James Van Fleet
|Born||March 19, 1892|
Coytesville (Fort Lee, New Jersey), United States
|Died||September 23, 1992 100) (aged|
Polk City, Florida, United States
|Service/||United States Army|
|Years of service||1915–1953|
|Commands held|| Eighth United States Army |
Second United States Army
90th Infantry Division
4th Infantry Division
8th Infantry Regiment
1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment
17th Machine Gun Battalion
|Battles/wars|| World War I |
World War II
Greek Civil War
|Awards|| Distinguished Service Cross (3)|
Army Distinguished Service Medal (4)
Silver Star (3)
Legion of Merit (2)
Bronze Star Medal (3)
Purple Heart (3)
General James Alward Van Fleet (March 19, 1892 – September 23, 1992) was a United States Army officer who saw service during World War I, World War II and the Korean War. Van Fleet was a native of New Jersey, who was raised in Florida and graduated from the United States Military Academy. He served as a regimental, divisional and corps commander during World War II and as the commanding General of United States Army and other United Nations forces during the Korean War.
James Van Fleet was born in the Coytesville section of Fort Lee, New Jersey, but his parents moved to Florida when he was an infant and he was raised there. Van Fleet received his high school education at the Summerlin Institute in Bartow, Florida.
After graduating from Summerlin in 1911, Van Fleet received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. While he was a cadet at West Point, he was a member of the Army football team and was a standout fullback on the undefeated Army team of 1914. Van Fleet graduated in the famous West Point Class of 1915, which included so many future generals that it has been called "the class the stars fell on" (stars being the insignia of generals). Van Fleet's classmates included Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley, among many others. After graduation, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Infantry Branch of the United States Army.
During World War I, Van Fleet rapidly rose to the rank of major and served as a battalion commander as part of the American Expeditionary Force under General John J. Pershing.
After the war, Van Fleet was reduced to his permanent rank of captain in 1922 and promoted to major in the Regular Army in December 1924. While serving as the senior officer of the University of Florida's U.S. Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program, Van Fleet also served as the head coach of the Florida Gators football team in 1923 and 1924, after assisting William G. Kline for a year.He led the Gators into national prominence with a 12–3–4 (.737) record.
From 1924 to 1927 he was stationed at Camp Galliard in the Panama Canal Zone where he commanded the 1st Battalion of the 42nd Infantry. This assignment was followed by one at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. At Fort Benning Van Fleet served as an instructor from April 1927 to September 1928 and as a student in the Advanced Course from September 1928 to June 1929. In addition to his other duties, Van Fleet served as head coach of the post's football team. Van Fleet then returned to the University of Florida where he was the Professor of Military Science and Tactics from July 1929 to June 1933.
From July 1933 to July 1935 he was stationed at Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth, Maine where he served as commander of the 2nd Battalion of the 5th Infantry and also as the post's executive officer. During this assignment he oversaw the construction of a duck pond in the northwest corner of the parade field.
Van Fleet commanded the 8th Infantry Regiment (part of the 4th Infantry Division) for three years (July 1941 to July 1944) and led it into combat in Europe in World War II, participating in the D-Day landings on Utah Beach in June 1944. On Utah Beach Van Fleet distinguished himself by outstanding combat leadership and was awarded his first Distinguished Service Cross.
Although widely regarded as an outstanding officer, he was blocked from promotion because the Army Chief of Staff, General George Marshall, erroneously confused Van Fleet with a well-known alcoholic officer with a similar name. When Eisenhower, now the European Theater commander, informed Marshall of his mistake, Van Fleet was soon promoted to divisional and corps command.
Following promotion to brigadier general in August 1944, Van Fleet became the Assistant Division Commander of 2nd Infantry Division (July to September 1944) and then commanded the 4th Infantry Division (September to October 1944) and 90th Infantry Division (October 1944 to February 1945). He was promoted to major general in November 1944.
