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Harkins To Be Replaced by Westmoreland in South Vietnam

Apr. 25, 1964 - President Johnson said today that General Paul D. Harkins, head of the U.S. Military Assistance Command in South Vietnam since Feb. 14, 1962, would be succeeded in August by Lieutenant General William C. Westmoreland (left).

Westmoreland, a 50-year-old paratroop commander, was named deputy to Harkins last January.

At his news conference, Johnson praised Harkins for “distinguished and outstanding” service in South Vietnam.

This was clearly intended to counter reports from Saigon that Harkins was being eased out.

Following the coup that upset the Government of President Ngo Dinh Diem, there were reports that Harkins’ position had been weakened. The new leaders of South Vietnam were said to have regarded him as a symbol of the Diem regime.

At that time, President Kennedy emphasized his support of Harkins and said at a news conference that he expected the general to stay on in his post beyond two years.

But reports of the general’s impending replacement persisted, even after a second coup in Saigon that put Gen. Nguyen Khanh in power.

General Westmoreland, a former commandant at West Point, from which he was graduated in 1936, served with artillery and infantry in Sicily and Western Europe during World War II. He became a paratrooper shortly after World War II.

During the Korean War, he commanded the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. He became a brigadier general at the age of 38.

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