Creighton Williams Abrams, Jr.
Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1936
Engagements: • World War II (1941 - 1945)• Korean War (1950 - 1953)• Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)
Creighton Williams Abrams Jr.
General, U.S. Army
Creighton Williams Abrams Jr. was born on 15 September 1914 in Springfield, MA. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1936, was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, and served with the 1st Cavalry Division from 1936-40. He was promoted to First Lieutenant in 1939 and to temporary Captain in 1940.
Abrams became an Armor officer early in the development of that branch and served as a tank company commander in the 1st Armored Division in 1940.
World War II
During World War II, Abrams served with the 4th Armored Division, initially as Regimental Adjutant (June 1941 - June 1942) then as a Battalion Commander (July 1942 - March 1943), and Executive Officer (March - September 1943) with the 37th Armor Regiment. A reorganization of the division created a new battalion, the 37th Tank Battalion, which he commanded until March 1945 when he was promoted to command Combat Command B of the division. During this time he was promoted to the temporary ranks of Major (February 1942) and Lieutenant Colonel (September 1943).
During much of this time, his unit was at the spearhead of the 4th Armored Division and the Third Army. As a result, he was well-known as an aggressive armor commander. By using his qualities as a leader and by consistently exploiting the relatively small advantages of speed and reliability of his vehicles, he managed to defeat German forces that had the advantage of superior armor and superior guns. He was twice decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross, (second only to the Medal of Honor) for actions on 20 September and 26 December 1944.
On 23 April 1945, Will Lang Jr. wrote a biography called "Colonel Abe" for LIFE Magazine.
Abrams was known as a successful armor commander. General George Patton said of him: "I'm supposed to be the best tank commander in the Army, but I have one peer - Abe Abrams. He's the world champion." As the frequent spearhead of the Third Army during World War II, Abrams was one of the leaders in the relief effort that broke up the German entrenchments surrounding Bastogne and the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge.
Abrams was noted for his concern for soldiers; his emphasis on combat readiness; and his insistence on personal integrity.
Post-World War II
Following WW II, he served on the Army General Staff (1945-46) as Head of the Department of Tactics at the Armored School, Fort Knox, KY (1946-48), and graduated from the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS (1949). He was briefly promoted to (temporary) Colonel in 1945 but reverted to Lieutenant Colonel during World War II demobilization.
He commanded the 63d Tank Battalion, part of the 1st Infantry Division, in Europe (1949-51). He was again promoted to Colonel and commanded the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment (1951-52). These units were important assignments due to the Cold War concern for potential invasion of Western Europe by the Soviet Union. He then attended, and graduated from, the Army War College in 1953.
Due to his service in Europe and his War College tour, he joined the Korean War late in the conflict. He successively served as Chief of Staff of the I, X, and IX Corps in Korea (1953-54).
Staff Assignments and Division Command
After returning from Korea, Abrams served as Chief of Staff of the Armor Center at Fort Knox (1954-56). He was promoted to Brigadier General and appointed Deputy Chief of Staff for Reserve Components at the Pentagon (1956-59). He was Assistant Division Commander of 3rd Armored Division (1959-60) and then commanded the Division (1960-62) upon his promotion to Major General. During his tenure in Germany, he was on the cover of Time Magazine on 13 October 1961. He was to grace Time's covers again on 19 April 1968 and 15 February 1971.
He was then transferred to the Pentagon as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations (1962-63), then was promoted to Lieutenant General and commanded V Corps in Germany (15 July 1963 to 3 August 1964).
Creighton Williams Abrams Jr. was promoted to General in 1964 and appointed Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, but not before being seriously considered as a candidate for Chief of Staff. Due to concerns about the conduct of the Vietnam War, he was appointed as Deputy to General William Westmoreland, head of the Military Assistance Command in Vietnam (MACV), in May 1967. Abrams would succeed Westmoreland as commander on 10 June 1968, although his tenure of command was not marked by the public optimism of his predecessors, who were prone to press conferences and public statements. While Westmoreland had for years run the war using search-and-destroy tactics, these gave way to the clear-and-hold strategies that Abrams was so keen to implement. Under his authority, American forces were broken up into small units that would live with and train the South Vietnamese civilians to defend their villages from guerrilla or conventional NVA incursions with heavy weapons. Abrams also devoted vastly more time than his predecessor had to expanding, training, and equipping the ARVN. In contrast to Westmoreland, Abrams implemented counterinsurgent methods that focused on winning the hearts and minds of the population. Nevertheless, there was still more continuity than change in Vietnam after Abrams succeeded Westmoreland.
