NATION Commander in Vietnam dies at 91
Westmoreland argued that the United States did not lose the war in southeast Asia.
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- Retired Gen. William Westmoreland, who commanded American troops in Vietnam -- the nation's longest conflict -- died Monday night. He was 91.
Westmoreland died of natural causes at Bishop Gadsden retirement home, where he had lived with his wife for several years, said his son, James Ripley Westmoreland.
The silver-haired, jut-jawed officer, who rose through the ranks quickly in Europe during World War II and later became superintendent of West Point, contended the United States did not lose the conflict in Southeast Asia.
"It's more accurate to say our country did not fulfill its commitment to South Vietnam," he said. "By virtue of Vietnam, the U.S. held the line for 10 years and stopped the dominoes from falling."
He would later say he did not know how history would deal with him.
"Few people have a field command as long as I did," he said. "They put me over there and they forgot about me. But I was there seven days a week, working 14 to 16 hours a day.
"I have no apologies, no regrets. I gave my very best efforts," he added. "I've been hung in effigy. I've been spat upon. You just have to let those things bounce off."
Led march to memorial
Later, after many of the wounds caused by the divisive conflict began to heal, Westmoreland led thousands of his comrades in the November, 1982, veterans march in Washington to dedicate the Vietnam War Memorial. He called it "one of the most emotional and proudest experiences of my life."
William Childs Westmoreland was born near Spartanburg, S.C., on March 26, 1914, into a banking and textile family.
His love of uniforms began early.
He was an Eagle Scout and attended The Citadel for a year before transferring to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He graduated in 1936 and, during his senior year, held the highest command position in the cadet corps.
Westmoreland saw action in North Africa, Sicily and Europe during World War II. He attained the rank of colonel by the time he was 30.