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General William E. DePuy

General William E. DePuy: Preparing the Army for Modern War

HENRY G. GOLE
With a foreword by William A. Stofft
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 408
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jcwjm
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  • Book Info
    General William E. DePuy
    Book Description:

    From the late 1960s to the late 1970s, the United States Army was a demoralized institution in a country in the midst of a social revolution. The war in Vietnam had gone badly and public attitudes about it shifted from indifference, to acceptance, to protest. Army Chief of Staff General Creighton Abrams directed a major reorganization of the Army and appointed William E. DePuy (1919--1992) commander of the newly established Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), in 1973. DePuy already had a distinguished record in positions of trust and high responsibility: successful infantry battalion command and division G-3 in World War II by the age of twenty-five; Assistant Military Attaché in Hungary; detail to CIA in the Korean War; alternating tours on the Army Staff and in command of troops. As a general officer he was General Westmoreland's operations officer in Saigon; commander of the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam; Special Assistant to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Assistant Vice Chief of Staff, Army. But it was as TRADOC Commander that DePuy made his major contribution in integrating training, doctrine, combat developments, and management in the U.S. Army. He regenerated a deflated post-Vietnam Army, effectively cultivating a military force prepared to fight and win in modern war. General William E. DePuy: Preparing the Army for Modern War is the first full-length biography of this key figure in the history of the U.S. Army in the twentieth century. Author Henry G. Gole mined secondary and primary sources, including DePuy's personal papers and extensive archival material, and he interviewed peers, subordinates, family members, and close observers to describe and analyze DePuy's unique contributions to the Army and nation. Gole guides the reader from DePuy's boyhood and college days in South Dakota through the major events and achievements of his life. DePuy was commissioned from the ROTC six months before the attack on Pearl Harbor, witnessed poor training and leadership in a mobilizing Army, and served in the 357th Infantry Regiment in Europe -- from the bloody fighting in Normandy until victory in May 1945, when DePuy was stationed in Czechoslovakia. Gole covers both major events and interesting asides: DePuy was asked by George Patton to serve as his aide; he supervised clandestine operations in China; he served in the Office of the Army Chief of Staff during the debate over "massive retaliation" vs. "flexible response"; he was instrumental in establishing Special Forces in Vietnam; he briefed President Lyndon B. Johnson in the White House. DePuy fixed a broken Army. In the process his intensity and forcefulness made him a contentious figure, admired by some and feared by others. He lived long enough to see his efforts produce American victory in the Gulf War of 1991. In General William E. DePuy, Gole presents the accomplishments of this important military figure and explores how he helped shape the most potent military force in the history of the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7301-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    William A. Stofft

    Everyone likes a good story. And this is a really good story, about a young man from the Dakotas named Bill DePuy, who graduates from South Dakota State College in 1941 with an ROTC commission, just in time for the “good war.”

    Before the war ended, he had been an integral part of the transformation of a U.S. Army fighting division—the 90th—from one of the worst in the European Theater to perhaps its best. He trained with the division for over two years and helped take it to England and then Normandy as a young officer, where he...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. 1 Dakota Days
    (pp. 1-12)

    “Happy Days Are Here Again” and “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody” were first sung in 1919, the latter in the Ziegfeld Follies of that year. But they were sung without the stimulation of legal booze, for the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution began the Prohibition Era that same year. Also in 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, reshaping the map of Europe and insuring Germany’s becoming a dissatisfied power; the League of Nations was established without the United States; andTen Days That Shook the World,John Reed’s ecstatic account of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, was...

  7. 2 Apprentice to Journeyman
    (pp. 13-24)

    On 25 June 1941, Second Lieutenant William E. DePuy reported to the 20th Infantry at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.¹ His training was rudimentary, and he knew it. He and his fellow cadets learned some American military history and tradition; the organization of the U.S. Army; how to wear the uniform; how to march troops about in groups; a bit about the characteristics and capabilities of weapons; how to read a map and navigate, with perhaps a little field work in land navigation; and whatever gems and tricks of the trade were passed on to cadets by the Regular Army soldiers...

