Small Wars Journal

The On-Going Battle for the Soul of the Army

Sat, 12/10/2016 - 6:06pm

The On-Going Battle for the Soul of the Army

Gregory H. Murry


At the end of the Vietnam War the U.S. Army was in disarray. Racial animosities, drug abuse and rebellious attitudes among young people coming into the all-volunteer army caused CSA Creighton Abrams to reorganize the way the army prepares for war by creating the Training and Doctrine command (TRADOC.) The best summary of this time may be found in “The Generals,” by Thomas Ricks.1

Led by General William DePuy, TRADOC would take the army back to the basics. Deciding that there was nothing to be learned from the army’s experiences in Vietnam, he discarded those lessons and focused on a NATO conventional war scenario in Western Europe with the Soviet Union’s Warsaw Pact. DePuy was in a hurry. He believed soldiers should be told how to fight and created a comprehensive program of training, doctrine and equipment procurement that would rebuild the shattered army. 

At the same, Major General John Cushman was also deeply concerned with rebuilding the army. Unlike DePuy, he felt that there were many lessons to be learned from Vietnam. He believed his mission was to teach mid-level career officers how to think about fighting. Using the 1970 War College “Study on Military Professionalism,” he began holding student symposiums on officer responsibilities at the Command and General Staff College based at Fort Leavenworth. He had the students consider a series of questions about how to raise standards, create an environment of integrity, and the role of general officers in making that environment routine.

The first symposium was attended by fifteen general officers and the featured speakers included LTG Ray Peers who led the army’s investigation of the My Lai Massacre. It was Peers’ private letter to CSA Westmoreland at the conclusion of the investigation that was the impetus for the War College study. In it Peers described an army that had lost its ethical compass.

Colonel Dandridge Malone described a free-flying atmosphere in the symposium: “It was tough, direct, and pointed and heated—and some of those generals got hurt—bad.” One officer spoke about: “Dishonest demands coming down, dishonest reports going up.” A general declared that he never tolerated that in his division and the officer replied that he was in the general’s division. A number of the generals came away hugely unhappy.

Some complained and the word got to CSA Abrams. A month later he went to Leavenworth and addressed the class. When asked by a student what he thought about the issues raised in the symposium, he replied, “You want to do your very best not to force people to lie.” As he was leaving he told Cushman, “I don’t have any problem with these students. They’re all right.”2

But Abrams was dying. He had been able to protect Cushman but DePuy was determined to stop what was going on at Leavenworth. He denigrated the Study on Military Professionalism by saying he wasn’t interested in what made lieutenant colonels unhappy. Ostensibly he felt that the army only had the time and resources to learn how to fight. He was also of the opinion that very few people have real initiative and that an organization does best when its members were frequently told in simple terms what to do and with his training model, how to do it. The question is, was that the only reason why DePuy squashed Cushman’s symposiums on ethics and officer responsibility?

Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam

In 2011 Lewis Sorley published a biography of General William Westmoreland titled “Westmoreland, The General Who Lost Vietnam.” In it Sorley makes the argument that Westmoreland didn’t understand the nature of the war and squandered lives, treasure, and time during his command, thereby undermining the American people’s support and leading to our withdrawal and ultimately the loss of the war. He uses memoirs, interviews, and conversations to make his case but in doing so also paints a picture of the culture of the U.S. Army as described in the 1970 War College of Military Professionalism.

Tom Glenn in his Amazon review of Sorley’s book says, “But to denigrate Westmoreland individually misses the point. First of all, he was iconic of the military officers of his day. Alternative thinking, creativity and the ability to see the war from the Communist point of view were not traits that got one promoted. The right look and stance, hard work and cleaving to the conventional wisdom were. Westmoreland was only the best of breed.”3

That is a good a description of the bright side of army culture. There is however a dark side where ambition can erode a commitment to Duty, Honor, Country, the ethical code by which anyone taking the oath is obligated to live by. Glen studiously ignores this as do most of the 106 reviews of Sorley’s book on Amazon. Many agree with Sorley’s thesis regarding counterinsurgency and some disagree but only one gives reference to this elephant.4

