Robert L. Schweitzer, a retired Army General died on Saturday at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington. He was 72.
General Schweitzer, who lived in Springfield, Virginia, had suffered from cancer, his family said.
On October 19, 1981, when he was a Major General, he addressed a convention of the Association of the United States Army in Washington and took part in a discussion afterward. The meeting of military officers and others was open to reporters, and the association had advertised it.
So some eyebrows went up when General Schweitzer, the highest military adviser to the National Security Council staff, declared that the Soviet Union had nuclear superiority in all three legs of the strategic triad: long-range bombers, land-based missiles and missiles launched from submarines.
”The Soviets are on the move, they are going to strike,” the general said, warning that the country was in ”the greatest danger that the republic has ever faced since its founding days.”
His remarks were unauthorized, and went well beyond the views of President Ronald Reagan, who himself took a hard stance toward the Soviets. A spokesman for Mr. Reagan immediately described the general's remarks as ”off the wall.” The president quickly said that the military buildup he was proposing was meant to prevent a drift toward war.
The General was reassigned to the Pentagon the morning after his remarks. But a week later, President Reagan, Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and other high-ranking officials attended a farewell ceremony in the Oval Office and spoke warmly of him.
General Schweitzer took his change of assignment like a good soldier. ”I'm neither a rebel nor a crusader,” he commented in an interview. ”I was asked to give a strategic assessment. And I gave one.”
But he expressed regret over the controversy his remarks had caused and added, ”Civilian leadership is a tradition that this nation has.”
At the Pentagon, he was promoted to Lieutenant General, served in various capacities and retired in 1987.
As a Major and Lieutenant Colonel in the 1960's, Robert Schweitzer served several tours in Vietnam, winning the Distinguished Service Cross; two Distinguished Service Medals; three Silver Stars; and several other decorations. He received seven Purple Hearts for wounds in action.
A native of Chicago, he graduated from the University of Maryland, received master's degrees from Georgetown University and the Army Command and Staff College and was a fellow of Harvard's Center for International Affairs.
His first marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, Marie; four sons and a daughter from his first marriage: James, of Omaha, Neil, of Indiana, Joe, of Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Marty, of Fort Monroe, Virginia, and Kathy, of Manassas, Virginia; two sisters, Mary Nolan and Ruth Schweitzer, both of Chicago; and three grandchildren. A son, Michael, died in 1973.
SCHWEITZER, ROBERT L.
Headquarters, US Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 2059 (May 5, 1967)
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Robert L. Schweitzer (0-77192), Lieutenant Colonel (Armor), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Infantry Division.
Lieutenant Colonel Schweitzer distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 11 December 1966 while serving as aerial observer during the defense of the village of Tam Da. Colonel Schweitzer received word that a Viet Cong battalion was approaching the small village and hastened to intercept the enemy.
Ignoring intense fire aimed at his aircraft, he had its pilot fly low over the insurgents to accurately determine their size and deployment. Then, as his pilot landed inside the hamlet, he radioed for infantry troops and artillery and air fire support. Colonel Schweitzer alerted the hamlet's troops and gathered civilians into bunkers just before the Viet Cong struck with devastating force. When friendly artillery rounds began coming in, he left the village to guide the strikes from the air. Two insurgents were noticed, at this time, running from a concealed tunnel entrance. Colonel Schweitzer killed both of them with a rapid burst of fire, then landed to investigate the tunnel. Fearlessly probing the underground passages alone, he discovered and disarmed four booby traps before coming upon three insurgents in a hollowed out chamber. In the brief fight, he killed two of them and captured one. After mining the tunnels for destruction, he re-boarded his helicopter with the prisoner and intelligence materials.
Colonel Schweitzer the continued surveillance of the Viet Cong forces, repeatedly exposing himself to hostile fire to discover hostile maneuvers. Through his brilliant direction, the American forces and firepower were able to decisively rout the large Viet Cong unit and save the village of Tam Da. Lieutenant Colonel Schweitzer's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
SCHWEITZER, ROBERT L
- LTG US ARMY
- KOREA, VIETNAM
- DATE OF BIRTH: 09/06/1928
- DATE OF DEATH: 09/16/2000
- BURIED AT: SECTION 59 SITE 1045-2
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Reviewed by: Michael Howard