Abrams Tank Operations
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US Army General Creighton
Creighton W. Abrams (1914 - 1974)
was a United States Army general who commanded military
operations in the Vietnam War from 1968-72 which saw U.S.
troop strength fall from 530,000 to 30,000. He served as
Chief of Staff of the United States Army from 1972 until
shortly before his death in 1974. In honor of Abrams, the
U.S. Army named the XM1 main battle tank after him as the
He graduated from West Point in 1936 and served with the
1st Cavalry Division from 1936 to 1940, being promoted to
first lieutenant in 1939 and temporary captain in 1940.
He became an armored officer early in the development of
that branch and served as a tank company commander in the
1st Armored Division in 1940.
World War WW2
During World War II, he served with the 4th Armored
Division, initially as regimental adjutant (June 1941 -
June 1942) then as a battalion commander (July 1942 -
March 1943), and regiment executive officer (March 1943 -
September 1943) with the US 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 (March 1943) 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, and he was
consequently 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 who had the advantage of superior armor, superior
guns and better trained troops. He was twice decorated
with the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the
Medal of Honor, for actions on September 9, 1944 and
December 26, 1944.
On April 23, 1945, Will Lang Jr. wrote a biography called
"Colonel Abe" for Life (magazine)
Abrams was known as an aggressive and 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."
His unit was frequently the spearhead of the Third Army
during WWII. Abrams was one of the leaders in the relief
effort which broke up the German entrenchments
surrounding Bastogne and the 101st Airborne Division
during the Battle of the Bulge.
He was noted for his concern for soldiers, his emphasis
on combat readiness, and his insistence on personal
Following the war he served on the Army General Staff
(1945 - 1946), as head of the department of tactics at
the Armored School, Fort Knox (1946 - 1948), and
graduated from the Command and General Staff College at
Fort Leavenworth (1949). He was briefly promoted to
(temporary) colonel in 1945 but reverted to
lieutenant-colonel during WWII demobilization.
He commanded the 63d Tank Battalion, part of the 1st
Infantry Division, in Europe (1949 - 1951). He was again
promoted to colonel and commanded the 2d Armored Cavalry
Regiment (1951-1952). 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.
During his tenure in Germany he was on the cover of Time
Magazine on October 13, 1961. He was to grace the covers
again on April 19, 1968, and February 15, 1971.
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 (1953-1954).
Staff Assignments / Division Command
Upon return from Korea he served as Chief of Staff of the
Armor Center, Fort Knox (1954-1956). He was promoted to
brigadier-general and appointed deputy chief of staff for
reserve components at the Pentagon (1956-1959). He was
assistant division commander of 3rd Armored Division
(1959 - 60) and then commanded the division (1960 - 62)
upon his promotion to major-general.
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 Europe (1963
He was promoted to general in 1964 and appointed vice
Chief of Staff of the Army (he was seriously considered
as a candidate for Chief of Staff at that time). 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, in May
1967. He succeeded Westmoreland as commander on June 10,
1968. His tenure of command was not marked by the public
optimism of his predecessors, who were prone to press
conferences and public statements.
Following the election of President Richard Nixon he
implemented the Nixon Doctrine referred to as
Vietnamization. Vietnamization was designed to wind down
U.S. involvement in Vietnam, and have South Vietnam
responsible for executing the war.
Troop strength under Abrams decreased from 535,000 in
December 1968 to 140,000 in December 1971 to 30,000
combat troops at the end of 1972. Abrams was in charge of
the Cambodian Incursion in 1970. 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
He was appointed Chief of Staff of the United States Army
in June 1972 but was not confirmed by the Senate until
October 1972 due to political repercussions involving
disobedience by one of his subordinate commanders. He
served in this position until his death in September
1974. During this time he began the transition to the
(M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank)