top of page

Appointment of Westmoreland Will Bring Change in South Vietnam

Apr. 26, 1964 - The appointment of Lieutenant General William Westmoreland as commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam was seen in Saigon as heralding a new and tougher U.S. policy in the Southeast Asian nation.

President Johnson announced in Washington yesterday that Westmoreland would succeed General Paul D. Harkins on Aug. 1. Westmoreland has been in Vietnam as Harkins’ deputy for the last three months, and his appointment came as no surprise.

There was no comment from either man on the changeover, and no official American reaction. But there was general agreement, as one U.S. official put it privately, that “things will be entirely different when Westmoreland takes over.”

“If we are going to get tough here, with our friends as well as our enemies, Westmoreland is the man for it,” said another officer who has worked with him.

The announcement came on the heels of President Johnson’s statement last Thursday indicating stepped-up U.S. activity and increased U.S. involvement in South Vietnam. There are 15,500 U.S. military personnel in the country now aiding in the war against the Communists.

Westmoreland will have to work on two levels — as a statesman and a soldier — in his new assignment if the U.S. is going to solve the dilemma it has faced in Vietnam the last 10 years.

Winning the war against the elusive and increasingly aggressive Communist Viet Cong is generally regarded as a tough enough problem by itself. But an even more challenging problem is the one of uniting the Government and the people behind the war effort.

Westmoreland, 50, is 10 years younger than Harkins. He is tall, handsome, and ramrod erect. He is quiet, courtly, and gives the appearance of being shy. But his officers say he is tough and aggressive.

Westmoreland has indicated to intimates he favors a more forceful prosecution of the war and firmer U.S. control over it.

Support this project at


bottom of page