Lt. Gen. William Westmoreland is appointed deputy to Gen. Paul Harkins, chief of U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV). It was generally accepted that Westmoreland would soon replace Harkins, whose insistently optimistic views on the progress of the war had increasingly come under criticism.
On June 20, 1964, Harkins departed and Westmoreland did assume command of MACV. His initial task was to provide military advice and assistance to the government of South Vietnam. However, with the commitment of U.S. ground troops, General Westmoreland assumed the added responsibility of commanding America’s armed forces in combat in Vietnam.
One of the Vietnam War’s most controversial figures, Westmoreland received many honors (including being named Time Man of the Year in 1965) when the fighting was going well, but many Americans blamed him for the problems in Vietnam when the war turned sour. Having provided continually optimistic reports about the war, Westmoreland came under particularly heavy criticism in 1968, when the communists launched the massive surprise Tet Offensive on January 30. In July 1968, Westmoreland was appointed Chief of Staff of the Army, and General Creighton W. Abrams Jr. replaced him as commander of MACV.