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Third US Army in World War II

The lights of peace were flickering in August 1932. Japan had grabbed Manchuria and attacked Shanghai, the League of Nations revealed impotence, Fascist Italy rattled swords, and Germany was giving itself to Nazism.

On 9 August 1932, without fanfare and almost without public awareness, the formation of four field armies within the continental United States was announced.

The Eighth Corps Area commander, Major General Edwin B. Winans, was senior corps area commander and assumed command of the Third Army on 15 September 1932. Headquarters of the Eighth Corps Area at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, also became headquarters of the Third Army.

General MacArthur's directive was soon followed by further directives which clarified the composition of forces, Army area boundaries, etc. The Third Army commander was to be a "tactical commander," as distinguished from a Corps Area commander whose function was to remain principally administrative.

In peacetime, the Army commander's control of the Corps Area was limited to training exercises, preparation of war plans, and assignment of officers to specific commands. In war-time, if he did not take to the field with his Army at once but remained as strategic reserve, he was to supervise all training of troops. If he went to the front, Corps Area commanders were to assume responsibility of training of replacements.

With the directives of the Chief of Staff as the foundation, General Winans began to build the Third Army. At the end of his tour of duty on 30 September 1933 he departed and retired on October 31st. His replacement, Maj. Gen. Johnson Hagood, arrived on 4 October.

Shortly after his arrival General Hagood got into a skirmish over - of all things - the shoulder patch. The War Department judged that the Third Army was not to be considered a continuation of the original Third Army, AEF. "Then," asked General Hagood, "why not a new insignia, instead of the old A within an O, referring to Army of Occupation?" But the War Department refused his entreaties and the third "no" stuck.

Throughout General Hagood's command, Third Army existed mostly on paper and did its fighting through correspondence, planning for future expansion, scrapping for staff officers and other personnel, and blueprinting for the future.

In April 1936, he was succeeded by Maj. Gen. Frank Parker, who conducted the first Command Post Exercise that gave the Third Army an opportunity to assess its strengths and weaknesses, ...and to prepare for bigger problems. These were not long in coming.

From May 1941 until February 1943, the Third Army was commanded by Lieutenant General Walter Krueger. General Krueger made the Third Army the best training army in the United States.

Krueger had in his Third Army two men who would gain fame. One of these men was his Chief of Staff, a new brigadier general, named Dwight D. Eisenhower. The other man was the leader of Krueger's Hell On Wheels 2nd Armored Division. His name was George S. Patton, Jr.

General Douglas MacArthur, Commander in Chief of Pacific Forces, personally requested that Krueger be given command of the Sixth Army. In January of 1943, Krueger reported to MacArthur and took command of his new army.

From February 1943 until end of 1943, Third Army was commanded by Lt. Gen. Courtney H. Hodges. During this period it was primarily a gigantic training army comprised of hundreds of units from small detachments to full corps.

There was but one goal to Third Army's day-to-day conduct of business. General Hodges had announced it many times and no one in Third Army was permitted to lose sight of it: Maximum Fighting Efficiency.

There was no talk of "this is going to be a short war;" "it'll be over before we get overseas." Units were trained in the belief that they were going over as fighting units and that each and every man within each unit had an important job to do - assist in bringing victory to our arms.

Movement of troops overseas started slowly. Antisubmarine warfare was just beginning to meet with success and shipping was still short. But in July and August of 1943, the alert orders flooded the Headquarters in increasing numbers. By 30 December 1943, Third Army had moved to ports, for direct shipment overseas, a grand total of 208,566 officers and men, including five divisions.

On 31 December 1943, the Third Army was transferred to combat army status and at 0830 the next morning came the telephone call for which they had waited so long. Third Army's readiness date was 15 February. It was to leave at authorized strength plus a CIC detachment of three officers and 13 enlisted men. By 15 January the entire headquarters was POM (prepared for overseas movement) to the last man and the advance detachment comprised of 13 officers and 26 enlisted men, left for the port. Upon disembarking from the Ile de France, they were met by their new commander.

Under the command of Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr., Third Army participated in eight major operations and gave new meaning to "hard charging, hard hitting, mobile warfare."

Throughout Third Army's swift and tenacious drive into and through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Austria, its rugged soldiers inflicted far more casualties and damage to the enemy than they received while enroute to victory.

Third Army contributed immeasurably to the destruction of the Nazi war machine of Adolph Hitler's Germany.

On October 7, 1945, General Patton delivered a simple Farewell to Third Army address before giving the Third's colors to Gen. Lucian K. Truscott, the former Fifth Army commander and an old friend of whom he thought there was a "no more worthy recipient."

General Patton was never more sincere than when saying, "all good things must come to an end." Departing to shuffle papers in a command without combat troops to lead and tactics to train was a fate worse than death for the old warrior, and made him "regret that I survived the war."

A major change under the Reorganization of the United States Zone, Germany, was the combination and redesignation of the Third and Seventh Army Areas into a single area under the command of Third Army. Seventh Army reverted to inoperational status on 25 March whereupon Third Army assumed all occupational and operational responsibilities for the combined areas.

Third Army Headquarters moved from Bad Tolz to Heidelberg and shortly afterwards, due to ill health, Lt. Gen. Truscott relinquished command to Lt. Gen. Geoffrey Keyes, former commander of Seventh Army. Former commander of Seventh Army Major General Edwin P. Parker, Jr., served as interim commander during a leave of absence of General Keyes.

Lt. Gen. Geoffrey Keyes relinquished the command of Third Army on 10 January 1947 to Major General Ernest N. Harmon. General Harmon was the Commanding General of the United States Constabulary and, in his capacity as Commander of Third Army, directed the final phase-out of the Army as an occupational unit.

On 15 February 1947, the Third Army completed its task as an occupying Army for the second time within twenty-five years. The second occupation was completed not far from the location in which the veterans of 1917-18 packed their duffel bags and returned to the States with the thought that theirs was the last Army of Occupation that would be required.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:27:25 ZULU