Albert Coady Wedemeyer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Albert Coady Wedemeyer
Albert C. Wedemeyer.jpg
Albert Coady Wedemeyer
Born (1897-07-09)July 9, 1897
Omaha, Nebraska
Died December 17, 1989(1989-12-17) (aged 92)
Fort Belvoir, Virginia
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Department of the Army Seal.svg United States Army
Years of service 1919-1951
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Battles/wars

World War II

Chinese Civil War

Awards Presidential Medal of Freedom
Army Distinguished Medal (3)
Order of Blue Sky and White Sun
Other work author

General Albert Coady Wedemeyer (July 9, 1897 – December 17, 1989) was a United States Army commander who served primarily in Asia during World War II. His most notable command was the China theater in the South-East Asia Theater. During the Cold War, Wedemeyer was a chief supporter of the Berlin Airlift.

Early life and military career[edit]

Albert C. Wedemeyer was born on July 9, 1897, in Omaha, Nebraska and was a graduate of Creighton Prep High School. In 1919, he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. As a U.S. officer, he was appointed to the German war college Kriegsakademie in Berlin, 1936-38. Wedemeyer was included in 1938 German maneuvers, which gave him unique insight into German tactical operations. When he returned to Washington, in 1938, Wedemeyer analyzed Germany's grand strategy and dissected German thinking. Wedemeyer thus became the U.S. military's foremost authority on German tactical operations, whose "most ardent student" was George C. Marshall.[1] Wedemeyer was greatly influenced, and his career aided, by his father-in-law, Lieutenant General Stanley Dunbar Embick, who was at that time Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of the War Plans Division. At the outbreak of World War II, Wedemeyer ranked as lieutenant colonel and was assigned as a Staff Officer to the war-plans division of the United States War Department. Notably, in 1941 he was the chief author of the Victory Program, which advocated the defeat of Germany's armies in Europe as the prime war objective for the U.S. This plan was adopted and expanded as the war progressed. Additionally, Wedemeyer helped to plan the Normandy Invasion.

General Wedemeyer arriving in Chungking, 1944.

China-Burma-India Command[edit]

In 1943, Wedemeyer was reassigned to the South-East Asia Theatre to be Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander of the South East Asia Command (SEAC), Lord Louis Mountbatten.

On October 27, 1944, General Wedemeyer received a telegram from General George C. Marshall directing him to proceed to China to assume command of U.S. forces in China, replacing General Joseph Stilwell. In his new command, Wedemeyer was also named Chief of Staff to the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. The telegram contained a host of special instructions and limitations on Wedemeyer's command when dealing with the government of Nationalist China. Wedemeyer later recalled his initial dread over the assignment, as service in the China theater was considered a graveyard for American officials, both military and diplomatic.[2] When Wedemeyer actually arrived at Stilwell’s headquarters after Stilwell’s dismissal, he was dismayed to discover that Stilwell had intentionally departed without seeing him, and did not leave a single briefing paper for his guidance, though departing U.S. military commanders habitually greeted their replacement in order to thoroughly brief them on the strengths and weaknesses of headquarters staff, the issues confronting the command, and planned operations.[3] Searching the offices, Wedemeyer could find no documentary record of Stilwell's plans or records of his former or future operations.[3] General Wedemeyer then spoke with Stilwell’s staff officers but learned little from them because Stilwell, according to the staff, kept everything in his “hip pocket”.[4]

During his time in the CBI, Wedemeyer attempted to motivate the Nationalist Chinese government to take a more aggressive role against the Japanese in the war. He was instrumental in expanding the Hump airlift operation with additional, more capable transport aircraft, and continued Stilwell's programs to train, equip, and modernize the Nationalist Chinese Army. His efforts were not wholly successful, in part because of the ill will engendered by his predecessor, as well as continuing friction over the role of Communist Chinese forces. Wedemeyer also supervised logistical support for American air forces in China. These forces included the United States Twentieth Air Force partaking in Operation Matterhorn and the Fourteenth Air Force operated by General Claire Chennault.