After briefly commanding XXIII Corps, on 17 March 1945 Van Fleet replaced General John Millikin as commander of III Corps where Millikin served with General George S. Patton's Third Army.Van Fleet commanded III Corps through the end of the war and the Occupation of Germany until returning to the United States in February 1946.
Van Fleet was reassigned to Governor's Island, New York as commander of the 2nd Service Command before becoming the Deputy Commanding General of the 1st United States Army in June 1946. In December 1947 he went to Frankfurt, Germany as G-3 (operations officer) of the United States European Command.
In February 1948, Van Fleet was promoted to lieutenant general and sent to Greece as the head of the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group and executor of the "Truman Doctrine". He was instrumental in the outcome of the Greek Civil War by providing advice to the Greek government and 250 military advisers, as well as administering $400 million in military aid.The central square in the northern Greek city of Kastoria has featured a bust of Van Fleet for many years, and was replaced with a new statue as recently as 2007.
Van Fleet was commanding general of the Second United States Army from August 10, 1950 to April 11, 1951.
On April 14, 1951, Van Fleet replaced General Matthew B. Ridgway as commander of the U.S. Eighth Army and United Nations forces in Korea when Ridgway took over for General MacArthur upon MacArthur's recall to the United States. He was promoted to four-star general on July 31, 1951. He continued Ridgway's efforts to strengthen the Eighth Army in its campaign against numerically superior Communist Chinese and North Korean enemy forces.[ citation needed ] His only son, U.S. Air Force Captain James Alward Van Fleet Jr., was a B-26 bomber pilot who was MIA/killed in the Korean War.[ citation needed ]
In early 1951, as the Chinese offensives ran out of steam and their army began to crack under the weight of sustained United Nations counterattacks, Van Fleet proposed an amphibious landing at Wonson, behind communist lines. From here, the Americans could cut off the Chinese army's resupply and escape routes, as the Chinese would be unable to achieve a breakout due to their poor logistics and disorganization. If successful, this would have ended with United Nations in command of the majority of the Korean Peninsula, including Pyongyang, and able to establish defenses along the narrowest front. The political fallout of MacArthur's removal, however, persuaded Ridgway to veto the plan.
At the time of his retirement from active duty on March 31, 1953, former President Harry S. Truman said "General Van Fleet is the greatest general we have ever had . . . I sent him to Greece and he won the war. I sent him to Korea and he won the war."Van Fleet was the recipient of three Distinguished Service Crosses (the U.S. Army's second highest award for bravery in combat), three Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts for wounds received in combat, and his most prized decoration—the Combat Infantryman's Badge (CIB) of the common foot soldier - Van Fleet being one of the few recipients of the CIB who were generals at the time of the award. He appeared on the July 26, 1953, episode of What's My Line? .
In 1957, Van Fleet was the moving spirit behind the establishment in New York of The Korea Society, the first nonprofit organization in the United States dedicated to the promotion of friendly relations between the peoples of the United States and Korea "through mutual understanding and appreciation of their respective cultures, aims, ideals, arts, sciences and industries."
Van Fleet died in his sleep on his ranch outside Polk City, Florida on September 23, 1992, six months after his 100th birthday that March.He was the oldest living general officer in the United States at the time of his death. Van Fleet and his wife Helen are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Buried with them is Van Fleet's second wife, Virginia, who died in 1986.
Shortly after his death, The Korea Society established its annual James A. Van Fleet Award to recognize those who have made outstanding contributions to closer U.S.-Korea ties. The General James A. Van Fleet State Trail, running from Polk City to Mabel, Florida, is also named in his honor. The University of Florida presented Van Fleet an honorary doctorate in 1946, and the university's military sciences building, which houses the U.S. Air Force, Army and Navy ROTC programs, is named Van Fleet Hall.He was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as an "honorary letter winner" in 1971. In 1998, a panel of Florida historians and other consultants named Van Fleet one of the fifty most important Floridians of the 20th century.
