Retired Gen. William Westmoreland dies



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General William Westmoreland dead at 91!

Preamble ~ NOT all the information in this story seems to be correct! Hey, what to you expect from the press! General Westmoreland was in MAC command only from 1964 to 1968! NOT during the whole war as stated in this Newspaper article! I was and still am proud to have met him once during an award ceremony. The impression of his military bearing and willingness to stop and talk to me lives on to this day.

The following information is provided by From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
From May 1954 to June 1964, the MAAG/MACV was commanded by Samuel T. Williams, Lionel C. McGarr, Charles J. Timmes, and Paul D. Harkins in succession. The most famous American general in Vietnam, General William C. Westmoreland served as commander of MACV from 1964 to 1968. He was succeeded by General Creighton Abrams.

By Carolyn Click, Knight Ridder
Online edition, Tuesday, July 19, 2005
General Westmoreland

COLUMBIA, S.C. Old soldiers, Gen. William Childs Westmoreland once wrote, must bear the scars of war.

As commander of U.S. ground forces in Vietnam in the mid-1960s, he shouldered much of the burden that would come to be known as the Vietnam quagmire.

The retired general died Monday night of natural causes at Bishop Gadsden retirement home, where had had lived with his wife for several years, said his son, James Ripley Westmoreland. He was 91.

With his ramrod posture and his bushy eyebrows, the South Carolina-born Westmoreland was a fixture of the time, a fighting man as recognizable as the B-52 bombers that plied the skies over Southeast Asia.

Named Time's Man of the Year in 1965, the hawks of war saw Westmoreland as a first-line defense against communism. Those opposed to the war came to despise him as a chief cog in the military-industrial complex, a man with an insatiable appetite for more and more U.S. soldiers.

Dispatched to Southeast Asia by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, when the United States had 16,000 advisers there, Westmoreland was hailed as the commander who could bring the North Vietnamese to heel and impose democracy on the region. He would command a force of more than 500,000.

In the end, the West Point graduate who earned his stripes on the battlefields of Europe and Korea could not overcome a wily and determined enemy who engaged in both guerrilla and conventional warfare. As the death toll mounted, he also could not stave off America's growing discontent with the conflict.

"The war was dragged on and on, and the American people got fed up with it," Westmoreland told The State newspaper of Columbia in April 2000. "But that wasn't the military's fault."

When Westmoreland returned to Washington in 1968, as Army chief of staff, America had become a house divided. Antiwar activists demonstrated in the street, hawks and doves sparred in the halls of Congress, and President Johnson, war weary and no longer certain of victory, chose not to seek another term.

Throughout his life, Westmoreland remained a staunch defender of the military in Vietnam, scorning the war protesters and the press he thought had contributed to the de-escalation of the war and the eventual fall of South Vietnam.

In 1982, CBS questioned Westmoreland's role in the escalation and the "Americanization" of the war. The television documentary, "The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception," suggested Westmoreland and other military personnel had manipulated intelligence data on enemy troop strength in Vietnam to boost claims the United States was winning, a charge leveled years earlier by an operative for the Central Intelligence Agency.

Westmoreland filed a $120-million libel lawsuit against CBS, correspondent Mike Wallace and other executives. The 1984 courtroom battle was contentious and very public. Four months into the trial, Westmoreland dropped the suit. CBS issued a statement saying it never intended to assert he was unpatriotic or disloyal.

In his 1976 autobiography, "A Soldier Reports," Westmoreland predicted history would judge the policymakers far more harshly than the military.

"Even had South Vietnam survived as an independent nation, would a little corner of Southeast Asia have been worth all the American sacrifice?" he asked. "At least four presidents and numerous other Washington officials and legislators saw South Vietnam as the key to Southeast Asia and vital if the United States was to secure its interests in that region. Yet history may nevertheless judge that going into Vietnam was one of our country's greatest mistakes."

America's searing experience in Vietnam, and Westmoreland's role in it, set the stage for the way the nation waged war in the latter part of the 20th century.

In the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Kosovo and even, most recently, Afghanistan, military leaders who had come of age in Vietnam preached limited engagement and defined mission.

Younger men, such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell, would draw on their Vietnam experiences and act accordingly.

But Westmoreland never was one to look back and consider the "what ifs."

"I don't think in those terms," he once said. "I don't try to plow back in my memory. And, psychologically, I don't come to the conclusion that if I had done this, rather than that, things would have been different. It's a total waste of time."

He served under Republican and Democratic presidents and prided himself on his loyalty to each of his commanders-in-chief.

