Birthday: March 26, 1914
Died At Age: 91
Sun Sign: Aries
Also Known As: William Westmoreland
Born Country: United States
Born in: Saxon, South Carolina, United States
Famous as: Military Leader
Spouse/Ex-: Katherine Van Deusen (m. 1947)
father: James Ripley Westmoreland
mother: Eugenia Talley Childs
children: James Ripley II, Katherine Stevens, Margaret Childs
Died on: July 18, 2005
U.S. State: South Carolina
Cause of Death: Alzheimer
Diseases & Disabilities: Alzheimer's
education: Harvard Business School, US Army War College, United States Military Academy, The Citadel - The Military College of South Carolina
Who was William Childs Westmoreland?
William Childs Westmoreland was a United States Army officer who commanded the military forces during the Vietnam War from 1964 to 1968. He was the chief of staff of the army from 1968 to 1972. Born in an upper middle-class family in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, he became an Eagle Scout at the age of 15. As a young adult, Westmoreland earned the Silver Buffalo and Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. After spending a year at The Citadel, South Carolina, he enrolled at the United States Military Academy at West Point, eventually graduating as first captain in 1936. Following his graduation, he served as an artillery officer and was involved in numerous assignments with the 18th Field Artillery at Fort Sill. With the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Bragg, Westmoreland served throughout World War II. In 1956, at 42 years old, he became a major general. He was married and had three children. After living with Alzheimer’s disease for over a decade, Westmoreland died In July 2005, at the age of 91.
Childhood & Early Life
William Childs Westmoreland was born on March 26, 1914, in Saxon, South Carolina, USA, to James Ripley and Eugenia Talley Childs.
At the age of 15, he became an Eagle Scout and went on to earn the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award as well as Silver Buffalo from the Boy Scouts of America.
In 1932, Westmoreland attended The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. He later attended the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.
He eventually graduated from West Point as first captain in 1936. Westmoreland was awarded the Pershing Sword.
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Following his graduation, William Westmoreland was appointed as an artillery officer. He joined the 18th Field Artillery at Fort Sill and did several assignments with the unit.
In 1939, he became a battalion staff officer and battery commander with the 8th Field Artillery at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
From 1943 to 1944 during World War II, he commanded the 34th Field Artillery Battalion, 9th Infantry Division. On October 13, 1944, Westmoreland was promoted to the rank of chief of staff of the 9th Infantry Division.
Following the war, he served as a commander of 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82d Airborne Division.
In 1947, he became chief of staff of the 82nd Airborne Division and served the unit until 1950. This was followed by his role as an instructor at the General Staff College and Army War College.
Westmoreland was active in the army during the Korean War. From 1952 to 1953, he served as commander of the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team.
He then returned to USA where he was appointed deputy assistant chief of staff, G–1. Following the Korean War, he became the secretary of the general staff in 1955 and held this rank until 1958.
The American army officer then became the commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division. In July 1960, he was appointed United States Military Academy’s superintendent and served in this post until June 1963.
From July 1963 to December 1963, Westmoreland served as commanding general of the XVIII Airborne Corps.
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In January 1964, he served as deputy commander of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. He was promoted to commander in June that year and held the position until June 1968. From 1968 to 1972, he served in the United States Army as the chief of staff.
The Vietnam War & Westmorelands Role as Commander in South Vietnam
From November 1955 to April 1975, the Vietnam War was fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. During the war, North Vietnam was supported by China, Soviet Union, and other communist allies, while South Vietnam had the support of USA, South Korea, and other anti-communist allies. The war lasted 19 years and ended in 1975.
Westmoreland was sent to Vietnam in 1963 where he headed the MACV. During his venture, the strength of the US troops increased from 16,000 to its peak of 535,000 in 1968, the year that also brought the turning point in the war with the Tet Offensive.
During that time, Westmoreland focused on the Battle of Khe Sanh and also managed to fight off the attacks against the communist forces.
His war strategy was marked by heavy use of airpower and artillery and frequent attempts to engage the opposition army in large-scale battles.
Westmoreland repeatedly suppressed attempts by Lew Walt and John Paul Vann to shift to a "pacification" strategy. He instead concentrated on "positive indicators" which, however, turned insignificant when the Tet Offensive happened.
Also in 1968, he considered the employment of nuclear weapons in a contingency plan codenamed Fracture Jaw. His strategy was eventually abandoned by the White House.
Military Awards & Honors
William Westmoreland was honored with numerous national and foreign decorations and awards in his career. His US decorations and awards include Army Presidential Unit Citation, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Korean Service Medal, and Vietnam Service Medal.
Some of his international honors are WWII Croix de guerre; Republic of Vietnam Distinguished Service Order, First Class; Order of Military Merit, Grand Officer from Brazil; Order of the Rising Sun from Japan; Order of Sikatuna from Philippines; and Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.
Family & Personal Life
William Westmoreland first saw his future wife, Katherine, a daughter of Colonel Edwin R. Van Deusen, at Fort Sill when she was just nine years old. The two met again later and married in 1947. Together, they had three children, namely Katherine, James, and Margaret.
Westmoreland’s brother-in-law was Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Van Deusen, who was killed just a few hours after the former was sworn in as the army chief of staff in 1968.
Death & Legacy
On July 18, 2005, William Westmoreland died at his retirement home in South Carolina, at the age of 91. He had suffered from Alzheimer's disease for at least a decade.
The General William C. Westmoreland Bridge in South Carolina is named in his honor.
The General William C. Westmoreland award was authorized by the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution in 1996. Every year, the award is given to an exceptional SAR veterans volunteer.