Alexander Meigs Haig, Jr. (born December 2, 1924) is a retired four-star general in the United States Army who served as the U.S. Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan and White House Chief of Staff under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. In 1973 Haig served as Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, the number two ranking officer in the Army. Haig served as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), the ex-officio commander of the all U.S. and NATO forces in Europe. Haig is a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and is a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second highest medal for heroism, as well as the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Purple Heart.
Haig attended St. Joseph's Preparatory School
in Philadelphia and graduated from Lower Merion High School
in Ardmore, Pennsylvania
. He then went to the University of Notre Dame
for one year, before transferring to and graduating from West Point
in 1947. He studied business administration
at Columbia Business School
in 1954 and 1955. He also received a Masters degree in International Relations
from Georgetown University
in 1961, where his thesis focused on the role of the military officer in the making of national policy.
Serves with MacArthur; heroism in Korea
As a young officer, Haig served on the staff of General Douglas MacArthur
. In the early days of the Korean War
, Haig was responsible for maintaining General MacArthur's situation map and briefing MacArthur each evening on the day's battlefield events. Haig later saw combat in the Korean War
(1950-51) with the X Corps
, led by MacArthur's Chief of Staff, General Edward Almond
. During the Korean War
, Haig earned two Silver Stars
for heroism and a Bronze Star
with "V." Haig participated in seven Korean War
campaigns, including the Battle of Incheon
, the Battle of Chosin Reservoir
(a.k.a "The Frozen Chosen"), and the evacuation of Hungnam
Haig later served as a staff officer in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations (DCSOPS) at the Pentagon
(1962-64), and then was appointed Military Assistant to Secretary of the Army Stephen Ailes
in 1964. Haig then was appointed Military Assistant to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara
. He continued in that service until the end of 1965, whereupon he took command of a Battalion of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division
Distinguished Service Cross in Vietnam
On May 22, 1967, Lieutenant Colonel
Haig was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second highest medal for heroism, by General William Westmoreland
as a result of his actions during the battle of Ap Gu in March 1967. During the battle, then Lt. Colonel Haig's troops (of the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division (United States) became pinned down by a Viet Cong
force that outnumbered U.S. forces by a three to one margin. In an attempt to survey the battlefield, Haig boarded a helicopter and flew to the point of contact. His helicopter was subsequently shot down. Two days of bloody hand-to-hand combat ensued. An excerpt from Haig's official Army citation follows:
"When two of his companies were engaged by a large hostile force, Colonel Haig landed amid a hail of fire, personally took charge of the units, called for artillery and air fire support and succeeded in soundly defeating the insurgent force...the next day a barrage of 400 rounds was fired by the Viet Cong, but it was ineffective because of the warning and preparations by Colonel Haig. As the barrage subsided, a force three times larger than his began a series of human wave assaults on the camp. Heedless of the danger himself, Colonel Haig repeatedly braved intense hostile fire to survey the battlefield. His personal courage and determination, and his skillful employment of every defense and support tactic possible, inspired his men to fight with previously unimagined power. Although his force was outnumbered three to one, Colonel Haig succeeded in inflicting 592 casualties on the Viet Cong..." (HQ US Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 2318 (May 22, 1967)
Haig was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross
and the Purple Heart
during his tour in Vietnam. Haig was eventually promoted to Colonel
, and became a brigade commander of the 1st Infantry Division (United States)
1969–1972: Kissinger's military assistant, Army Vice Chief of Staff
Alexander Haig returned to the continental United States at the end of his one-year tour, to become Regimental Commander of the Third Regiment of the Corps of Cadets at the USMA, West Point
, under the also newly-arrived Commandant, Brigadier General Bernard Rogers
. (Both had served together in the 1st Infantry Division, Rogers as Assistant Division Commander and Haig as Brigade Commander.) In 1969, he was appointed as Military Assistant to the Presidential Assistant for National Security Affairs, Henry Kissinger
, a position he retained until 1970, when President Richard Nixon
promoted Haig to Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. In this position, Haig helped South Vietnamese
President Nguyen Van Thieu
to negotiate the final cease-fire talks in 1972. Haig continued in this position until 1973, when he was appointed to be Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, a post he held until the last few months of President Nixon’s presidency, when he served as White House Chief of Staff
1973–1974: White House Chief of Staff for Nixon and Ford
Alexander Haig served as White House Chief of Staff during the height of the Watergate affair from May 1973 until September 1974, taking over the position from H.R. Haldeman, who resigned on April 30, 1973, while under pressure from Watergate prosecutors.