This strategy was successful, as evidenced by the ability of ARVN forces to repel a full-scale NVA Easter Offensive in 1972 with U.S. aerial support. Following the election of President Richard Nixon, Abrams began implementing the Nixon Doctrine referred to as Vietnamization. The doctrine aimed to decrease U.S. involvement in Vietnam. With this new goal, Abrams had decreased American troop strength from a peak of 543,000 in early 1969 to 49,000 in June 1972. That same year, Abrams stepped down from the Military Assistance Command. However, while Abrams was changing the way the war was fought, the prolonged efforts and expense of the war had by then exhausted much of America's public and political support. Abrams disdained most of the politicians with whom he was forced to deal, in particular Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy, and had an even lower opinion of defense contractors whom he accused of war profiteering.
Abrams was also in charge of the Cambodian Incursion in 1970. Troop levels in Vietnam eventually reached 25,000 in January 1973, at the time of the four-power Paris Peace Accords. Although it occurred before he assumed total command, he bore the brunt of fallout from the My Lai Massacre in March 1968.
Chief of Staff
General Abrams was appointed Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army in June 1972, after serving in the Military Assistance Command. However, he was not confirmed by the U.S. Senate until October 1972 due to political repercussions involving insubordination by one of his subordinate commanders. It has also been reported that Congress had delayed the confirmation to question the administration's war in Cambodia.
During this time, Abrams began the transition to the all-volunteer Army. The General served as Chief of Staff until his death, due to complications from surgery for lung cancer, in September 1974.
Major Medals and Awards
Distinguished Service Cross with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Distinguished Service Cross Citation (First Award)"The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Lieutenant Colonel (Armor) Creighton Williams Abrams, Jr. (ASN: 0-20296), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Commanding Officer of the 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, in action against enemy forces on 20 September 1944. On that date, two of Colonel Abrams' tank companies were out-flanked and seriously disorganized by an armored attack of superior forces. Quickly and accurately estimating the situation, Colonel Abrams unhesitatingly attacked the enemy force with his command tank, striking with such ferocity that the enemy was thrown into a state of confusion and his own forces were able to regroup. Lieutenant Colonel Abrams then daringly led his reorganized companies in a frontal assault which resulted in the complete rout of the enemy and the capture of a valuable position with a considerable amount of enemy supplies. His rapid and heroic action, undertaken with great initiative and brilliant leadership, was largely responsible for the successful action and was an inspiration to all who witnessed it. Lieutenant Colonel Abrams' intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 4th Armored Division, and the United States Army."
General Orders: Headquarters, Third Army, General Orders No. 92 (November 18, 1944) Action Date: September 20, 1944
Distinguished Service Cross Citation (Second Award)
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Service Cross to Lieutenant Colonel (Armor) Creighton Williams Abrams, Jr. (ASN: 0-20296), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Commanding Officer of the 37th Tank Battalion, 4th Armored Division, in action against enemy forces on 26 December 1944. On that date Colonel Abrams led his battle-weary battalion in an assault on a heavily defended town. When the advance was held up by a concealed enemy anti-tank gun, Lieutenant Colonel Abrams went forward in his command tank and destroyed the gun; his example inspiring his men to press on and take the town. Then, heedless of approaching darkness and strong enemy defenses, he brilliantly led his battalion on to a further objective. Lieutenant Colonel Abrams' intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 4th Armored Division and the United States Army.
General Orders: Headquarters, Third U.S. Army, General Orders No. 43 (1945) Action Date: 26-Dec-44
The U.S. Army named the XM1 main battle tank the M1 Abrams Tank.
The IG Farben Building was also renamed in his honor from 1975 to 1995.
Abrams married Julia Bertha Abrams (1915-2003) in 1936.
At the suggestion of her husband, in the 1970s Julia Abrams founded the Arlington Ladies, a group of ladies who would attend the graveside services of military personnel at Arlington National Cemetery. Julia was also the honorary chairman of the Arlington Ladies, and the honorary first lady of the United States Armor Association. She was well-known for her volunteer work, including volunteering for a foundation that built schools in Thailand.
The Abrams had three sons and three daughters. All three sons became Army general officers: Brigadier General Creighton Williams Abrams III, retired; Army General John Nelson Abrams; and Major General Robert Bruce Abrams. The three daughters married Army officers.
Death and Burial
Creighton Williams Abrams Jr. died on 4 September 1974. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Section 21, Lot S-33, Grid M/N-20. His wife, Julia, was buried next to him after her death on 31 January 2003.
|Honoree ID: 51||Created by: MHOH|