Albert Coady Wedemeyer
Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1919
Engagements: • World War II (1941 - 1945)
Albert Coady Wedemeyer
Albert Coady Wedemeyer was born on 9 July 1897 in Omaha, NE. He was a graduate of Creighton Prep High School. In 1919, he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
As a U.S. Army officer, he was appointed to the German war college, Kriegsakademie, in Berlin from 1936-38. Wedemeyer was included in 1938 German maneuvers, which gave him unique insight into German tactical operations. When he returned to Washington in 1938, Wedemeyer analyzed Germany's grand strategy and dissected German thinking. Wedemeyer thus became the U.S. military's foremost authority on German tactical operations, whose "most ardent student" was George C. Marshall. Wedemeyer had great influence. His career was aided by his father-in-law, Lieutenant General Stanley Dunbar Embick, who was at that time Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of the War Plans Division.
At the outbreak of World War II, Wedemeyer was a Lieutenant Colonel assigned as a Staff Officer to the War Plans Division of the U.S. War Department. Notably, in 1941 he was the chief author of the Victory Program that advocated the defeat of Germany's armies in Europe as the prime war objective for the U.S. This plan was adopted and expanded as the war progressed. Additionally, Wedemeyer helped to plan the Normandy Invasion.
In 1943, Wedemeyer was reassigned to the South-East Asia Theatre to be Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander of the South East Asia Command (SEAC), Lord Louis Mountbatten.
On 27 October 1944, General Wedemeyer received a telegram from General George C. Marshall directing him to proceed to China to assume command of U.S. forces in China, replacing General Joseph Stilwell. In his new command, he was also named Chief of Staff to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. The telegram contained a host of special instructions and limitations on Wedemeyer's command when dealing with the government of Nationalist China. Wedemeyer later recalled his initial dread over the assignment, as service in the China theater was considered a graveyard for American officials, both military and diplomatic.
When Wedemeyer arrived at Stilwell's headquarters after Stilwell's dismissal, he was dismayed to discover that Stilwell had intentionally departed without seeing him, and did not leave a single briefing paper for his guidance. Normally, departing U.S. military commanders habitually greeted their replacement in order to thoroughly brief them on the strengths and weaknesses of headquarters staff, the issues confronting the command, and planned operations. Searching the offices, Wedemeyer could find no documentary record of Stilwell's plans or records of his former or future operations. General Wedemeyer then spoke with Stilwell's staff officers but learned little from them because Stilwell, according to the staff, kept everything in his "hip pocket."
During his time in the CBI command, Wedemeyer attempted to motivate the Nationalist Chinese government to take a more aggressive role against the Japanese in the war. He was instrumental in expanding the Hump airlift operation with additional, more capable transport aircraft, and continued Stilwell's programs to train, equip, and modernize the Nationalist Chinese Army. His efforts were not wholly successful, in part because of the ill will engendered by his predecessor, as well as continuing friction over the role of Communist Chinese forces. Wedemeyer also supervised logistical support for American air forces in China. These forces included the U.S. Twentieth Air Force partaking in Operation Matterhorn and the Fourteenth Air Force operated by General Claire Chennault.
There is an amusing story about Wedemeyer. A British general took great exception to Wedemeyer's pronunciation of the word 'schedule' which he, as all Americans do, pronounced 'skedule.' 'Where did you learn to speak like that?' he asked. Wedemeyer replied: 'I must have learned it at "shool!"
On 7 December 1945, Wedemeyer, with General Douglas MacArthur and Navy Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, the three top military officers in the Far East, recommended to the Pentagon transporting six more Chinese Nationalist armies into North China and Manchuria. However they also suggested that "the U.S. assistance to China, as outlined above, be made available as basis for negotiation by the American Ambassador to bring together and effect a compromise between the major opposing groups in order to promote a united and democratic China."
