Earle Wheeler

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Earle G. Wheeler
Earle Wheeler official photo.JPEG
General Earle Gilmore "Bus" Wheeler, United States Army
Birth name Earle Gilmore Wheeler
Nickname(s) Bus
Born (1908-01-13)January 13, 1908
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Died December 18, 1975(1975-12-18) (aged 67)
Frederick County, Maryland, U.S.
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington County, Virginia, U.S.
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1932-1970
Rank US Army O10 shoulderboard rotated.svg General
Commands held Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment
351st Infantry Regiment
2nd Armored Division
III Corps
U.S. Army Chief of Staff
Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Army Distinguished Service Medal
Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal
Relations Gilmore "Bim" Stone Wheeler (son)
William Gilmore Wheeler (grandson)
John Robinson Wheeler (grandson)

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 from 1962 to 1964 and then as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1964–1970), holding the latter position during the Vietnam War.

Early life and education[edit]

Earle Gilmore Wheeler was born in Washington, D.C. to Dock Stone and Ida Gilmore. He was later adopted by Ida'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 from 1937 to 1938.

Career[edit]

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, Wheeler 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, Wheeler 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.

U.S. 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.[citation needed]

Wheeler oversaw and supported the expanding U.S. military role in the Vietnam War in the mid‐1960s, consistently backing the field commander's requests for additional troops and operating authority. He often urged U.S. 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 U.S. President Johnson, pushed to raise additional American forces after the February 1968 Tet Offensive. American 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, Wheeler also was concerned that the American 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 American as an active reserve. The president decided this was not easily accomplished.

Together with the Tet Offensive and shifts in American 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 American forces were withdrawn.

Wheeler retired from the U.S. Army in July 1970. Wheeler was the longest-serving chairman of the Joint Chiefs to date, serving six years.

Death[edit]

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

Personal life[edit]

At the time of his death, Wheeler was survived by a son, Gilmore "Bim" Stone Wheeler, two grandsons, William Gilmore Wheeler and John Robinson Wheeler, and two great-grandchildren, Chelsey Anne and William Gilmore Jr.

Awards and decorations[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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