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Creighton Williams Abrams Jr. (September 15, 1914 - September 4, 1974) was a United States Army General who commanded US military operations in the Vietnam War from 1968-72. He served as Chief of Staff of the United States Army from 1972 until shortly before his death in 1974.
World War II
During World War II, he served with the 4th Armored Division , initially as regimental adjutant (June 1941-June 1942) then as a battalion commander (July 1942-March 1943), and regiment executive officer (March 1943-September 1943) with the 37th Armored Regiment . A reorganization of the division created a new battalion, the 37th Tank Battalion , which he commanded through March 1945 when he was promoted to command Combat Command B of the division. During this time he was promoted to the temporary ranks of major (March 1943) and lieutenant colonel (September 1943).
During much of this time his unit was at the spearhead of the 4th Armored Division and the Third Army, and he was consequently well known as an aggressive armor commander. By using his qualities as a leader and by consistently exploiting the relatively small advantages of speed and reliability of his vehicles he managed to defeat German forces who had the advantage of superior armor, superior guns and better trained troops.
Following the war he served on the Army General Staff (1945-1946), as head of the department of tactics at the Armored School, Fort Knox (1946-1948), and graduated from the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth (1949). He was briefly promoted temporary colonel in 1945 but reverted to lieutenant colonel during WW II demobilization.
He commanded the 63rd Tank Battalion , part of the 1st Infantry Division, in Europe (1949-1951). He was again promoted to colonel and commanded the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (1951-1952). These units were important assignments due to the Cold War concern for potential invasion of western Europe by the Soviet Union. He then attended and graduated from the US Army War College in 1953.
Due to his service in Europe and his War College tour, he joined the Korean War late in the conflict. He successively served as chief of staff of the I, X, and IX Corps in Korea (1953-1954).
Staff Assignments and Division Command
Upon return from Korea he served as chief of staff of the Armor Center, Fort Knox (1954-1956). He was promoted brigadier general and appointed deputy chief of staff for reserve components at the Pentagon (1956-1959). He was assistant division commander of 3rd Armored Division (1959-60) and then commanded the division (1960-62) upon his promotion to major general.
He was then transferred to the Pentagon as deputy chief of staff for operations (1962-63), then was promoted lieutenant general and commanded V Corps in Europe (1963-1964).
He was promoted general in 1964 and appointed vice chief of staff of the Army (he was seriously considered as a candidate for chief of staff at that time). Due to concerns about the conduct of the Vietnam War, he was appointed as deputy to General William Westmoreland, head of the Military Assistance Command in Vietnam, in May 1967. He succeeded Westmoreland as commander in June 1968. His tenure of command was not marked by the public optimism of his predecessors, who were prone to press conferences and public statements.
Following the election of President Richard Nixon he implemented the Nixon Doctrine referred to as Vietnamization. Vietnamization was designed to wind down the U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and have South Vietnam responsible for executing the war.
He was appointed Chief of Staff of the United States Army in June 1972 but was not confirmed by the Senate until October 1972 due to political repercussions involving disobedience by one of his subordinate commanders. He served in this position until his death in September 1974. During this time he began the transition to the all-volunteer Army.
Abrams was known as an aggressive and successful armor commander. General George Patton said of him, "I'm supposed to be the best tank commander in the Army, but I have one peer: Abe Abrams. He's the world champion." His unit was requently the spearhead of the Third Army during WW II. Abrams was one of the leaders in the relief effort which broke up the German entrenchments surrounding Bastogne and the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge.
He was noted for his concern for soldiers, his emphasis on combat readiness, and his insistence on personal integrity.
He married Canadian Julia Abrams (1915-2003) in 1936. She founded the "Arlington Ladies" and devoted a great deal of her time to humanitarian causes. They had three daughters and three sons. The sons all became Army officers, and each of the daughters married Army officers.
He is buried with his wife in Arlington National Cemetery.
- Sorley, Lewis. Thunderbolt: General Creighton Abrams and the army of his time. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992.
Arlington Cemetary website http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/abrams.htm
"Thunderbolt" by Lewis Sorley; ISBN 0-671-70115-0
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