"There is a nice story about Wedemeyer. A British general took great exception to Wedemeyer's pronunciation of the word 'schedule', which as all Americans do, he pronounced 'skedule'. 'Where did you learn to speak like that?' he asked. Wedemeyer replied: 'I must have learned it at "school"!'"[5]

On December 7, 1945, Wedemeyer with General Douglas MacArthur, and Navy Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, the three top military officers in the Far East, recommended to the Pentagon transporting six more Chinese Nationalist armies into North China and Manchuria. However they also suggested that "the U.S. assistance to China, as outlined above, be made available as basis for negotiation by the American Ambassador to bring together and effect a compromise between the major opposing groups in order to promote a united and democratic China."[6]

The issue of forcing the Nationalists into a coalition government with the Communists would later become a central issue in the fierce "Who lost China" political debates in the United States during 1949-51. On July 10, 1945, Wedemeyer had informed General Marshall:

If Uncle Sugar, Russia, and Britain united strongly in their endeavor to bring about a coalition of these two political parties [the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party] in China by coercing both sides to make realistic concessions, serious post-war disturbance may be averted and timely effective military employment of all Chinese may be obtained against the Japanese. I use the term coercion advisedly because it is my conviction that continued appeals to both sides couched in polite diplomatic terms will not accomplish unification. There must be teeth in Big Three[7]

Wedemeyer later said as a military commander, his statement was intended as a call to force the long-heralded, but never implemented, military alliance between the Nationalist government and Chinese Communists in order to rout undefeated Japanese forces in China, which at the time threatened to continue fighting into 1946. He later told others that he had opposed a political coalition. (Tsou, 1962). Wedemeyer served in China into 1946.

Post-World War II military service[edit]

After returning from China, Wedemeyer was promoted to Army Chief of Plans and Operations. In July 1947, President Harry S. Truman sent Lieutenant-General Wedemeyer to China and Korea to examine the "political, economic, psychological and military situations." The result was the "Wedemeyer Report," in which Wedemeyer stressed the need for intensive U.S. training of and assistance to the Nationalist armies.

Fearful the Nationalists may rise to challenge US hegemony in the Far East,[citation needed] President Truman not only rejected the recommendations in the report, but imposed an arms embargo against the Nationalist government, thereby intensifying the bitter political debate over the role of the United States in the Chinese civil war. While Secretary of State George C. Marshall had hoped that Wedemeyer could convince Chiang Kai-shek to institute those military, economic, and political reforms necessary to defeat the Communists, he accepted Truman's views, and suppressed publication of Wedemeyer's report, further provoking resentment by pro-Nationalist and/or anti-communist advocates both inside and outside the U.S. government and the armed forces.[citation needed]

After the fall of China to Communist forces, General Wedemeyer would testify before Congress that while the loss of morale was indeed a cause of the defeat of the Nationalist Chinese forces, the Truman administration's 1947 decision to discontinue further training and modernizing of Nationalist forces, the U.S.-imposed arms embargo, and constant anti-Nationalist sentiment expressed by Western journalists and policymakers were primary causes of that loss of morale.[8][better source needed] In particular, Wedemeyer stressed that if the U.S. had insisted on experienced American military advisers attached at the lower battalion and regimental levels of Nationalist armies (as it had done with Greek army forces during the Greek Civil War), that aid could have more efficiently been utilized, and that the immediate tactical assistance would have resulted in Nationalist armies performing far better in combat against the Communist Chinese.[8][better source needed] Vice-Admiral Oscar C. Badger, General Claire Chennault, and Brigadier General Francis Brink also testified that the arms embargo was a significant factor in the loss of China.[8][better source needed]

In 1948, Wedemeyer supported General Lucius D. Clay's plan to create an airbridge during the Berlin Crisis.[9]

After the Communist victory in 1949, Wedemeyer became intimately associated with the China Lobby and openly voiced his criticism of those responsible for the "loss of China." In 1951, Wedemeyer retired, but was promoted to General (4-stars) on July 19, 1954.

