Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks Upon Presenting the Distinguished Service Medal to Gen. Earle G. Wheeler

January 10, 1969

General and Mrs. Wheeler, Secretary Rusk, Secretary Clifford, other members of the Cabinet, Secretary Resor, Secretary Nitze, Secretary Brown, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Members of Congress, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Two thousand years ago a Roman historian cited reason and calm judgment as the very special qualities which distinguish a leader.

By that measure, or by any other that we can apply, General Earle G. Wheeler is one of the great leaders of this or any other day.

His President's high regard for him has been forged in the fires of crisis and hardened in the day to day exercise of awesome responsibilities.

Throughout these years of decision, through every determination of great issues, in moments of peril, and in times of hope, he has stood at my side, patient, forthright, steady as a rock--a soldier for every season.

His vision has been clear, and his counsel has been wise. He has served his Nation with a soldier's skill and a patriot's devotion.

The mark of that service is written large on the shield of America's defense, the might of its power, the effectiveness of its military forces, and the efficiency of their management.

The name of Earle Wheeler will stand out forever in bold print in the history of this country, and every man and woman here and in the Armed Forces, which he has led so well, can say with pride, "I served with Wheeler."

And for us all, the days of the future are brighter with the hope of peace, more confident of the preservation of freedom, safer with the assurance of our security, because Earle Wheeler was here when his country needed him.

General, today, on behalf of a grateful people of America, I salute you.

The Secretary will read the citation.

[Secretary of Defense Clark M. Clifford read the citation, the text of which follows.]

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, has awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (First Oak Leaf Cluster) to


for exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility:

General Earle G. Wheeler distinguished himself by outstandingly meritorious service to the United States in a position of preeminent responsibility as Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, from July 1964 to January 1969. In this position, as his country's senior military spokesman, General Wheeler provided advice of unparalleled objectivity and usefulness to the President, the National Security Council and the Secretary of Defense. During this extended period of sustained military activity, General Wheeler, by his unique ability to perceive and to weigh alternative military policies within the broad national policy-setting framework, rendered to the President and to the Secretary of Defense advice of incomparable quality and breadth of vision. On all the important occasions when his advice was sought, General Wheeler faithfully and fully advanced the views of his colleagues, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In consultations with allies, General Wheeler, with consummate skill, tact, and professional acumen, presented the military perceptions and needs of the United States. As a clear testament to the esteem in which General Wheeler is held, the Congress enacted legislation to permit the Commander-in-Chief to appoint him to an unprecedented fifth year as Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. General Wheeler's deep professional competence, sustained and brilliant leadership, and multiple outstanding achievements reflected great credit upon himself, the military service and the United States of America.


[At this point General Wheeler spoke briefly. Following his remarks the President resumed speaking.]

I am delighted to observe this morning that the man who so brilliantly unified, built, and led the Defense Department for so many years of President Kennedy's Presidency and my Presidency honored us with his presence.

I would like for Secretary McNamara to stand and be recognized and take a hand.

Note: The President spoke at 11:35 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his opening words he also referred to Dean Rusk, Secretary of State, Clark M. Clifford, Secretary of Defense, Stanley R. Resor, Secretary of the Army, Paul H. Nitze, Deputy Secretary of Defense, and Harold Brown, Secretary of the Air Force.

General Wheeler's remarks in response are printed in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (vol. 5, p. 40).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks Upon Presenting the Distinguished Service Medal to Gen. Earle G. Wheeler Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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