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Sunday, December 11, 2011

General Westmoreland and the Doves that disliked him...

In the anti-war movement those who were against the war (Doves) had some people in the world of Hawks (those who supported the war) that they really despised. There was Johnson and Hoover and Nixon...and Reagan...and General William Westmoreland. Now, this was the guy that would go on television and tell everyone how the U.S. was winning the war in Vietnam...they just needed two hundred thousand more young men fresh out of high school to come fight. So you can see how he became a very easy scapegoat for hippies and peaceniks. Liz never met him, she never sat down and done some large elaborate interview with him (though that would have been a trip, I am sure) but Liz did hate him very much. She did see him as one of the sinister faces of the machine that was keeping the war going when no one quite knew what they were fighting for. To her, him and others like him were murderers the same as if they had shot everyone of the American soldiers who had fallen themselves. Now, whether you agree or disagree with this, you have to look at it from the point of view of the character. To her, he was a liar and his lies to the American people ended in slaughter for thousands. The part I am about to share is brief but hopefully it captures a little of the frustration that Liz faced in regards to this man and his cause:


'I watched on the news as General Westmoreland, another hawk that none of us could stand, was asking for two hundred and six thousand more troops to go to Nam. This was a blow to the movement, of course, and it fueled my anger so that I was a furious mouth piece.'


Here is a small piece about the consequences in this last request for troops. Taken from http://www.vietnampix.com/popww.htm
General Westmoreland took command in Vietnam in June 1964 replacing Gen. Paul Harkins. He was instrumental in raising the level of US forces deployed in Vietnam and in developing the strategies implemented in the region. Westmoreland continuously requested for an increase in manpower in Vietnam and President Johnson, who had his own troubles at home, refused to send more troops and finally recalled Westmoreland after he successfully stopped the North Vietnamese Tet Offensive in 1968. He was replaced by General Creighton W. Abrams 


But the story did not end there:
Upon his return to the US, Westmoreland was appointed as Chief of Staff of the US Army. His biggest challenge was to withdraw the troops from Vietnam and ready them for duty in other regions of the world. He was successful in restructuring the Army at a difficult time, but his tactics in Vietnam had become unpopular with some groups in the US. He maintained for many years that the policy in Vietnam had been the right one. General Westmoreland retired in 1972.


When Westmoreland was dismissed from his position on March 22nd, 1968, Liz was hopeful. She saw light at the end of the tunnel, a chance for the war to finally come to an end. She had not yet become as jaded with peace talks and new guys as she would be in the years to come where she learned never to put her faith in anyone related to the government. She still thought it was possible that a Dove or someone that saw the war as an unnecessary waste of American lives might do something to make it all end:
 'March twenty second became another victory for the doves. General Westmoreland, the son of a bitch who had generated so many lies to keep up morale for the war, the bastard who kept asking for more men so that it seemed like there would soon be none left to give, was relived of his duties. It was speculated that this came as a result of the Tet Offensive and the mess that it was perceived to be, though this was never really said outright. I think that the fact that he asked for more troops so soon after the Tet Offensive ended did nothing to help him. Within days he was replaced by a man named General Creighton Abrams who reversed Westmoreland’s strategy. He ended major search and destroy missions and focused more on protecting the people. What more could we have asked for? The light at the end of that tunnel seemed to be growing brighter and brighter.'
Westmoreland is vilified by Liz, yes. Why? Probably for the same reason why a character who dislikes hippies would likely vilify John Lennon or Abbie Hoffman: He was one of the most public faces of the war from 1964-1968 which was the time when the number of troops sent over to 'Nam hit its highest points. He was an easy person to blame for what people in the anti-war movement saw as a waste of life. He stood for everything they hated. And so most of them did...very much. And Liz, being Liz, was certainly no exception.


A detailed biography on General William Westmoreland taken from http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/1900s/p/westmoreland.htm:

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 theKorean 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.


 

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