Creighton Abrams was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on September 16, 1914. Described as tough, crusty, and gruff, Abrams graduated from West Point in 1936. Considered one of the great combat officers of World War II, Abrams served in General George Patton's Third Army and took part in the relief of Bastogne. Upon assuming command of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) in July 1968, when General William Westmoreland left, Abrams shifted American tactics in the direction of small-unit operations in an attempt to keep pressure on Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army forces while avoiding the heavy American casualties that often resulted from Westmoreland's large-scale "search and destroy" sweeps. Also, in the latter half of 1968, Abrams launched the Accelerated Pacification Campaign, in which the United States and South Vietnam committed a major share of their military resources to controlling the Vietnamese countryside. The campaign enjoyed only short-term success.
As MACV commander, Abrams was responsible for implementing the Vietnamization program, which had originated in the Johnson administration and which was announced with much public fanfare in 1969 by President Richard M. Nixon. Abrams viewed the Cambodian incursion of 1970 as a means of keeping Vietcong and NVA pressure off the gradual American withdrawal mandated by Vietnamization. Although Abrams privately doubted the ability of the South Vietnamese army to replace U.S. troops effectively, he was successful in carrying out the American troop withdrawal called for by Vietnamization. During his tenure as MACV commander, Abrams saw American strength reach its peak (543,482) in April 1969, and also witnessed the departure of the last United States Army combat unit (3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry) from Vietnam in August 1972. Abrams was promoted to chief of staff of the United States Army in 1972, a post he held until his death on September 4, 1974.