Stephen F. Austin State University




Since the Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941 Louisiana has been visited by many famous military officers. During the Louisiana Maneuvers men such as George Patton, Mark Clark and Dwight Eisenhower are still well remembered. During the Vietnam War years another famous officer came and visited Fort Polk, La. in October 1966. His name was Creighton "Fighting Abe" Abrams.

Creighton Abrams was born September 15, 1814 in Springfield, Massachusetts. He attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and graduated in 1936. One of his classmates was William C. Westmoreland. Upon graduating the military academy Lt. Abrams was assigned to the U.S. Cavalry. After serving in the cavalry, with the rank of captain, he was transferred into the newly formed 1st Armored Division in 1940. The 1st Armored trained continuously in armored tactics. During World War II Major Abrams commanded the 37th Tank Battalion of the 4th Armored Division. The 8th, 35th, and 37th tank Battalions made up the 35th Armored Regiment of the 4th Armored Division. In December 1943 the 4th Armored was shipped to England where it trained for the assault on Europe. In July 1844 the 4th Armored crossed the beaches into France. On August 1, 1944 the 4th Armored was assigned to the newly formed 3rd U.S. Army commanded by General George S. Patton Jr. The 37th Tank Battalion commanded by Abrams and it began the sweep through Normandy and into Western Europe. LTC Abrams always led his units from the front in his M4 Sherman tank nicknamed Thunderbolt. By wars end Abrams had went through 7 tanks nicknamed Thunderbolt. In one battle near the Moselle River the 37th Tank Battalion was involved in a large scale battle with German armored units. The 37th lost 14 Shermans but destroyed 55 German tanks of various types. During the Battle of the Bulge at dawn of December 26, 1944 Abrams gave the order for the 37th to move out and to relieve the embattled 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne, Belgium. After 4 p.m. the same day Lt. Colonel Abrams reported to General Anthony McAuliffe , acting commander of the 101st Airborne. The siege of Bastogne was broken. General George Patton commended Lt. Colonel Abrams many times, during the war for his readiness to fight and his aggressiveness in battle. Abrams 37th Tank Battalion was award the Presidential Unit citation for its heroics during World War II.

Creighton Abrams became a Brigadier General in 1956. He had many commands and began his climb in the general officer ranks. By 1964 General Abrams had rose to the position of Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. The United States began it large scale involvement in the Vietnam War in 1965 when several large American military units arrived in Vietnam. The commander of the Military Assistance Command Vietnam was General William C. Westmoreland, Creighton Abrams old classmate. Troop levels continued to grow as the U.S. involvement became bigger and bigger. American units were soon engaged in combat with North Vietnamese and Viet Cong units. In April 1967 General Abrams, a 4 star general, deputy to General Westmoreland. On July 2, 1968 General Westmoreland was named US Army Chief of Staff and General Abrams became the commander of all US forces in Vietnam. General Abrams commanded the American military forces and began troop reductions from over 500,000 to less than 30,000 troops. He began the intensive program of " Vietnamization" where Vietnamese units were trained to take over the complete combat role in that country. Upon signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1972 General Abrams succeeded General Westmoreland as Army Chief of Staff, a position he held until his untimely death in 1974. He was instrumental in creating the "All Volunteer Army" during his tenure as chief of Staff and of overcoming the antimilitary mindset of our nation after the Vietnam War.

General Abrams came to Fort Polk, La. and on October 2, 1966 he toured the training sites where infantry trainees were undergoing combat training in the "Vietnam Villages" located on Fort Polk and Peason Ridge. General Abrams was impressed by the Advanced Individual Training (AIT) being conducted at Fort Polk and in these training areas. General Abrams and Major General Reeves, commander of Fort Polk, took the whole day to visit these training areas and to visit with the troops. He toured the new village site located at Peason Ridge that was to become known as Tiger Village and the location that was near completion at the Tiger Ridge Cantonment Area. This area became famous due to all the combat recruits who trained here and due to their fighting capabilities of the tiger. These new combat infantrymen became known as "Tigers." And many of these men who trained at Fort Polk were later commanded by General Abrams when they arrived in Vietnam. General Abrams believed in night ambushes and patrols and this was taught at Fort Polk. And this training paid off for so many who were sent to Vietnam.

Sadly, General Abrams passed away on September 4, 1974 at Walter Reed Military Medical Center. General Abrams was buried in Arlington National Cemetery and many Vietnam Veterans visit his gravesite each and every day. They remember their old commander from Vietnam. Yes we had a great military leader in Creighton W. Abrams. He followed in the footsteps of so many famous military leaders yet he made his mark in history. And to honor this fighting general, the U.S. Army has named its main battle tank, the M1 the "Abrams." And yes, another American hero came and visited Louisiana where so many combat soldiers have trained and continue to train in the defense of our nation and our many freedoms.

Oil painting of General Creighton Abrams who was Army Chief of Staff from 1972 until 1974. (Army Art Collection US Army Center of Military History)

General Creighton Abrams and Major General Kelsey Reeves visit one of the Vietnam training villages at Ft. Polk and Peason Ridge on October 21, 1966. (Ft. Polk Militay Museum)

Officers and staff, along with General Creighton Abrams visit the Tiger Village on Peason Ridge in 1966, (Ft. Polk Military Museum)

Headquarters and cantonment area at Tiger Ridge was completed in 1966, This location is still being used by Ft. Polk and JRTC units. (Ft. Polk Military Museum)

Gravesite of General Creighton Abrams located in Arlington National Cemetery. Vietnam era veterans visit his gravesite each day. (US Army/Arlington National Cemetery)