Frederick Weyand, American patriot, dies at 93
By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
In a military career that spanned three wars and included commissions as commander of U.S. Army forces in the Pacific and Army Chief of Staff, retired Gen. Frederick C. Weyand distinguished himself as a clear-eyed, no-nonsense leader unconcerned with shifting political landscapes and the fickle tides of public opinion.
Friends and family remember Weyand, who died Wednesday night at his Kahala Nui retirement residence at the age of 93, as a humble, loyal husband and father who enjoyed golfing, playing the saxophone and cracking jokes — usually at his own expense — almost as much as he did devoting his time to community service.
"Fred was in a class by himself as a patriot, hero and loving family man," said longtime friend and fellow Rotary Club member Ed Carter. "He was dedicated to his country and his family. And even though he was the most powerful soldier in the world, he never lost his sense of humor and humility or his loyalty to the men and wo- men under his command."
Weyand's eldest daughter, Carolyn Harley, called her father "the most loving, funny, fabulous father anyone could ask for.
"He had tremendous integrity and he was extremely honest," she said. "He was like that in the military, but he was also that way at home. He had no pretension. I felt I could talk to him about anything and he would give his opinion, which was almost always the wisest opinion."
Weyand grew up in tiny Arbuckle, Calif., and graduated from the University of California-Berkeley in 1939.
The irony of having graduated from a school now known for its liberal leanings wasn't lost on the conservative Weyand, who once quipped to Carter that he "wouldn't go back to that campus in a tank."
In 1940, the same year he married the former Arline Langhart, Weyand was assigned to active duty with the 6th Field Artillery. After graduating from the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., he served in various leadership posts in the Office of the Chief of Intelligence for the War Department General Staff and the Military Intelligence Service.
After World War II, Weyand served as chief of staff for intelligence for Army forces in the middle Pacific. After graduating from the U.S. Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga., in 1950, he assumed command of the 1st Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, and serv- ed as assistant chief of staff of the 3rd Infantry Division during the Korean War.
After the war, Weyand served in numerous leadership posts and graduated from the Army War College in 1958.
DOUBTS ON VIETNAM
Weyand is best known for his service during the Vietnam War. He served as commander of the 25th Infantry Division, stationed in Hawai'i, from 1964 to 1967 before being named commander of the force responsible for the 11 provinces around Saigon.
Drawing on his intelligence background, Weyand was one of the first in the upper echelons of the U.S. military to recognize the difficulty of operations in Vietnam and one of the first to express significant doubt about the prospects for American success in the conflict.
In 2006, following the death of Gen. William Westmoreland, commander of U.S. military operations in Vietnam, it was revealed that Weyand was the unnamed source in a high-profile New York Times article published in 1967 that contributed to a change in public perception about the war.
In the article, Weyand, identified only as "a senior American general" remarked: "I've destroyed a single division three times. 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 assessment, which eventually proved prescient, reportedly enraged President Lyndon Johnson, Westmoreland and other leaders.
Still, those who knew Weyand say his willingness to express his honest assessment was consistent with his character.
"As a young officer, I didn't have access to whatever discussions he had with other commanders, but I knew he was always concerned about the mission," said retired Army Gen. David Bramlett. "As I got older, I realized more about what he did. He always kept an eye on what should be done. He had a basic sense of responsibility.
"Would he have equivocated because his position was unpopular? No. He would tell his bosses what he thought very candidly. But he would also follow whatever the orders were."
Weyand's strategic acumen was key in the infamous Tet offensive of 1968.
At Weyand's urging, U.S. forces were redeployed from the Cambodian border closer to Saigon. While the offensive is popularly view- ed as a political and public relations turning point in favor of the North Vietna- mese, historians note that the additional forces allowed the U.S. to repel the North Vietnamese assault and inflict such heavy casualties among Viet Cong guerrillas that it crippled them as a fighting force.
The following year, Weyand was named military adviser to Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge at the Paris Peace Talks. After posts with the Military Assistance Command, he was named Army chief of staff and oversaw the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam.
Bramlett said his lasting impression of Weyand is of a natural leader whose very presence put those under his command at ease.
"His presence , his bearing, gave you the confidence that everything was going to be OK," Bramlett said. "After Vietnam, when the draft was discontinued and the Army was trying to put itself back together, he reassured us that everything was going to work out. He was a warm, caring man who had a special concern for soldiers and their families."
Weyand retired from the military in 1976 after serving as commander of U.S. Army forces in the Pacific and Army chief of staff.
He proved to be as active in retirement as he was during his distinguished military career. He took a position as a vice president and corporate secretary for First Hawaiian Bank.
"At his first meeting," Carter, Weyand's longtime friend, recalled, "he said that he had discovered that his duty was to make sure each director had a pad of paper and a pencil.
"That was who he was. He had been the highest-ranking soldier in the Army but he always kept a sense of humor about himself."
Weyand would go on to serve as a trustee of the now-dissolved Damon Estate. He also held positions with a host of local community organizations , including the Rotary Club, for whom he served one term as president.
Weyand's wife, Arline, died after a long illness. He later married longtime friend Mary Foster.
"He was a remarkable soldier and leader as well as one of the great contributors to our Hawai'i community," said Bill Paty, a longtime friend and fellow World War II veteran. "He just had solid, good common sense and he was a master of self-deprecation.
"He was no-nonsense. He wasn't afraid to say 'this is how it is.' He wasn't there to pat anybody on the back or get somebody to put him on a committee. ... He was just a great, great guy."
Weyand is survived by daughters, Carolyn Harley and Nancy Hart; son, Robert; wife Mary; stepdaughters, Laurie Foster and Whitney White; stepsons, Dow Foster and Bill Foster; and 10 grandchildren.
Services are pending.