June 20

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Jun 20, 1964:

Westmoreland becomes Commander of MACV

Gen. William Westmoreland succeeds Gen. Paul Harkins as head of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV). Westmoreland had previously been Harkins' deputy. Westmoreland's initial task was to provide military advice and assistance to the government of South Vietnam. However, he soon found himself in command of American armed forces in combat as the war rapidly escalated and U.S. combat forces were committed to the war.

One of the war's most controversial figures, Gen. Westmoreland was given many honors when the fighting was going well, but many Americans later blamed him for problems in Vietnam. Negative feeling about Westmoreland grew particularly strong following the Tet Offensive of 1968, when he requested a large number of additional troops for deployment to Vietnam. In the wake of the offensive, there was a review of U.S. policy by the Johnson administration. It was decided to de-escalate the war, halt the bombing of North Vietnam, and go to the negotiating table. On July 1, 1968, General Creighton Abrams replaced Westmoreland as MACV Commander. Westmoreland was reassigned to be the Army Chief of Staff, a post he held until he retired in 1972.

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