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Digital Archive International History Declassified

Biographies

William C. Westmoreland

US Military commander in the Vietnam War.

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Biography

b. March 26, 1914

William Westmoreland commanded US military operations in the Vietnam War from 1964-68. He later served as the Army’s Chief of Staff.

William Childs Westmoreland born in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, is a retired United States General who commanded US military operations in the Vietnam War from 1964-68. As the head of the Military Assistance Command in Vietnam his highly publicized, positive assessments of US military prospects in Vietnam were shattered by the 1968 Tet Offensive, in which Communist forces attacked cities and towns throughout South Vietnam. Westmoreland successfully fought off the Offensive but the ferocity of the assault belied his previous assurances about the state of the war. His request for 200,000 further troops, after already massively escalating the conflict, was refused by Lyndon Johnson and he stood down from MACV. He later served as the Army’s Chief of Staff.

He retired from the Army in 1972. Westmoreland ran unsuccessfully for Governor of South Carolina in 1974. He published his autobiography »A Soldier Reports« the following year. Westmoreland later served on a task force to improve educational standards in the state of South Carolina.

In 1982, Mike Wallace interviewed Westmoreland for the CBS special »The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception«. William Westmoreland sued Wallace and CBS for libel. While the case was still in court, CBS settled with Westmoreland after their internal investigation determined that the producers of the show had not used the proper standards of fairness.

In 1947, he married Katherine (»Kitsy«) S. Van Deusen. They had three children: Katherine, Margaret, and Rip.