Alexander Haig
File:Alexander Haig Official Portrait.jpg
59th United States Secretary of State
In office
January 22, 1981 (1981-January-22) – July 5, 1982 (1982-July-05)
President Ronald Reagan
Deputy William P. Clark
Walter John Stoessel, Jr.
Preceded by Edmund Muskie
Succeeded by George P. Shultz
7th Supreme Allied Commander Europe
In office
December 16, 1974 (1974-December-16) – July 1, 1979 (1979-July-01)
President Gerald Ford
Jimmy Carter
Deputy John Mogg
Harry Tuzo
Gerd Schmückle
Preceded by Andrew Goodpaster
Succeeded by Bernard W. Rogers
5th White House Chief of Staff
In office
President Richard Nixon
Gerald Ford
Preceded by H. R. Haldeman
Succeeded by Donald Rumsfeld
Deputy National Security Advisor
In office
President Richard Nixon
Preceded by Robert Komer
Succeeded by Brent Scowcroft
Personal details
Born Alexander Meigs Haig, Jr.
December 2, 1924
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died February 20, 2010(2010-02-20) (aged 85)
Baltimore, Maryland
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Patricia
(née Fox, 1950–2010; his death)
Alma mater U.S. Military Academy(B.S.)
Columbia Business School(M.B.A.)
Georgetown University(M.A.)
Profession Soldier, civil servant
Religion Roman Catholic
Signature Alexander Haig's signature
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1947–1979
Rank 35px General
Battles/wars Korean War
Vietnam War
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Bronze Star
Combat Infantryman Badge
Purple Heart
Presidential Service Badge

Alexander Meigs Haig, Jr. (December 2, 1924 – February 20, 2010) was a United States Army general who served as the United States Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan and White House Chief of Staff under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.[1] He also served as Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, the second-highest ranking officer in the Army,[2] and as Supreme Allied Commander Europe commanding all US and NATO forces in Europe.

A veteran of the Korean War and Vietnam War, Haig was a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star with oak leaf cluster, and the Purple Heart.[3]

Early life and education[edit | edit source]

Haig was born in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, the middle of three children of Alexander Meigs Haig, Sr., a Republican lawyer, and his wife Regina Anne (née Murphy).[4] When Haig was 10, his father, aged 38, died of cancer. His Irish-American mother raised her children in the Roman Catholic faith.[5] He attended Saint Joseph's Preparatory School in North Philadelphia. He then studied at the University of Notre Dame for two years, before transferring to the United States Military Academy, where he graduated in 1947. Haig later earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Columbia Business School in 1955 and a Master of Arts degree in international relations from Georgetown University in 1961. His thesis examined the role of military officers in making national policy.

Early military career[edit | edit source]

Korean War[edit | edit source]

As a young officer, Haig served on the staff of General Douglas MacArthur in Japan. 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.[6] Haig later served (1950–51) with the X Corps, as aide to MacArthur's Chief of Staff, General Edward Almond,[3] who awarded Haig two Silver Stars and a Bronze Star with Valor device.[7] Haig participated in four Korean War campaigns, including the Battle of Inchon, the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, and the evacuation of Hŭngnam[6] as Almond's aide.

Pentagon assignments[edit | edit source]

Haig 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. He then was appointed Military Assistant to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, continuing in that service until the end of 1965.[citation needed]

Vietnam War[edit | edit source]

In 1966, Haig took command of a battalion of the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam. On May 22, 1967, Lieutenant Colonel Haig was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the US Army's second highest medal for valor, by General William Westmoreland as a result of his actions during the Battle of Ap Gu in March 1967.[8] During the battle, Haig's troops (of the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division (United States)) became pinned down by a Viet Cong force that outnumbered US forces by three to one. 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)[9]

Haig was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart during his tour in Vietnam,[8] and was eventually promoted to Colonel, becoming a brigade commander of the 1st Infantry Division (United States) in Vietnam.

West Point[edit | edit source]

At the end of his one-year tour, Alexander Haig returned to the continental United States to become Regimental Commander of the Third Regiment of the Corps of Cadets at West Point, under the also newly arrived Commandant, Brigadier General Bernard W. Rogers. (Both had served together in the 1st Infantry Division, Rogers as Assistant Division Commander and Haig as Brigade Commander.)

Security adviser (1969–1972)[edit | edit source]

In 1969, he was appointed 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 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 tenure, during which he served as White House Chief of Staff.

