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Third United States Army
United States Army Central CSIB.svg
Shoulder sleeve insignia of Third Army
Active 1918–1919
1932–1974
Country United States
Branch U.S. Army
Type Field Army)
Nickname(s) "Patton's Own"
Motto(s) "Tertia Semper Prima"
(Latin for "Third Always First")
Engagements World War I
Occupation of Germany (1919)
World War II
Occupation of Germany (1945)
Commanders
Current
commander
LTG James L. Terry[1]
Notable
commanders
Walter Krueger
Courtney Hodges
George S. Patton
Lucian Truscott
Thomas J. H. Trapnell
Tommy Franks
David D. McKiernan
Vincent K. Brooks
Insignia
Distinctive unit insignia United States Army Central DUI.png
CFLCC Logo CFLCC LOGO Pattons Own final.JPG

The Third United States Army is a military formation of the United States Army, which saw service in World War I and World War II, in the 1991 Gulf War, and in the Iraq War. It is best known for its campaigns in World War II under the command of George S. Patton.

Activation and World War I[edit | edit source]

The Third United States Army was first activated as a formation during the First World War on 7 November 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. The third Army consisted of three corps (III, Maj. Gen. John L. Hines; IV, Maj. Gen. Charles Muir; and VII, Maj. Gen. William G. Hahn) and seven divisions.

First mission[edit | edit source]

On 15 November 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 17 November 1918. By 15 December the Third Army Headquarters at Mayen opened at Coblenz. Two days later, on 17 December 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 19 December, the date the bridgehead occupation was completed, was 9,638 officers and 221,070 enlisted men.

Third Army advance[edit | edit source]

"This old castle perched on a hilltop above the Moselle River and the town of Cochem, Germany, is headquarters of the U.S. Fourth Army Corps. In foreground is Cpl. James C. Sulzer, Fourth Army Corps, Photo Unit. January 9, 1919."

On 12 December, Field Order No. 11 issued, directed the Third Army to occupy the northern sector of the Coblenz bridgehead, with the advance elements to cross the Rhine river at seven o'clock, 13 December. 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, 13 December. 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 13 December 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 15 December 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 14 December, Third Army troops had occupied their positions on the perimeter of the Coblenz bridgehead.

  • [Source: "Crossing the Rhine," History of the American Third Army, 14 November 1918 to 2 July 1919, Third Army, A.E.F., 2 July 1919.]

Army of Occupation[edit | edit source]

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

Prepare to advance[edit | edit source]

On 14 May, 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 20 May, Marshal Foch directed allied commanders to dispatch troops toward Weimar and Berlin in the event the peace treaty was not signed. On 22 May, the Third Army issued its plan of advance, effective 30 May, in view of the impending emergency. On 27 May, 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 1 June, the advance GHQ, AEF, at Trier was discontinued. On 16 June, Marshal Foch notified General Pershing that allied armies must be ready after 20 June to resume offensive operations and that preliminary movements were to begin 17 June. On 19 June, General Pershing notified Marshal Foch that beginning 23 June 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 23 June, the Germans signified their intention to sign the peace treaty and contemplated operations were suspended. On 30 June, Foch and Pershing conferred in regard to American troops to be left on the Rhine.

A separate peace[edit | edit source]

On 1 July, 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 2 July 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 still "de jure" at war with Germany. This situation remained unresolved until the summer of 1921 when a separate peace treaty was signed.[citation needed]

Reactivation and the inter-War period[edit | edit source]

Third Army did not see the light of day again until 1932. On 9 August 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[edit | edit source]

American flag over Festung Ehrenbreitstein after the occupation of Koblenz by the 3rd Army, 1945

Mobilization 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 armored 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 offensive of the war – the Battle of the Bulge. This battle was 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.

