Melvin R. Laird

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Carole Fleishman (since 1993)

David Laird, and Kimberly Dalgleish

Melvin Robert (Bom) Laird (born September 1, 1922) is an American politician and writer.[1] Laird was a Republican congressman who also served as Richard Nixon's Secretary of Defense from 1969 to 1973. Laird urged Nixon to maintain a policy of withdrawing US soldiers from Vietnam. He invented the expression "Vietnamization", referring to the process of transferring more responsibility for combat to the South Vietnamese forces.


Early life

He was born in Omaha, Nebraska, grew up and attended high school in Marshfield, Wisconsin, although he attended Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, Illinois his junior year. He was nicknamed "Bambino" (shortened to "Bom" and pronounced like the word 'bomb') by his mother.

Laird was the grandson of William D. Connor, the Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin from 1907 to 1909. His niece is Jessica Laird Doyle, wife of Governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin.

He graduated from Carleton College in Minnesota in May 1944, having enlisted in the United States Navy a year earlier. Following his commissioning as an ensign, he served on a destroyer, the USS Maddox (DD-731), in the Pacific. A recipient of the Purple Heart and several other decorations, Laird left the Navy in April 1946.

Legislative career

Laird entered the Wisconsin State Senate at age 23, succeeding his deceased father. He represented a legislative district encompassing Stevens Point, Wisconsin. He remained in the Senate until his election in November 1952 to the United States House of Representatives representing Wisconsin's 7th District in central Wisconsin, including the areas of Marshfield, Wausau, Wisconsin Rapids and Stevens Point. He was re-elected eight consecutive times and he was chairman of the House Republican Conference when Nixon selected him for the cabinet. Laird was known for his work on both domestic and defense issues, including his service on the Defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. He left Congress reluctantly, making it clear when he became secretary on 22 January 1969 that he intended to serve no more than four years.

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