The Eighth Army is a U.S. field army which is the commanding formation of all United States Army forces in South Korea. It commands U.S. and South Korean units and is headquartered at the Camp Humphreys, in the Anjeong-ri of Pyeongtaek, South Korea. It is the only field army in the U.S. Army.
|Colors||White and red|
|Campaigns||World War II|
|Lt. Gen. Willard M. Burleson III|
|Lt. Gen. Robert Eichelberger|
Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker
Lt. Gen. Matthew Ridgway
Lt. Gen. James Van Fleet
Lt. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor
|NATO Map Symbol|
The unit first activated on 10 June 1944 in the United States, under the command of Lieutenant General Robert Eichelberger. The Eighth Army took part in many of the amphibious landings in the Southwest Pacific Theater of World War II, eventually participating in no less than sixty of them. The first mission of the Eighth Army, in September 1944, was to take over from the U.S. Sixth Army in New Guinea, New Britain, the Admiralty Islands and on Morotai, in order to free up the Sixth Army to engage in the Philippines Campaign (1944–45).
The Eighth Army again followed in the wake of the Sixth Army in December 1944, when it took over control of operations on Leyte Island on 26 December. In January, the Eighth Army entered combat on Luzon, landing the XI Corps on 29 January near San Antonio and the 11th Airborne Division on the other side of Manila Bay two days later. Combining with I Corps and XIV Corps of Sixth Army, the forces of Eighth Army next enveloped Manila in a great double-pincer movement. Eighth Army's final operation of the Pacific War was that of clearing out the southern Philippines of the Japanese Army, including on the major island of Mindanao, an effort that occupied the soldiers of the Eighth Army for the rest of the war.
Eighth Army was to have participated in Operation Downfall, the invasion of Japan. It would have taken part in Operation Coronet, the second phase of the invasion, which would have seen the invasion of the Kantō Plain on eastern Honshū. However, the Japanese surrender cancelled the invasion, and the Eighth Army found itself in charge of occupying it peacefully. Occupation forces landed on 30 August 1945, with its headquarters in Yokohama, then the HQ moved to the Dai-Ichi building in Tokyo. At the beginning of 1946, Eighth Army assumed responsibility for occupying all of Japan. Four quiet years then followed, during which the Eighth Army gradually deteriorated from a combat-ready fighting force into a somewhat soft, minimally-trained constabulary. Lieutenant General Walton H. Walker took command in September 1948, and he tried to re-invigorate the Army's training, with mixed success.
At the end of World War II in 1945, Korea was divided into North Korea and South Korea with North Korea (assisted by the Soviet Union), becoming a communist government after 1946, known as the Democratic People's Republic, followed by South Korea becoming the Republic of Korea. China became the communist People's Republic of China in 1949. In 1950, the Soviet Union backed North Korea while the United States backed South Korea, and China allied with the Soviet Union in what was to become the first military action of the Cold War.
The peace of occupied Japan was shattered in June 1950 when 75,000 North Korean troops with Russian made tanks invaded South Korea, igniting the Korean War. U.S. naval and air forces quickly became involved in combat operations, and it was soon clear that U.S. ground forces would have to be committed. To stem the North Korean advance, the occupation forces in Japan were thus shipped off to South Korea as quickly as possible, but their lack of training and equipment was telling, as some of the initial U.S. units were destroyed by the North Koreans. However, the stage was eventually reached as enough units of Eighth Army arrived in Korea to make a firm front. The North Koreans threw themselves against that front, the Pusan Perimeter, and failed to break it.
Eighth Army arrived in July 1950 and never left. —Lt. Gen. Thomas S. Vandal, CG, Eighth Army, 29 August 2017
In the meantime, Eighth Army had reorganized, since it had too many divisions under its command for it to exercise effective control directly. The I Corps and the IX Corps were reactivated in the United States and then shipped to Korea to assume command of Eighth Army's subordinate divisions.
