By Emily Langer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 13, 2010; B06
Retired Gen. Frederick C. Weyand, 93, a combat veteran of three wars who served as the final commander of American forces in South Vietnam and as Army chief of staff in the waning days of the Vietnam War, died Feb. 10 in Honolulu. No cause of death was reported.
Four decades after the fact, Gen. Weyand received attention for statements he reportedly made in 1967 expressing doubts about U.S. prospects for success in the war. He was a top commander in Vietnam at the time and told two prominent journalists, R.W. Apple Jr. of the New York Times and Murray Fromson of CBS News, confidentially that he thought the war had reached an impasse.
According to Fromson, in a 2006 New York Times opinion article, Gen. Weyand was the unnamed source in an explosive Times story by Apple on Aug. 7, 1967, that suggested victory in Vietnam might have been "beyond reach." Fromson, who also reported on the general's doubt, wrote that Gen. Weyand released him from the confidentiality agreement after the 2005 death of Gen. William C. Westmoreland, who had been commander in Vietnam at the time of Gen. Weyand's comments.
In 1964, when he took over the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii, which he would soon lead into Vietnam, Gen. Weyand had a reputation as a shrewd leader who knew military combat as well as political infighting. During World War II, he served as an intelligence specialist in the China-Burma-India theater. When he was in his 30s, he commanded an infantry battalion in Korea. He had been the Army's liaison to Congress, an edifying assignment given the role awaiting him in the most politically divisive war in modern American history.
On the battlefield in Vietnam, Gen. Weyand presciently advised Westmoreland to deploy troops closer to Saigon weeks before the North Vietnamese launched in 1968 what would become known as the Tet Offensive. According to a 1972 New York Times article, Westmoreland said that having the troops ready was one of the most important decisions of the war. In 1969 and 1970, Gen. Weyand served as military adviser to Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. during the Paris peace talks on Vietnam.
Frederick Carlton Weyand was born in Arbuckle, Calif., on Sept. 15, 1916. The son of a police chief, he studied criminology at the University of California at Berkeley and graduated in 1939 with an ROTC commission as a second lieutenant. His military decorations included the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star Medal.
His first wife, Arline Langhart Weyand, died in 2001 after 61 years of marriage. According to the Associated Press, survivors include Gen. Weyand's wife of 10 years, Mary; three children from his first marriage; and four stepchildren.
Years after the Vietnam War, Gen. Weyand sought to dispel what he considered unfair impressions left from the deeply divisive conflict. In interviews with military affairs writer Col. Harry G. Summers Jr., he spoke about the "cruel misperception that the American fighting men there did not measure up to their predecessors in World War II and Korea."
In his view, American policymakers had failed to articulate clear and reachable goals the American public could embrace. He also found fault with the military leadership.
"The major military error was a failure to communicate to the civilian decision makers the capabilities and limitations of American military power," he wrote in a postwar audit co-authored with Summers.
"There are certain tasks the American military can accomplish on behalf of another nation," they wrote. "They can defeat enemy forces on the battlefield. They can blockade the enemy's coast. . . . But there are also fundamental limitations on American military power. Critics notwithstanding, Americans are not imperialists, and the Congress and the American people will not permit their military to take total control of another nation's political, economic and social institutions in order to completely orchestrate the war."