Hometown Legend

Gilbert Hume Woodward

(26 November 1916 – 17 October 1973)
Lieutenant General Gilbert Hume Woodward was a United States Army officer who served in World War II, the Korean DMZ Conflict and the Vietnam War.  Woodward was born in Suffolk, Virginia to Richard Lafayette Woodward Jr., a prominent local businessman who served as mayor of Suffolk from 1951 to 1955, and Gladys Alida (née Delves) Woodward. He attended Columbian Preparatory School, Washington, D.C.

Excerpted from The New York Times…

Gilbert Hume Woodward, a stern‐faced Virginian who was born in Suffolk, a community burned by the British in 1779 and occupied by Union troops during the Civil War, inherited one of the nation’s toughest military jobs in 1968.  That year and the next he served as Senior Member, United Nations Command Component, Military Armistice Commission in Korea. In that post he represented the United Nations Command in its confrontations with North Korean Communists.

Through the series of meetings he honed and developed gift for negotiation and coolness in the face of insult, innuendo and harangue.

In those talks General Woodward held his own against the North Koreans’ familiar scream of abuse, learning to accept with a frosty smile being called a “running dog of U.S. imperialism” and a “bloodthirsty Wall Street lackey.” The experience helped him effect the release of the 82 captured crewmen of the American intelligence ship Pueblo. After months of negotiations aimed at releasing the crewmen, he agreed to an embarrassing “apology,” admitting that the electronics‐laden ship had violated North Korean waters, But before signing the “apology,” he publicly denounced it as a lie. “I will sign the document to free the crew, and only to free the crew,” he declared.

The experience he garnered in dealing with the North Koreans eventually led to his appointment in January of this year as chief United States delegate in the truce talks that were held with the North Vietnamese in Saigon. When he left, General Woodward conceded that the cease‐fire at the time was being violated widely.

General Woodward, after graduating from the Columbian 1Preparatory School in Washington and the United States Military Academy, spent the early part of his career in various military posts and in the European theater, during World War II, when, he commanded a support unit in the 94th Infantry Division. He served in four major campaigns and, after the end of the war, saw a short period of occupation duty in Czechoslovakia.

In the years that followed, he was an instructor at West Point, studied at the Army’s Armor School, took a leave of absence to get a graduate degree in political science and was assigned to planning headquarters at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Berlin.

In the early nineteen‐sixties, he was given a number of administrative posts at the Pentagon, including one at the Joint Chiefs’ of Staff, before becoming Senior Member of the Military Armistice Commission in Korea. During the formal, vituperative talks at Panmunjom, he could be seen as he parried insults, froze a smile, or pretended to become heavy‐lidded and sleepy. During the informal talks aimed at freeing the Pueblo crew, he was reported as a firm and determined bargainer.

Among other honors, General Woodward received the Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion, of Merit with two Oak Leaf Clusters.

Gilbert Hume Woodward

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