Colonel Robert H. Sholly, USA (Ret.)

As a result of the international peacekeeping efforts of the men of UNTSO and other UN organizations, Colonel Sholly shared the award of the 1988 Nobel International Peace Prize with other UN peacekeepers.

Colonel Robert H. Sholly served as the Chief of Operations of the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), headquartered in Jerusalem from 1981-1983. The mission area encompassed Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

During this period of time, observers from UNTSO were involved in trying to mediate a cessation of hostilities during the Bekaa Missile Crisis, reporting on the Homs, Syria Massacre, reporting on the buildup of forces in Lebanon and Israel, failing to mediate a cease-fire between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Israel during exchanges of artillery fire and Katyusha rocket attacks into Israeli border towns, reporting armed violations of international boundaries by sovereign states, the invasion of Lebanon by Israel, the bombing of Beirut and the Sabra and Shatila refugee camp massacres.

Syrian forces occupied part of Lebanon during this time and UNTSO observers were killed as a result of clashes. During this period of time, less violent events took place with Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula and the traumatic expulsion of Israeli settlers who had moved into the Sinai after the 1973 war, in an attempt to expand the borders of Israel. UNTSO provided informational assistance to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), the force developed to maintain separation of Israeli and Egyptian forces in the Sinai Peninsula as a result of the Camp David Accords. UNTSO observers were the first reporters of the assassination of Anwar Sadat of Egypt. UNTSO provided neutral observers to teams from Jordan and Israel who measured the water flow of the Yarmuk River to ensure the international water agreements between Israel and Jordan were maintained. UNTSO became the de facto UN military planning office for other UN peacekeeping operations throughout the world and provided unarmed observers to man these efforts.

According to Wikipedia, “Towards the end of the Cold War, the Nobel Committee wished to indicate that the United Nations ought to have greater influence on international politics. It did so by awarding the Nobel International Peace Prize to military personnel who had served as observers and UN soldiers from 1948 to 1988.

However, even though these soldiers and forces are neutral, there are times when one side or the other has seen them as enemies. As a result, during this period of time, there were 788 fatalities from all the contributing countries. Sometimes peacekeeping is not peaceful and many unarmed UN observers and soldiers put their lives on the line to uphold their duty.

Up to 1988, the world organization had sent peacekeeping forces to the Middle East, Kashmir, Cyprus, the Congo, and West New Guinea. The units were under the command of the UN Secretary-General, and were made available voluntarily by member countries. With the exception of the forces that were sent to the Congo, and the unarmed observer groups of the Middle East, the troops were equipped with light arms for self-defense. Their main assignments were to report on the situation in crisis areas, set up buffer zones, keep up contacts between conflicting parties, monitor armistice agreements, maintain calm and good order, and give humanitarian aid.

Their duty is to remain above the conflict but that is not always possible. They may only use their weapons in the last resort for self-defense. Their strength is that, representing the will of the international community, they provide an honorable alternative to war and a useful pretext for peace. Their presence is often the essential prerequisite for negotiating a settlement. They have, or should have, a direct connection with the process of peacemaking.”

Schedule Colonel Robert H. Sholly to Speak

P.O. Box 1590, Pearland, TX 77581