The Army leadership manual, FM 22-100 (August 1999) defines Army culture as shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes the larger institution,” and climate as: “the environment of units and organizations. All organizational and direct leaders establish their organization’s climate, whether purposefully or unwittingly.” While Westmoreland wasn’t responsible for the establishment of the Army culture that existed at that time, he was a product of it and he was the ethical standard bearer for the Army in Vietnam during his command there and this is what I believe Lewis Sorley was talking about.5

Inside the Garlic Room

It didn’t take long for the army to return fire. Colonel Gregory Daddis, a history professor at West Point and author of a previous book on using statistics to gage progress in the Vietnam War, published a review essay in the Autumn 2011 edition of Parameters, a U.S. Army War College publication. In it he first states that context matters. He was probably born around the time Westmoreland was running the war so that deprived him of one of the most important aspects of context which of course is experience. It has been said that regarding history we should refer everything to its own time and Sorley was there while Daddis wasn’t.

Daddis then considers some philosophical debate about the role of the individual in winning or losing modern wars; but there has never been a debate in the army about the commander being responsible for everything the unit does or fails to do. He also questions the veracity of the individuals interviewed and oral histories citing the passage of time. I find that totally disingenuous: one, that in his relatively youthful exuberance he imagines that the veterans of that war can forget the most soul searing time of their lives and two, that so many general officers broke the army culture loyalty rule and spoke out so forcefully against one of their own.

Daddis does cover the most memorable Westmoreland episode which was the Order of Battle controversy and his defamation lawsuit against CBS News. At the heart of the matter was one of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s metrics for success, the ‘crossover point;’ when U.S. forces were killing more enemy forces than could be replaced. This of course led to the body count and every negative thing associated with it. In 1967 President Lyndon B. Johnson was ramping up for a second elected term in the White House. He expected McNamara and Westmoreland to support his political campaign by optimistic press releases regarding the war.

During that summer and fall, Westmoreland had his staff brief the press that his forces were nearing the ‘crossover point.’ The CIA disagreed with  the MACV order of battle and enemy strength estimates but after several contentious meetings with MACV intelligence officers they agreed to accept MACV’s numbers. While the MACV staff continued to make optimistic reports until the end of the war; after the Tet Offensive of 1968, the American people were no longer listening.  A CIA analyst named Sam Adams continued to vehemently disagree with the numbers long after the fall of Saigon and it was his information that was used by CBS News to accuse General Westmoreland of ‘cooking the books’ for political purposes.

Westmoreland was greatly hurt by the testimony of his former intelligence officer, MG McChristian in the trial. McChristian said that Westmoreland withheld his enemy strength report stating that it would be a political bombshell. He regarded McChristian’s testimony as an act of disloyalty between West Point men. In a later interview McChristian told of being pressured by DePuy and another officer to report that the ‘crossover point’ had been reached. McChristian refused and stated that withholding the report was both disloyal to the country and self-serving for Westmoreland.6

Daddis concludes his review by writing that Sorley’s biography depicted Westmoreland as a flawed man for the purpose of lionizing Abrams. If he was certain about the flaws, he failed to mention a single one in his review. Using a classic defense lawyer strategy, Daddis ignores the facts and attacks Sorley for extolling the soldierly qualities of General Creighton Abrams while condemning Westmoreland as a way of promoting his work. Here Daddis questions that if the charges were fully true it indicated a conspiracy involving other general officers. My question is: what shall we call it if the charges were only partially true? 

Westmoreland’s War

Colonel Daddis published Westmoreland’s War in 2014. It is a veiled attack on Lewis Sorley’s biography of Westmoreland, using the indirect approach. He buries his thesis in the endnotes where he states that “Westmoreland: The General Who Lost Vietnam,” was, “little more than a veiled attempt at character assassination.” Since Colonel Daddis is a graduate and was a history professor at West Point, I am forced to assume that he missed the class on the army writing style which mandates BLUF or ‘Bottom Line Up Front.’