In 1951, after the outbreak of the Korean War, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy said that Wedemeyer had prepared a wise plan that would keep China a valued ally, but that it had been sabotaged; "only in treason can we find why evil genius thwarted and frustrated it." The evil geniuses, McCarthy said, included General George Marshall.[10] Wedemeyer became a hero to the anti-Communist movement in the United States, giving many lectures around the country.

In 1957 he was affiliated with the National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena.

On May 23, 1985, Wedemeyer was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan.

Friends Advice, in Boyds, Maryland, was his permanent home throughout his military career and after his retirement in 1951, until his death in 1989. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. On December 17, 1989, Wedemeyer died at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Bibliography[edit]

Primary sources[edit]

  • Albert C. Wedemeyer, Wedemeyer Reports!, New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1958.
  • Albert C. Wedemeyer, Wedemeyer on War and Peace. ed. by Keith E. Eiler, Hoover Inst. Press, 1987. 245 pp.

Secondary sources[edit]

  • Herbert Feis, The China Tangle: The American Effort in China from Pearl Harbor to the Marshall Mission (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953).
  • Romanus, Charles F. and Riley Sunderland, Time Runs Out in CBI (Washington, 1959), official U.S. Army history online edition
  • Stueck, William. The Wedemeyer Mission: American Politics and Foreign Policy during the Cold War. U. of Georgia Press, 1984. 177 pp.
  • Tang Tsou. America's Failure in China, 1941-50 (1963)
  • Tang Tsou. "The Historians and the Generals," The Pacific Historical Review Vol. 31, No. 1 (February, 1962), pp. 41–48 in JSTOR
  • Keegan, John. "Six Armies in Normandy: From D-Day to the Liberation Of Paris." Viking Penguin Inc 1982 (New 50th D-Day Anniversary 365 pp. edition includes a new introduction by the author) pp. 22, 31-4, 36, 37, 38
  • Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the Presidential Medal of Freedom - May 23, 1985
  • John McLaughlin, General Albert C. Wedemeyer: America's Unsung Strategist in World War II, Casemate, 2012.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Mark Perry, Partners in Command. Penguin Books, 2007, Kindle loc. 4738-45
  2. ^ Wedemeyer, Albert C. (Gen), Wedemeyer Reports!, Henry Holt Co. (1958) ISBN 0-89275-011-1, ISBN 0-8159-7216-4, p. 269
  3. ^ a b Wedemeyer, Albert C. (Gen), Wedemeyer Reports!, Henry Holt Co. (1958) ISBN 0-89275-011-1, ISBN 0-8159-7216-4, pp. 303-304
  4. ^ Wedemeyer, Albert C. (Gen), Wedemeyer Reports!, Henry Holt Co. (1958) ISBN 0-89275-011-1, ISBN 0-8159-7216-4, p. 294
  5. ^ Carton de Wiart, Sir Adrian, Happy Odyssey London: Jonathan Cape, 1950, p. 259
  6. ^ Feis, The China Tangle p. 417
  7. ^ Romanus and Sunderland, Time Runs Out in CBI p. 383
  8. ^ a b c [better source needed]Carroll, Ann W., Who Lost China? http://www.ewtn.com/library/HOMELIBR/FR89102.TXT
  9. ^ D.M. Giangreco, D.M and Griffin, Robert E.; (1988) The Airlift Begins on Truman Library website, a Chapter section from: Airbridge to Berlin --- The Berlin Crisis of 1948, its Origins and Aftermath.
  10. ^ Joe McCarthy, Major Speeches and Debates of Senator Joe McCarthy Delivered in the United States Senate, 1950-1951. (1953) pp. 194, 264,

Further reading[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Mark W. Clark
Commanding General of the Sixth United States Army
1948-1951
Succeeded by
Joseph M. Swing