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Third Army / 3rd Army / Third United States Army







World War II


Northern France



Central Europe



Nov 7, 1918

Aug 9, 1932




July 2, 1919





World War I


The Third U.S. Army was first activated as a formation during the First World War on November 7, 1918, at Chaumont, France, when the General Headquarters of the American Expeditionary Forces issued General Order 198 organizing the Third Army and announcing its headquarters staff. On the 15th, Major General Joseph T. Dickman assumed command and issued Third Army General Order No. 1.



First Mission

On November 15, 1918, Major General Dickman was given the mission to move quickly and by any means into Central Germany on occupation duties. He was to disarm and disband German forces as ordered by General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces.


The march into Germany for occupation duty was begun on November 17, 1918. By December 15 the Third Army Headquarters at Mayen opened at Coblenz. Two days later, on December 17, 1918 the Coblenz Bridgehead, consisting of a pontoon bridge and three railroad bridges across the Rhine, had been established.


Third Army troops had encountered no hostile act of any sort. In the occupied area, both food and coal supplies were sufficient. The crossing of the Rhine by the front line divisions was effected in good time and without confusion. Troops, upon crossing the Rhine and reaching their assigned areas, were billeted preparatory to occupying selected positions for defense. The strength of the Third Army as of December 19, the date the bridgehead occupation was completed, was 9,638 officers and 221,070 enlisted men.



Third Army Advance

On December 12, Field Order No. 11 issued, directed the Third Army to occupy the northern sector of the Coblenz, Germany bridgehead, with the advance elements to cross the Rhine river at seven o'clock, December 13. The northern (left) boundary remained unchanged. The southern (right) boundary was as has been previously mentioned.


Before the advance the 1st Division passed to the command of the III Corps. With three divisions, the 1st, 2d, and 32d, the III Corps occupied the American sector of the Coblenz bridgehead, the movement of the troops into position beginning at the scheduled hour, December 13. The four bridges available for crossing the river within the Coblenz bridgehead were the pontoon bridge and railroad bridge at Coblenz, the railroad bridges at Engers and Remagen. On December 13 the advance began with the American khaki crossing the Rhine into advanced positions. On the same day the 42d Division passes to the command of the IV Corps, which, in support of the III Corps, continued its march to occupy the Kreise of Mayen, Ahrweiler, Adenau, and Cochem.


The VII Corps occupied under the same order that portion of the Regierungsbezirk of Trier within army limits.


On December 15 Third Army Headquarters at Mayen opened at Coblenz: III Corps Headquarters at Polch opened at Neuwied and IV Corps Headquarters remained at Cochem, with the VII Corps at Grevenmacher. In crossing the Rhine on the shortened front — from Rolandseck to Rhens on the west bank — the Third Army encountered no hostile act of any sort. In the occupied area both food and coal supplies were sufficient.


By the night of December 14, Third Army troops had occupied their positions on the perimeter of the Coblenz bridgehead.



Army of Occupation


During January 1919, the Third Army was engaged in training and preparing the troops under its command for any contingency. A letter of instruction was circulated to lower commanders prescribing a plan of action in case hostilities were resumed. Installations were set up throughout the Army area to facilitate command.


In February, military schools were opened through the Third Army area; a quartermaster depot was organized; 2,000 officers and enlisted men left to take courses in British and French universities; better leave facilities were created; and plans for sending American divisions to the United States were made. On February 4, the military control of the Stadtkreis of Trier was transferred from GHQ to the Third Army.


In March, routine duties of occupation and training were carried on; an Army horse show was held; Army, corps, and divisional educational centers were established in the Third Army Zone; the Coblenz port commander took over the duties of the Coblenz regulating officer; the 42d Division was released from IV Corps and was placed in Army Reserve.


In April, the exodus of American divisions from Third Army to the United States began. During the month, motor transport parks were established; an Army motor show was held; the Army area was reorganized; and the centralization of military property was initiated in anticipation of returning it to the United States.


On April 20, 1919, Third Army command changed from Maj. Gen. Dickman to Lt. Gen. Hunter Liggett.



Prepare to Advance

On May 14, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, General-in-Chief of the Allied Armies, submitted plans of operations to the Third Army commander to be used in the event that Germany should refuse to sign the peace treaty. On May 20, Marshal Foch directed allied commanders to dispatch troops toward Weimar and Berlin in the event the peace treaty was not signed. On May 22, the Third Army issued its plan of advance, effective May 30, in view of the impending emergency. On May 27, Marshal Foch informed General John J. Pershing, Commander-in-Chief, AEF, that the Supreme War Council desired allied armies be made ready immediately to resume active operations against the Germans.


On June 1, the advance GHQ, AEF, at Trier was discontinued. On June 16, Marshal Foch notified General Pershing that allied armies must be ready after June 20 to resume offensive operations and that preliminary movements were to begin June 17. On June 19, General Pershing notified Marshal Foch that beginning June 23 the Third Army would occupy the towns of Limburg, Westerburg, Hachenburg, and Altenkirchen and that III Corps would seize the railroad connecting these towns. On June 23, the Germans signified their intention to sign the peace treaty and contemplated operations were suspended. On June 30, Foch and Pershing conferred in regard to American troops to be left on the Rhine.



A Separate Peace

On July 1, General Pershing notified the War Department that upon Germany's compliance with military conditions imposed upon her (probably within three months after German ratification of the treaty), the American forces in Europe would be reduced to a single regiment of infantry supplemented by necessary auxiliaries.