Third Army After Action reports state that the Third Army captured 765,483 prisoners of war, with an additional 515,205 of the enemy already held in corps and divisional level POW cages processed between 9 May and 13 May 1945, for a total of 1,280,688 POWs, and that, additionally, Third Army forces killed 144,500 enemy soldiers and wounded 386,200, for a total of 1,811,388 in enemy losses.[2] Fuller's review of Third Army records differs only in the number of enemy killed and wounded, stating that between 1 August 1944 and 9 May 1945, 47,500 of the enemy were killed, 115,700 wounded, and 1,280,688 captured. Fuller's combined total of enemy losses is 1,443,888 enemy killed, wounded, or captured by the Third Army.[3] The Third Army suffered 16,596 killed, 96,241 wounded, and 26,809 missing in action for a total of 139,646 casualties.[4] Between June 1941 and December 1944, Germany lost 202,000 killed fighting the Americans and British in North Africa, Italy and north-west Europe together, against 2.4 million battlefield dead on the Eastern Front.[5]

German occupation[edit | edit source]

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 in 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 World War II training duties. The 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 deactivated, and it remained so for the best part of a decade.

Current role[edit | edit source]

As of July 2011, Third U.S. Army is headquartered at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina with a forward element at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Administratively called ARCENT again, 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). It provides support and services to theater ARFOR commands, as well as directed Army support to other services.

Previously, in Saudi Arabia, its bases include King Abdul Aziz Air Base, Dhahran, King Fahd Air Base, Taif, King Khalid Air Base, Khamis Mushayt, Eskan Village Air Base, and Riyadh Air Base.[6] The Army moved all its bases and equipment to Qatar in 2003.[7]

Focusing primarily on the Middle East, Central Command and Third Army's area of responsibility (AOR) is a large and complex region. It stretches from the Central Asian States to the Horn of Africa. The AOR encompasses an area of approximately 6,500,000 square miles (17,000,000 km2) consisting of 27 countries populated by over 650 million people speaking 12 major languages and representing seven major religions. Within this strategically important region lay the historical crossroads of three continents, the majority of the world's oil and natural gas reserves, and the primary maritime link between Europe and Asia. Resources, differing geography, religious influences, and historical conflict have shaped this region for centuries and continue to do so today.

In keeping with US national security strategy, Third Army supports U.S. Central Command through a theater security cooperation strategy that encompasses the four fundamentals of the National Military Strategy. Third Army maintains a continued forward presence, conducts joint and coalition exercises throughout the region, provides humanitarian assistance when needed, develops close partnerships with responsible nations, assists in demining efforts, and provides support to other military service components. Third Army is prepared to rapidly respond by developing and executing war plans and contingency missions as required. This strategy provides the President with a wide range of options to deter aggression and coercion from a forward presence posture, and to decisively defeat any adversary if deterrence fails across the full spectrum of conflict.[8]

Commanding generals[edit | edit source]

Unit Deactivated (1973–1982)
Unit deactivated (1919–1932)

Units of the Third Army[edit | edit source]

References and notes[edit | edit source]

  1. "U.S. Third army homepage". U.S. Army. http://www.arcent.army.mil/hidden/usarcent-history/third-army-command-biographies/cg/ltg-vincent-k-brooks-(2011---present).aspx. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  2. U.S. Third Army After Action Report, May 1945, Headquarters, Third U.S. Army, 1 August 1944 - 9 May 1945 VOL. I (Operations) [unclassified]
  3. Fuller 2004, pp. 254.
  4. U.S. Third Army After Action Report, May 1945, Headquarters, Third U.S. Army, 1 August 1944 - 9 May 1945 VOL. I (Operations) [unclassified]
  5. Hastings 2004, pp. 98.
  6. "GLOBEMASTER Air Bases Search Engine". Globemaster.de. http://www.globemaster.de/cgi-bin/bases/db.cgi?db=default&uid=default&view_records=1&so=ascend&keyword=Saudi+Arabia&submit=Search. Retrieved 21 May 2011. 
  7. "U.S. to move operations from Saudi base". CNN. 29 April 2003. http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/meast/04/29/sprj.irq.saudi.us/. Retrieved 21 May 2011. 
  8. "Third Army Commanding General's Welcome Letter". arcent.army.mil. 2007. http://www.arcent.army.mil/welcome/index.asp. 

Sources[edit | edit source]

  • Fuller, Robert P. (2004). "Last shots for Patton's Third Army". Portland, ME: NETR Press. ISBN 097405190X. 
  • Hastings, Max (2004). "Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-1945". New York: Vintage. ISBN 0-375-71422-7. 

External links[edit | edit source]

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