Alexander Meigs Haig, the son of a lawyer, was born in Bala Cynwyd, a suburb of Philadelphia, on 2nd December, 1924. His father died when he was ten but a prosperous uncle helped to support the family.
Haig was sent to a private school but he struggled academically and was transferred to a local high school. He wanted a military career but his teachers felt he was " definitely not West Point material". Haig's initial application to West Point failed but as a result of the huge loss of officers during the Second World War, entry qualifications were lowered and in 1944 he was admitted to the US military academy.
Haig graduated three years later as 214th in the class of 310. First Lieutenant Haig was sent to Japan and became aide-de-camp to General Alonzo Fox, deputy chief of staff to General Douglas MacArthur, the supreme Allied commander. Haig later married Fox's daughter. According to Harold Jackson: The experience of MacArthur's megalomania left an indelible impression on Haig." Haig admitted later: "I was always interested in politics and started early in Japan, with a rather sophisticated view of how the military ran it."
Haig's next assignment was to accompany his father-in-law to Taiwan, on a liaison mission to Chiang Kai-shek. Haig served as aide-de-camp to General Edward Almond in Korea. During the battle for Seoul, Haig was awarded a Bronze Star for bravery during a crossing of the Han River. Almond later awarded him two further Silver Stars for flying over enemy positions. In 1951 he was promoted to the rank of captain.
In 1953 Haig was appointed to the staff at West Point Military Academy and executive officer at Annapolis. This was followed by a period in the U.S. Naval War College. He was then assigned to a tank battalion with the American forces in Europe. Given the rank of major he was redeployed to the European Command headquarters in Germany.
In 1959 Haig began a master's degree program in international relations at Georgetown University. The topic of his thesis in 1962 was the role of the military officer in the shaping of national security policy. After completing his degree Haig went to the International and Policy Planning Division of the Pentagon. This brought him into contact with Strom Thurmond and Fred Buzhardt.
Haig was considered a hawk during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He later claimed that it disillusioned him with the way the doctrine of flexible response was applied. He complained that John F. Kennedy "never applied one iota of force" and added "I was against this. It provided an incentive to the other side to up the ante." Soon afterwards he appointed as military assistant to Joe Califano, a lawyer in the army secretary's office. In 1963 Califano arranged for Haig to assimilate into the army some of the Cuban exile veterans of the Bay of Pigs operation.
The army secretary was Cyrus Vance and when he was promoted to become deputy to the defence secretary, Robert McNamara, Califano and Haig went with him. In 1965 went to the Army War College. The following year was made operations planning officer for the First Infantry Division, stationed near Saigon. During the Vietnam War he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and won the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism. In 1968 he returned to the United States where he was promoted to full colonel, and went to West Point Military Academy as deputy commander.
In 1968 Haig was appointed to work under Henry Kissinger in the new Richard Nixon administration. Three years later he became Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs. Kissinger noted in his memoirs: "Haig soon became indispensable ... By the end of the year I had made him formally my deputy. Over the course of Nixon's first term he acted as my partner, strong in crises, decisive in judgment, skilful in bureaucratic infighting."
Haig played a leading role in the overthrow the regime of Salvador Allende in Chile. Haig also helped Richard Nixon in selecting the 17 officials and journalists whose telephones were tapped by the FBI. According to Harold Jackson he was also involved in the plot to deal with Daniel Ellsberg: "He was also closely involved in the aftermath of the massive leak in 1971 of the secret history of the Vietnam war, the Pentagon Papers, when the White House moved illegally against the man responsible, Daniel Ellsberg. This loyalty was rewarded by promotion to major-general in 1972 and, six months later, by appointment as vice-chief of staff of the army, raising him to full general and allowing him to leapfrog 240 more senior officers."
After H. R. Haldeman was forced to resign over the Watergate Scandal, Haig became Nixon's Chief of Staff. In the first week of November, 1973, Deep Throat told Bob Woodward that their were "gaps" in Nixon's tapes. He hinted that these gaps were the result of deliberate erasures. On 8th November, Woodward published an article in the Washington Post that said that according to their source the "conservation on some of the tapes appears to have been erased". According to Fred Emery, the author of Watergate: The Corruption and Fall of Richard Nixon, only Haig, Richard Nixon, Rose Mary Woods, and Stephen Bull knew about this erased tape before it was made public on 20th November.
Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin, the authors of Silent Coup: The Removal of a President, claimed that Haig was Deep Throat. Jim Hougan (Secret Agenda) and John Dean (Lost Honor) agreed with this analysis. However, Haig was not in Washington during Woodward's meeting with Deep Throat on 9th October, 1972. The other problem with Haig concerns motivation. Was it really in his interests to bring down Richard Nixon? According to Leon Jaworski Haig did everything he could, including lying about what was on the tapes, in order to protect Nixon from impeachment.
1974 President Gerald Ford appointed Haig as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. He held the post until 1979. After leaving this post he became President and Chief Operating Officer of United Technologies Corporation. In January, 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed him Secretary of State. Haig attempted to develop a strong interventionalist policy. The Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, Tip O'Neill, said: "Haig hadn't been secretary of state more than three weeks when he told me over breakfast that we ought to be cleaning out Nicaragua." When John Hinckley shot Reagan in an assassination attempt Haig asserted: "I'm in control here". It has been claimed that this error of judgement brought an end to his political career. Haig resigned on 5th July, 1982.
Haig ran for the Republican Party nomination for President in 1988, but he withdrew after obtaining 3% in the opinion polls. As a result he concentrated on a business career. He has been Chairman of Worldwide Associates, a senior advisor to United Technologies Corporation, and served on the Board of Directors of America Online, Interneuron Pharmaceuticals, MGM Grand and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Alexander Haig died on 20th February 2010.