Childhood & Early Life
Caspar was born Caspar Willard Weinberger, on August 18, 1917, in San Francisco, California, to attorney Herman Weinberger and Cerise Carpenter Hampson. He had an older brother, Peter. Caspar attended the 'San Francisco Polytechnic High School.'
Growing up, Caspar took an interest in politics and enjoyed reading records of congressional debates. He graduated from 'Harvard University' in 1938 and 'Harvard Law School' in 1941, after which he enlisted in the ‘US Army’ as a private. Caspar was the president of the journal 'The Harvard Crimson.'
During World War II, Caspar served the ‘41st Infantry Division’ of the 'Pacific Theatre' in Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines. He later became a member of General Douglas MacArthur's intelligence staff. Caspar was honored with a ‘Bronze Star’ before he was discharged in 1946 as a captain.
He then returned to California, where he began his career working in law firms.
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In California, Caspar worked as a clerk for a federal appeals court judge. He then served the San Francisco law firm owned by Heller, Ehrman, White, and McAuliffe. From 1959 to 1969, Caspar was a partner in the firm. A poll of state government reporters conducted in 1955 named Caspar the state's most able lawmaker.
Meanwhile, Caspar joined politics as a California State Assemblyman from 1953 to 1959. In 1962, Caspar became chairman of the ‘California Republican Party.’
Caspar was appointed as the chairman of the 'Commission on California State Government Organization and Economy' (the 'Little Hoover Commission') in 1967 by Governor Ronald Reagan. Reagan made Caspar the State Director of Finance in 1968.
In January 1970, President Richard Nixon appointed Caspar as the chairman of the 'Federal Trade Commission.' Six months later, he first became the deputy director of the ‘Office of Management and Budget’. He became its director in June 1972. Caspar was nicknamed "Cap the Knife" because of his incredible cost-cutting plans for government programs.
On February 12, 1973, Caspar became the US Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. He was also appointed as the human resources counselor in an attempt to bring federal bureaucracy under ‘White House’ control.
Caspar resigned in 1975, to venture into a corporate career. He then became the director of 'PepsiCo' and 'Quaker Oats' and the vice president of the 'Bechtel' group of companies in California. However, he returned to politics in 1981, as Ronald Reagan’s first Secretary of Defense. Even though Caspar had the reputation of a budget-slasher, he advocated several budget-boosting plans for defense. He witnessed the largest hike in the defense budget and was rightfully named "Cap the Shovel.’’
Caspar also stressed upon high recruitment and retention of the armed forces. He played a key role in the development of America's strategic nuclear preventive plan, which Reagan announced in 1981.
In June 1984, Caspar and the Chinese defense minister signed a military technology co-operation agreement that was used later in developing several defense programs.
Caspar commissioned the ‘MX’ missile and the 'Strategic Defense Initiative' (SDI), a space-based missile defense program that was nicknamed the "Star Wars" system. In 1985, he founded a 'Strategic Defense Initiative Organization' at the ‘Pentagon’ to develop and manage the ‘SDI’ system.
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Caspar faced opposition from some arms control advocates who thought that deploying the ‘SDI’ would violate the 'Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty,' which ultimately canceled the testing. He was instrumental in many arms control negotiations, such as the 'Strategic Arms Reduction Talks' (START) and the 'Intermediate Nuclear Forces' (INF) talks in Geneva.
On November 23, 1987, Caspar quit the ‘Pentagon.’ He cited his wife's failing health as the reason. However, everyone believed that his concerns over the 'Iran-Contra' dealings and the increasing objection of the congress to his proposed budget-boosting plan were the actual reasons for his resignation.
As expected, Caspar got involved in the 'Iran-Contra' scandal. The Reagan administration had a secret arms-deal with Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages. A portion of the earnings from the deal was given to the Nicaraguan guerilla rebel group 'Contras,' which contradicted the act of the congress.
Caspar later told that he was against the deal with Iran, but the investigating committee did not believe him. They accused him of not making solid efforts to stop the deal and claimed that he was involved in the dealing of the 'US Hawk' and ‘TOW’ missiles with Iran.
In 1992, he was accused of concealing facts regarding the deal and was accused of lying to the prosecutor. The charges were, however, cleared later by the outgoing president George HW Bush.
In 1987, Caspar was honored with the 'Presidential Medal of Freedom.' He also received the 'British Knighthood' from Queen Elizabeth II. From 1988 to 1990, he served at the presidential 'Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board' and the 'National Economic Commission.' He was also appointed as a counsel at the international law firm 'Rogers & Wells.'
Caspar was a 'Winston Churchill Memorial' trustee and co-chairman of the 'Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowships Foundation.'
Following his retirement, Caspar wrote several books, including 'Fighting for Peace,' which chronicled his tenure at the ‘Pentagon,’ and 'The Next War,' a book on defense strategy. He also became the publisher and chairman of 'Forbes’ magazine.
He co-wrote a novel titled 'Chain of Command,' which was published in 2005, and the non-fiction 'Home of the Brave: A Tribute to Unsung Heroes in the War on Terror,' released posthumously in 2006.
Caspar was an honorary member of the 'Founding Council of the Rothermere American Institute' at the 'University of Oxford.'
Family, Personal Life & Death
Even though Caspar grew up according to general Christian traditions, he later became an active Episcopalian.
In 1942, Caspar married World War II army nurse Rebecca Jane Dalton, who later became an author and a publisher. They had a daughter, Arlin, and a son, Caspar Willard Weinberger Jr. Caspar and Jane were together until his death in 2006.
Caspar spent his last days on Mount Desert Island, Maine, where he was undergoing treatment. On March 28, 2006, he died of pneumonia at the 'Eastern Maine Medical Center' in Bangor, Maine. Caspar was buried at the ‘Arlington National Cemetery' on April 4, 2006.