  8. 3 The 90th Division Goes to School
    (pp. 25-40)

    The 90th Division was so ill prepared for combat and so badly led that it came close to being disbanded. Division and regimental commanders were assigned and fired until competent, indeed outstanding, leaders were found. At company and battalion levels leadership came from below as those tested passed or failed the unforgiving test of leading soldiers in combat. The bloody fighting in Normandy and the war of movement after the breakout from the beaches would produce two positive outcomes in DePuy’s division: effective leadership and confidence in that leadership among the troops. The 90th would become one of the most...

  9. 4 The 90th Breaks Out
    (pp. 41-66)

    The Allies’ European strategy called for the expansion of the Normandy lodgment and a breakout to get on with the defeat of Germany. But July found the invaders still bogged down in the Bocage region with its hedgerows that favored defense. Omar Bradley called it “the damndest country I’ve seen.”¹

    To facilitate the breakout, Operation COBRA used thousands of aircraft to “carpet bomb” a path through the German defenses. The plan for 24 July 1944 called for bombardment by 350 fighter bombers, 396 mediums, and 1,800 heavies previously reserved for strategic bombing. Poor visibility in the target area and poor...

  10. 5 Regular Army
    (pp. 67-74)

    High praise from superiors contrasts sharply with Bill DePuy’s sober self-analysis. Asked what led him to stay in the Army after the war to make it a career, he responded, “Well, I assumed I would get out. I didn’t realize that there would be an option to stay in.” Turning to the practical matter of income, the child of the Great Depression reckoned his army pay and allowances to be $535 a month. His likely alternative at the time, to be a bank teller back home, would pay about $150 per month. In addition, he had explored the world beyond...

  11. 6 CIA Detail
    (pp. 75-86)

    DePuy’s skiing accident in Europe laid him up for a long while in 1950. “My leg was really banged up very badly,” he recalled. “They had to operate on it and put in a lot of screws, wrap wire around it, and so on. So, I was at Walter Reed in June, when the Korean War started, and about September I was able to get around a little bit on a half-shell cast.”¹ In fact, the doctors had made a mess of it in Hungary. The medics in Germany took a look at DePuy’s leg and packed him off to...

  12. 7 Armed Forces Staff College and a Second Battalion Command
    (pp. 87-100)

    Beginning 5 February 1953, Bill DePuy attended the five-month Armed Forces Staff College (AFSC) course in Norfolk, Virginia, before returning to Europe for his third of four tours there.¹ Among his classmates and on the faculty were a number of officers who later served as three-or four-star generals. Over the following twenty-five years, their career paths crossed and recrossed.

    Frederick C. Weyand would serve as Chief of Staff of the Army (1974–1975) when DePuy commanded the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). Weyand commanded the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii and took it to Vietnam when DePuy commanded the neighboring...

  13. 8 Clever Chaps: The View from the Chief’s Office
    (pp. 101-114)

    Throughout his career Bill DePuy alternated between muddy-boots assignments overseas and high-level staff jobs in Washington. Upon his return from Germany in May 1956, where his focus for three years had been hands-on training, he joined the clever chaps in Washington who were at the top of the Army hierarchy. The ease with which he excelled in both capacities caused one who knew him well to describe him as “thinker and doer,” a man equally able to lead soldiers and wrestle with complex concepts.¹

    In May 1956 DePuy joined the Coordination Group in the Office of the Chief of Staff,...

  14. 9 School in London; Command in Schweinfurt
    (pp. 115-130)

    Late one night in the early 1970s, Lieutenant Colonel Colin Powell found himself alone with his boss, Lieutenant General DePuy, in a small executive aircraft as they returned to Washington from a field visit. During that late-night flight, DePuy proffered some advice to the promising young officer: “Never become so consumed by your career that nothing is left that belongs only to you and your family. Don’t allow your profession to become the whole of your existence.” At that moment, Powell later wrote, he understood why he and the others on the staff had never seen the inside of DePuy’s...

  15. 10 Back to Washington
    (pp. 131-142)

    As the family said good-bye to British friends and relocated to Germany, President John F. Kennedy delivered his Inaugural Address on 20 January 1961, asserting that a new generation of Americans was ready to bear any burden and pay any price in accepting leadership. Robert S. McNamara, who would serve Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson as Secretary of Defense, writes, “I first confronted the Indochina problem in a relatively brief meeting between President Eisenhower and President-elect Kennedy. It was 19 January 1961, President Eisenhower’s last full day in office.” McNamara recalls that an “immense number of subjects” were covered on...

