Update Your Profile

Stay up to date with all West Point news and stay connected with fellow grads

Update your Register Entry

Cullum Files

historical records

Class Notes

login required, available to graduates & widows

1996 Distinguished Graduate Award


As a military commander, soldier-educator and outstanding combat leader, William Childs Westmoreland has rendered a lifetime of extraordinary service to his country, to the United States Army and to his fellow soldiers. In successive positions of increasing responsibility in the national interest, General Westmoreland has exemplified outstanding devotion to the principles expressed in the motto of the United States Military Academy -- Duty, Honor, Country.

General Westmoreland's thirty-six years of military service stand as a matchless example of achievement at every level of military command. Admitted to West Point in 1932, he began an illustrious career soon marked with extraordinary accomplishments. As a cadet he quickly rose to prominence, leading the Corps as its First Captain. Upon his graduation, he was commissioned in the Field Artillery and during the years prior to World War II, he mastered his craft, serving as a battery and battalion staff officer.

In 1941, he was assigned to the 9th Division Artillery at Fort Bragg. Following the outbreak of war, he was chosen to command the 34th Field Artillery Battalion. In late 1942, his battalion deployed to the North African Theater of Operations and soon was committed to combat in the critical battles near Kasserine Pass. In the decisive action at Thala, Tunisia, the direct fires of his battalion were key to the utter defeat and destruction of German armored formations attempting to break out through Kasserine Pass. For its gallantry at Thala, the 34th Field Artillery Battalion was awarded the Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation. Following its success at Thala, the 34th was committed in continuous combat, supporting the 9th Infantry Division in the final operations to destroy the German and Italian forces in North Africa. During the invasion of Sicily, General Westmoreland's battalion was tasked to support the 82d Airborne Division during the Allied campaign to clear the island of enemy forces. In 1944, General Westmoreland went ashore with the 9th Infantry Division at Normandy. Promoted to Colonel and assigned as Division Chief of Staff, he served with the division during its rapid advance across France and Germany. Following the German surrender in Europe, he assumed command of the 60th Infantry Regiment during the postwar occupation of Germany.

Returning to the United States in 1946, he joined the 82d Airborne Division, commanding the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment and later serving as Chief of Staff. In 1952, he was selected to command the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team and led his regiment in three campaigns during the Korean hostilities.

Promoted to Brigadier General in 1952, he returned to the United States and joined the Army staff, first as Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1 and later as Secretary of the Army Staff.

In 1958, he was promoted to Major General and was appointed Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division. Under his dynamic leadership, the 101st Airborne Division, only recently reactivated and filled with recruits, was transformed, becoming one of the elite divisions of the Army.

In 1960, President Eisenhower appointed General Westmoreland 45th Superintendent of the United States Military Academy. As Superintendent, he revamped cadet tactical training, to incorporate the study of counter insurgency. Anticipating the future expansion of the Corps of Cadets, he developed plans to increase the faculty, to build new barracks and to expand the Academy's physical plant.

Following his tour as Superintendent, he was promoted to Lieutenant General and appointed Commanding General of the Eighteenth Airborne Corps, the Army's strategic rapid reaction force.

In 1964, General Westmoreland was appointed Deputy Commander, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam. Six months later, he was promoted to General and designated Commander, US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam and Commanding General, United States Army, Vietnam. In the ensuing four years, General Westmoreland faced a leadership challenge unique in the annals of American wars -- the task of commanding a multinational force -- in support of a series of unstable South Vietnamese governments -- against a foe operating from politically protected sanctuaries -- in a war of attrition increasingly opposed by major segments of his country's people. Despite these obstacles, General Westmoreland led his nation's forces with boldness, valor and quiet professional skill, thwarting the North Vietnamese military campaign to subjugate South Vietnam.

In 1968, General Westmoreland returned to the United States to assume the Army's highest post -- Chief of Staff. Charged by President Nixon to convert the Army to an all volunteer force, he successfully guided the Army as it transitioned from a Vietnam oriented, conscript supported force to an Army of volunteer professionals, trained, equipped and focused on protecting the vital interests of the nation.

General Westmoreland retired in 1972, having served more than three decades in his country's uniform. His service to the nation, however, continues. He has served as the leader of the South Carolina Governor's Task Force for Economic Growth. Additionally, he has lectured extensively in a selfless effort to restore a favorable national perception of our military efforts in defense of the people of South Vietnam.

General Westmoreland's lifetime of service epitomizes the finest qualities of the American Soldier. Steadfast and fearless in battle, dauntless and high-minded in the face of adversity, he has remained ever mindful of the soldier's duty faithfully to execute the military directions of the nation's duly elected leadership and to bear the consequences of that duty with indomitable moral courage and dignity.

His uncommon devotion to his country and its Army clearly reflects the principles and ideals embodied in the motto of West Point. Accordingly, the Association of Graduates takes great pride in presenting the 1996 Distinguished Graduate Award to William Childs Westmoreland, Class of 1936.