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General William E. DePuy

Preparing the Army for Modern War

Henry Gole

Publication Year: 2008

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.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Front cover

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Copyright page

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

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.” ...

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pp. xiii-xvi

When I was invited to write the biography of General William E. DePuy, I asked myself two questions. Do we need a DePuy biography? Is there sufficient evidence to do a proper job? The answers are yes and yes. ...

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pp. xvii-xviii

For each person named here, there were two or three anonymous angels who floated through archival stacks, strained their eyes, and taxed their knowledge while running down answers to my questions. ...

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1. Dakota Days

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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. ...

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2. Apprentice to Journeyman

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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; ...

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3. The 90th Division Goes to School

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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 ...

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4. The 90th Breaks Out

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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 ...

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5. Regular Army

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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, ...

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6. CIA Detail

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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 ...

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7. Armed Forces Staff College and a Second Battalion Command

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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. ...

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8. Clever Chaps: The View from the Chief’s Office

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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. ...

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9. School in London: Command in Schweinfurt

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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: ...

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10. Back to Washington

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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 ...

Illustrations follow page 142

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11. Vietnam

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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, ...

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12. The Big Red One

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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 ...

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13. SACSA, Tet, and Policy Review

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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 ...

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14. To Fix a Broken Army

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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 ...

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15. TRADOC Commander: The Army’s Road Back

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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.” ...

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16. Retirement, Illness, Taps

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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. ...

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17. Legacy: An Army Ready to Fight the Next War

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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 ...


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pp. 299-328

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 329-342


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pp. 343-364

E-ISBN-13: 9780813173016
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813125008

Page Count: 408
Publication Year: 2008