WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Former Ambassador Vernon Walters, a retired Army general who served seven presidents, has died at Good Samaritan Medical Center near his Palm Beach, Fla., home. He was 85.
Walters died Sunday, hospital officials said.
Walters had retired after 35 years in the military and a second career in government during which he served as ambassador to the United Nations and Germany.
Gen. Alexander Haig called him "a man of towering integrity," and "one of the most remarkable public servants I have ever known."
Walters was also ambassador at large under President Ronald Reagan, deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Richard Nixon, and interpreter for Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and Nixon.
Walters was born on Jan. 3, 1917, in New York and when he was 6 his family moved to Europe. He attended French and British Catholic schools and learned French, Spanish, Italian and German. He would later become fluent in Portuguese, Chinese and Russian.
His rare linguistic abilities and his photographic memory opened doors for him during his entire life, including his military career in World War II when he started as a private. He retired from the Army in 1967 as a Brigadier General.
During his career, he earned the Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, U.S. Distinguished Intelligence Medal, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Bronze Star, Air Medal, Legion of Honor from France, the Combat Cross from Brazil and the Bronze Medal from Italy.
After the war, Walters worked on the Marshall plan and later became a member of the NATO Standing Group.
Walters wrote in his 1978 book, "Silent Missions," that during a trip to Venezuela with Nixon, protesters stone their car. One stone crashed through a window, sending shards of glass into Walters' face.
Nixon told him, "Spit that glass out -- you are going to have a lot more talking to do in Spanish for me today."
During the Vietnam War he was an attache at the American Embassy in Paris from 1967 to 1972, briefing Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on what the North Vietnamese would ask for during peace talks, and on China's maneuvers.
Walters was deputy director of the CIA from 1972-1976. He said early in his tenure he was asked by President Nixon's lawyer, John Dean, to put the Watergate burglars on the CIA payroll.
"I told him that on the day I went to work at the CIA I had hung on the wall of my office a color photograph showing the view through the window of my home in Florida," he wrote in "Silent Missions."
"It was a beautiful view showing the trees and the ocean at Palm Beach. When people asked me what it was, I told them that was what was waiting if anyone squeezed my too hard," he wrote.
Walters never married. He will be buried with full military honors early next month at Arlington National Cemetery.