Earle Gilmore Wheeler was born in Washington, D.C., on 13 January 1908. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1932, was commissioned a second lieutenant, and assigned to the 29th Infantry at Fort Benning. In 1932, he married Frances Rogers Howell.
In 1935, Wheeler was made a first lieutenant and then served with the 15th Infantry in China and at Fort Lewis from 1937 to 1940. In 1940, he received a temporary promotion to captain. Wheeler was an instructor of mathematics at West Point from 1940 to 1941. The next year, he graduated from Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth. He was also made a permanent captain, a temporary major and a temporary lieutenant colonel. After Command and General Staff School, Wheeler served as a battalion commander with the 141st Infantry, 36th Infantry Division. In 1943, he was promoted to temporary colonel. From 1942 to 1944, he served with the 99th Infantry Division. He then served as the chief of staff for the 63d Infantry Division until the end of World War II.
After the Second World War, Wheeler taught at the Field Artillery School, was assistant chief of staff at the Western Base Section in Paris, and deputy chief of staff for operations of the United States Constabulary in Germany. Wheeler was made a permanent lieutenant colonel in 1948 and a permanent colonel in 1953. In 1950, he graduated from the Army War College. From 1951 to 1952, he led the 351st Infantry in Italy. In 1952, he was promoted to temporary brigadier general. Wheeler then served as assistant chief of staff for operations at Allied Forces Southern Europe Headquarters in Naples, Italy.
In 1955, Wheeler was made a temporary major general and served as the director of plans in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations until 1957. He commanded the 2d Armored Division at Fort Hood in 1958 and 1959. In 1960, he became a temporary lieutenant general and a permanent brigadier general. In 1961, he was promoted to permanent major general, and in 1962, he was promoted to temporary general.
Wheeler briefly served as deputy commander in chief of the United States European Command in 1962 before becoming the Army Chief of Staff. He served as Chief of Staff from 1 October 1962 to 2 July 1964. As Chief of Staff, he oversaw substantial reorganization of the Army, the Cuban Missile Crisis, school integration conflict, and increased troop deployment in Vietnam. Wheeler served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1964 to 1970, overseeing the largest buildups of troops in Vietnam. He retired in 1970. Wheeler died in Frederick, Maryland, on 18 December 1975.