White House Chief of Staff (1973–74)[edit | edit source]

File:Kissinger Nixon Ford Haig.jpg

Chief of Staff Haig (far right), Sec. of State Kissinger, Rep. Ford and President Richard Nixon meet on October 13, 1973, regarding Ford's upcoming appointment to Vice-President.

Haig served as White House Chief of Staff, while still retaining his Army commission, 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 has been largely credited with keeping the government running while President Nixon was preoccupied with Watergate,[1] and was seen as the "acting president" during Nixon's last months in office.[10] Haig also played an instrumental role in finally persuading Nixon to resign. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Nixon had been assured of a pardon by then-Vice President Gerald Ford if he would resign. In this regard, in his 2001 book Shadow, author Bob Woodward describes Haig's role as the point man between Nixon and Ford during the final days of Watergate. According to Woodward, Haig played a major behind-the-scenes role in the delicate negotiations of the transfer of power from President Nixon to President Ford.[citation needed]

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 that when Ford pardoned Nixon, he effectively pardoned Haig as well.[11]

NATO Supreme Commander (1974–79)[edit | edit source]

File:General Alexander M. Haig, Jr.jpg

General Alexander Haig, USA as SACEUR.

From 1974 to 1979, Haig served as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), the Commander of NATO forces in Europe, and Commander-in-Chief of United States European Command (CinCUSEUR). A creature of habit, Haig took the same route to SHAPE every day – a pattern of behavior that did not go unnoticed by terrorist groups. On June 25, 1979, Haig was the target of an assassination attempt in Mons, Belgium. A land mine blew up under the bridge on which Haig's car was traveling, narrowly missing Haig's car and wounding three of his bodyguards in a following car.[12] Authorities later attributed responsibility for the attack to the Red Army Faction (RAF). In 1993 a German Court sentenced Rolf Clemens Wagner, a former RAF member, to life imprisonment for the assassination attempt.[12]

Civilian positions[edit | edit source]

Haig retired as a four-star general from the Army in 1979, and moved on to civilian employment. In 1979, he worked at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute briefly, and would later serve on that organization's board.[13] Later that year, he was named President and Director of United Technologies Corporation (UTC) under Chief Executive Officer(CEO) Harry J. Gray, a job he retained until 1981. He served as a founding corporate director at AOL. [14]

Secretary of State (1981–1982)[edit | edit source]

He was the second of three career military officers to become Secretary of State (George C. Marshall and Colin Powell were the others). His speeches in this role in particular led to the coining of the neologism "Haigspeak", described in a dictionary of neologisms as "Language characterized by pompous obscurity resulting from redundancy, the semantically strained use of words, and verbosity",[15] leading ambassador Nicko Henderson to offer a prize for the best rendering of the Gettysburg address in Haigspeak.[16]

Reagan assassination attempt[edit | edit source]

File:Al Haig speaks to press 1981.jpg

Secretary of State Haig speaks to the press after the attempted assassination on President Ronald Reagan

In 1981, following the March 30 assassination attempt on Reagan, Haig asserted before reporters "I am in control here" as a result of Reagan's hospitalization, indicating that, while President Reagan had not "transfer[red] the helm", Haig was in fact directing White House Crisis Management until Vice President Bush arrived in Washington to assume that role.

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.
—Alexander Haig, Alexander Haig, autobiographical profile in TIME Magazine, April 2, 1984[17]

The US Constitution, including both the presidential line of succession and the 25th Amendment, dictates what happens when a president is incapacitated. However, 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, Strom Thurmond), would be required under US law (3 U.S.C. § 19) to resign their positions in order for either of them to become acting President, an unlikely event. Considering that Vice President Bush was 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?"
—Alexander Haig, Alexander Haig interview with 60 Minutes II April 23, 2001

Falklands War[edit | edit source]

File:Haig and Thatcher DF-SC-83-06152.jpg

Haig as Secretary of State with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1982.

Main article: Falklands War

In April 1982 Haig conducted shuttle diplomacy between the governments of Argentina in Buenos Aires and the United Kingdom in London after Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. Negotiations broke down and Haig returned to Washington on April 19. The British fleet then entered the war zone.

1982 Lebanon War[edit | edit source]

Haig's report to Reagan on January 30, 1982, shows that Haig feared that the Israelis might start a war against Lebanon.[18] Critics have accused Haig of "greenlighting" the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in June 1982. Haig denies this and says he urged restraint.[19]

Resignation[edit | edit source]

Haig caused some alarm with his suggestion that a "nuclear warning shot" in Europe might be effective in deterring the Soviet Union.[20] His tenure as Secretary of State was often characterized by his clashes with the Defense Secretary, Caspar Weinberger.