Colonel Daddis had taken on the task of resurrecting the army’s good name in the Vietnam War. After all, President Reagan said that ours was a noble cause, and so the army wants the country to know that it was a noble army.7 Since it was written while he was a serving officer and professor of history at West Point, the timeliness of its publication seems more than a coincidence as the Department of Defense was preparing to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.

In order to do that he needs to reinvent General Westmoreland’s reputation as an excellent leader who’s military skills were thwarted by the civilian leadership. The photograph on the cover of Daddis’ book shows a smiling group of officers and a smiling Westmoreland. This is to show us that he commanded the affection of his troops and that he cared for them. Many have held him to be a good man and great soldier. Why then is there this dissonance when he is examined by the historians?

In his acknowledgments Daddis states: “This book is a work of historical revisionism.” I characterize it as a work of historical ommissionism. One should refer everything to its own time and for someone who wasn’t there it would be a grave dishonesty to ignore what has been written about the culture of the Army and its climate in Vietnam during the Westmoreland years.

Daddis’ book is 250 pages with 751 endnotes showing that he has referred to a great deal of both published history and archival documents. He had already gone on record in his review essay that he suspected the veracity of the individuals interviewed and oral histories; citing the passage of time.

He uses these official documents such as Combat After Action Reports and Operational Reports-Lessons Learned to support his history and to prove that Westmoreland was not the wrong man for the job as Lewis Sorley’s biography states. But the principal document that Daddis did not mention was the U.S. Army’s Study on Professionalism done by the War College in 1970 and thereby totally ignoring what I believe was the main point of Sorley’s book: ethics, and the character of Westmoreland; how it affected the U.S. Army in Vietnam and the veracity of those official documents in the archives.8

The Study on Military Professionalism9: U.S. Army War College 1970

In order to illustrate the point that the official documents are suspect, we have to give heed to the document that General Cushman was using to rebuild the army’s ethical standards before General DePuy shut him down. The Study on Military Professionalism is what DePuy was referring to when he said that he wasn’t interested in “surveys of what made lieutenant colonels unhappy.10” The study is a climate survey of the U.S. Army during the fifth year of combat operations in Vietnam. It was commissioned by CSA Westmoreland in the aftermath of the My Lai Massacre investigation done by LTG Peers.

In the preface, MG G.S. Eckhardt, the commandant of the War College states that “this study deals with the heart and soul of the Officer Corps of the Army. Its subject matter—involving ethics, morality, and professional competence—is filled with emotional overtones….Nonetheless, spontaneity and personal perception are essential to portray the prevailing climate within the Officer Corps….The subject of ethics, morals, technical competence, individual motivation, and personal value systems, are inextricably related, interacting, and mutually reinforcing….It follows that corrective action must be based on comprehensive programs. Piecemeal programs will not suffice.11” 

In the study’s abstract the report says, “the traditional standards of the American Army Officer may be summarized in three words: Duty-Honor-Country”….In the existing climate, it says, “Officers of all grades perceive a significant difference between the ideal values and the actual or operative values of the Officer Corps (Colonel Dandridge Malone described them as, “Me, My Ass, My Career.)12 This perception is strong, clear, pervasive, and statistically and qualitatively independent of grade, branch, education level or source of commission.”13

The section on existing climate goes on to state, “A scenario that was repeatedly described in seminar sessions and narrative responses includes an ambitious, transitory commander—marginally skilled in the complexities of his duties—engulfed in producing statistical results, fearful of personal failure, too busy to talk with or listen to his subordinates, and determined to submit acceptably optimistic reports which reflect faultless completion of a variety of tasks at the expense of the sweat and frustration of his subordinates.”14  

After he was briefed on the study,  Westmoreland chose to put it on ‘close hold’ for the good of the service believing that the army had already taken too many hits from scandals like the My Lai massacre. But like DePuy several years later, did he suppress the study for only objective reasons? Daddis’ review essay of Sorley’s book allows that Westmoreland was a flawed man but studiously excludes any of these flaws. If we are to understand what happened to the army in Vietnam as is portrayed by Sorley’s book on Westmoreland we have to look at these flaws, many of which were exposed by Westmoreland’s peers.  

