Childhood & Early Life
Alexander Haig was born Alexander Meigs Haig Jr., on December 2, 1924, in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, U.S., to Regina Anne and Alexander Haig Sr. He was middle child of the three children in the family. Tragedy struck the family when Alexander was 9 years old. He lost his father, a ‘Republican’ lawyer, to cancer. His father was 41 years old at that time.
His mother raised him and his two siblings singlehandedly. He grew up in a strict Catholic family. Alexander joined the ‘Saint Joseph’s Preparatory School’ in Philadelphia, on a scholarship. However, his poor academic performance made him withdraw from the school. He then joined the ‘Lower Merion High School,’ located in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.
He graduated high school in 1942. When he was still in high school, the country was in the middle of the Second World War. Ever since he was a teenager, he wanted to fight for his country and aspired to join the military.
He tried joining the ‘United States Military Academy’ but was disqualified. Meanwhile, he had turned quite good in academics. Thus, the same year, he joined the ‘University of Notre Dame.’ He studied there for 2 years and excelled in many subjects, scoring ‘A’ grades continuously.
In 1944, he could finally join the military academy, owing to one of his uncles who worked at a senior post in the Philadelphia municipal government. However, he secured poor grades in the academy. His peers in the academy, however, confirmed that even if he scored low grades, he was one of the most ambitious people in the academy.
He later joined the ‘Columbia Business School,’ eventually graduating with an MBA degree. He then joined the ‘Georgetown University,’ graduating in 1961, with an MA in international relations. His thesis at ‘Georgetown’ was on how military officers affect the formation of national policies.
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In 1957, he graduated from the academy as a cadet ranked 217 in a class of 310 military aspirants. His rank did not justify the fame he would later go on to achieve in his life. Soon after he graduated, he was sent to Fort Riley, Kansas, to join a general combined arms course. He later attended the ‘Armored School’ in Kentucky.
At the age of 22, he began serving in the U.S. military, as a second lieutenant to General Alonzo Fox. He fought for the U.S. army in the Korean War. Back then, he worked under the chief of staff of the U.S. army, General Douglas MacArthur. His job was to maintain the situation map formulated by McArthur and brief him every evening about the happenings on the battlefield.
Alexander later served as an aide to General Edward Almond in the ‘X Corps.’ In the Korean War, he participated in four campaigns, including the Battle of Inchon and the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. His services and bravery on the battlefield earned him many honors, such as two ‘Silver Stars’ and one ‘Bronze Star.’
He suffered from hepatitis in the early 1950s. Following this, he was moved back to Fort Knox. Meanwhile, he gained quite a reputation among the senior army officers.
He earned a big promotion when he was made a major in 1957. A year later, he was appointed as a staff officer in the ‘United States Army’ in Europe. In 1962, he was eventually promoted to the position of lieutenant colonel.
In 1964, Cyrus R. Vance took over as a deputy secretary of defense. Cyrus chose Alexander as his deputy special assistant. Working with Cyrus, Alexander exhibited a strong hold on international politics. During the Vietnam War, he served as a battalion commander in the army.
In 1969, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger appointed Alexander as his chief military assistant. Kissinger soon became President Nixon’s chief advising officer on international security issues. Hence, Alexander gained a reputation of his own. Soon, he was dealing directly with the ‘White House,’ as a chief of staff.
Being in Nixon’s good books benefitted Alexander a great deal, but questions were raised about why he was promoted to the position of the army’s vice-chief of staff and made a four-star general in the army. This was said to be Nixon’s attempt to have his trustworthy men in leading positions in federal agencies.
He was serving as the ‘White House’s chief of staff during the highly notorious Watergate Scandal of the early 1970s. He was said to be one of the men whom Nixon listened to when he decided to resign as the president.
President Gerald Ford took over as the next president in 1974, and Alexander continued serving as the ‘White House’ chief of staff. However, he resigned after a month to serve as the “Supreme Allied Commander Europe,” the commander of all ‘NATO’ forces in Europe.
In 1979, he permanently retired from the army. Ronald Reagan became the U.S. president in 1980, and he appointed Alexander as his secretary of state. After the infamous assassination attempt on Ronald, Alexander claimed he was in “control.” This statement was interpreted negatively, and people assumed he meant he was running the country. Soon, he cleared the air, saying that he meant he was in functional control of the government.
He resigned from his position in 1982 but did not quit active politics. He tried becoming a presidential candidate from the ‘Republican Party’ in the 1988 elections but was unsuccessful.
He later ventured into business and worked as the head of a consulting firm. He also hosted the TV show ‘World Business Review.’
Family, Personal Life & Death
Alexander Haig married Patricia Fox in 1950. They remained married until his death in 2010. They had three children, including Brian Haig, a popular author and military analyst.
Alexander passed away from a bacterial infection on February 20, 2010. He had also undergone a double bypass heart surgery in the 1980s. He was 85 years old at the time of his death.