Secretary of State Haig, who repeatedly had difficulty with various members of the Reagan administration during his year-and-a-half into office, decided to resign his post on June 25.[21]

President Reagan accepted Haig's resignation from State on July 5, 1982.[22] Haig was succeeded by George P. Shultz, who was confirmed on July 16, 1982.[23]

1988 Republican presidential nomination[edit | edit source]

Haig ran unsuccessfully for the Republican Party nomination for President in 1988. Although he enjoyed relatively high name recognition, Haig never broke out of single digits in national public opinion polls. He was a fierce critic of then Vice President George H. W. Bush, often doubting Bush's leadership abilities, questioning his role in the Iran Contra Scandal, and using the word "wimp" in relation to Bush in an October 1987 debate in Texas. Despite extensive personal campaigning and paid advertising in New Hampshire, Haig remained stuck in last place in the polls. Four days before the February 1988 NH primary election, Haig withdrew his candidacy and endorsed Senator Bob Dole, who made an appearance at the press conference, heavily covered by political reporters partly because a snow storm had limited travel by candidates and reporters. Dole, steadily gaining on Bush after beating him handily a week earlier in the Iowa caucus, ended up losing to Bush in the New Hampshire primary by ten percentage points. With his momentum regained, Bush easily won the nomination.

In popular culture[edit | edit source]


In Part 2 of "Who Shot Mr. Burns?", an episode of The Simpsons, a mug shot of Homer Simpson is shown, in which he is wearing a T-shirt with the campaign slogan "Haig in '88" on it.

The internet animated series, Dino Yacht Club, features Haig as a main character, often being the one to report the disasters to Reagan. Despite Reagan's complete faith in the Dino Yacht Club, Haig is shown to have a great dislike for them, even trying to kill them upon meeting them for the first time.

Haig was played by Powers Boothe in the film Nixon.

Haig was also mentioned in the last level of Interstate '82 where Ronald Reagan claims that he was pressured to resign from office by the president himself.

Later life, health, and death[edit | edit source]

In 1980, Haig had a double heart bypass operation.[24]

Haig was the host for several years of the television program World Business Review. At the time of his death, he was the host of 21st Century Business, with each program a weekly business education forum that included business solutions, expert interview, commentary and field reports.[25] Haig served as a founding member of the advisory board of Newsmax Media, which publishes the conservative web site,[26] Haig was co-chairman of the American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus, along with Zbigniew Brzezinski and Stephen J. Solarz. A member of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) Board of Advisors, Haig was also a founding Board Member of America Online.[27]

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.[28] 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.[29] Haig's memoirs – Inner Circles: How America Changed The World – were published in 1992.

On February 19, 2010, a hospital spokesman revealed that the 85-year-old Haig had been hospitalized at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore since January 28 and remained in critical condition.[30]

On February 20, Haig died at age 85 from complications from a staphylococcal infection that he had prior to admission. According to The New York Times, his brother, Father Haig said the Army was coordinating a Mass at Fort Myer in Washington and an interment at Arlington National Cemetery, but both would be delayed by about two weeks due to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.[10] A Mass of Christian Burial was held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. on March 2, 2010. Eulogies were given by Dr. Henry Kissinger and Sherwood "Woody" D. Goldberg.[31]

Family[edit | edit source]

Alexander Haig was married to Patricia (née Fox) from 1950 until his death; the couple had three children: Alexander Patrick Haig Sr., Managing Director of Worldwide Associates, Inc., and Barbara Haig, "Deputy to President for Policy & Strategy" at the National Endowment for Democracy both of Washington, DC, and Brian Haig, author and military analyst of Hopewell, N.J. Haig's younger brother, Rev. Frank Haig, is a Jesuit priest and professor emeritus of physics at Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland. Rev. Haig also served as the seventh president of Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York.[32] Alexander Haig's sister, Mrs. Regina Meredith was a practicing attorney licensed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and was a co-founding partner of the firm Meredith, Meredith, Chase and Taggart, located in Princeton and Trenton, New Jersey. She died in 2008.