The stalemate was broken by the Inchon landings of the X Corps (tenth corps, consisting of soldiers and Marines). The North Korean forces, when confronted with this threat to their rear areas, combined with a breakout operation at Pusan, broke away and hastily retired north.
Both South and North Korea were almost entirely occupied by United Nations forces. However, once U.S. units neared the Yalu River and the frontier between North Korea and China, the Chinese intervened and drastically changed the character of the war. Eighth Army was decisively defeated at the Battle of the Chongchon River and forced to retreat all the way back to South Korea. The defeat of the U.S. Eighth Army resulted in the longest retreat of any U.S. military unit in history. General Walker was killed in a jeep accident on 23 December 1950, and replaced by Lieutenant General Matthew Ridgway. The overstretched Eighth Army suffered heavily with the Chinese offensive, who were able to benefit from shorter lines of communication and with rather casually deployed enemy forces. The Chinese broke through the U.S. defenses despite U.S. air supremacy and the Eighth Army and U.N. forces retreated hastily to avoid encirclement. The Chinese offensive continued pressing U.S. forces, which lost Seoul, the South Korean capital. Eighth Army's morale and esprit de corps hit rock bottom, to where it was widely regarded as a broken, defeated rabble.
General Ridgway forcefully restored Eighth Army to combat effectiveness over several months. Eighth Army slowed and ultimately halted the Chinese advance at the battles of Chipyong-ni and Wonju. It then counter-attacked the Chinese, re-took Seoul, and drove to the 38th parallel, where the front stabilized.
When General Ridgway replaced General of the Army Douglas MacArthur as the overall U.N. commander, Lieutenant General James Van Fleet assumed command of Eighth Army. After the war of movement during the first stages, the fighting in Korea settled down to a war of attrition. Ceasefire negotiations were begun at the village of Panmunjom in the summer of 1951, and they dragged on for two years. During the final combat operation of the war, Lieutenant General Maxwell D. Taylor (promoted to general 23 June 1953) commanded the Eighth Army. When the Military Demarcation Line was finally agreed to by the Korean Armistice Agreement, South Korea and North Korea continued on as separate states.
During the aftermath of the Korean War, the Eighth Army remained in South Korea. By the 1960s, I Corps, consisting of the 7th Infantry Division and the 2nd Infantry Division, remained as part of the Eighth Army. Then, in 1971, the 7th Infantry Division was withdrawn, along with the command units of I Corps, which were moved across the Pacific Ocean to Fort Lewis, Washington. Later, in March 1977, a memo from President Jimmy Carter said "...American forces will be withdrawn. Air cover will be continued." Bureaucratic resistance from the Executive Branch, with support in Congress, eventually saw the proposal watered down. Eventually one combat battalion and about 2,600 non-combat troops were withdrawn.
This left the 2nd Infantry Division at the Korean Demilitarized Zone to assist the South Korean Army. Besides forming a trip-wire against another North Korean invasion, the 2nd Infantry Division remained there as the only Army unit in South Korea armed with tactical nuclear weapons. (Otherwise, there is only the U.S. Air Force in South Korea and on Okinawa.) All nuclear weapons were taken from the Army to be under Air Force control. Later, in 1991, all U.S. nuclear weapons were removed from South Korea.
At the end of the Cold War Eighth Army consisted of the following units:
The headquarters of the Eighth Army was Yongsan Garrison, but moved southward to Camp Humphreys by 2019. In April 2017 the Eighth Army headquarters began its move from Yongsan to Camp Humphreys and held a ceremony to relocate a statue of General Walton Walker.