Westmoreland’s Uniform

Westmoreland’s uniform was impressive. When he wore his jungle fatigues he had master parachutist wings and a combat infantryman badge (CIB) over the left pocket and a set of Vietnamese jump wings over the right. On his left shoulder he wore the MACV shoulder sleeve insignia and on his right the 187th RCT (Airborne) combat patch. He accumulated most of the 65 jumps required for master wings while his unit was out of the line in Korea doing training, including thirteen jumps in one day. He was awarded the CIB while serving as the regimental commander of the 187th. The CIB could be awarded to any infantry officer in the grade of O-6 and below while serving in combat with an infantry unit.

When he stood in front of troops he all the badges and patches needed for the portrayal of a combat leader and that’s the problem with the army uniform, every picture tells a story but sometimes those stories are not the truth. No doubt, personal courage is required for exiting a perfectly good airplane in flight while trusting in the parachute on one’s back but the CIB earned at the regimental command level doesn’t speak much to those who earned theirs at the squad, platoon, and company level. As LTC Anthony Herbert said, “We had Westmoreland…He was an artilleryman whose chest was heavy with “meritorious awards” and conspicuously bare of combat decorations for valor or gallantry.”15

Early Pentagon Service

While he was serving in the Army personnel branch at the Pentagon, Matthew Ridgway, the Army chief of staff was feuding with the Secretary of Defense due to cuts in strength. Westmoreland came up with a scheme that he said was “phony as hell” to deceive the Secretary of Defense into believing that the Army had nineteen divisions instead of seventeen. During this period he attended an advanced management program at Harvard University and received a glowing report regarding Westmoreland’s participation in the class.16

This is an example of the ethical climate at the highest echelon of the Army. While ‘Duty, Honor, Country’ is the motto of West Point, ‘Cooperate to Graduate’ is probably heard more frequently and becomes the struggle in each young cadet that will continue throughout his life. No one is immune to the enormous pressure to ‘cooperate’ in the armed forces and Westmoreland, appears to have succumbed to the pressure as soon as he left the field and found himself in the presence of the men running the Army.

Counterinsurgency Credentials

As commander of the 101st Airborne Division, Westmoreland instituted a mini-Ranger School course for training the small unit leaders of his division. Daddis writes that this RECONDO course was on “counterinsurgency warfare, with an emphasis on small unit operations.”17

Major Lewis Millett, the commandant said “At first I was assigned to the 506th Battle Group as S-2 [intelligence officer]. During a maneuver I led the 506th I & R [intelligence and reconnaissance] Platoon and captured the headquarters of the 82nd Airborne Division. This impressed the 101st commander, Maj. Gen. William Westmoreland, and he asked me to set up a school for small unit leaders. I formed the Recondo School based on what I had learned in Ranger School.”18

How this can be considered counterinsurgency training, in retrospect, by Westmoreland in his memoirs, is more evidence of his need to shape his reputation. The 101st Airborne was the first Army division to convert to the Pentomic Division structure and it doesn’t fly that the commander of first division to address the problems of combat on the high-intensity nuclear battlefield was focusing his training on counterinsurgency.


In January, 1964, Westmoreland was sent to Vietnam as deputy commander under General Harkins. Harkins had developed an adversarial relationship with the press because of his propensity for describing military defeats as victories.19 His ‘optimism’ was indicative of the armed forces culture and his message certainly set the tone for reporting in South Vietnam. In December, Westmoreland, now in command, sent a message to the senior advisors directing optimistic outlooks. “As advisors, we must accentuate the positive and bring best thought to bear to work out solutions to problems in a dynamic way.”20

Westmoreland’s life at headquarters in Saigon was described by one newspaper columnist as “some type of country-club existence.” The helicopter made it easy to visit troops in the field but at night he returned to what has been described as his being, “ensconced in a comfortable villa with an attentive house staff, riding in an air-conditioned limousine with a police escort…a personal chef, playing tennis at the Cercle Sportif,” etc. Any soldier knows that the longer one stays in the comfortable rear, the problems of the troops in the field become sources of irritation to the staff and the commander will often pay more attention to the staff.21