Military awards[edit | edit source]

Qualification Badges


Service Medals

Foreign Awards

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Alexander Haig, MSN Encarta". Alexander Haig, MSN Encarta. Archived from the original on October 31, 2009. 
  2. "ALEXANDER M. HAIG, Assistant to the President: Files, 1973–74".,%20Alexander%20-%20Files.htm. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Premier Speakers Bureau". [dead link]
  4. Hohmann, James (February 21, 2010). "Alexander Haig, 85; soldier-statesman managed Nixon resignation". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on February 21, 2010. Retrieved February 21, 2010. 
  5. "Haig's Future Uncertain After a Shaky Start". Anchorage Daily News. April 11, 1981.,2881203&dq=haig's-future-uncertain-after-a-shaky-start-as-secretary-of&hl=en. Retrieved December 22, 2009. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Alexander M. Haig, Jr.. "Lessons of the forgotten war". 
  7. "UT Biography".,55081&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL. [dead link]
  8. 8.0 8.1 "West Point Citation". [verification needed]
  9. "Full Text Citations For Award of The Distinguished Service Cross, US Army Recipients – Vietnam". 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Weiner, Tim (February 20, 2010). "Alexander M. Haig Jr., 85, Forceful Aide to 2 Presidents, Dies". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 21, 2010. Retrieved February 20, 2010. 
  11. Haig: The General's Progress, by Roger Morris (American writer), Playboy Press, 1982, pp. 320–25.
  12. 12.0 12.1 "German Guilty in '79 Attack At NATO on Alexander Haig". The New York Times. November 25, 1993. 
  13. Maykuth, Andrew (February 21, 2010). "Philadelphia dominated Haig's formative years". Philadelphia Inquirer. 
  15. Fifty years among the new words: a dictionary of neologisms, 1941–1991, John Algeo, p.231
  16. Financial Times, London, March 21, 2009
  17. "Alexander Haig". Time: p. 22 of 24 page article. April 2, 1984. Archived from the original on April 06 2008.,9171,954230,00.html. Retrieved May 21, 2008. 
  18. Ronald Reagan edited by Douglas Brinkley (2007) The Reagan Diaries Harper Collins ISBN 978-0-06-087600-5 p 66 Saturday, January 30
  19. "Alexander Haig". Time. April 9, 1984.,9171,952421,00.html. 
  20. Waller, Douglas C. Congress and the Nuclear Freeze: An Inside Look at the Politics of a Mass Movement, 1987. Page 19.
  21. 1982 Year in Review: Alexander Haig Resigns-
  22. Ajemian, Robert; George J. Church; Douglas Brew (July 5, 1982). "The Shakeup at State". Time. Archived from the original on March 27 2010.,9171,925497,00.html. Retrieved February 21, 2010. 
  23. Short History of the Department of State, United States Department of State, Office of the Historian. Retrieved February 20, 2010.
  24. Guardian obituary
  25. "World Business Review with Alexander Haig". Archived from the original on December 08 2008. Retrieved December 17, 2008. 
  26. General Alexander M. Haig, Jr. joins advisory board, "PR Newswire", June 21, 2001.
  27. "Business Wire AOL-TIme Warner announces its board of directors". Business Wire. January 12, 2001. Retrieved December 17, 2008. 
  28. "President George W. Bush poses for a photo Thursday, January 5, 2006, in the Oval Office with former Secretaries of State and Secretaries of Defense from both Republican and Democratic administrations, following a meeting on the strategy for victory in Iraq". The White House. January 5, 2006. Retrieved December 17, 2008. 
  29. "Bush discusses Iraq with former officials". 
  30. "Haig, top adviser to 3 presidents, hospitalized". Associated Press. February 19, 2010. Archived from the original on February 20, 2010. Retrieved February 20, 2010. 
  31. "Alexander M. Haig, Jr". West Point Association of Graduates. Retrieved August 9, 2011. 
  32. Krebs, Albin (January 25, 1982). "NOTES ON PEOPLE; A Haig Inaugurated". New York Times. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Haig, Alexander (1984). Caveat: Realism, Reagan, and Foreign Policy. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-02-547370-0 .

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Haig: The General's Progress, by Roger Morris, Playboy Press, 1982, ISBN 0-87223-753-2. 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 official 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 0-671-50688-9. 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.
  • Caveat: Realism, Reagan and Foreign Affairs, by Alexander Haig, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1984. The book is Haig's account of what happened while he was Secretary of State.

External links[edit | edit source]

Military offices
Preceded by
Gen. Bruce Palmer, Jr.
Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army
January 1973 – May 1973
Succeeded by
Gen. Frederick C. Weyand
Preceded by
Gen. Andrew Goodpaster
Supreme Allied Commander Europe (NATO)
Succeeded by
Gen. Bernard W. Rogers
Political offices
Preceded by
H. R. Haldeman
White House Chief of Staff
Served under: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford

Succeeded by
Donald Rumsfeld
Preceded by
Edmund S. Muskie
United States Secretary of State
Served under: Ronald Reagan

Succeeded by
George P. Shultz

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