Reporter names three-star Vietnam general who was the source for a 1967 story that predicted US would lose
Three star General Frederick Weyand was the secret source for a front page New York Times story in 1967 that the Vietnam War was unwinnable, according to an op ed published in the paper today by Murray Fromson.
The 1967 story in the Times was written by the late R.W. Apple and dealt a thunderous blow to the Johnson administration's claim that the war was being won.
Weyand, now 90 and living in Hawaii, agreed to reveal his identity in time for a public memorial that is to be held in Apple's honor.
Weyand was serving as commander of III Corps in the Mekong Delta when he was quoted in Apple's story. The general went on to serve as the Army Chief of Staff. He oversaw the withdrawal of US forces rom Vietnam.
William Westmoreland derided the Times's story in '67. He said none of his generals would have stated the war was unwinnable.
THE article was headlined “Vietnam: The Signs of Stalemate,” and it appeared on the front page of this paper on Aug. 7, 1967. Written by R. W. Apple Jr., it was a bombshell that resonated in both Washington and Saigon, caused consternation in the United States Army and the intelligence community and gradually altered perceptions of American success or failure for the remainder of the Vietnam War.
Over nearly four decades, dozens of historians and journalists asked Johnny (as he was known) and me, because I did a similar story for CBS, to identify our source for that report, and we steadfastly declined to name him. But now, the source has come forward to release us from our pledge of confidentiality.
In 1967, when I was a CBS News correspondent in Vietnam, I met an American general at a cocktail party in Saigon. He whispered to me: “Westy just doesn’t get it. The war is unwinnable. We’ve reached a stalemate and we should find a dignified way out.” He was referring to Gen. William Westmoreland, the commander of United States forces in Vietnam.
The reception was crowded and noisy, and I asked whether I could meet with him at another time. “O.K., but no cameras,” he replied. Might I bring another reporter with me? “O.K., but one only.” I had advised CBS News in New York that I probably had an important story to report but that it would be what we used to call a standupper on camera with no film. The reaction was decidedly cool. Had Walter Cronkite or Mike Wallace been available, such a report might have led “The CBS Evening News.” On the other hand, I guessed — correctly — that once it appeared in The Times, the universal scream would be for me to match it.
So I ambled up Tu Do Street to Johnny’s office and invited him to come along. We took a helicopter ride into the Mekong Delta and then spent two hours with one of the more erudite general officers either of us had ever met in Vietnam.
The general pledged us to absolute confidentiality. Later, when Johnny and I compared notes to ensure we had understood him correctly, both of us were stunned. His article was published 24 hours later. Mine, in the era before satellites, reached CBS News in New York days later. Here, in essence, is how we quoted the general for our reports:
“ ‘I’ve destroyed a single division three times,’ a senior American general said the other day. ‘I’ve chased main-force units all over the country and the impact was zilch. It meant nothing to the people. Unless a more positive and more stirring theme than simple anti-communism can be found, the war appears likely to go on until someone gets tired and quits, which could take generations.’ ” The report enraged President Lyndon Johnson, General Westmoreland and, as I recall it, Gen. Earle Wheeler, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Johnson then initiated action to call up an additional 205,000 troops for the coming war against the North Vietnamese. But the action was negated by the misleading perception many of us had that the Communists achieved a major victory in the Tet offensive, which began on Jan. 30, 1968....
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Edwin Moise - 12/13/2006
General Weyand was indeed the American commander for III Corps. But III Corps lay mostly north and east of Saigon; it was not in the Mekong Delta. It was IV Corps, not III Corps, that was in the Mekong Delta.
Also, the header used for this story on HNN was exaggerated. The 1967 story in the New York Times had suggested that the Vietnam War was stalemated. A stalemate is a situation that is not won or lost by either side. To say that the war was stalemated was not a suggestion that the United States "would lose."
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