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Earle G. Wheeler
January 13, 1908 – December 18, 1975 (aged 67)
Earle Wheeler official photo.JPEG
General Earle G. Wheeler US Army
Nickname Bus
Place of birth Washington, D.C.
Place of death Frederick, Maryland
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1932-1970
Rank General
Commands held Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment

351st Infantry Regiment
2nd Armored Division
III Corps
U.S. Army Chief of Staff
Chairman, Joint Chiefs

Battles/wars World War II
Awards Army Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star

Earle Gilmore "Bus" Wheeler, (January 13, 1908 - December 18, 1975) was a United States Army General who served as Chief of Staff of the United States Army (1962-1964) and then as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1964-1970), holding the latter position during the Vietnam War.

Biography

Earle Gilmore Wheeler was born on January 13, 1908 in Washington, D.C. to Dock Stone and Ima Gilmore. He was later adopted by Ima's second husband. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1932 and was commissioned into the infantry. After graduation he married Frances "Betty" Rogers Howell, whom he met at a society party in 1930. He served in the 29th Infantry from 1932 to 1936, then attended Infantry School in 1937. He served with the 15th Infantry Regiment, from 1937 to 1940, stationed in China 1937-38.

From 1940 to 1941, Wheeler was a mathematics instructor at West Point. Rising from battalion commander to more senior roles, he trained the newly activated 36th and 99th Infantry Divisions from 1941 to 1944, then went to Europe in November 1944 as second in command of the newly formed 63rd Infantry Division.

Wheeler served in senior staff positions in a variety of specialties, including supply, intelligence, planning, and armor.

In late 1945, he returned to the U.S. as an artillery instructor at Fort Sill, then returned to Germany from 1947-1949 as a staff officer of the United States Constabulary (formerly VI Corps), occupying Germany. He attended the National War College in 1950. He then returned to Europe as a staff officer in NATO, in a series of roles. In 1951-52 he commanded the 351st Infantry Regiment, which controlled the Free Territory of Trieste, a front-line position of the Cold War.

In 1955 he joined the General Staff at the Pentagon. In 1958 he took command of the 2nd Armored Division. In 1959 he took command of III Corps. He became Director of the Joint Staff in 1960. In 1962 he was briefly Deputy Commander of U.S. Forces in Europe before being named Chief of Staff of the United States Army later that year.

President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Wheeler Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in July 1964 to succeed General Maxwell Taylor. General Wheeler's tenure as the nation's top military officer spanned the height of America's involvement in the Vietnam War.

Wheeler's accession to the top job in the U.S. military, over the heads of officers with more combat experience, drew some criticism.

Wheeler oversaw and supported the expanding U.S. military role in the Vietnam conflict in the mid‐1960s, consistently backing the field commander's requests for additional troops and operating authority. He often urged President Johnson to strike harder at North Vietnam and to expand aerial bombing campaigns. Wheeler was concerned with minimizing costs to U.S. ground troops. At the same time, he preferred what he saw as a realistic assessment of the capabilities of the South Vietnamese military. This earned him a reputation as a "hawk."[1]

Wheeler, with General William C. Westmoreland, the field commander, and President Johnson, pushed to raise additional U.S. forces after the February 1968 Tet Offensive. U.S. media at the time widely reported the Tet Offensive as Viet Cong victory. This followed a widely-noted news report in 1967 that cited an unnamed American general (later identified as General Frederick C. Weyand) who called the situation in Vietnam a "stalemate." It was a view with which Gen. Wheeler agreed in more confidential circles.

However, Gen. Wheeler also was concerned that the U.S. buildup in Vietnam depleted U.S. military capabilities in other parts of the world. He called for 205,000 additional ground troops, to be gained by mobilizing reserves, but intended these remain in the U.S. as an active reserve. The president decided this was not easily accomplished.

Together with the Tet Offensive and shifts in U.S. public opinion, this abortive effort contributed to President Johnson's ultimate decision to de-escalate the war.[1]

After the election of President Richard M. Nixon, Wheeler oversaw the implementation of the "Vietnamization" program, whereby South Vietnamese forces assumed increasing responsibility for the war as U.S. forces were withdrawn.

He retired from the army in July 1970. Gen. Wheeler was the longest-serving chairman of the Joint Chiefs to date, serving six years.

He died in 1975 in Frederick, Maryland after a heart attack.[2]

He is survived by a son, Gilmore "Bim" Stone Wheeler, two grandsons, William Gilmore Wheeler and John Robinson Wheeler, and two great-grandchildren, Chelsey Anne Wheeler McCarthy and William Gilmore Wheeler Jr.

References

Military offices
Preceded by
George H. Decker
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
1962–1964
Succeeded by
Harold K. Johnson
Preceded by
Maxwell Taylor
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
1964–1970
Succeeded by
Thomas Moorer
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