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Frederick C. Weyand, Vietnam Commander, Dies at 93
By WILLIAM GRIMES Published: February 13, 2010 Frederick C. Weyand, who served as the commander of American forces in Vietnam in the final year of the war, a duty he carried out despite having become convinced as early as 1967 that the war was a hopeless venture, died on Wednesday Feb 10, 2010, at his home in Honolulu. He was 93.
The death was confirmed by his daughter, Carolyn Harley.
General Weyand (pronounced WY-und), one of the rare top commanders who did not attend West Point, began serving as a combat officer in Vietnam in 1966. As commander of the Tropic Lightning Division, he scored several victories in tough fighting near Saigon and along the Cambodian border, and he was soon placed in charge of II Field Force, responsible for the southern third of South Vietnam.
He was known as an acute analyst of intelligence data. As a deputy to Gen. William C. Westmoreland, the commander of American forces in Vietnam, he became concerned about unusual movements of North Vietnamese forces in the weeks before the Tet festival in early 1968 and urged that American troops be redeployed closer to Saigon to repel a possible attack.
Westmoreland, persuaded, called off a series of planned pre-emptive strikes on Vietcong sanctuaries near the Cambodian border and allowed General Weyand to shift 15 battalions back to the Saigon area, a move that made it possible for American forces to react quickly and inflict heavy casualties when the North Vietnamese mounted the Tet Offensive.
Westmoreland later called the redeployment one of the most critical decisions of the war.
In July 1972, General Weyand succeeded Gen. Creighton W. Abrams (who had succeeded Westmoreland) as commander of American forces. By this time, most Army and Marine combat forces had been withdrawn. The last American ground-combat unit left Vietnam in August 1972.
This unenviable assignment was made even more onerous by his longstanding pessimism about the war.
At a cocktail party in Saigon in 1967, General Weyand, speaking of Westmoreland, had told Murray Fromson, a CBS news correspondent: 'Westy just doesn't get it. The war is unwinnable. We've reached a stalemate, and we should find a dignified way out.'
In a telephone interview on Friday, Mr. Fromson said: 'He was very candid, and a very decent guy. A lot of the generals felt that way, but he was willing to sit down and talk about it.
General Weyand later expanded on his views in an off-the-record conversation with Mr. Fromson and R. W. Apple Jr. of The New York Times. Swearing both reporters to secrecy, he painted a grim picture of American prospects.
'I've destroyed a single division three times,' General Weyand said. 'I've chased main-force units all over the country, and the impact was zilch. It meant nothing to the people. Unless a more positive and more stirring theme than simple anti-Communism can be found, the war appears likely to go on until someone gets tired and quits, which could take generations.'
Identifying him as 'a senior American general,' Mr. Apple reported these views in a front-page article on Aug. 7, 1967, 'Vietnam: The Signs of Stalemate.' As one of the first substantial articles in a mainstream publication to cast serious doubt on the whole Vietnam adventure, it had an immediate and explosive effect, infuriating both General Westmoreland and President Lyndon B. Johnson and planting seeds of doubt in the public mind.
General Weyand predicted that South Vietnam would achieve victory over the North even as his forces prepared to leave the field of battle.
'Our mission has been accomplished,' he stated in an address to the South Vietnamese on March 29, 1973. 'I depart with a strong feeling of pride in what we have achieved.'
He concluded, 'It is our sincere hope that the peace with honor that has been our goal will last forever.'
Frederick Carlton Weyand was born on Sept. 15, 1916, in Arbuckle, Calif. His father was Berkeley's chief of police, and he attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he served in the R.O.T.C. and earned a degree in criminology in 1939. In 1940 he was called up for active duty in the Army.
That year he married Arline Langhart, who died in 2001. In addition to his daughter Carolyn, of Portugal Cove, Newfoundland, he is survived by another daughter, Nancy Hart, of Honolulu; a son, Robert, of Durham, England; his wife, Mary; a brother, Robert, of El Cerrito, Calif.; five grandchildren; and four stepchildren.
During World War II, he served in an intelligence unit under Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell in the China-Burma-India Theater.
After the war, he was sent to Honolulu, where he was chief of staff for intelligence in the middle Pacific. His principal focus was China, but he also formed part of the task force that tested atomic weapons on the Eniwetok atoll in 1948.
Eager to see active duty, he enrolled in infantry training at Fort Benning, Ga., and completed an advanced course just as the Korean War broke out. Commanding the Cotton Balers, a battalion in the Seventh Infantry Regiment, Third Division, he held a corridor against onrushing Chinese forces, allowing Americans to retreat to the port city of Hungnam in North Korea for evacuation.
Cool and cerebral, Mr. Weyand seemed more like a diplomat or a corporate executive than a fighting officer, a style that might explain his assignment, after duty in Germany and France, as the Army's legislative liaison officer to Capitol Hill from 1962 to 1964.
In 1969, he was pulled from duty in Vietnam to be a military adviser to the American delegation at the Paris Peace talks. There, he later told a reporter, he found out that the Vietcong 'are as tough in suits and ties as they are in black pajamas.'