Accordingly the Third Army was disbanded on July 2, 1919. Its headquarters and all personnel (numbering about 6,800 men) and units under it were thereafter designated American Forces in Germany. This force would subsequently remain in Germany for over three years. This was due, at least part, to the fact that United States, having rejected the Treaty of Versailles, was therefore technically still at war with Germany. This situation remained unresolved until the summer of 1921 when a separate peace treaty was signed.



Inter-War Period


Third Army did not see the light of day again until 1932. On August 9 of that year, in a reorganisation of field forces in the United States, four field armies, Third Army amongst them, were activated, to control the formations of the U.S. Army stationed on home soil. Until the buildup of American forces prior to its entry into World War II, Third Army remained largely a paper formation. It held training exercises periodically, but these were almost never adequate.



World War II


Mobilisation saw Third Army take on the role of training some of the huge numbers of recruits that the draft was bringing into the Armed Forces. Lieutenant General Walter Krueger, later to gain fame for his command of Sixth Army during operations in the Pacific commanded Third Army from May 1941 until February 1943. Under his leadership, the basis of the Army's later success as a combat formation was laid. Krueger was succeeded by Lieutenant General Courtney Hodges who led the Army for the rest of 1943. The news that many had expected came in December 1943. Third Army was shipped from the U.S. to the United Kingdom.


Third Army did not take part in the initial stages of Operation Overlord. However, when it did take the field, its field of combat suited the style of its commander far more. Lieutenant General George Patton was one of the U.S. Army's greatest exponents of armoured warfare. When Third Army was moved to France, it was just after Bradley's formations had achieved the breakout from Normandy. Third Army followed up on that success and began a great dash across France. It was only the inevitability of logistics problems that halted Patton's force near the borders of Germany.


After a period of consolidation, Third Army was ready to go on the offensive again. However, the Germans then launched their last great attack of WWII. The Battle of the Bulge saw an attempt to repeat the decisive breakthrough of 1940. However, in 1944, the Germans were doomed to failure. Their own logistical problems surfaced, and they ground to a halt. Nevertheless, they had broken the U.S. front, and it took a great effort to reduce the resulting salient. In one of the great moves of the war, Patton turned Third Army's axis of advance through ninety degrees and set it upon the south of the German forces. The German salient was reduced by the end of January 1945, and the remainder of the process of closing up to the Rhine could be completed. Some vicious fighting took place, but by April there was but one great natural barrier between Third Army and the heart of Germany. Unlike in 1918, the crossing of the Rhine was opposed. However, the bridgehead was won, and Third Army embarked on another great eastward dash. It reached Austria and in May liberated the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camps complex. Its forces ended up in Czechoslovakia, the furthest east of any American units.



German Occupation


Occupation beckoned again, and Third Army took up the challenge of starting to rebuild postwar Germany. Third Army remained in Germany until recalled to the United States again 1947. When back in the United States, its duties were much the same as those of the 1930s, acting as a command and training force for units in the United States.


The Korean War saw a repeat of the earlier WWII training duties. Third Army remained responsible for this aspect of U.S. Armed Forces operations until 1974, when a new major headquarters, that of Forces Command, or FORSCOM was activated to replace Third Army. Third Army was thus inactivated, and remained so for the best part of a decade.




1982 saw the rebirth of Third Army as the ground forces component of the newly formed U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM).



Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm


It was not until 1990 that Third Army returned to combat, but it was a very notable return. Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990, and American forces were immediately dispatched to Saudi Arabia to protect that kingdom. Since Saudi Arabia came within the CENTCOM area, Third Army was sent to command the Army units in theatre. At first, XVIII Corps made up the forces assigned to Third Army; only enough men to ensure that the Iraqis could not invade Saudi Arabia. However, in November 1990, massive reinforcements were announced in the form of VII Corps from Germany. This deployment marked the largest use of armoured formations by the U.S. since WWII, and thus it was fitting that Patton's old command, Third Army, should have control of the battle. By the opening of hostilities, XVIII Corps had three American and one French division and VII Corps four American and one British divisions under command, thus giving Third Army a total of nine divisions under its command, plus the armored cavalry regiments attached to both corps.


Third Army was the main striking force in Operation Desert Storm. Its units were on the left flank of the attacking force and swept into southern Iraq. They then turned east and engaged the Iraqi Republican Guard in fierce combat. Much of that force was destroyed. In terms of its immediate aims, The Gulf War was a stunning success. The Iraqis were ejected from Kuwait and their forces were thoroughly mauled. However, over the longer term, it became clear that more operations would eventually be necessary. Throughout the 1990s, there was indecision on the part of the American Government over whether those operations should take place or not.



Operation Iraqi Freedom


After several months of diplomatic maneouvre, Third Army was deployed in early 2003. The forces it had under its command for Operation Iraqi Freedom were much smaller in numbers than those it had commanded twelve years before. It had V Corps as its main striking force, with only two complete divisions and an airborne brigade under that command. There was also I MEF, controlling a further two divisions and a brigade. However, numbers were made up for by the advances in technology which rendered this force one of incredible power. It took six weeks to complete the conquest of Iraq, with 3rd Infantry Division, the heavy armour component of V Corps moving faster than even Patton had managed during his great dash across France.


The aftermath of the campaign saw Third Army headquartered in Baghdad, directing its third occupation within one hundred years.



Current Role


As of July 2005, Third U.S. Army is headquartered at Fort McPherson, Georgia with a forward element at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. It continues to serve as the Army Component Command for CENTCOM, and the forward element is serving as the Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC).



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An OD bordered, green back.





In Memory Of......
Pte Harold Griffiths, 1805, 1/6th Manchester Regt, KIA June 4th, 1915 in Gallipoli
Cpl Isaac Judges, 40494, 6th East Yorkshire Regt, KIA October 3rd, 1917 in Ypres
May they rest in peace.....

MSgt - USAF Retired




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