Other army units based in South Korea:
The 8th Army Band is the official musical unit of the HQ 8th Army and supports United States Forces Korea and the United Nations Command. The 62 member band was founded in 1916 as the Band of the 35th Infantry Regiment. During World War II, the band, then known as the 25th Infantry Division Band based out of Hawaii, served in the Pacific Theater, being a participant in Central Pacific and Guadalcanal campaigns. It was reorganized in November 1950 and reassigned to the newly formed ROK, the same year the Korean War began. Awards and honors the band has received include the Meritorious Unit Commendation and two Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citations. Nicknamed Freedom's Ambassadors due to its area of responsibility, it has performed at events such as the Wonju Tattoo, the Gangwon International Tattoo as well as Korean War memorial ceremonies in the country. The Alliance Brass, an ensemble in the 8th Army Band, celebrated its 99th anniversary in Mongolia in June 2015 with a concert on Sükhbaatar Square.
The Korean Service Corps was a reserve force composed of South Korean volunteers who were augmented to the 8th Army. They provided labourers who were used to carry ammunition and supplies, and support the overall logistic elements of the army. It is today, a paramilitary civilian formation that is battalion-sized. Continuing is role as a combat service support unit, it is capable of being expanded and mobilized during a wartime situation.
|Portrait||Name||Took office||Left office||Term length|
Robert L. Eichelberger
|1 June 1944||4 August 1948||4 years, 64 days|
|4 August 1948||23 December 1950||2 years, 141 days|
|25 December 1950||12 April 1951||108 days|
James Van Fleet
|14 April 1951||11 February 1953||1 year, 303 days|
Maxwell D. Taylor
|11 February 1953||25 March 1955||2 years, 42 days|
|25 March 1955||5 June 1955||72 days|
Isaac D. White
|25 June 1955||1 July 1957||2 years, 6 days|
|1 July 1957||30 June 1959||1 year, 364 days|
Carter B. Magruder
|1 July 1959||30 June 1961||1 year, 364 days|
Guy S. Meloy
|1 July 1961||31 July 1963||2 years, 30 days|
Hamilton H. Howze
|1 August 1963||15 June 1965||1 year, 318 days|
Dwight E. Beach
|16 June 1965||31 August 1966||1 year, 76 days|
Charles H. Bonesteel III
|1 September 1966||30 September 1969||3 years, 29 days|
John H. Michaelis
|1 October 1969||31 August 1972||2 years, 335 days|
Donald V. Bennett
|1 September 1972||31 July 1973||333 days|
Richard G. Stilwell
|1 August 1973||8 October 1976||3 years, 68 days|
John W. Vessey Jr.
|8 October 1976||10 July 1979||2 years, 275 days|
John A. Wickham Jr.
|10 July 1979||4 June 1982||2 years, 329 days|
Robert W. Sennewald
|4 June 1982||1 June 1984||1 year, 363 days|
William J. Livsey
|1 June 1984||25 June 1987||3 years, 24 days|
Louis C. Menetrey Jr.
|25 June 1987||26 June 1990||3 years, 1 day|
Robert W. RisCassi
|26 June 1990||1 December 1992||2 years, 158 days|
William W. Crouch
|1 December 1992||18 October 1994||1 year, 321 days|
Richard F. Timmons
|19 October 1994||31 July 1997||2 years, 285 days|
Randolph W. House
|1 August 1997||25 September 1998||1 year, 55 days|
Daniel J. Petrosky
|25 September 1998||28 September 2000||2 years, 3 days|
Daniel R. Zanini
|28 September 2000||6 November 2002||2 years, 39 days|
Charles C. Campbell
|6 November 2002||10 April 2006||3 years, 155 days|
David P. Valcourt
|11 April 2006||17 February 2008||1 year, 312 days|
Joseph F. Fil Jr.
|18 February 2008||19 November 2010||2 years, 274 days|
John D. Johnson
|9 November 2010||26 June 2013||2 years, 229 days|
Bernard S. Champoux
|27 June 2013||2 February 2016||2 years, 220 days|
Thomas S. Vandal
|2 February 2016||5 January 2018||1 year, 337 days|
Michael A. Bills
|5 January 2018||2 October 2020||2 years, 271 days|
|2 October 2020||Incumbent||1 year, 233 days|
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