Westmoreland, William Childs, GEN

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Last Rank
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Last Primary MOS
00GC-Commanding General
Last MOS Group
General Officer
Primary Unit
1968-1972, Department of the Army (DA)
Service Years
1936 - 1972



Sixteen Overseas Service Bars

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Home State
South Carolina
South Carolina
Year of Birth
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Date of Passing
Jul 05, 2005
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Historical Soldiers
  1972, Historical Soldiers [Verified]

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General William C. Westmoreland

1914 - 2005


Early Life:

Born on March 26, 1914, William C. Westmoreland was the son of a Spartanburg, SC textile manufacturer. Joining the Boy Scouts as a youth, he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout before entering the Citadel in 1931. After one year in school, he transferred to West Point. During his time at the academy he proved to be an exceptional cadet and by graduation had become the corps' first captain. In addition, he received the Pershing Sword which was given to the most outstanding cadet in the class. After graduation, Westmoreland was assigned to the artillery.

World War II:

With the outbreak of World War II, Westmoreland swiftly rose through the ranks as the army expanded to meet wartime needs, reaching lieutenant colonel by September 1942. Initially an operations officer, he was soon given command of the 34th Field Artillery Battalion (9th Division), and saw service in North Africa and Sicily before the unit was transferred to England for use in Western Europe. Landing in France, Westmoreland's battalion provided fire support for the 82nd Airborne Division. His strong performance in this role was noted by the division's commander, Brigadier General James M. Gavin.

Promoted to executive officer of the 9th Division's artillery in 1944, he was temporarily promoted to colonel that July. Serving with the 9th for the remainder of the war, Westmoreland became the division's chief of staff in October 1944. With the surrender of Germany, Westmoreland was given command of the 60th Infantry in the US occupation forces. After moving through a number of infantry assignments, Westmoreland was asked by Gavin to take command of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (82nd Airborne Division) in 1946. While in this assignment, Westmoreland married Katherine S. Van Deusen.

Korean War:

Serving with the 82nd for four years, Westmoreland rose to become the division's chief of staff. In 1950, he was detailed to the Command and General Staff College as instructor. The following year he was moved to the Army War College in the same capacity. With the Korean War raging, Westmoreland was given command of the 187th Regimental Combat Team. Arriving in Korea, he led the 187th for over a year before returning to the US to become deputy assistant chief of staff, G–1, for manpower control. Serving at the Pentagon for five years, he took the advanced management program at Harvard Business School in 1954.

Promoted to major general in 1956, he took command of the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell, KY in 1958, and led the division for two years before being assigned to West Point as the academy's superintendent. One of the Army's rising stars, Westmoreland was temporarily promoted to lieutenant general in July 1963, and placed in charge of the Strategic Army Corps and XVIII Airborne Corps. After a year in this assignment he was transferred to Vietnam as deputy commander and acting commander of the United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV).

Vietnam War:

Shortly after his arrival, Westmoreland was made permanent commander of MACV and given command of all US forces in Vietnam. Commanding 16,000 men in 1964, Westmoreland oversaw the escalation of the conflict and had 535,000 troops under his control when he departed in 1968. Employing an aggressive strategy of search and destroy, he sought to draw the forces of the Viet Cong (National Liberation Front) into the open where they could be eliminated. Westmoreland believed that the Viet Cong could be defeated through large-scale use of artillery, air power, and large-unit battles.

In late 1967, Viet Cong forced began striking US bases across the country. Responding in force, Westmoreland won a series of fights such as the Battle of Dak To. Victorious, US forces inflicted heavy casualties leading Westmoreland to inform President Lyndon Johnson that the end of the war was in sight. While victorious, the battles that fall pulled US forces out of South Vietnamese cities and set the stage for the Tet Offensive in late January 1968. Striking all across the country, the Viet Cong, with support from the North Vietnamese army, launched major attacks on South Vietnamese cities.

