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15th Army

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15th Army / Fifteenth Army / Fifteenth United States Army







World War II

Ruhr Pocket

Northern France




Aug 21, 1944



Jan 31, 1946




World War II


The U.S. Fifteenth Army was the last field army to see service in northwest Europe during World War II. There are two parts to the 15th Army's purpose. During the later stages of World War II its purpose was training and rehabilitating units and acting as a defensive line against counterattacks. After the war was won the 15th's purpose was occupation duties and historical gathering of information related to the ETO operations.



Early formation

Fifteenth Army was first activated 21 August 1944 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. In actuality, the activation consisted of a group transfer of personnel from the U.S. Fourth Army to the Fifteenth Army. The Fourth Army continued with personnel previously carried by that Army as augmented strength. No general officer was included in the transfer. Major General John P. Lucas was commanding general designate of the new Fifteenth Army in addition to his other duties. Headquarters, Fifteenth Army was then assigned to the Fourth Army.


On 18 October 1944 an advanced detachment was directed to report to the New York Port of Embarkation. From there, on 3 November, they sailed bound for Greenock, Scotland on the Queen Mary, arriving 10 November 1944. The detachment proceeded to an estate called Doddington Hall in Chesire County England where they were billeted with XXII Corps which later came under operational control of Fifteenth Army.


The main body of the Fifteenth Army sailed from New York aboard the Aquitania on 15 November 1944 and dropped anchor in the Firth of Clyde off Gourock, Scotland on 22 November. On 24 November, the temporary Fifteenth Army Headquarters began operations at Doddington Hall.


On 25 November 1944 orders were given to place Fifteenth Army under 12th Army Group. Organization continued with a command post established at Chateau d'Ardennes although the main components of the Fifteenth remained in England. As the German offensive now known as the Battle of the Bulge began, the CP was in danger and the headquarters evacuated to Cerfontaine, Belgium. The headquarters moved again on 24 December 1944 to Fme de Suippes in France.


On 25 December, 1944 the main body left Doddington Hall for a staging area in Southhampton, England and boarded the British ship Empire Javelin the next afternoon. The Fifteenth Army group consisted of 208 officers and 624 enlisted men. An additional 652 men plus the British crew were on board. Crossing the English Channel a few days later, on 28 December 1944, the ship was rocked by a huge explosion. A French frigate, L'Escarmouche and some smaller vessels came to the rescue. L'Escarmouche was attached to the side of the Empire Javelin and many of the men jumped from the deck of the Empire Javelin to L'Escarmouche. Some men were rescued from life rafts and one life boat and some were pulled out of the water. About 10 minutes after a second explosion, the Empire Javelin sank at about 5:25 PM. Thirteen men were missing in action and 20 men were injured in this incident.



Entering operational status

General Ray Edison Porter assumed command of the Fifteenth Army on 2 January 1945. No staff accompanied him and he directed the Acting Chief of Staff, Colonel Donegan, to retain his duties. The next day General Porter called together all section chiefs of the Fifteenth and outlined the mission of the Fifteenth and explained its assignment to Twelfth Army Group and SHAEF.


On 16 January 1945 Lieutenant General (then Major General) Leonard T. Gerow assumed command of the Fifteenth Army.


From mid-January 1945 until March the 15 U.S. Army was charged with rehabilitating, re-equipping and training various units of the 12th Army Group that had suffered heavy losses during the Ardennes campaign. It processed all new units which arrived at northern European ports through the staging areas until their 12th Army Group assignment.


General Eisenhower inserted the U.S. Fifteenth Army (under U.S. 12th Army Group) to hold the Ruhr Pocket along the Rhine. U.S. Ninth Army and U.S. First Army were to pressure the German defenders from the north, east, and south. 18 days later First and Ninth met at Paderborn, with fifteenth holding the western side of the encirclement.


On March 15, 1945, the 15th Army assumed command of the forces that were bottling up the German forces left behind in the French Atlantic ports. 15th Army also turned east and assumed a defensive position (using XXII Corps) on the west bank of the Rhine from Bonn to Hamburg.


