Winning Hearts and Minds in South Carolina

If the turkey pluckers vote right, a defeated General may become a victorious Governor.

  1. He was still trim at fifty-nine, his posture still flawless. His dominant features seemed unchanged: the jutting chin, the brow that overhung his dark, hard eyes, like a shield. But about the face, where there had been only sharp bone and taut skin, there was now a suggestion of flesh. His hair, silver-colored, combed straight back, was longer than I’d expected; then I realized that until now I’d never seen him without a hat. I had never, in fact, seen him out of uniform, and there remained so much of the military in his bearing that to find him this way, in plain gray suit and dull necktie, was slightly disconcerting.

    “Hi, General. Nice to see you again.”

    William Westmoreland did not smile as we shook hands in his office in Columbia, South Carolina. His gaze was hard, his mouth a thin, straight line. He motioned to a table across the room from his desk. We took seats on opposite sides, and he waited for me to begin.

    “I guess Colonel Ballou has explained that I’m going to be around for a few days.”

    “Yes. You were in Vietnam, weren’t you?”

    “A couple of times. I spent a day with you there in 1967.”

    “I remember. You wrote an article about me. In fact, I think it was two or three articles.”

    “No, just one, but it was long.”

    “Yes. Some friends of mine sent me copies.”

    His eyes had not flickered. When he spoke, the words were toneless and flat. “Well now,” he said, “would you be at liberty to disclose, or do you choose to disclose, just what are the origins and wha...

Originally published in Harper's, April 1974