From Vietnam to Sarajevo D-DAY IN BOSNIA

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The Independent Online
The officer now commanding the Nato implementation force (I-For) in Bosnia is an admiral and a navy pilot. Admiral Leighton Smith, United States Navy, will be moving to his base in Sarajevo from Naples, where he has been commanding Nato's forces in southern Europe since April 1994, writes Christopher Bellamy.

Nato says putting the admiral in Sarajevo makes sense because of the complexity of the terrain and the political sensitivity of the Bosnian capital.

But some sources said yesterday they felt the US wanted to have the commander in Sarajevo, which will be the focus of political and media attention, so that his subordinate, the British commander of the Nato Rapid Reaction Corps, did not get all the limelight.

The soft-spoken southerner from Alabama qualified as a navy pilot in January 1964 and flew 280 combat missions over Vietnam. He holds two Distinguished Flying Crosses and other combat medals. He also spent a year with a strategic studies group at Newport, Rhode Island and from August 1989 to June 1991 was director of operations for US European command at Stuttgart, Germany. He was also involved in running air operations from Turkey during the Gulf war and aid to the Kurds in northern Iraq.

Promoted to vice-admiral in June 1991, he then became commander of US Naval Forces Europe and Nato's commander-in-chief southern Europe. He was in overall command of Nato air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs in September.