John Galvin, a four-star Army general who served as the United States’ and NATO’s top military commander in Europe in the final years of the Cold War and whose foresight on counterinsurgency strategy influenced one of his young aides, future general and CIA director David H. Petraeus, died Sept. 25 at his home in Jonesboro, Georgia. He was 86.

The cause was complications from Parkinson’s disease, said a daughter, Kathleen Galvin.

In a 44-year military career, Gen. Galvin was widely described as a prototypical warrior intellectual. He was a West Point graduate who also earned a master’s degree in English literature from Columbia University and reveled in the poetry of William Butler Yeats.

As a brigade operations officer and battalion commander in Vietnam, he earned medals for valor and also became known for an outspoken defiance of combat orders when he saw them as near-suicidal. He also refused a commander’s instructions to inflate the official “body count” of the enemy on the battlefield.

“The way I was doing things wasn’t what you’d call career-enhancing,” he once said.

But his leadership ability and scholarship earned him friends in high places, which aided in his rise. He contributed to writing the Pentagon Papers, the Defense Department’s secret multi-volume history of the Vietnam War, and played roles in reshaping the Army after the post-Vietnam era.

Thinking beyond large-scale, conventional warfare with the Soviet Union and other nation-states, he wrote influential reports and articles on counterinsurgency strategy and guerrilla warfare that would define conflicts in the Middle East after the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

In the 1980s, Galvin won significant command assignments in West Germany and Panama. In the latter, he was responsible for U.S. military forces in South and Central America and the Caribbean at a time when the United States was arming military-led governments and right-wing rebel groups.

In 1987, as the newly appointed supreme allied commander in Europe, a NATO position, he publicly endorsed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The accord eliminated an entire category of nuclear weapons that both nations had deployed in Europe, facing each other.

Galvin remained as supreme commander in Europe until retiring in 1992. As the Soviet Union collapsed, he pivoted NATO strategy from one of Cold War defense to small-conflict peacekeeping, arguing for a “fire brigade” strategy in which troops were available in case conflict arose.

The son of a bricklayer and plasterer, John Rogers Galvin was born in Melrose, Massachusetts, on May 13, 1929, and grew up in Wakefield, Massachusetts. His childhood was marked by tragedy: His mother died of peritonitis when he was 8, and two of his sisters died, one while playing with their father’s .22-caliber rifle in the attic.

After a fitful early college education studying journalism and pre-med, he attended an art school in Boston in the hope of becoming a cartoonist. Needing money, he also joined the Massachusetts National Guard in the late 1940s, and eventually he was persuaded to take the entrance exam for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

He graduated in 1954, becoming the first member of his family to obtain a college degree. He later trained as a parachutist and graduated from Ranger School. His decorations included the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star and three awards of the Legion of Merit.