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Remarks on Presenting the Defense Distinguished Service Medal to General Earle G. Wheeler.

July 09, 1970

Mr. Secretary, General Wheeler, Mrs. Wheeler, and distinguished guests:

This is a ceremony that will only come once in terms of this White House because General Wheeler has served longer as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff than any man in our history--6 years--probably longer than any man will serve in the future.

He also will receive for the first time a new decoration, a new medal, the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, which will be presented to him, the first of its kind.

After that, we will try to maintain the level and the distinction of the medal in terms of those to whom it is presented.

In talking about General Wheeler--and I know that he has been through many ceremonies over the past few days and weeks, looking toward his retirement as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs--there is not much that I can add, except to say this:

He is known as a soldier and he is proud of being known as a soldier. He is known among his colleagues at the Joint Chiefs as a great planner and strategist, and he is naturally proud of being so designated.

I know him as a statesman. In the meetings of the National Security Council he is a man who can wear his military hat, as he must always wear it in representing the views of the services, but who can also represent the views of the whole country in the best spirit of statesmanship; one who thinks deeply and very profoundly about national and international issues.

He has made an enormous contribution to the procedures and also to the thinking in the National Security Council, not only in Southeast Asia, but in the Mideast, our arms talks, and the rest.

I think as time goes on we will look back on the years that General Wheeler has served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. They were difficult times, difficult in terms of a very difficult war in which we were engaged. But I think we will also look back and recognize that these were the beginning of other times, other times in which the United States moved in various areas throughout the world toward using our strength toward building a sound structure for peace.

For that reason, I am very happy today that so many of his colleagues in the armed services are here to honor him and so many Members of the Congress who have worked with him are here to honor him.

Now, the Secretary of Defense will read the citation of the new medal which, for the first time, will be presented to General Wheeler.

[Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird read the following citation.]

The President of the United States has awarded the Defense Distinguished Service Medal to



for extraordinary meritorious service for the Armed Forces of the United States.

On behalf of the Armed Forces and the Government of the United States, General Earle Gilmore Wheeler is awarded the first Defense Distinguished Service Medal for exceptionally meritorious and dedicated service to his country as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 3 July 1964 through 2 July 1970.

General Wheeler assumed the Chairmanship at a critical point in our nation's history and served for six years as his country's senior military officer. During these years, he carried the heavy responsibility of providing military advice to the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the National Security Council. This advice invariably has been both wise and clear. His judicious understanding of the complex problems of national security has provided the basis for the strongest confidence placed in him by his nation.

In addition, the quality of his professional consultation with government and military leaders of other nations has promoted credence in as well as respect for the interest of the United States in the security of our Allies.

General Wheeler's disciplined judgment and breadth of vision were key factors in assuring the wisdom of the military counsel of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His administration of the Chairman's responsibilities, including the operation of the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was particularly noteworthy. During his tenure, the voice of each Service was clearly heard in the forum of the Joint Chiefs, with the assurance that all viewpoints were fully considered. Under his leadership, the role of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was expanded to make that body's considered advice more readily available in the development of military programs for the future.

As Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Wheeler provided military advice to two Presidents of the United States and three Secretaries of Defense. lie agreed to serve unprecedented additional terms as Chairman at the personal request of two Presidents. These Presidential initiatives are themselves the soundest measures of his leadership, the wisdom of his counsel, and the great value placed on his services.

Throughout his long and distinguished career, culminating with duty as Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Wheeler has devoted his efforts to maintaining and improving the security and well-being of his country. He has given unstintingly of himself. This distinguished soldier has truly earned his place in the front rank of those American patriots who have guided the destinies of the United States of America.

[The President then resumed speaking.]

I am sure we would all like to hear a response from General Wheeler on this very special occasion.

Note: The President spoke at 10:10 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. The text of General Wheeler's remarks is printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 6, p. 907).

On the same day prior to the ceremony, the President signed Executive Order 11545, establishing the Defense Distinguished Service Medal.

General Wheeler retired on July 2, 1970, at a ceremony held at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

Richard Nixon, Remarks on Presenting the Defense Distinguished Service Medal to General Earle G. Wheeler. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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