The issue of forcing the Nationalists into a coalition government with the Communists would later become a central issue in the fierce "Who lost China" political debates in the U.S. during 1949-51. On 10 July 1945, Wedemeyer had informed General Marshall:
"If Uncle Sugar, Russia, and Britain united strongly in their endeavor to bring about a coalition of these two political parties [the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party] in China by coercing both sides to make realistic concessions, serious post-war disturbance may be averted and timely effective military employment of all Chinese may be obtained against the Japanese. I use the term coercion advisedly because it is my conviction that continued appeals to both sides couched in polite diplomatic terms will not accomplish unification. There must be teeth in Big Three."
Wedemeyer later said that, as a military commander his statement was intended as a call to force the long-heralded, but never implemented, military alliance between the Nationalist government and Chinese Communists in order to rout undefeated Japanese forces in China, which at the time threatened to continue fighting into 1946. He later told others that he had opposed a political coalition. Wedemeyer served in China into 1946.
After returning from China, Wedemeyer was promoted to Army Chief of Plans and Operations. In July 1947, President Harry S. Truman sent Lieutenant General Wedemeyer to China and Korea to examine the "political, economic, psychological and military situations." The result was the "Wedemeyer Report," in which Wedemeyer stressed the need for intensive U.S. training of, and assistance to, the Nationalist armies.
Fearful the Nationalists may rise to challenge U.S. hegemony in the Far East, President Truman not only rejected the recommendations in the report, but imposed an arms embargo against the Nationalist government, thereby intensifying the bitter political debate over the role of the U.S. in the Chinese civil war. While Secretary of State George C. Marshall had hoped that Wedemeyer could convince Chiang Kai-shek to institute those military, economic, and political reforms necessary to defeat the Communists, he accepted Truman's views, and suppressed publication of Wedemeyer's report, further provoking resentment by pro-Nationalist and/or anti-communist advocates both inside and outside the U.S. government and the armed forces.
After the fall of China to Communist forces, General Wedemeyer would testify before Congress that while the loss of morale was indeed a cause of the defeat of the Nationalist Chinese forces, the Truman administration's 1947 decision to discontinue further training and modernizing of Nationalist forces, the U.S.-imposed arms embargo, and constant anti-Nationalist sentiment expressed by Western journalists and policymakers were primary causes of that loss of morale. In particular, Wedemeyer stressed that if the U.S. had insisted on experienced American military advisers attached at the lower battalion and regimental levels of Nationalist armies (as it had done with Greek army forces during the Greek Civil War), that aid could have more efficiently been utilized, and that the immediate tactical assistance would have resulted in Nationalist armies performing far better in combat against the Communist Chinese. Vice-Admiral Oscar C. Badger, General Claire Chennault, and Brigadier General Francis Brink also testified that the arms embargo was a significant factor in the loss of China.
In 1948, Wedemeyer supported General Lucius D. Clay's plan to create an airbridge during the Berlin Crisis.
After the Communist victory in 1949, Wedemeyer became intimately associated with the China Lobby and openly voiced his criticism of those responsible for the "loss of China." In 1951, Wedemeyer retired, but was promoted to General (4-stars) on 19 July 1954. [Eleven lieutenant generals (including Wedemeyer) were promoted to 4-star rank on 19 July 1954. Seven promotions were granted to living retirees; four were awarded posthumously.]
In 1951, after the outbreak of the Korean War, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy said that Wedemeyer had prepared a wise plan that would keep China a valued ally, but that it had been sabotaged; "only in treason can we find why evil genius thwarted and frustrated it." The evil geniuses, McCarthy said, included General George Marshall. Wedemeyer became a hero to the anti-Communist movement in the U.S., giving many lectures around the country. He retired from active duty in 1951.
In 1957 he was affiliated with the National Investigations Committee On Aerial Phenomena.
Friends Advice, in Boyds, Maryland, was Wedemeyer's permanent home throughout his military career and after his retirement in 1951, until his death. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
On 23 May 1985, Wedemeyer was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan.
Death and Burial
General Albert Coady Wedemeyer died on 17 December 1989, at Fort Belvoir, VA. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Section 30, Lot 595 LH.
|Honoree ID: 356||Created by: MHOH|