GEN Van Fleet
1892 - 1992

Born: 19 Mar 1892               Died: 23 Sep 1992

Then Colonel James A. Van Fleet commanded the 8th Infantry Regiment from July 1941 to July 1944. Members of the 29th Field Artillery accompanied him as he led the 8th ashore at UTAH BEACH, during the June 6, 1944 Invasion of Normandy. He was assistant division commander of the 2nd Infantry Division during September-October 1944 during the the battle for, and liberation of Brest. He commanded the 90th Infantry Division from October, 1944 until March 17, 1945. He then commanded III Corps through VE Day, until his proposed redeployment to the Pacific Theater. After serving in World War II, he was promoted to Lieutenant General and headed the US military mission that aided the Greek army in its successful campaign against Communist guerillas from 1948 to 1950. He was the Field Commander of United Nations Forces in Korea from 1951 to 1953. He retired from active duty in 1953 with the rank of General. After his retirement, he served as a consultant to the Secretary of the Army on guerilla warfare from 1961 to 1962, and was an executive and director of several business firms.

World War II

"I am ashore with Colonel Simmons and General Roosevelt, advancing steadily (0940). ... Everything is going OK (1025).... Defense is not stubborn (2400)." Thus did Col. James A. Van Fleet report the progress of his 8th Infantry to his commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Raymond O. Barton of the 4th Division, on D Day, 6 June 1944. These messages were confirmed by liaison officers returning to the headquarters ship, U.S.S. Bayfield, after trips to the beach: "Everything is moving along very nicely." To Maj. Gen. J. Lawton Collins, commanding the VII Corps, these reports were reassuring indications that at least a foothold had been secured on the Cotentin Peninsula and with less difficulty than had been feared. Quotation from "From Utah Beach to Cherbourg"

Korean War

Gloucester (Gloster) Hill. Units: 1st Battalion, Gloster Regiment, 29th British Brigade. After withdrawal from North Korea, U.N.C. ground forces launched a series of successful advances toward Line Kansas just north of the 38th parallel. These were Operations Thunderbolt, Killer and Rugged. The enemy struck back in strength on April 22, 1951, attempting a double envelopment of I and IV Corps. Withdrawal of friendly units on I Corps' left flank isolated the Gloster Battalion. Repeated efforts by I Corps to relieve the unit were unsuccessful and the battalion, cut off and overrun, fought until its ammunition was gone. The Glosters' stand cost them 1,100 casualties; only four officers and 36 enlisted men made it back to U.N.C. lines. GEN James A. Van Fleet, then Eighth Army commander, called it "the most outstanding example of unit bravery in modern warfare."

The Punchbowl Battles, specifically Bloody and Heartbreak Ridges. Units: 2nd U.S. Inf Division, ROK I Corps, 1st U.S. Marine Division, and the French Battalion. Late in August 1951, after the truce negotiations had been suspended, Van Fleet, determined to resume the offensive in order to drive the enemy farther back from the Hwachon Reservoir (Seoul's source of water and electric power) and away from the Chorwon-Seoul railroad. Success in each of these enterprises would also straighten and shorten the U.N. front, give greater security to the KANSAS Line, and inflict damage on the enemy. Therefore, the U.N. commanders decided to put forth a major effort in the X Corps zone, using all five divisions in that corps to continue the ridge-top and mountain actions in the Punchbowl area. The U.S. 1st Marine Division, with ROK marine units attached, opened a drive against the northern portion of the Punchbowl August 31. Two days later the 2nd Division attacked northward against Bloody and Heartbreak Ridges in the vicinity of the Punchbowl's western edge and Taeu-san. Both assaults, delivered uphill by burdened, straining infantrymen, met with initial success. By September 3, the two divisions had reached their first objectives. General Van Fleet ordered them to continue the advance as far north as the northwesterly leg of the Soyang River above the Punchbowl. The 1st Marine Division attacked again September 11. After seven days of heavy fighting, with the enemy resolutely defending each ridge top from mutually supporting positions and yielding only after repeated counterattacks and seesaw struggles, the Marines secured their objectives September18. Meanwhile, the 2nd Division, on Bloody and Heartbreak Ridges west of the Punchbowl, was engaged in the fiercest action since spring. Like the Marines, the 2nd Division infantrymen, often carrying 60-mm mortar or 75-mm recoilless rifle rounds as well as their own ammunition and equipment, crawled hand-over-hand up towering, knife-crested ridges to assault the hard-fighting enemy who would yield a ridge only in desperation, then strike back in vigorous counterattack. The same crest often changed hands several times each day. By September 19, the X Corps front was stabilized except in the 2nd Division's zone. Supplied by airdrop and by sturdy Korean carriers with A-frames strapped to their backs, and heavily supported by aircraft and artillery, the 2nd Division fought bitterly. In one instance it delivered, within the space of 24 hours, no less than 11 separate assaults, all unsuccessful, against one ridge. The battle raged into October. Finally, on the 14th, after the enemy seemed to be willing to reopen the truce talks, the last ridge was secured and the 2nd Division consolidated its hard-won gains.

Front Tomstone Inscription

Rear Tomstone Inscription

A Truly Great Leader!

His Comrades Mourn His Loss !

Read His Brief Biography !
by LTC Harold Raugh

Photo At Page Top: Courtesy of Barry Friedman, The Ledger Online !




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