The President had a domestic agenda and he coerced Robert McNamara into concealing the cost and objectives of our involvement in Vietnam. After the Marines and the 173d Airborne Brigade were deployed for defensive purposes around airfields, Westmoreland joined the deception by proposing to them that the U.S. forces be used for deep patrolling and offensive operations and suggesting that the public stance be one of ‘combat support’ to the South Vietnamese.22

Westmoreland assessed early on that a war of maneuver in Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam was his best chance of winning the war but LBJ would not allow a wider war. Was it not his duty to tell LBJ that he couldn’t stop North Vietnamese aggression while restricted to operations in South Vietnam? Westmoreland wasn’t the only one derelict in his duty; after hearing recommendations from the joint chiefs on how to defeat North Vietnam in August of 1965, LBJ “attacked them in the most vile and despicable terms, cursing them personally, ridiculing their advice using the crudest and filthiest language.” He told them that, “he was not going to let some military idiots talk him into WW III” and then he ordered them out of his office.23 Instead of resigning they remained in office, all virtual yes men for the duration of their appointments.24

Westmoreland’s twelve month troop rotation policy and its inherent problems which he described as a loss of, “teamwork, proficiency, and competence of tactical units,” is another damning indicator of his own failure to provide the civilian leadership with the best military recommendations. The question remains however, did he really understand the problem, having no experience as an actual small unit leader in combat. The lack of teamwork, proficiency, and competence in tactical units in combat is the most obvious source of unnecessary casualties.25

When Westmoreland told LBJ that, “We’re going to win the war for you without mobilization” he ingratiated himself once again with the civilian leadership and undercut the argument that the Army Chief of Staff, Harold K. Johnson had been making with DOD that the reserve call-up was essential for the war effort. After the war, Creighton Abrams, reorganized the combat units so that a third of their strength was reserve component forces. By the time of the Gulf War the army leaders had become so concerned about the battle for budget and active duty troop levels that they themselves undercut Abram’s plan and left the reserve component combat forces at home.26   

Command Climate

Like it was stated earlier, the unit commander is the ethical standard bearer. All organizational and direct leaders establish their organization’s climate, whether purposefully or unwittingly. Immediately after the 1st Cavalry Division’s battles at LZs X-Ray and Albany, LTG Stanley Larsen realized that the division and brigade commanders had lied to Westmoreland about the battle at Albany, a disaster. Larsen told Westmoreland that he was preparing court-martial charges against them but Westmoreland told him to “let it slide.” Military leaders know that high profile court-martials can reflect negatively on them and they don’t initiate them until the problem becomes public knowledge. In covering for their subordinates they send a message to the rest of their command.27

The command climate in Vietnam led to a number of scandals as the troop morale declined and the opportunities increased. Black marketing was a big business, rivaling the black market activities of the U.S. Army deserters in France during WWII. Everything from PX goods to military equipment could be purchased on the streets of Saigon. The first Sergeant Major of the Army, a DePuy then Westmoreland nominee was accused of running a cabal of senior NCO’s who were skimming off the profits of the NCO clubs in all the rear areas.28

Accentuating the positive continued to be Westmoreland’s watchword as the U.S. combat troops took over the heavy lifting. When the 2-28 Infantry was ambushed in October 1967, practically destroying the battalion as a fighting force, Westmoreland, when visiting the wounded, told a first sergeant that he was wrong about having been ambushed. Said Westmoreland, “Oh, no, no, no, that was no ambush.” Replied the first sergeant, “Call it what you want to, I don’t know what happened to those other people, but by God, I was ambushed.”29  


The airborne operation during Operation Junction City was neither practical or desired by the 173d Airborne Brigade who eventually did drop a battalion at Westmoreland’s insistence. It was theater and was meant to remind the DoD that the airborne troops were still relevant. A female French photographer jumped with the troops and Life Magazine photographers with the 11th Armored Cavalry, who were surrounding the drop zone, took pictures of the descending troops. The army characterized it as combat jump though there was no combat near the DZ.30


