The Top Sixteen Westmoreland Quotations

October 10th, 2011 at 8:13 am | 9 Comments |

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16. Motives: In an oral history interview: “I diligently tried to do a good job, ampoule not because I was bucking for anything higher, but because I was trying to do a job for the sake of doing a good job. That was my orientation. As a matter of fact, it was throughout my career. It was to do a job for the sake of doing a good job.”

15. Principles of War: To a conference of senior commanders at Nha Trang: “At the end of World War II I wrote down some principles of war. I have them still today—on a card I carry in my wallet, and I want to share them with you. Whenever possible, feed the troops a hot meal. Make sure they have dry socks, and check their feet. Stress getting the troops their mail.”

14. Travails: “As American commander in Vietnam I underwent many frustrations, endured much interference, lived with countless irritations, swallowed many disappointments, bore considerable criticism.”

13. Vietnam Strategy and Tactics: “The President never tried to tell me how to run the war. The tactics and battlefield strategy of running the war were mine. He did not interfere with this. He deferred to my judgment, and he let me run the war or pursue tactics and battlefield strategy as I saw fit.”

12. Marines: In a late January 1968 cable to General Wheeler: “The military professionalism of the Marines falls far short of the standards that should be demanded by our armed forces. Indeed, they are brave and proud, but their standards, tactics, and lack of command supervision throughout their ranks requires improvement in the national interest.” But, then and later, on his establishment of MACV Forward and placing it over the Marines in I Corps: That “had not a damned thing to do with my confidence in General Cushman or the Marines, not a damned thing.”

11. Order of Battle: On why he refused to forward to Washington intelligence (newly developed in his headquarters in Vietnam) showing substantially greater numbers of enemy forces than previously estimated: “Because people in Washington were not sophisticated enough to understand and evaluate this thing, and neither was the media.”

10. Pacification: In an oral history: “Pacification was oversold in the United States and oversold to the Johnson administration, where it was the ‘end all.’ It was never the end all with me, and I got pressure after pressure after pressure to put emphasis on pacification at the expense of allowing the main forces to have a free rein.”

9. Riding High: “My most memorable moment in my military career was the occasion of my address to a joint session of Congress in April 1967.”

8. Situation in Mid-1967: At a MACV Commanders Conference in May 1967: “The main force war is accelerating at a rapid, almost alarming, rate. The enemy is reinforcing his four main force fronts with people and weapons.” Then at a July 1967 press conference in Washington: “The statement that we are in a stalemate is complete fiction. It is completely unrealistic. During the past year tremendous progress has been made.”

7. Prospects in November 1967: Press conference in the U.S. just weeks before the enemy’s 1968 Tet Offensive: “Very, very encouraged. I’ve never been more encouraged during my entire almost four years in country.” And, at the National Press Club: “The enemy’s hopes are bankrupt.”

6. Nuclear Weapons and Vietnam: Spoken out of the blue to a young aide-de-camp: “You know, if we’d used nuclear weapons we could have won that war.”

5. Chief of Staff Duties: “I spoke in every state in the union. I considered myself the military spokesman of the Army, and that I should be exposed to the American public…. [That] was the primary mission that fell on my shoulders while I was Chief of Staff.”

4. Libel Suit Outcome: On withdrawal—after the trial had continued for some eighteen weeks and only days before the case would have gone to the jury—of the libel suit he had brought against CBS: “The effort to defame, dishonor and destroy me and those under my command had been exposed and defeated. I, therefore, withdrew from the battlefield, all flags flying.”

3. Vietnam Forever: To an interviewer, more than thirty years after retiring from the Army: “The Vietnam War is my number one priority.”

2. Vietnam Sometimes: In one of his last public declarations: “Vietnam is ancient history and I’ve kind of divorced myself from it over the years.”

1. Vietnam Never: And the #1 Westmoreland quotation, from remarks to a college audience in 1993: “In the scope of history, Vietnam is not going to be a big deal. It won’t float to the top as a major endeavor.

Lewis Sorley’s biography Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam is being published today by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Recent Posts by Lewis Sorley

9 Comments so far ↓

  • Graychin

    Did someone choose these quotations to make Westmoreland appear to be a babbling idiot? I recall that he was seen as an inept commander during the Vietnam adventure, but these self-contradictory quotes make it seem as if the man was completely detached from reality. Perhaps that was the problem all along.

    But you saved the best for last: ““In the scope of history, Vietnam is not going to be a big deal. It won’t float to the top as a major endeavor.” Yeah – and in the long run we’re all dead – along with the 50,000 + Americans who died in that hellhole.

    (Perhaps “float to the top” is just an unfortunate choice of metaphor.)

    As for Vietnam’s place in history – forty years later, we can see that Vietnam changed America forever. We’re still playing Suits vs. Hippies, something unseen before Vietnam. We see a good example of it in the FrumForum dismissal of Occupy Wall Street and its numerous offspring.

    • BenignBot

      That fcking South Carolina punk, bigot, Westmoreland was just born to be the fckd up person which he eventually became.

      How many good old boys died due to his ignorant bigotry and stupidity?

      The same fcking thing goes for that primma dona cnt Rummy.

      Basically, if we are to go to war, then we must go to war in a very democratic way with a very informed populace. And not with American Hessians.

  • jakester

    Westmoreland was a typical Army mediocrity, which would mean he would be fine commanding a regiment or running a training camp or supply base. It was the Pentagon and the president who were the biggest culprits for putting a loser like him in such a high place. In WW ll, the Army flushed out incompetents like Fredenhall after his debacle in Tunisia & found people like Patton & Bradley to replace him.

    • ottovbvs

      Well the army was being run by one of the greatest Americans of the 20th century. George Marshall. Of course the Republicans called him a communist agent (I’m not kidding) but when were they ever right about anything. Westmoreland was bad news and a lot of people in the army knew it, but not the president or the media who for years told Americans how wonderful he was.

  • Steve D

    I was in the Army 1970-72 (but not Vietnam) and again as a Reservist 1982-2001. The Army I saw in 1970-72 was run by the most pompous, full of themselves buffoons ever. These clowns equated spit shines and creased fatigues with military ability. And Westmoreland represents everything that was corrupt in the military. We learned a lot in the ten years I was out but the military still attracts people who value form over substance. In the Gulf War we had some nitwit named “Colonel Chinstrap” whose contribution to the war effort was to make sure people had their helmet chinstraps snapped. This guy was over his pay grade as a PFC. Someone also needs to ask the Pentagon how those cool berets are doing winning in Afghanistan.

    It’s unfortunate that a poser like Patton proved (purely by chance) to be competent as a general because he reinforces the idea that spit and polish means anything. More realistic is the fact that grubby Grant did what dapper McClellan couldn’t. And the one-size fits all comment on military effectiveness: “The side with the simplest uniforms wins.”

  • nitrat

    Hmmm. After observing McChrystal, Petraeus and some of the retired generals Nikki Haley has recently appointed or were elected in South Carolina, I have been wondering what in the world has been going on at at service academies since Vietnam. Looks like the problems have been there for a lot longer than 40 years.

  • Rich T Bikkies

    No mention of My Lai? Well, there’s probably a good reason why not.