Wheeler, Earle G.

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Wheeler, Earle G. (1908–1975), general, U.S. Army; chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), 1964–79.Gen. Earle Wheeler's tenure as the nation's top military officer spanned the height of America's involvement in the Vietnam War. President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Wheeler chairman of the JCS in July 1964 to succeed Gen. Maxwell Taylor. Wheeler oversaw and supported the expanding U.S. military role in the conflict in the mid‐1960s, consistently backing the field commander's requests for additional troops and operating authority. Concerned that the U.S. buildup in Vietnam depleted U.S. military capabilities in other parts of the world, he urged the president to mobilize American reserve forces. In February 1968, after the Tet Offensive, Wheeler extracted from Gen. William C. Westmoreland, the U.S. military commander in Vietnam, a request for some 200,000 additional ground troops to be gained by mobilizing reserve forces. However, Wheeler intended to use most of these troops to reconstitute a general reserve in the United States. His request was not approved and, together with the Tet offensive and shifts in U.S. public opinion, resulted finally in President Johnson's decision to de‐escalate the war.

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program, whereby South Vietnamese forces assumed increasing responsibility for the war as U.S. forces were withdrawn.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 and died in 1975.
[See also Army Reserves and National Guard; Mobilization; Vietnam War.]

Bibliography

Herbert Y. Schandler , The Unmaking of a President: Lyndon Johnson and Vietnam, 1977.
Mark Perry , Four Stars, 1989.

Herbert Y. Schandler