Van Fleet's estate donated his papers to the George C. Marshall Foundation, and are the second largest collection of papers held by the foundation, after those of General Marshall.
Van Fleet was also an art collector and donated many rare and exceptional Asian objects to the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art.
Van Fleet and his wife, Helen Moore Van Fleet (1892–1984), had three children, eight grandchildren, and twelve great-grandchildren.
Van Fleet's personal decorations include:
|1st Row||Combat Infantryman Badge|
|2nd Row|| Distinguished Service Cross |
w/ two Oak leaf clusters
| Distinguished Service Medal |
w/ three Oak leaf clusters
| Silver Star |
w/ two Oak leaf clusters
|3rd Row|| Legion of Merit |
w/ one Oak leaf cluster
| Bronze Star Medal |
w/ two Oak leaf clusters
| Purple Heart |
w/ two Oak leaf clusters
| Air Medal |
w/ one Oak leaf cluster
|4th Row||Army Commendation Medal||Mexican Border Service Medal||World War I Victory Medal w/ 3 bronze service stars||Army of Occupation of Germany Medal|
|5th Row||American Defense Service Medal||American Campaign Medal|| European-African-Middle Eastern|
Campaign Medal w/ Arrowhead
and five Service stars
|World War II Victory Medal|
|6th Row||Army of Occupation Medal||National Defense Service Medal|| Korean Service Medal |
w/ seven Service stars
|United Nations Korea Medal|
|7th Row||Army Presidential Unit Citation|| Republic of Korea |
Presidential Unit Citation
Van Fleet also received the following foreign decorations:
Also decorations from the following countries:
|No insignia||Cadet, United States Military Academy: June 14, 1911|
|Second Lieutenant, United States Army: June 12, 1915|
|First Lieutenant, United States Army: July 1, 1916|
|Captain, United States Army: May 15, 1917|
|Major, National Army: June 17, 1918|
|Major, Regular Army: July 2, 1920|
|Captain, Regular Army: November 4, 1922|
|Major, Regular Army: December 6, 1924|
|Lieutenant Colonel, Regular Army: October 1, 1936|
|Colonel, Army of the United States: June 26, 1941|
|Colonel, Regular Army: February 1, 1944|
|Brigadier General, Army of the United States: August 1, 1944|
|Major General, Army of the United States: November 15, 1944|
|Brigadier General, Regular Army: June 27, 1946|
|Major General, Regular Army: January 24, 1948|
|Lieutenant General, Army of the United States: February 19, 1948|
|General, Army of the United States: July 31, 1951|
|General, Retired List: March 31, 1953|
|Florida Gators (Southern Conference)(1923–1924)|
Omar Nelson Bradley was a senior officer of the United States Army during and after World War II, rising to the rank of General of the Army. Bradley was the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and oversaw the U.S. military's policy-making in the Korean War.
The European Theater of Operations, United States Army (ETOUSA) was a Theater of Operations responsible for directing United States Army operations throughout the European theatre of World War II, from 1942 to 1945. It commanded Army Ground Forces (AGF), United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), and Army Service Forces (ASF) operations north of Italy and the Mediterranean coast. It was bordered to the south by the North African Theater of Operations, United States Army (NATOUSA), which later became the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, United States Army (MTOUSA).
General Matthew Bunker Ridgway was a senior officer in the United States Army, who served as Supreme Allied Commander Europe (1952–1953) and the 19th Chief of Staff of the United States Army (1953–1955). Although he saw no service in World War I, he saw plenty in World War II, where he was the first Commanding General (CG) of the 82nd "All American" Airborne Divison, leading it in action in Sicily, Italy and Normandy, before taking command of the newly formed XVIII Airborne Corps in August 1944. He held the latter post until the end of the war in mid-1945, commanding the corps in the Battle of the Bulge, Operation Varsity and the Western Allied invasion of Germany.
