- NAME: William Westmoreland
- OCCUPATION: General
- BIRTH DATE: March 26, 1914
- DEATH DATE: July 18, 2005
- EDUCATION: The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, United States Military Academy at West Point
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Near Spartanburg, South Carolina
- PLACE OF DEATH: Charleston, South Carolina
- Full Name: William Childs Westmoreland
- AKA: William C. Westmoreland
- AKA: William Westmoreland
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William Westmoreland was a U.S. Army general who made a name for himself as commander of American troops in Vietnam.
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Born in South Carolina in 1914, General William Westmoreland was commander of the U.S. Military Assistance Command in Vietnam. Initially, Westmoreland was a popular figure, becoming a full four-star general and being named TIME magazine's "Man of the Year" in 1965, but the bitter legacy of his role in the war haunted him, as the number of U.S. troops engaged grew from less than 20,000 to approximately 500,000, and victory was elusive. He died in South Carolina in 2005.
"We will prevail ... over the Communist aggressor."
William Charles Westmoreland was born on March 26, 1914, near Spartanburg, South Carolina. Before his name became synonymous with the Vietnam War, William Westmoreland was a decorated soldier who fought in World War II and the Korean War. He came from a long line of soldiers, dating back to the American Revolutionary War. After graduating from high school, Westmoreland attended The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. He then received an appointment to attend the elite United States Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1936.
Commissioned as a second lieutenant, Westmoreland was posted at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. He steadily rose up the ranks, serving at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii and Fort Bragg in North Carolina before traveling overseas to see combat during World War II in 1942. First, Westmoreland went to North Africa with the 34th Field Artillery Battalion, 9th Infantry Division, where he served as a battalion commander for military operations in Tunisia. His battalion then moved to the European theater, fighting in Sicily, Italy. Westmoreland continued to serve in Europe, eventually becoming the chief of staff for his division.
After the war, Westmoreland continued his ascent in the military hierarchy, becoming a major in 1948 and lieutenant colonel in 1952. That same year, he commanded the 187th Airborne Regimental Team in Korea, but he returned stateside in late 1953 to serve at the Pentagon where he held several posts. In 1960, Westmoreland became the superintendent at West Point.
In 1963, Westmoreland once again went abroad—this time to Vietnam. At he worked with U.S. military advisers who were assisting the forces of the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government in their conflict against the communist North Vietnamese. After U.S. destroyers were allegedly attacked by the North Vietnamese in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson authorized an escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Westmoreland soon became the commander of the United States Military Assistance Command. Initially he was a popular figure, becoming a full four-star general and being named TIME magazine's "Man of the Year" in 1965.
The U.S. military fought against the North Vietnamese by heavily bombing important targets in the north. It also fought the Viet Cong, a communist militant group supported by the North Vietnamese. Westmoreland's military strategy has widely been described as a war of attrition, quickly diminishing the number of opposing troops before replacements could be found.
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