General Weyand, who often talked to journalists and was open in relating the realities of the war, reflected bitterly years later on what he and other senior officers viewed as the role of the media in influencing the outcome.
“Vietnam was a seminal experience for me,” he said in a talk at the Rotary Club in Honolulu four years ago. “In the Paris peace talks, I sat across the table from negotiators who, by my standards, were amoral and without conscience – they did not value human life, other than their own.”
From Vietnam and Korea, where he was a battalion commander, Weyand surmised “that Iraq and Afghanistan will be with us for a long time to come.” In Vietnam as well as Iraq, he said, he saw “the awesome power of the media to shape public opinion and to influence our national will, the single most important determinant in success or failure.”
Rise of public relations as an issue
General Weyand, in 38 years in the Army, served in all America’s wars in Asia beginning in World War II but was best known as the last US commander in Vietnam.
Weyand was in Vietnam through three critical periods, arriving as commander of the 25th Infantry Division northwest of Saigon near the outset of US combat in Vietnam. He commanded II Field Force, encompassing US forces in the southern portion of the country, in 1967 and 1968, a period that included the Tet offensive in 1968.
After serving on the US negotiating team in Paris peace talks for two years, Weyand returned in 1970 for his final Vietnam tour as US troop strength was winding down to the final withdrawal in March 1973. Appointed Army chief of staff the next year, he retired in 1976.
Born in Arbuckle, California, Weyand went through ROTC at the University of California, Berkeley. He majored in fine arts, also studying criminology and serving one year as a local policeman before graduating in 1939 as a second lieutenant.Three years later, he was in Burma where Gen. Joseph Stillwell was training Chinese forces to fight the Japanese.
Over his long military career, Weyand won a silver star, a distinguished service cross, five distinguished service medals, and two Legions of Merit.