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VIetNam-Era General Signs a Book

In researching American Gun, we spoke with hundreds of people and visited archives. We read technical reports, historical accounts, newspapers, court records, congressional testimony, and other material. We also sought out many out-of-print books. One book we bought online was A Soldier Reports by U.S. Army General William Westmoreland. Westmoreland led U.S. troops in Vietnam during key years of the war. He advocated for and oversaw the dramatic surge of U.S. troops in the country, and was instrumental in swaying Pentagon leaders to purchase hundreds of thousands of M16 rifles (select-fire AR-15s) from Colt. The ramp-up in the production of these guns, coupled with key modifications to the rifle and its ammunition ordered by a Pentagon technical committee, led to Marines and soldiers being issued rifles that were prone to jam. Initially, troops also received little training in how to clean their weapons or equipment to do so. The result: U.S. fighters went into combat with weapons that didn't work and many died. Westmoreland, however, never swayed from his support of the M16, despite a congressional investigation into the problem found serious mistakes. When our paperback copy of Westmoreland's book arrived, we were surprised to find it was signed by this controversial leader.

Signature of William Westmoreland.

Cover of Vietnam-era General's book. He was pro-M16 rifle.


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