The center of Daddis’ attempt to resurrect Westmoreland’s reputation is his argument that Westmoreland wasn’t fixated on attrition. That may be true but his chief advisor, General William DePuy was and Westmoreland listened to him. DePuy said, “I have always felt that regular US Army troop units are peculiarly ill suited for the purpose of "securing" operations where they must be in close contact with the people. They can, of course, conduct "clearing" operations, and are perfectly suited for "Search and Destroy", The closer one moves toward the political and psychological end of the spectrum, the more inappropriate is the use of foreign troops who don't speak the language, and who may well have a negative effect on pacification efforts.”31

With regard to attrition, DePuy said, “I guess my biggest surprise, and this was a surprise in which I have lots of company, was that the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong would continue the war despite the punishment they were taking, I guess I should have expected that. I guess I should have studied human nature and the history of Vietnam and of revolutions and should have known it, but I didn't. I really thought that the kind of pressure they were under would cause them to perhaps knock off the war for a while, as a minimum, or even give up and go back north, I understand that from 1965 to '69 they lost over 600,000 men. But, I was completely wrong on that. That was a surprise.”32

Body Count

The body count was the main metric of Westmoreland’s war. In defending it he was quoted in an interview as saying, “I believe one of the great distortions of the war has been the allegation that casualties inflicted upon the enemy are padded, I can categorically state that such is not the case.” But he told General Earle Wheeler that, “we have taken the position that the KIA figures are inflated and are sufficiently accurate only to indicate trends in battle casualties.”33

Anyone serving in the infantry, as I did, knows that it was impossible to accurately count enemy casualties in the jungle. Even Westmoreland must have known this based on his remarks to Wheeler but this numbers game would come back to haunt him. When the War College climate survey was given to him he would have had to read that one of the most violent responses from the officers queried was with regard to the body count. They told of being given quotas and being told to go out and recount until they had sufficient numbers. “Nobody out there believes the body count,” was the dominant response of the young combat arms officers.34

The Crossover Point

In February, 1966, during a conference in Hawaii, Robert McNamara spelled out his metric for measuring progress against the Viet Cong. “Attrite, by year’s end (the communist) forces at a rate as high as their capability to put men into the field.” This would become known as the ‘crossover point.’

At the heart of Westmoreland’s reputation was the lawsuit he initiated against CBS Television Network for libel in a documentary aired in 1982. The documentary was entitled “The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception.” Mike Wallace said it “would present evidence of what we have come to believe was a conscious effort—indeed, a conspiracy at the highest levels of American military intelligence—to suppress and alter critical intelligence on the enemy in the year leading up to the Tet Offensive.”35

In 1967, the Johnson administration began what has been called the ‘Progress Offensive.’ This was what we now call ‘spin.’ It was an attempt to assure the U.S. people that we were winning the war. Since McNamara had defined winning at the Honolulu conference, Westmoreland was under pressure to produce numbers that would support the administration’s declarations of victory in the near future.

In early 1967, Westmoreland gave General Wheeler a report with statistics showing that the VC were holding and even increasing the tactical initiative. Wheeler was appalled and warned Westmoreland not to allow the figures to become public knowledge. He further told Westmoreland that “I cannot go to the President and tell him that, contrary to my reports …as to the progress of the war…that we are not sure who has the initiative.” Instead of telling the President the truth, Wheeler sent a general officer to Saigon to help Westmoreland massage the figures to a more palatable meal.