Haig played a large "crisis management" role as the Watergate scandal unfolded. Haig has been largely credited with keeping the government running while President Nixon was preoccupied with Watergate. Haig also played an instrumental role in finally persuading Nixon to resign. In his 2001 book "Shadow," author Bob Woodward describes Haig's role as the point man between Nixon and then Vice President Gerald Ford during the final days of Watergate. According to the book, Haig played a major behind-the-scenes role in the delicate negotiations of the transfer of power from President Nixon to President Ford.
Haig remained White House Chief of Staff during the early days of the Ford Administration until Donald Rumsfeld replaced him in September 1974. By that time, Ford, in a highly controversial move, had pardoned Nixon for any crimes he may have committed as president. Author Roger Morris, a former colleague of Haig's on the National Security Council, early in Nixon's first term, wrote in his book Haig: The General's Progress, that when Ford pardoned Nixon, he in effect pardoned Haig as well. Haig had been a persistent solicitor of clemency for Nixon.
1974–1979: NATO Supreme Commander, assassination attempt
Haig served as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), and Commander in Chief, US European Command (CinCUSEUR), the Commander of NATO forces in Europe, from 1974 to 1979. An assassination attempt on Haig was unsuccessful in Mons, Belgium on June 25, 1979. During the attack, a land mine blew up under the bridge on which Haig's car was traveling, narrowly missing Haig's car but wounding three of his bodyguards in a following car. Authorities later attributed responsibility for the assassination attempt to the Red Army Faction (RAF), also known as Baader-Meinhof-group. In 1993 a German Court sentenced Rolf Clemens Wagner, a former Red Army Faction Terrorist, to life imprisonment for the assassination attempt.
Retires from Army, enters private sector
Alexander Haig, as a four-star general, retired from the Army in 1979, and moved on to civilian employment. In 1979, he became President, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and Director of United Technologies
, Inc., a job he retained until 1981.
1981-82: Secretary of State for President Reagan
In January 1981, Haig was tapped by President Ronald Reagan
to be Secretary of State
, and he began confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
. Much of the hearing focused on Haig's role during Watergate
. Haig was confirmed by a Senate vote of 93-6.
"I'm in control here"
In 1981, after the March 30 assassination attempt on Reagan, Haig asserted before reporters "I'm in control here" as a result of Reagan's hospitalization.
Constitutionally, gentlemen, you have the President, the Vice President and the Secretary of State in that order, and should the President decide he wants to transfer the helm to the Vice President, he will do so. He has not done that. As of now, I am in control here, in the White House, pending return of the Vice President and in close touch with him. If something came up, I would check with him, of course.|20px|20px|—Alexander Haig| Alexander Haig, autobiographical profile in TIME Magazine, April 2, 1984
Rather than being seen as an attempt to allay the nation's fear, the quotation became seen as an attempt by Haig to exceed his authority.
Haig was incorrect in his interpretation of the U.S. Constitution concerning both the presidential line of succession and the 25th Amendment, which dictates what happens when a president is incapacitated. The holders of the two offices between the Vice President and the Secretary of State, the Speaker of the House (at the time, Tip O'Neill) and the President pro tempore of the Senate (at the time, J. Strom Thurmond), would be required under U.S. law to resign their positions in order for either of them to become acting President. This was an unlikely event considering that Vice-President Bush was merely not immediately available. Haig's statement reflected political reality, if not necessarily legal reality. Haig later said,
I wasn't talking about transition. I was talking about the executive branch, who is running the government. That was the question asked. It was not, 'Who is in line should the President die?'|15px|15px|— Alexander Haig, Alexander Haig interview with 60 Minutes II April 23, 2001
1982 Falklands War
In April 1982 Haig conducted shuttle diplomacy
between the governments of Argentina
in Buenos Aires
and the United Kingdom
after Argentina invaded the Falklands Islands
. Negotiations broke down and Haig returned to Washington on April 19. The British fleet
then entered the war zone.
