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2011 Distinghuished Graduate Award

William R. Richardson '51

For sixty years, General William R. Richardson has served our nation with distinction and brought extraordinary credit to West Point. From his West Point graduation until his military retirement, and throughout a subsequent career in the civilian sector, General Richardson has amassed an exceptional record of achievements guided by the ideals of Duty, Honor Country.

His classmates already had a lofty opinion of Bill as they remembered him in the Howitzer: “Determined to make good at whatever he undertook, Rich exemplifies the type of man who will someday reach the top.” Commissioned in the Infantry, General Richardson’s remarkable military journey began with a troop assignment in the 24th Infantry Division in Japan, followed by combat duty as a platoon leader and battalion staff officer in the 7th Infantry Division in Korea. He returned to Korea in 1965, serving as the G3 Plans Officer, Eighth US Army.

Stateside in 1966, General Richardson activated the 3d Battalion, 39th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division, and deployed with his unit to Vietnam, later becoming the G3 for the Division. He returned to combat in Vietnam again in 1971, serving first as Commander of the 198th Infantry Brigade of the Americal Division, and then as the Division Chief of Staff. His brigade was recognized for its effectiveness in the Batangan Peninsula, and Bill was awarded the Purple Heart for a wound he sustained while evacuating his own wounded soldiers.

From 1974 to 1977, he was the Commander of the 193d Infantry Brigade in the Panama Canal Zone and the Commander of US Army South. From 1977 to 1979, General Richardson served as the Director of Requirements on the Army Staff where he oversaw the Army’s requirements for weapons systems and played a key role in prioritizing those systems for Army programs and budgets. In 1979, he took command of the Combined Arms Center and served as Commandant of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. While in this assignment, General Richardson restructured the college to meet the demands of a modernized Army, establishing the Center for Army Leadership, developing the AirLand Battle Doctrine, reorganizing the Army’s heavy divisions in the Army 86 Studies, and proposing to the Department of the Army the School for Advanced Military Studies (SAMS). General Richardson became the Army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans in 1981 and continued his work in operational planning, training, force developments, and arms control.

The pinnacle of his military career was his assignment in February 1983 as the Commanding General of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) where his focus was to prepare the Army for war by insuring that Army schools and training centers were dedicated to demanding, realistic training. He restructured the TRADOC school model, instituting small group instruction in all the branch schools and the Command and General Staff College. He founded the Joint Readiness Training Center now located at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and he formed an Installations of Excellence Program for TRADOC. Under his aegis, AirLand Battle Doctrine was revised to more fully cover the operational level of war, and TRADOC designed the light division within an Army reorganization known as the Army of Excellence. General Richardson was instrumental in increasing Army-Air Force cooperation and coordination, leading to joint concepts, doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures. General Richardson retired in 1986 with thirty-five years of Army service.

General Richardson followed his remarkable military journey with an equally distinguished career in the civilian sector with his work as a defense consultant and his participation in the Council on Foreign Relations, National Infantry Foundation, and Command and General Staff College Foundation. He continues to be sought by the highest military leaders for advice and counsel.

General Richardson has led a life of exemplary leadership, dedication, and service to our nation. He is a credit to the West Point tradition of Duty, Honor, Country. Accordingly, the West Point Association of Graduates takes great pride in presenting the 2011 Distinguished Graduate Award to William R. Richardson, Class of 1951