Westmoreland messaged Wheeler that “LTG Brown’s team and members of my staff have developed terms of reference in the form of new definitions, criteria, formats and procedures related to the reporting of enemy activity which can be used to assess effectively significant trends in the organized enemy combat initiative.” In April Westmoreland told the President that it appeared to him that the crossover point had been reached.36

In September 1967, an intelligence conference took place in Saigon. An analyst with CIA named Sam Adams had determined that the Viet Cong guerrilla movement was growing in number. The MACV intelligence people, led by J2 BG Davidson refused to accept their figures.37  

This all came back to haunt Westmoreland when he sued CBS. Westmoreland later said in a deposition that a report with the higher figures “could be used to embarrass my commander in chief.” MG McChristian, Westmoreland’s previous J2 said of the withholding of the report, “I think for a military man to withhold a report based upon political implications would be improper.” In a later interview McChristian said that he thought Westmoreland, “in being loyal to the President was disloyal to his country.” When asked if that was self-serving, McChristian replied, “Yes.” Later in an interview, MG McChristian said “DePuy and Chaisson asked me to change the reporting to indicate that we had reached the crossover point. We did not reach it. Phil Davidson came in after me and said we had.”38

The Culture

The most famous war novel of the Vietnam era was “Once an Eagle,” by Anton Myrer. In it he describes two kinds of army leaders. The first is the brave, competent man of integrity and combat leader, Sam Damon and the second is the ambitious, conniving staff officer, Courtney Massengale. These two stereotypes are often mentioned even in today’s army.

The part of the novel that is always overlooked is the part where Sam Damon folds and backs off from reporting Massengale’s unannounced change of the operational plan that resulted in the destruction of Damon’s division in exchange for a unit citation and retaining his command for the invasion of Japan. Later, while on a fact-finding trip to a thinly disguised Vietnam where Massengale is in command and pushing for a wider war, he tells the son of his best friend that the young man’s father was killed in the battle that destroyed his division.

The young LTC asks him why he didn’t act and Damon realizes that the younger man can’t be expected to buck the same system that he failed to take on. After being mortally wounded by a terrorist bomb, Damon implores him to try and stop Massengale and dies; leaving the rest of us with Vietnam.39  

General Creighton Abrams said the army is not made up of people, the army is people. Just as in civilian society there are many kinds of people. We measure them by their character and by their achievements. The army leadership manuals always extol good character and high moral values as the foundation for leadership but the history of the Vietnam War shows us, that like all wars, there were men of both good and bad character.

Colonel Daddis’ book on Westmoreland had the potential to correct the record for the sake of the young cadets he was teaching at West Point. Instead he chose to suppress the facts brought out by Lewis Sorley and frame Westmoreland’s command in Vietnam as a successful effort undermined by the civilian leadership. Part of Daddis’ failure can be attributed to ignorance, after all, he wasn’t there. Then there is the garlic room. If you live there long enough, you can’t smell the garlic. Finally there is the King’s shilling. Most serving officers find it extremely difficult to criticize the king and his system while trying to remain in favor with the king. When I mentioned to Colonel Daddis’ colleague that the lesson found in Westmoreland’s story was about ethics he declared, “I disagree!” before turning on his heel and marching away. 

Unless a young soldier is thoroughly indoctrinated in ethical practices by older soldiers who have made them a way of life, there is little reason to expect that they will rise above the temptation to put self-interest above duty. Some will because of upbringing and other reasons but many, who could be trained to do so in the right environment won’t because they will perceive it is better to go along to get along.

End Notes

1 Ricks, Thomas E.The  Generals Chapter 22 (DePuy’s great rebuilding) Penguin Books, New York: 2012

2 Sorley, Lewis Thunderbolt Pages 358-359 Simon and Schuster, New York: 1992

3 Glenn, Tom Review of Westmoreland The General Who Lost Vietnam Oct 31, 2011 Washington Independant Review Of Books

4 Sorley, Lewis Westmoreland, The General Who Lost Vietnam   Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York: 2011

5 FM 22-100 Army Leadership, Page 3-52,, can be found here:

6 Sorley, Lewis Westmoreland, The General Who Lost VietnamPages 190-193

7 Ronald Reagan speaking at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention, Chicago, Illinois August 18, 1980