1982 Israeli – Lebanon Conflict
Al Haig's report to US president Ronald Reagan
on Saturday January 30, 1982, shows that Al Haig feared that the Israelis might, at the slightest provocation, start a war against Lebanon.
Haig critics have accused him of "greenlighting" the Israeli Invasion of Lebanon in June of 1982. Haig denies this and says he urged restraint.
Haig resigned abruptly in July 1982. His desire to be the so-called "vicar" of American foreign policy, in emulation of his mentor Henry Kissinger, did not mesh well with Ronald Reagan, who had his own ideas about foreign policy. It was also said that Reagan's wife, First Lady Nancy Reagan did not like him. A military hawk, Haig caused some alarm with his suggestion that a "nuclear warning shot" in Europe might be effective in deterring the Soviet Union. His tenure as Secretary of State was often characterized by his clashes with the more moderate Defense Secretary, Caspar Weinberger.
1988 Republican presidential nomination
Haig unsuccessfully ran for the Republican Party
nomination for President in 1988. He was a fierce critic of the more moderate George H.W. Bush
, and speculation was that he sought the Presidency in part because of that. When he withdrew from the race, he gave his support to the presidential campaign of Senator Robert Dole
Haig was the host for several years of the television program World Business Review
. He now hosts 21st Century Business, with each program a weekly business education forum that includes business solutions, expert interview, commentary and field reports. Haig is co-chairman of the American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus, along with Zbigniew Brzezinski
and Stephen J. Solarz
. Haig is a member of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy
(WINEP) Board of Advisors. Haig was a founding Board Member of America Online
. On January 5, 2006, Haig participated in a meeting at the White House
of former Secretaries of Defense and State to discuss United States foreign policy with Bush administration officials. On May 12, 2006, Haig participated in a second White House
meeting with 10 former Secretaries of State and Defense. The meeting including briefings by Donald Rumsfeld
and Condoleezza Rice
, and was followed by a discussion with President George W. Bush
. Haig published his memoirs, entitled Inner Circles: How America Changed The World
, in 1992. He is a Knight of Malta
Alexander Haig is the father of author Brian Haig
. Haig's brother, Frank, is a Jesuit
priest. He served as seventh president of Le Moyne College
in Syracuse, New York
, and is now teaching physics
at Loyola College in Maryland
. Haig's older sister; Regina Haig Meredith is a practicing Attorney licensed in Pennsylvania, and New Jersey co-founding Partner of the firm Meredith, Meredith, Chase and Taggart, located in Princeton and Trenton, New Jersey.
In popular culture
Haig has been portrayed by the following actors in film and television productions:
The punk band Dead Kennedys refer to Haig in the song We've Got A Bigger Problem Now.
- In 1980, Spiro Agnew published a memoir in which he implied that, in 1973, Richard Nixon and Haig had planned to assassinate him if Agnew refused to resign the Vice-Presidency, and that Haig told him "to go quietly … or else.
- Defending himself against accusations of lying in 1983, Haig is quoted as saying, "That's not a lie, it's a terminological inexactitude."
- Dress Grey, by Lucian K. Truscott IV, 1978, ISBN 0385134754. Truscott, scion of a longtime military family (his grandfather Lucian Truscott Jr. was an important World War II general), was a cadet at West Point during Haig's late 1960s stint there; this book is a novel, in which a thinly-disguised Haig is portrayed as a central character in a murder and cover-up mystery at West Point. Truscott had earlier (1974) spoken out in The Village Voice, about problems at West Point.
- Haig: The General's Progress, by Roger Morris (American writer), Playboy Press, 1982, ISBN 0872237532. Morris, a respected author, was a colleague of Haig's on the National Security Council, early in President Richard Nixon's first term. Morris presents important material on Haig's early life and Army career, as well as deeper and darker material than the party line, on the often seamy dealings of the Nixon White House, including Watergate.
- The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House, by Seymour Hersh, Summit Books, New York, 1983, ISBN 0671506889. The book focuses on U.S. foreign policy, directed mainly from the White House by Nixon and Henry Kissinger, during Nixon's first term; since Haig eventually became Kissinger's deputy during that era, there is also plenty of material on Haig here, often at variance with the official, sanitized versions.