Fifteenth Army never entered the main line of battle. However, its formations did see some action, when it contained and then reduced the enormous Ruhr Pocket from the west during April 1945 in conjunction with elements of U.S. Ninth Army. This resulted in the capture of 325,000 German prisoners. U.S. Fifteenth Army would take over occupation duties in the region as U.S. Ninth Army and U.S. First Army pushed farther into Germany.


In April 1945 the 15th Army crossed the Rhine, 2-3 weeks behind the other Allied Field Armies. It took over responsibility for Hesse, Saarland, Pfalz, and the Rhine Province. At this time it processed many German POW's and Displaced Persons.


After V-E Day, 15th Army's task was to organize the Theater General Board whose purpose was to study, analyze and document past operations in the European Theater.


Some intelligence gathering interviews were also conducted by divisions of the U.S. 15th Army.




The Fifteenth Army was originally intended to command occupation forces in the Rhine Province, Saarland, Palatinate (Pfalz), and part of Hesse, areas now primarily parts of the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland. However, in the summer of 1945, the occupation mission in this sector was assumed in the north by the British Army and in the south by the French Army.


Subsequently, the U.S. Fifteenth Army consisted solely of a small staff quartered at Bad Nauheim in the interior of Germany. It consisted of a headquarters and special troops assigned to gather historical data on Allied operations during the war.


During the Occupation, on May 2, 1945 the U.S. Fifteenth Army received for safekeeping the Crown of St. Stephen123. It was transferred for storage at Fort Knox, Ky and returned to the Hungarian Government January 5, 1978.




Gerow remained in command of Fifteenth Army until he was succeeded by General George S. Patton in October 1945. Gen. Patton was appointed Commander, U.S. Fifteenth Army, and President of the European Theater General Board on 14 October 1945. This appointment was a transfer from U.S. Third Army; a move which has been characterized as Patton being "kicked upstairs". In actuality the move took away much of the power Patton had in Bavaria in post-War Germany while attempting to maintain some decorum or respect for his accomplishments in the war. By this point the Fifteenth was a small organization concerned with documentation activities of tactical lessons to be learned from the recent war. Patton was unhappy with the transfer from Third Army but actually told friends the transfer was in line with what was his favorite mental occupation since he was seven years old: The study of war.


Coincidentally, John Eisenhower, son of General Dwight D. Eisenhower had only recently (September, 1945) been assigned to Fifteenth U.S. Army. In his book General Ike: A Personal Reminiscence he writes4 that one day in October 1945 'Ike' told him I had to fire George Patton today. John Eisenhower then served under Patton for a short time.


Continuing as commander of U.S. Fifteenth Army, in November 1945 Patton replaced Gen. Eisenhower as commander of US Forces in Europe. He was very conflicted during this time, and even considered resigning from the Army (instead of retiring, and being subject to the Army regulations). On the idea that a hunting trip might be a good outing to take his mind off his present difficulties he set out by car to go pheasant hunting. Unfortunately as a result of a car accident on the way to the hunting trip Gen. Patton died, 21 December 1945.


Major General Hobart R. Gay became commander of the U.S. Fifteenth Army in January 1946. Gay had been Chief of Staff of U.S. Third Army from February 1944 to October 1945, and then Chief of Staff of Fifteenth Army. He remained commander of Fifteenth Army for only about a month, becoming commander of the U.S. 1st Armored Division in February 1946.


The Headquarters at Bad Nauheim, Germany was inactivated 31 January 1946.


Divisional history from:





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15th Army patch variations


A: horizontal, thick letter A, no borders/deviders between the colors red and white


B: German made (speaks for itself)


C: red is woven vertical, thick letter A, white border/devider between red & white


D: white and red horizontal, thin letter A, red border/devider between red & white



Interests: German made patches (fruit loop, bevo etc.), Berlin Briagde, VII Corps, German made Aviation patches, USMLM Potsdam, Mission to Moscow, EUCOM, 7th Army & 70th Inf Div




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