Funeral at Arlington for former defense secretary Weinberger
ARLINGTON, Va. — As Defense Secretary under President Ronald Reagan, Caspar Weinberger’s efforts to rebuild the U.S. military “were critical to victory in the Cold War,” one of his successors, Donald Rumsfeld, recalled Tuesday.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who served as Weinberger’s military aide in the 1980s, had another view.
“Every drawer in his desk had a little cache of chocolate,” Powell said.
Rumsfeld and Powell joined Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, from Weinberger’s adopted state of Maine, to eulogize Weinberger before his burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
In attendance at the funeral were a host of high-level officials including Vice President Dick Cheney and Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Weinberger, who died last week in Bangor, Maine, at the age of 88, “was born to a life of service,” Rumsfeld said.
Weinberger “set aside all the opportunities available to him” as a graduate of Harvard University and Harvard Law School and joined the Army as a private — before Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II, Powell said.
He ended the war as a captain, working in New Guinea for Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
Weinberger chose the infantry, because “he felt it was his solemn obligation to do the most difficult job that the war would demand,” Powell said. “That was the essence of the man.”
Reagan brought Weinberger to the Pentagon in 1981 because he “needed a champion to rebuild the armed forces and show the Soviets and the world how strength can lead to peace,” Powell said. “And Caspar Weinberger was that champion.”
Weinberger served as defense secretary until 1987. He convinced Congress to approve a 100 percent increase in defense spending over five years, the largest peacetime increase in U.S. history and an amazing accomplishment in a Democrat-controlled Congress, Snowe said.
“But what he did to rebuild morale and esprit within the military is what those of us in uniform at that time will never forget,” Powell said.
Weinberger “made changes that helped restore pride in America’s uniform,” Rumsfeld said.
“We live in a world made safer and freer made by cold warriors like Caspar Weinberger.”