Lieutenant General Edward Mallory Almond was a senior United States Army officer who fought in both World War I and World War II, where he commanded the 92nd Infantry Division. However, he is perhaps best known as the commander of the U.S. X Corps during the Korean War.
General Joseph Lawton Collins was a senior United States Army officer. During World War II, he served in both the Pacific and European Theaters of Operations, one of a few senior American commanders to do so. He was Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the Korean War.
Frederick James Kroesen Jr. was a United States Army four-star general who served as the Commanding General of the Seventh United States Army and the commander of NATO Central Army Group from 1979 to 1983, and Commanding General, United States Army Forces Command from 1976 to 1978. He also served as Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army from 1978 to 1979. He commanded troops in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, enabling him to be one of the very small number who ever was entitled to wear the Combat Infantryman Badge with two Stars, denoting active combat in three wars.
The Allied leaders of World War II listed below comprise the important political and military figures who fought for or supported the Allies during World War II. Engaged in total war, they had to adapt to new types of modern warfare, on the military, psychological and economic fronts.
John Hersey Michaelis was a United States Army four-star general who served as Commander in Chief, United Nations Command/Commander, United States Forces Korea/Commanding General, Eighth United States Army from 1969 to 1972.
Carter Bowie Magruder was a United States Army general who served concurrently as Commander in Chief, United Nations Command/Commander, United States Forces Korea/Commanding General, Eighth United States Army from 1959 to 1961.
Major General Bryant Edward Moore was a United States Army officer who commanded the 8th Infantry Division during and after World War II, and the IX Corps in the Korean War.
Major General John Huston Church was a senior officer in the United States Army. He fought in World War I, World War II and in the Korean War. During the latter conflict, he provided assistance to the South Korean Army in the opening days of the war. He later commanded the 24th Infantry Division while it was engaged in the Battle of the Pusan Perimeter.
Major General Laurence B. "Dutch" Keiser (1895–1969) was an American officer who served in both World War I and World War II. During the early stages of the Korean War, he commanded the 2nd Infantry Division.
University of Florida ROTC is the official officer training and commissioning program at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. The ROTC Program offers commissions for the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, and the U.S. Air Force. The unit is one of the oldest in the nation, and is currently located in Van Fleet Hall on the university's campus. The university's Air Force ROTC won the Right of Line Trophy in 2007 and 2009 ranking it as the top program of its size in the nation. The unit has also been home to the prestigious Gator Guard Drill Team since 1953.
William Kelly Harrison Jr. was a highly decorated officer in the United States Army with the rank of Lieutenant General. A graduate of the West Point Military Academy, he rose through the ranks to Brigadier general during World War II and distinguished himself in combat several times, while serving as Assistant Division Commander, 30th Infantry Division during the Normandy Campaign and the Battle of the Bulge. Harrison was decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest decoration of the United States military for bravery in combat, for his actions during Operation Cobra.
Arthur Seymour Champeny was a United States Army officer, reaching the rank of Brigadier General. He is the only American to earn the Distinguished Service Cross in three different wars. In addition to his three Distinguished Service Crosses, he was awarded the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit, five Purple Hearts, two French Croix de Guerre, the French Legion of Honor, and the Italian Bronze Medal of Military Valor.
Lieutenant General John Breitling Coulter was a senior United States Army officer. Enjoying a distinguished 40-year military career, Coulter served during World War I, World War II and the Korean War.
William Benjamin Kean was a general in the United States Army.
Konstantinos Ventiris was a Hellenic Army officer who rose to the rank of lieutenant general. He served twice as Chief of the Hellenic Army General Staff and was one of the senior government commanders during the Greek Civil War. He is also one of the few recipients the country's highest wartime decoration, the Commander's Cross of the Cross of Valour.
Major General Robert Battey McClure was a senior United States Army officer who served in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War.
Major General William Willis Eagles was a highly decorated officer in the United States Army. A graduate of the United States Military Academy, he is most noted for his service as Commanding general, 45th Infantry Division during Italian campaign during World War II.