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Ford’s General Weyand
by Blaine Taylor

Photo: Firebase Melanie by artist Herbert E. Abrams, from left to right: ARVN officer, Gen. Frederick C. Weyand, Gen. William C. Westmoreland, and US Army officer, with Huey helicopter as a backdrop. (US Army Combat Art Collection.)


In the summer of 1965, I found myself standing at attention in one of the large grassy quadrangles of the 35th Infantry Battalion of the famed 25th Infantry Division (“Tropic Lightning”) of the United States Army at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. The site was made famous by two movies of the same title, From Here to Eternity, detailing the days immediately before the Japanese sneak attack on nearby Pearl Harbor.

Indeed, my very own barracks contained bullet hole marks left behind by the attacking Japanese planes that day, and I could look out my window there and see the exact spot where one of them had crash landed in the mountains that day after having been shot down by American fighters.

At this particular moment, however, my mind was not on the events of Dec. 7, 1941, but focused instead on the tall, pleasant looking man standing right in front of me, the very first major general I’d met during my military service to that time. He was, in fact, my division commander, Maj. Gen. Frederick Carlton Weyand, and he was inspecting Pvt. Taylor’s weapon. I passed inspection, and the genial general moved on down the line, and into military history.

He commanded the famed World War II era division on Oahu during 1964-66, and then later on in combat operations against the Communist Viet Cong in South Vietnam during 1966-67, while I was far away at Infantry Officer Candidate School at the Infantry Training Center at Ft. Benning, GA. He went on to serve in the top spot in the Army, while I left it, and later became a reporter covering three Presidential elections dominated by the Vietnam War: 1968, 1972, and 1976.

For his part, Gen. Weyand (pronounced “WY-and”), served as Chief of Staff of the US Army during Oct. 3, 1974 through September 1976, throughout most of the Presidency of Gerald R. Ford, therefore. He was, in fact, “Ford’s General” during that period of war and postwar, both of them transitional figures.

The future general officer was born at Arbuckle, CA on Sept. 15, 1916, and was commissioned a second lieutenant through the Reserve Officers Training Corps program at the University of California at Berkeley in 1938, graduating the following year.

Weyand was commissioned a second lieutenant on March 6, 1938 as the Nazis were about to take Austria, and was promoted to first lieutenant on June 24, 1941, just under six months before Pearl Harbor. Promoted captain on Apr. 5, 1942, young Weyand became major the following Nov. 17th, followed by lieutenant colonel on March 4, 1945, as the army was about to cross the Rhine River over the Remagen Bridge.

Promoted colonel on July 20, 1955 during the Eisenhower Presidential years, Weyand made brigadier general before the General Election of 1960, then major general on Nov. 1, 1962, just after the successful termination of the Cuban Missile Crisis by JFK.

Named lieutenant general with three stars on July 1, 1967 (by which time I was also serving in South Vietnam), Gen. Weyand got his fourth star as full general on Nov. 1, 1970, six months after President Nixon’s controversial “incursion” into Cambodia that widened the war in Southeast Asia.

Gen. Weyand’s many military awards, medals, decorations, and badges included the Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Bronze Star Medal with V device and Oak Leaf Cluster, nine awards of the Air Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the most prized of all---the Combat Infantryman Badge, also held by this writer for service in Vietnam.

Over the course of his 33 years of active service, Gen. Weyand had attended the Coast Artillery School, the Infantry School, the US Army Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, KS; the Armed Forces Staff College for inter-service operations, and the prestigious National War College. His BA degree from the University of California was, oddly enough, in Criminology.

Gen. Weyand’s major commands included not only the 25th Division, but also II Field Force Vietnam (in which this writer also served in-country); the Office of Reserve Components at the Pentagon; as Military Advisor to the US Peace Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference at the US Embassy to end the Vietnam War, and then Assistant Chief of Staff for Force Development at Washington, DC.

The general next was named Deputy Commander of the US Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) at Saigon during September 1970-June 1972, and then as overall MACV commanding general from then through March 1973, when President Nixon withdrew most large US ground combat units altogether.

During March-July 1973, Gen. Weyand was C-in-C US Army Pacific, and during August 1973 through September 1974, he served as US Army Vice Chief of Staff. For one month, Gen. Weyand served as Acting Chief of Staff, and was named permanent Chief of Staff Army in his own right by President Ford on Oct. 5, 1974, thus reaching the pinnacle of a distinguished military career.

According to the US Army Office of Information in 1974, Gen. Weyand “Entered on active duty in December 1940. In 1944-45, he was assigned to various units in China, Burma, and India. After World War II, his assignments included duty with the War Department; Headquarters, US Army Pacific; Joint Task Force 7; and the staff of the Commander-in-Chief Pacific.

“During the Korean conflict, he served with the 3rd Infantry Division in Japan and Korea in 1950-51. In 1954, Gen. Weyand---following duty as an instructor at The Infantry School---was assigned to the Office of the Secretary of the Army.

“From 1958-60, Gen. Weyand was assigned in West Berlin in commanding officer, 3rd Battle Group, 6th Infantry; as assistant to the US commander, Berlin; and in France as Chief of Staff, US Army Communications Zone. He then served as Chief of Legislative Liaison at Department of the Army,” at the Pentagon.

Sworn into office as President Ford’s top Army soldier on Oct. 7, 1974, Gen. Weyand---according to his official biography in the Army’s own Chiefs of Staff compendium, “Supervised Army moves to improve the combat-to-support troop ratio, to achieve a 16-division force, to enhance the effectiveness of round-out units, and to improve personnel and logistical readiness.”

Gen. Weyand advised both Presidents Nixon and Ford through some of the most crucial months of the Vietnam War, especially its concluding phases. He retired from active service in October 1976, just before the election of Ford’s successor as President, Gov. Jimmy Carter of Georgia, a Naval Academy graduate, to Honolulu, HI, with his wife, Arline Langhart Weyand.

Thus had the former artillery officer served as the last Army Chief of Staff for both President Ford and the United States during its first lost war, and its longest one as well: Vietnam. …

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* Ford’s General Weyand


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