Vietnam War Gen. Westmoreland Dies

** FILE ** Army Joint Chiefs General William C. Westmoreland is shown in this Jan. 5, 1972 file photo. Retired Gen. William Westmoreland, who commanded American troops in Vietnam died Monday night, July 18, 2005. (AP Photo/File)
AP
Retired Gen. William Westmoreland, who commanded U.S. forces during the Vietnam War from 1964 to 1968 and advocated a strong military buildup at a time when American casualties were mounting, has died.

Westmoreland died Monday of natural causes at Bishop Gadsden retirement home, where he had lived with his wife, said his son, James Ripley Westmoreland. He was 91.

"I have no apologies, no regrets. I gave my very best efforts," Westmoreland told The Associated Press in 1985. "I've been hung in effigy. I've been spat upon. You just have to let those things bounce off."

"Whatever one thinks of General Westmoreland, whatever one thinks of the Vietnam War, that as one who saw him there, one can say of General Westmoreland,
he gave it everything he had (audio)
," said CBS News Correspondent Dan Rather, who covered the Vietnam War.

The silver-haired, jut-jawed officer, who rose through the ranks quickly during World War II and later became superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., contended the United States did not lose the conflict in Southeast Asia.

"We held the line. We stopped the falling of the dominoes," he said in 1985 at the 20th anniversary of the Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade's assignment to Vietnam. "It's not that we lost the war militarily. The fact is, we as a nation did not make good our commitment to the South Vietnamese."

"He maintained it wasn't the U.S. military that lost it, it was the U.S. political leadership, diplomacy and the world strategic view, which he did not command," said Rather.

As commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, Westmoreland oversaw the introduction of ground troops in South Vietnam and a dramatic increase in the number of U.S. troops there. He also sought in vain permission to engage enemy forces in their sanctuaries in Cambodia, Laos and North Vietnam.

American support for the war suffered a tremendous blow near the end of Westmoreland's tenure when enemy forces attacked several cities and towns throughout South Vietnam in what is known as the Tet Offensive in 1968. Though Westmoreland fought off the attacks, the American public remained stunned that the enemy had gained access to the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, even if only for a few hours.