Albert Coady Wedemeyer, one of the few ranking staff officers who shaped America's military strategy during World War II and its diplomatic policy in the years immediately following, is dead.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the four-star general died Sunday at a retirement center at Ft. Belvoir, Va. He was 92 and had been in declining health after moving earlier this year to the Belvoir Woods Health Care Center from the farm he called "Friends Advice" in the small community of Boyds, Md.
He died four decades after the disagreements that split American and British planners had become the stuff of history.
Born in 1897 in Omaha, Wedemeyer entered West Point in 1915. He graduated in 1919, a member of a class that included such celebrated combat soldiers of World War II as Anthony C. McAuliffe, commander of the 101st Airborne during the Battle of the Bulge; Air Force Gen. Nathan Twining, later chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Al Gruenther, who would rise to become the supreme commander in Europe.
But Wedemeyer's skills lay not in command, somewhat to his chagrin. Like his mentor, George C. Marshall, Wedemeyer--who longed for duty with troops--found himself assigned to a prewar succession of staff positions.
Caught behind a large number of World War I veterans on the promotion lists, Wedemeyer and his classmates spent 17 years as lieutenants, and four more as captains. They finally achieved the rank of major in 1940 only after then-Chief of Staff Marshall reformed the Army's promotion policies to eliminate what he privately termed "the arteriosclerosis."
In the meantime, the young officer served on a succession of posts in the caste-conscious, socially isolated peacetime Army--at Ft. Benning, Ga.; twice in the Philippines; in Washington, and in Tientsin, China, then widely regarded as the Army's choicest assignment in those sleepy between-war years.
It was while traveling on an Army troopship to the Philippines in 1923 that the lean, blond Wedemeyer met his future wife, Elizabeth Dade Embick, daughter of an Army colonel.
They were married in 1925 on Corregidor Island in Manila Bay. Their first son was born the following year, their second in 1928. Six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren also survive him.
Wedemeyer came to be a member of a small circle of soldier-scholars. Unlike many, he was an outspoken supporter of Germany as a major power--perhaps because of his own Germanic heritage.
In June, 1936, the Army sent then-Capt. Wedemeyer to attend the German War College in Berlin. (A handful of German officers were training at American military schools.) The two-year tour had a profound influence on him and his later career. He learned the evolving principles of \o7 blitzkrieg \f7 and the\o7 Luftwaffe's \f7 innovative use of aircraft as artillery for fast-moving armored columns. He also came to share the German general staff's \o7 realpolitik \f7 and its abiding antipathy to the Soviet Union. Wedemeyer returned to the United States as one of the few men in the U.S. Army with an appreciation for the war-making machine that the \o7 Wehrmacht \f7 would unloose in September, 1939. He also returned a fervent anti-communist.
"I was convinced that the American people did not want to supplant Nazism by communism," he wrote in his best-selling autobiography, "Wedemeyer Reports!"
That prejudice was to cloud his future career as a diplomat, although Marshall would remain a stalwart defender of the newly promoted major he assigned in 1941 to the war plans division of the General Staff.
Almost immediately Marshall--who had trouble remembering names--put "that long-legged major in war plans" to work on the so-called Victory Program, the secret, vitally important national estimate of what manpower and industry were necessary to defeat the Axis.
Thus Wedemeyer found himself, ironically, drafting the master industrialization plan that would lead to the defeat of a nation he admired, Germany, while the United States allied itself with a political system, communism, that he despised.
It was at the 1943 Quebec Conference that British Adm. Louis Mountbatten asked for Wedemeyer to serve as his deputy in the newly created Southeast Asia Command. Marshall agreed, and Wedemeyer, by then a two-star general, found himself in New Delhi.
On Oct. 28, 1944, Marshall ordered Wedemeyer's transfer to Chongqing, China, to replace the outspoken Joseph (Vinegar Joe) Stilwell as commander of the China Theater. More important, Wedemeyer was also to assume Stilwell's post as chief of staff to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, the Chinese Nationalist leader.
"My orders for assignment to China came as a bombshell," Wedemeyer acknowledged in his autobiography. Wedemeyer the soldier suddenly found himself in the delicate position of diplomat with no training and no warning.