William Childs Westmoreland, 26 Mar 1914 - 18 Jul 2005 Search this
Color photograph on paper
Sight: 25.4 x 20.3cm (10 x 8")
Mat: 55.9 x 40.6cm (22 x 16")
United States\District of Columbia\Washington
A by-the-book, spit-and-polish career army officer, William Westmoreland earned distinction in both World War II and Korea, so his combination of combat experience and political savvy made him the logical commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam. But while Westmoreland presided over America's escalation of the war from 1964 to 1968, his military abilities became overshadowed by the politicization of the war. In fighting against a skillful enemy and waging a war whose goals, both military and political, were ill-defined, Westmoreland contributed to the domestic "credibility gap" by giving relentlessly upbeat progress reports, even as casualties mounted and troop levels grew from 100,000 to 500,000. He was replaced after the 1968 Tet Offensive, when a North Vietnamese attack on South Vietnam's cities shook American confidence in the war effort. Westmoreland subsequently served as army chief of staff from 1968 to 1972.