- 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
Best Known For
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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As a result, success in the conflict was often measured by the number of enemy troops killed. But over time, the public became skeptical of the U.S. Army's reports regarding the Vietcong body count. Many were also concerned about the growing number of American casualties. Westmoreland was called back to the United States in 1967 to report on the war before Congress. He told Congress that with enough support "we will prevail ... over the Communist aggressor,
" according to a TIME magazine article published at the time. But support for the war and Westmoreland on the home front was already waning.
The South Vietnamese forces and the U.S. military troops were dealt a surprising blow duing Tet, the lunar New Year festival, in 1968. Vietcong troops attacked cities and sites throughout South Vietnam, taking over several large cities and provincial capitals. News coverage of battles in Saigon and Hue exposed the people at home to the brutal fighting in Vietnam. While U.S. and South Vietnamese troops eventually drove them out, the conflict was the last straw for many Americans. Concern continued to grow about the United States' involvement in what appeared to be an unwinnable war.
Westmoreland remained focused on achieving victory despite the shifting public and political opinions regarding the war. Weeks after the Tet Offensive, he requested more than 200,000 additional troops be sent to Vietnam. President Lyndon B. Johnson put off his request and eventually decided to call Westmoreland back to the United States to serve as chief of staff for the U.S. Army. During his time in Vietnam, the number of U.S. troops engaged in the conflict grew from less than 20,000 to approximately 500,000.
After retiring from the military in 1972, Westmoreland moved to Charleston, South Carolina, and spent some of his time as a public speaker. Still experiencing the bitter legacy of his role in the Vietnam War, he often encountered protesters at his events. Westmoreland also made an unsuccessful run for governor in 1974 and published an autobiography entitled A Soldier Reports in 1976.
In 1982, Westmoreland sued CBS News for libel over the documentary, The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception, which indicated that he had help deceive the American people about the strength of enemy forces in Vietnam. The conflicting reports indicate that the case was either settled out of court or that Westmoreland withdrew the suit.
Despite the controversy that surrounded him, Westmoreland remained dedicated to the soliders who served under him. He led a group of veterans to the ceremony for the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 1982, and marched with thousands of veterans in Chicago's Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Parade in 1986.
William Westmoreland died on July 18, 2005, at a retirement home in Charleston, South Carolina, at the age of 91. He had been married to his wife Katherine since 1947; the couple had three children together.
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