  16. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  17. 11 Vietnam
    (pp. 143-166)

    From 1964 to 1969, Bill DePuy was totally immersed in the Vietnam War from three perspectives: theater operations, as J-3, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), 1964–1966; tactics, as the commander of the 1st Infantry Division, 1966–1967; and national strategy, as Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities (SACSA), JCS, 1967–1969. His jobs in Saigon, in the field, and in Washington shaped his personal appreciation of events at various stages of the war. Moreover, events in Vietnam were often interpreted differently by American officials in Saigon and Washington. And during those years American popular opinion of the war...

  18. 12 The Big Red One
    (pp. 167-198)

    As commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division (called the Big Red One, or BRO, for the red numeral patch the troopers wore on their shoulders), General DePuy applied unrelenting pressure on the enemy. From mid-March 1966 to February 1967, his personal style and effectiveness as a fighting general won him the admiration and loyalty of officers and individual soldiers pleased to be on his team. To many of them, loyalty became affection. But he also acquired a reputation as a demanding, even ruthless leader. Soldiers talked about him in orderly rooms, mess halls, clubs, and snack bars. Division command...

  19. 13 SACSA, Tet, and Policy Review
    (pp. 199-212)

    His having spent almost three years in Vietnam and his earlier work in counterinsurgency made Major General DePuy one of the most knowledgeable officials in the U.S. government regarding Vietnam. He began his new job with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 15 March 1967 as the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities (SACSA). Within a year, the Tet offensive in 1968 became a turning point in that war.

    When DePuy returned from Vietnam in 1967 he was forty-eight years old. His children had become teenagers as the United States was undergoing a social revolution, while he was away...

  20. 14 To Fix a Broken Army
    (pp. 213-236)

    The period 1969–1973 was a terrible time in the history of the U.S. Army. The “raggedy-assed little bastards” in Vietnam were demonstrating a readiness to outlast the United States and win. They did both. And while the U.S. Army was engaged in light infantry combat in Asia for a decade, the Red Army had modernized its mechanized and armored forces and massive mobile fire support in Europe. That required the U.S. Army to refocus on the threat posed by the Soviet Union in Europe, improve training, modernize weapons systems, and rethink doctrine. Among the by-products of the unpopular war...

  21. 15 TRADOC Commander: The Army’s Road Back
    (pp. 237-274)

    On 7 June 1973, just three weeks before taking command of Training and Doctrine Command and four months before the Yom Kippur War, DePuy told a Fort Polk audience of infantry trainers that in World War II “we were an ill-trained rabble compared to what we have in the U.S. Army today.” But now, he said, the training in the professional Army had to produce units five times as good as the enemy. Because U.S. and Red Army equipment was roughly equal, the key was training. Even as DePuy was about to pin on his fourth star, his message was...

  22. 16 Retirement, Illness, Taps
    (pp. 275-292)

    He stood at attention on the green parade field at Fort Monroe, Virginia, in elegant summer whites as his former assistant division commander and current Army Chief of Staff General Bernard Rogers presided at his retirement ceremony on 30 June 1977. General William E. DePuy stepped into private life to meet another Rogers. Aide Tony Pokorny describes Bill DePuy’s reintroduction to what his fellow Americans had been doing during his thirty-six-year absence from Main Street.

    “The first thing he did on the day he retired,” Pokorny recalled, “we went to Washington, and he says, ‘I never had a Roy Rogers...

  23. 17 Legacy: An Army Ready to Fight the Next War
    (pp. 293-298)

    American boys know that the simplest way to terminate a schoolyard fight is to whip the other fellow and make him say “uncle.” When General Norman H. Schwarzkopf forced Iraq to say “uncle” to end the Gulf War in 1991, it had been almost half a century since America experienced such an apparently simple termination of hostilities. Since the German and Japanese unconditional surrenders in 1945, fog pervaded the commencement and termination of American wars as much as it pervaded the conduct of war. The war in Korea, for example, was never declared and didn’t officially end.

    Americans understand the...

  24. Notes
    (pp. 299-328)
  25. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 329-342)
  26. Index
    (pp. 343-364)