WASHINGTON — Although he retired years ago as a major general in the Air Force Reserve, Sen. Barry Goldwater was formally mustered out and given a ceremonial farewell today by the nation's top military leaders as he fought back tears.
Surrounded by Pentagon pomp and ceremony, the Arizona Republican was lauded by Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger; Adm. William J. Crowe, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the secretaries of the Navy, Army and Air Force for a career that began as a soldier and aviator in World War II and is now ending after 30 years in the Senate.
The 77-year-old Goldwater, visibly moved by the tribute, received the top civilian award of each service and the Defense Department. He said it made "the most memorable day of my life."
Goldwater appeared to fight back tears as he recalled the day more than 60 years ago "when I first put on a uniform at a military school." He was taught, Goldwater added, "about the honor of wearing the uniform and being forever prideful of it."
'I Am Proud'
"I maintain . . . that the way to stay at peace in this world is to have a force so competent, so skilled and so strong that no other country or combination of countries will ever dare do anything to upset us," he said. "And I am proud to stand here today . . . and say that never in my life have I known such a high quality of enlisted men and officers as we have now."
Walking slowly with a cane but ramrod-straight in his bearing, Goldwater also received a 17-gun salute from four cannons pointing over the Potomac River toward the Capitol in which he worked for three decades.
At another point in the ceremony, as he sought to speak over the roar of jets departing from nearby National Airport, the retiring senator broke up the crowd by looking skyward and saying, "I love those damn things, but they ought to quit for awhile."
Goldwater retired as a major general in the Air Force Reserve in 1967. He continued flying, piloting in his life more than 150 different types of planes.
He was Arizona National Guard chief of staff from the time it was organized after World War II until 1952.
Known for his unbending conservatism and his unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1964, Goldwater was cited today for his work as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and his "persistent, painstaking dedication to the common good."
Weinberger said Goldwater had taught that America should not get involved in wars it does not intend to win, that government regulation can lead to regimentation and that, "despite all her faults and shortcomings, it is perfectly all right to love America."