixon, Ford and Carter. After the election of President Reagan, General Rowny was appointed to the rank of Ambassador as the President’s chief negotiator on Strategic Nuclear Arms (START). During his second term, President Reagan appointed Rowny his Special Advisor on Arms Control. He was awarded the Presidential Citizen Medal with the citation: “Rowny was one of the chief architects of peace through strength.” Later he continued his mission as President George H.W. Bush’s special advisor for arms control for the first two years of his term.
In 1941 he participated in the funeral of Polish independence activist and pianist Ignacy Jan Paderewski in New York. Later, in 1992, he was a part of the delegation that brought the remains of Paderewski to a free Poland. He was a founder and active member of American Polish Advisory Council. In 2005 he was awarded the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
Frank Finver, Counselor for Press and Culture at U.S. Embassy Warsaw had a chance to meet Gen. Rowny in person and had this to say: “Some years ago, while working for Public Affairs in the Department, I attended an arms control conference in Baltimore. General Rowny was there and gave a spirited keynote address, regaling the audience with tales of his difficult encounters with his Soviet negotiating counterparts. He said he would irritate them at first with his habit of playing tunes on his harmonica during lulls in their talks, but they soon got used to this practice and sometimes even sang along. Rowny playfully referred to the residents of the town where the conference was held as ‘fellow Baltimorons’ and was very proud of his Polish roots. He wore distinctive, thick, coke-bottle glasses and while talking to me extensively about his role in the SALT or START negotiations at a reception during the event. A very intelligent and interesting public servant.”