Edward C. Meyer, General who Revamped Post-Vietnam ‘Hollow Army,’ Dies at 91

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tags: obituaries, military history, Vietnam War

Edward C. Meyer, a four-star general who, as the Army chief of staff from 1979 to 1983, led an effort to restructure what he called a “hollow Army” in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, died Oct. 13 at his home in Arlington, Va. He was 91.

The cause was complications of pneumonia, said his son Tom Meyer.

Gen. Meyer, whose nickname was “Shy,” was a combat veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam wars before being selected as chief of staff, the Army’s top general, by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. He was moved ahead of at least 15 higher-ranking officers and, at 50, was one of the youngest chiefs of staff in history.

“He’s extremely energetic — the kind of guy who comes in on an overnight flight from Europe, shaves at the officers’ club and puts in a full day’s work,” then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Danzig told the New York Times in 1979.

During a congressional hearing in 1980, Gen. Meyer used the memorable phrase “a hollow Army” to describe how the military branch had been beset by staffing problems, outdated equipment and general malaise after the Vietnam War.

After Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, military funding increased, and Gen. Meyer led an effort to modernize the Army and raise the readiness and morale of troops. When he took over the Army’s top post, he said only six of its 10 divisions at the time were combat-ready.

Almost half of the Army’s 750,000 troops were overseas, leaving many stateside units threadbare or depleted. The Army had a shortage of sergeants and reserve officers, and unit leaders were rotated so often that they scarcely got to know the troops under their command.

In Gen. Meyer’s first year on the job, more than 20 senior generals retired or were replaced, easing the way toward new approaches to the Army’s internal organization and procedures. It was essential, Gen. Meyer said, to create a “vision of where we were going so that we weren’t trapped, as armies in the past have been, into just being a mirror of the kind of army we were before.”

He came to terms with the post-Vietnam, all-volunteer Army, although he would have preferred a return to military draft.

“I have great concern about the future of a nation in which there is no responsibility for service placed upon the people,” Gen. Meyer told the Times in 1983.

Read entire article at Washington Post

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