Creighton Williams Abrams, Jr.
Perhaps you’ve heard of him, perhaps not. This cigar smoking military hero certainly is worth recognizing either way you cut it. This Army General was rarely seen without a cigar in his mouth, and even had the famous General Patton say “I’m supposed to be the best tank commander in the Army, but I have one peer – Abe Abrams. He’s the world champion.” Ever hear of the M1 Abrams? That’s right; Creighton Abrams was so badass, the Army named the U.S.’s main battle tank after him, replacing the M60 Patton, which was named after George Patton. If you ask us, that’s a pretty big deal. No offense, General Patton.
But Creighton’s track record certainly gave the Army justification to name their tanks after him. This West Point graduate first served in the 1st Cavalry Division from 1936 – 1940 where he became tank company commander in the 1st Armored Division in 1940. When the United States rolled into WWII, the Army decided to sic Abrams on that angry little genocidal prick Hitler – giving Abrams command of the 37th Tank Battalion as Lieutenant Colonel in Europe.
Abrams didn’t disappoint, lighting up the Germans in Bastogne, and again during the Battle of the Bulge – which was the bloodiest battle the U.S. fought during the war, aside from the landing at Omaha Beach during the Invasion of Normandy. His tactics lead to a pivotal win for the Allied forces. To put it lightly, Creighton Abrams made the battlefield look like a J.J. Abrams movie (explosions everywhere). Although the German tanks were more destructive and more armored than the American tanks, Abrams used the speed of his U.S. tanks to his advantage along with heavily aggressive tactics and strong emphasis on combat readiness to blow the sauerkraut out of the Nazis. Without Abrams at the helm, you better bet your backside the war would have raged on for far longer than it did.
But Abrams didn’t stop his military career after WWII. Instead, he graduated from the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in 1949, and then Army War College in 1953. During that time, he worked through the ranks, commanding the 63rd Tank Battalion, then promoted to Colonel to command the 2D Armored Cavalry Regiment. Both were pivotal assignments with the increased tensions due to the Cold War escalating. Those were essentially the first responders in case Russia decided to invade Western Europe. Eventually he ended up serving as Chief of Staff of the I, X, and IX Corps in the Korean War. He joined late in the game however, due to the length of time served in WWII and his schooling. I guess you can say he went to school to school the rookies in case they acted up. They knew Abrams was there to keep them in check, though.
As Vietnam rolled around, Abrams was promoted to General in 1964 and appointed Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army. He eventually succeeded General William Westmoreland as Head of the Military Assistance Command in Vietnam in 1968. His clear-and-hold tactics (breaking the U.S. Army in Vietnam into smaller groups with higher quality training, to take a more cautious approach of clearing enemy strongholds and waiting on the next target), proved to be more effective than Westmoreland’s all out blow-the-shit-out-of-everything tactic. Unfortunately, the War had become too expensive, probably due to Westmoreland’s absurd artillery budget, and the U.S. suffered more casualties than expected by that point and Abrams had to follow the Nixon Doctrine. This led him to decrease the military presence of the southeast Asian Pacific nation from 543,000 troops to 49,000 from 1969 through June of 1972. Once the presence was decreased, Abrams stepped down as Military Assistance Command and The Vietnam War slowly but surely fizzled out.
Finally, Abrams was appointed Chief of Staff of the United States Army in June of 1972, after he stepped down as Military Assistance Command, but was not confirmed by the Senate until October of that year because of supposed unauthorized bombings during the Vietnam War, the Cambodian Incursion during the War, and a pending investigation during the very tragic My Lai Massacre where some rogue U.S. Troops terrorized innocent Vietnamese citizens which was later investigated by Army Major Colin Powell. During his time as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, he began the transition of our now all-volunteer army as we eradicated the draft. Unfortunately, Abrams died while serving due to complications from surgery.
So with his impeccable track record with the military, his decisive and precise tactics, and his ability to win battles short-handed, Creighton Abrams earns a top spot on our badass military cigar smokers list. Without his revolutionary command and fighting style, WWII and Vietnam could have been a lot bloodier and could have raged on much longer. He was a true tactician and real American hero.