Promoted to the rank of full general, he returned to Vietnam as General Abrams's deputy in 1970 and applied himself to the task of winning hearts and minds and carrying out the military's pacification policy.
Two years later General Weyand succeeded General Abrams as commander of American forces, and in 1973 he was named commander in chief of all Army forces in the Pacific. In 1974, after American forces withdrew from Vietnam, he succeeded Gen. Alexander M. Haig as Army vice chief of staff. When General Abrams died in 1974, General Weyand was appointed his successor as chief of staff.
After retiring from the Army in 1976, he became vice president and corporate secretary at First Hawaiian Bank in Honolulu. He retired from the bank in 1982 to become trustee of the Damon Estate, a trust created in 1924 and based on the large landholdings of Samuel Mills Damon, the founder of what became the First Hawaiian Bank.
With more than 20 years of membership in various Rotary clubs, he served as president of the Honolulu Rotary Club from 1998 to 1999. He was a 33rd-degree Mason and a member of the Scottish Rite, the York Rite and the Sojourners.
He was a director of the Honolulu Symphony and the American Red Cross, Hawaii Chapter.
He was also a member of the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program, which was instrumental in having the traveling replica of the Vietnam Wall displayed in Honolulu in January 1987.
Weyand was a lifetime member of the Association of the United States Army; the Air Force Association; the Military Officers Association of America; the 25th Infantry Division Association; the "Go for Broke Association," 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment; the 3rd Infantry Division Association; and the associated 7th Infantry Regiment Association.
His military decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, five Distinguished Service Medals, the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit and the Combat Infantryman Badge.
Weyand was commissioned a second lieutenant through the Reserve Officers Training Corps program at the University of California at Berkeley, where he graduated in May 1938. He married Arline Langhart in 1940.
World War Two
From 1940-1942 Weyand was assigned to active duty and served with the 6th Field Artillery. He graduated from the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in 1942 and served as adjutant of the Harbor Defense Command in San Francisco from 1942-1943. He moved on to the Office of the Chief of Intelligence for the War Department General Staff in 1944. He became assistant chief of staff for intelligence in the China-Burma-India Theater from 1944-1945. In the immediate aftermath of the war he was in the Military Intelligence Service in Washington from 1945-1946
Service After World War Two and During the Korean War
He was chief of staff for intelligence, United States Army Forces, Middle Pacific from 1946-1949. He graduated from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning in 1950. He became commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment and the assistant chief of staff, G3, of the 3d Infantry Division during the Korean War from 1950-1951.
Prior to the Vietnam War
He served on the faculty of the Infantry School from 1952 to 1953. Following this assignment he attended the Armed Forces Staff College, and upon graduation became military assistant in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Financial Management until 1954. He moved on to become military assistant and executive to the Secretary of the Army from 1954 to 1957. He then graduated from the Army War College in 1958, moving on to command the 3d Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, in Europe, 1958-1959. He served in the Office of the United States Commander in Berlin in 1960 then became chief of staff for the Communications Zone, United States Army, Europe from 1960-1961;. He was the deputy chief and chief of legislative liaison for the Department of the Army from 1961-1964.
Vietnam War Service
Lieutenant General Weyand as Commander of II Field Force in Vietnam.
Weyand became commander of the 25th Infantry Division, stationed in Hawaii, in 1964. He continued to lead the division as it was introduced into operations in Vietnam in 1965 and 1966. He served as the head of the 25th Division until 1967, when he became deputy, then acting commander, and finally commander of II Field Force, Vietnam responsible for III Corps Tactical Zone comprising the 11 provinces around Saigon. In 1968, he became chief of the Office of Reserve Components.
A dissenter from General William Westmoreland's more conventional war strategy, Weyland's experience as a former intelligence officer gave him a sense of the enemy's intentions. He realized that "the key to success in Vietnam was in securing and pacifying the towns and villages of South Vietnam" (Mark Salter, John McCain "Hard Call: The Art of Great Decisions"). Weyland managed to convince a reluctant General Westmoreland to allow him to redeploy troops away from the Cambodian border area closer to Saigon, significantly contributing to making the 1968 Tet Offensive a military catastrophe for North Vietnam.
In 1969, he then was named the military advisor to Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge at the Paris Peace Talks. In 1970 he became assistant chief of staff for force development. Later in 1970, he became deputy commander and commander of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. He succeeded General Creighton Abrams, who became the army Chief of Staff, as Commander of MACV on June 30, 1972. By the end of 1972 General Weyand had overseen the withdrawal of all United States military forces from the Republic of South Vietnam
Post-Vietnam Commands and Chief of Staff
He was commander in chief of the United States Army, Pacific, 1973; was vice chief of staff of the United States Army, 1973-1974; was chief of staff of the United States Army, 3 October 1974-31 September 1976; supervised Army moves to improve the combat-to-support troop ratio, to achieve a sixteen-division force, to enhance the effectiveness of roundout units, and to improve personnel and logistical readiness; retired from active service, October 1976.