Responding to the offensive, Westmoreland led a successful campaign which defeated the Viet Cong. Despite this, the damage had been done as Westmoreland's optimistic reports about the war's course were discredited by North Vietnam's ability to mount such a large-scale campaign. In June 1968, Westmoreland was replaced by General Creighton Abrams. During his tenure in Vietnam, Westmoreland had sought to win a battle of attrition with the North Vietnamese, however he was never able to force the enemy to abandon a guerilla-style of warfare which repeatedly left his own forces at a disadvantage.

Army Chief of Staff:

Returning home, Westmoreland was criticized as the general who "won every battle until [he] lost the war." Assigned as Army Chief of Staff, Westmoreland continued to oversee the war from afar. Taking control in a difficult period, he assisted Abrams in winding down operations in Vietnam, while also attempting to transition the US Army to an all-volunteer force. In doing so, he worked to make army life more inviting to young Americans by issuing directives which allowed for a more relaxed approach to grooming and discipline. While necessary, Westmoreland was attacked by the establishment for being too liberal.

Westmoreland was also faced in this period with having to deal with widespread civil disturbance. Employing troops where necessary, he worked to aid in quelling the domestic unrest caused by the Vietnam War. In June 1972, Westmoreland's term as chief of staff ended and he elected to retire from the service. After unsuccessfully running for governor of South Carolina in 1974, he penned his autobiography, A Soldier Reports. For the remainder of his life he worked to defend his actions in Vietnam. He died in Charleston, SC on July 18, 2005.

Other Comments:
General William C. Westmoreland was interred at the West Point Cemetery on July 23, 2005 where he was a Cadet in 1936.

 Photo Album   (More...

 Ribbon Bar

Combat Infantryman 1st Award
Airborne Glider BadgeMaster Parachutist
Vietnam - Jump Wings

 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
Division Artillery (DIVARTY) 1st Armored Division34th Field Artillery Battalion 9th Infantry Division504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR)
82nd Airborne DivisionCommand and General Staff College (CGSC) CourseArmy War College (Staff)187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team
Department of the Army (DA)Division Support Command (DISCOM) 101st Airborne DivisionUnited States Military Academy West Point (Staff)XVIII Airborne Corps (18th Corps)
Military Assistance Command Vietnam MACV
  1942-1943, 1193, Division Artillery (DIVARTY) 1st Armored Division
  1943-1943, 34th Field Artillery Battalion
  1945-1945, 2010, 9th Infantry Division
  1946-1947, 1542, HHC, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR)
  1947-1949, HHC, 82nd Airborne Division
  1950-1950, 2728, Command and General Staff College (CGSC) Course
  1951-1951, 2728, Army War College (Staff)
  1951-1952, 1542, 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team
  1952-1958, 00G1, Department of the Army (DA)
  1958-1959, Division Support Command (DISCOM) 101st Airborne Division
  1960-1962, United States Military Academy West Point (Staff)
  1963-1964, XVIII Airborne Corps (18th Corps)
  1964-1968, HHC, Military Assistance Command Vietnam MACV
  1968-1972, Department of the Army (DA)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1942-1943 WWII - Africa Theater of Operations/Tunisia Campaign (1942-43)
  1943-1943 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Sicily Campaign (1943)
  1943-1943 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Sicily Campaign (1943)
  1944-1944 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Normandy Campaign (1944)/Operation Overlord/D-Day Beach Landings - Operation Neptune
  1944-1944 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Northern France Campaign (1944)
  1944-1945 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Rhineland Campaign (1944-45)
  1944-1945 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Ardennes Alsace Campaign (1944-45)
  1945-1945 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Central Europe Campaign (1945)
  1951-1952 Second Korean Winter (1951-52)
  1951-1952 Second Korean Winter (1951-52)
 Colleges Attended 
The CitadelUnited States Military Academy
  1930-1931, The Citadel
  1932-1933, United States Military Academy
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