History of the Eighth United States Army
The Eighth U.S. Army was officially activated in the continental United States on June 10, 1944, and ordered to the Pacific where, under the command of Lt. Gen. Robert L. Eichelberger, it earned the sobriquet of "Amphibious Eighth" while making more than 60 "island-hopping" assaults. It assisted in the liberation of the Philippines and on July 1, 1945, assumed control of the
archipelago, bringing enemy resistance to an end. Eighth Army was being readied for the main assault on the Kanto Plain (Tokyo) of the Japanese main island, when V-J Day changed its mission. Along with the Sixth Army, EUSA provided the ground forces for the United States’ occupation of Japan. Occupational forces landed peacefully on August 30, 1945; first the northern portion and, after January 1, 1946,
all of Japan came under EUSA's jurisdiction.
Part of Eighth Army's post-war duties included disarming Japanese military forces; destroying the nation's war making potential; conducting the trial of war criminals; guiding the defeated nation into peaceful pursuits and the democratic way of life; encouraging economic rehabilitation, local autonomy, and education and land reform; guarding installations; protecting supply routes and watching over
The Pacific Campaign had been hard, rough, and costly; the occupation of Japan was interesting, challenging, and varied. Eighth Army's next challenge would again be demanding and bloody. The Cold War between East and West was rudely shattered in the Far East on June 25, 1950. North Korean troops, spearheaded by Russian-built tanks, invaded the Republic of Korea. The United Nations demanded a halt to the
aggression, then asked its members to aid South Korea. President Truman responded, on 25 June 1950, by directing General Mac Arthur to furnish Air Force, Navy and logistic assistance. This was promptly rendered, but north Korea's overwhelming strength quickly made it evident that only the commitment of outside ground forces could prevent an early conquest of South Korea by North Korea.
General Mac Arthur turned to the Eighth Army. Elements of the 24th Infantry Division entered Korea on June 30, 1950, establishing headquarters at Taejon. U.S. Army forward forces -- Task Force Smith -- were badly bloodied in a gallant, but disastrous, stand north of Osan on July 5 -- the first American ground engagement of the Korean War.
On July 6, the 25th Infantry Division was ordered to move to Pusan and, on that day, Lt. Gen. Walton H. Walker, who had succeeded Gen. Eichelberger in 1948, took command of U.S. Army forces in Korea. Temporary advance headquarters were established on July 7 at Taegu, and Eighth Army became operational in Korea by July 13. The north Koreans continued to push down the peninsula against the outnumbered
American and scattered Republic of Korea defenders. The 24th Inf. Div., struggling tenaciously to slow the invaders, surrendered Taejon on July 21 in street-by-street, house-by-house combat. The division's forces were spread as far south as Taegu and its commander, Maj. Gen. William F. Dean, was missing in the battle for Taejon. Although defeated there, EUSA gained time to stiffen its resistance with the
25th and 1st Cavalry Divisions arriving to man sectors of the shrinking front.
EUSA, with the remaining ROK forces assigned to it, was moved into the southeast corner of Korea which became known as the Pusan Perimeter. General Walker declared that Pusan would be no Dunkirk: "The Eighth Army would stay in Korea until the invader was expelled from the territory of the Republic of Korea." Fighting off continued attacks all across the perimeter, the Eighth Army held and grew
in strength .
On September 15, the X Corps, formed in Japan, poured ashore at Inchon in what is considered one of the world's outstanding tactical moves. It was the signal that Eighth Army had awaited. The next day, EUSA launched a general attack. The North Koreans resisted savagely for five days while United Nations Command air forces pounded their lines of communication and supply. Their defense crumbled, and EUSA
achieved a breakout and was on the road northward. With UNC forces fighting inland from Inchon towards Seoul, the invader's line of retreat was blocked. The north Korean withdrawal became a rout; only disorganized remnants were able to reach north Korea.
A new phase had begun. On October 7, the 1st Cavalry Division pushed across the 38th Parallel, which Republic of Korea troops had breached several days before. Eighth Army drove northward in the west against demoralized resistance. X Corps, transported by sea to Wonsan, followed ROK troops up the east coast. On October 19, the north Korean capital of Pyongyang fell. ROK troops reached the Yalu River on
Oct. 28. After pausing briefly to improve the logistical situation and regroup personnel, the UNC started a drive on November 24 to extend control over all north Korea. The next day, communist Chinese "volunteers" attacked across the Yalu in what Gen. Mac Arthur termed "a brand new war." The Eighth Army was pushed back by overwhelming numbers of fresh, well-equipped, and well-disciplined
Chinese forces who used the mountains to their great advantage.
Unable to establish a defensive line in North Korea, Eighth Army withdrew below the 38th Parallel. On Dec. 23, General Walker was killed in a jeep accident, and on Dec. 26, Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway assumed command of UNC ground forces in Korea. Under his direction, the enemy's offensive was stalled south of Seoul and the UNC made plans to strike back. By the end of May 1951, the battle lines were
established where today's Demilitarized Zone exists -- northeastward from the Han River Estuary in the west, less than 30 miles from Seoul, to north of the 38th Parallel on the east coast.
On April 11, 1951, General Ridgway replaced General Mac Arthur as Commander-in-Chief, United Nations Command (and as Supreme Commander U.S. Army Pacific and Commander-in-Chief, Far East) and Lt. Gen. James A. Van Fleet took command of the Eighth Army. On July 10, 1951, after a Soviet hint that talks would be welcome, truce negotiations were begun at Kaesong, on the 38th Parallel. The front lines, except
for periodic and bloody fights over particularly strategic terrain in what was called the "Hill War," stayed fairly constant.
A frustrating two years of stalemate ensued. The communists lacking hope of a military victory but with no desire for real peace, used the talks for propaganda, impossible demands, and irrelevant and divergent issues while hoping for some striking political victory. Eighth Army, meanwhile, had to maintain readiness for any renewal of hostilities. The UNC negotiators gradually got some issues settled, but
their determination not to return any unwilling prisoner of war was used by the communists as an excuse to stall on other issues as well.
On Feb. 1, 1953, Lt. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor succeeded to the Eighth Army command. President Eisenhower, who had pledged to end the Korean bloodshed, renewed the call for a cease fire. Recessed negotiations were resumed. An improving atmosphere was perceived in an agreement on exchange of sick and wounded POWs. Another breakdown in the talks was threatened when ROK President Syngman Rhee, who bitterly
opposed the truce negotiations in favor of a military victory, in June unilaterally released some 27,000 anti-Communist POWs. The UNC's patience, if not persuasion, prevailed and the Cease Fire Agreement was signed on July 27, 1953.
As General Taylor later told his troops, the cease fire did not mean that the war was over; it was a "suspension of hostilities -- an interruption of the shooting." And so it remains today.