Johnson, Harold K.


1966 TLS as Army Chief of Staff sending birthday wishes to General Earle Wheeler, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff


Autograph ID: 6749
Condition: Very good, red inked “W” at top right, small green pencil notation at bottom “72 14 Jan 66”.
Description: “(1912-1983) USMA 1933, Army general, Chief of Staff 1964-68. Regarded as a premier tactician, Johnson became skeptical that the level of resources given to the Vietnam War could deliver victory. He came to believe Communist forces held a trump card as they controlled whether there were engagements with US forces. As he saw it, Communist units would always keep their casualties below what they considered a prohibitive level, and could not be swept away by US firepower. He acknowledged that General Westmoreland had little choice but to engage the enemy’s main formations which had to be prevented from securing base areas where they could concentrate. Johnson was instrumental in altering the focus to a counterinsurgency approach, but was frustrated at Congress’ refusal to provide manpower necessary for successful pacification. In his later years Johnson regretted not resigning in protest at the government asking the army to fight a war without hope of ultimate victory. Johnson was with the 57th infantry (Philippine Scouts) at Ft. McKinley in the Philippines in 1940. On the fall of Bataan, he became a POW, participated in the Bataan Death March, eventually imprisoned at Bilibid Prison. In Dec. 1944, the Japanese tried to transfer Johnson and 1600 other POWs out of the Philippines. On 14 Dec. 1944, US fighter planes sunk the Japanese ship he was on killing 300+ POWs. Johnson was eventually transferred to Japan, finally ending up in Korea, liberated Sept. 7, 1945. After his return home, he was sent to Korea leading 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry, assigned to the 1st Cavalry Div., defending the Pusan Perimeter. Johnson was named commandant, Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. In Feb. 1963, he became asst. deputy chief of staff for military operations (operations and plans), Dept. of the Army, and in July was appointed deputy chief of staff for military operations. On July 3, 1964, Johnson was appointed the Army’s 24th Chief of Staff. He went to Vietnam in Dec. 1965 after the Battle of Ia Drang and became critical of Westmoreland’s big-unit strategy. He was involved in many policy debates regarding escalation of the Vietnam War as a proponent of full military mobilization to achieve a pacification of So. Vietnam. As Chief of Staff, one of his noteworthy accomplishments was creating the office of the Sergeant Major of the Army to improve quality of life for enlisted personnel. While Chief of Staff, He considered resigning in protest over LBJ’s decision to not mobilize the reserves, and at the end of his life expressed regret at not doing so. Johnson was acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for a few months in 1967 during General Earle Wheeler’s convalescence. He retired from active duty in July 1968 then headed the Freedoms Foundation then worked as a banking executive.

TLS “Johnny” on 8 ½ x 7 4-star letterhead as General US Army, Chief of Staff, (Washington), January 13 1966, to General Earle G. Wheeler, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Johnson and his wife send “Bus” wishes for long life, happiness and success on his birthday. Nice Vietnam War association piece.”
Type: Letter

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