8 Daddis, Gregory A. Westmoreland’s War Oxford University Press, New York: 2014

9 The Study on Military Professionalism can be found here

10 Ricks, Thomas E.The  Generals Page

11 The Study on Military Professionalism Page i

12 Rehberg, Carl D. Major IMPLICATIONS OF Dereliction of DutyJoint Services Conference on Professional Ethics XXII, Springfield, Virginia 28-29 January 2000

13 The Study on Military Professionalism  Page iii-

14 Ibid Page iv

15 Sorley Westmoreland, The General Who Lost Vietnam. Page 33 Herbert, Anthony & James Wooten Soldier Page 235, Holt, Rinehart, Winston, New York: 1973

16 Ibid Page 43

17 Daddis, Gregory A. (Westmoreland’s War) Page 2, Oxford University Press, New York: 2014

18 Millett, Lewis Interview by John M. Glenn, February 2002 issue of Military History magazine.

19 Prochnau, William Once Upon a Distant War Page 168, Times Books, New York: 1995

20 Sorley Westmoreland, The General Who Lost Vietnam. Page 74

21 Ibid Page 80-

22 Ibid Page 81

23 Ibid Page 82 Sorley, Lewis Honorable Warrior Page 222-223 University Press of Kansas, Lawrence KS: 1998

24 McMaster, H.R. Dereliction of Duty, HarperCollins, New York: 1

25 Sorley Westmoreland, The General Who Lost Vietnam. Pages 86-87

26 Ibid Page 89 War in the Persian Gulf   Pages 23-27 Center for Military History, Washington DC: 2010 Author’s opinion

27 Sorley Westmoreland, The General Who Lost Vietnam. Pages 161-1

28 ibid Page 116

29 Maraniss, David They Marched Into Sunlight Page 468, Simon and Schuster, New York: 2003

30 Sorley Westmoreland, The General Who Lost Vietnam. Pages 110-111

31 DePuy, William Changing an Army, An Oral History of General William E. DePuy Page 133, Center for Military History, Washington DC: 1988

32 Ibid Page 160

33 Sorley Westmoreland, The General Who Lost Vietnam. Page 121

34 Braestrup, Peter The Big Story-Volume II Page 163 Westview Press, Boulder, CO: 1977 The Sudy on Military Professionalism Page B-1-10, U.S. Army War College Carlisle Barracks, PA: 1970

35 Davidson, Phillip B. Vietnam at War Page 400, Presidio Press, Novato, CA 1988 Sorley Westmoreland, The General Who Lost Vietnam. Page 17

36 Ibid 143-145

37 Allen, George W. None So Blind Page 251, Ivan R, Dee, Chicago, IL 2001

38 Sorley Westmoreland, The General Who Lost Vietnam. Pages 292, 1

39 Myrer, Anton Once An Eagle Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, NY: 1968

About the Author(s)

Master Sergeant (Ret.) Gregory H. Murry served without distinction from 1963 to 2005 with breaks in service. Starting as a Private with the 158th Infantry of the Arizona National Guard, he re-enlisted in 1965 for the regular army where he served with: A-2-54 Infantry, 4th Armored Division in West Germany, A-1-16 Infantry, 1st Infantry Division in the Republic of Vietnam, and 1-3 Infantry in the Military District of Washington, DC and was honorably discharged in 1969. He re-enlisted in the Texas National Guard and served with the Aero-Rifle Platoon of D-Troop (Air), 124 Cavalry and Company G (Airborne-Ranger), 143 Infantry (LRRP) and was honorably discharged in 1980. He re-enlisted in 1988 in the Texas National Guard and served as operations sergeant for the 143d Infantry Detachment (LRS) while at the same time co-founding the Special Operations Detachment, an ad hoc special operations unit doing surveillance support to law enforcement for the drug war. He also served as an intelligence analyst, a commo chief, and as an BNCOC/ANCOC small group leader and course manager. He deployed to Afghanistan in 2003 where he served as an intelligence advisor to the Afghanistan National Army and later, as assistant operation sergeant to an embedded trainer team. He retired in 2005. He holds the Vietnam and Afghanistan Service Medals, and the CIB, 2nd Award. He is married with children and grandchildren and lives in Austin, Texas.