"I went out of my way not to go political. I was a soldier and carried out the mission given to me by the commander in chief, who was president of the United States."

Because of Vietnam, he became close to Johnson, a man he viewed as a consummate, if conflicted, politician.

"Lyndon Johnson and I became very good friends, and I was very forthright with him. We kind of understood each other.

"But he cultivated me, he really did. If I was in Washington, he would insist I stay in the White House. He wanted me to stay at the White House because he wanted to control my comings and goings. Initially, I think he was very suspicious of me, thinking I would not be loyal to him. Which I was."

When Johnson died in 1973, Westmoreland flew to Texas at the behest of President Nixon, who asked Westmoreland to represent him at the burial and lay the presidential wreath.

"My regret," Westmoreland recalled in his autobiography, "was that I had been caught in Washington without a uniform and was unable to render my final salute in the dress in which I had served him as my commander in chief."

Westmoreland was a man who relished the feel of a crisp uniform.

He was born in 1914 in Spartanburg. Later he wore the khaki of the Boy Scouts and reveled in its discipline and focus. His father, James Ripley Westmoreland, encouraged him in his activities and cleared the way for the 15-year-old Westmoreland to attend a Boy Scout Jamboree in England.

James Westmoreland, manager of a textile mill, was a graduate of The Citadel and decreed his son should follow in his footsteps and pursue a law degree following graduation. His mother wanted him to become a doctor.

But after spending a year at The Citadel, Westmoreland consulted with his father's friend, U.S. Sen. James F. Brynes, who nominated him to West Point.

He fought in three wars beside West Point graduates, men he believed were imbued with the high ideals of duty and country.

Years after his 1936 graduation and before his deployment to Vietnam, he would return in 1960 as West Point superintendent.

After his graduation, he was assigned to the Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Okla., where horses still drew the Model 1897 French 75s.

He earned second lieutenant's pay of $125 a month and off-duty participated in polo matches, horse shows and Sunday hunts. On one hunt, the 21-year-old Westmoreland spied a 9-year-old girl at the head of the pack. Katherine "Kitsy" Van Deusen was the daughter of the post executive officer, an energetic kid who could outride many of those on post. Two years later, as Westmoreland prepared for assignment to Hawaii, Kitsy offered him condolences that the girl he had been dating married another officer.

"Cheer up, Westy," she said. "Don't worry. I'll be a big girl soon. I'll wait for you."

Ten years later, when she was 19, "Kitsy" Van Deusen reminded him she had indeed grown up. Despite their difference in age, they fell in love and married shortly afterward. The Westmorelands had three children, Stevie, Rip and Margaret.

In the early years of Vietnam, Westmoreland's entire family stayed with him in Saigon. But as the war escalated, Kitsy Westmoreland and the children left for the Philippines. Westmoreland said he later learned she spent most of her time at hospitals tending the wounded from Vietnam.

For most Americans, Westmoreland is synonymous with Vietnam. But he cut his military teeth in World War II and Korea.

On the fields of Europe and in Korea he learned the rules of conventional warfare, rules he would try to apply unsuccessfully in Vietnam.

Some military analysts suggest the failure of U.S. military leaders to understand North Vietnamese tactics contributed to the U.S. defeat.

"They did not understand the guerrilla nature of the war, that the massive firepower that was used on the battlefields of Europe was not the way to go there," said Earl Tilford, director of research with the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College.

"Vietnam was death by a thousand cuts."

But Tilford predicted history eventually would deal more kindly with Westmoreland. "I think he was eminently suited to command forces in Vietnam. He had a plan, and it was a pretty good plan."

Westmoreland always insisted his job was not to question military policy, but to carry out the orders of his commander-in-chief. He acknowledged the difficulty of that task when more and more Americans were doubting U.S. involvement in Vietnam and Johnson's own secretary of defense secretly surmised victory was all but impossible.

Nevertheless, in the years following Vietnam, as the policymakers offered their mea culpas, Westmoreland remained silent.

He retired in 1972, returning to South Carolina and settling in Charleston. He dabbled briefly in politics, running in the Republican primary in South Carolina in 1974, and served on several governmental commissions.

But he largely remained outside the Vietnam debate and the post mortems, preferring instead to focus on bolstering the morale of veterans he thought had fought with bravery and valor.

He said the fall of South Vietnam in 1975 devastated him.

He blamed America's lack of will to enforce the Paris Agreement for the abandonment of the country to the North Vietnamese and the chaos that ensued.

In his final years, the Westmorelands moved from Charleston, S.C., to a retirement community on nearby James Island.

Copyright 2005 Knight Ridder



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