The First United States Army was a field army of the United States Army. It now serves a mobilization, readiness and training command.
Establishment and World War I
First Army was established on August 10, 1918 as a field army when sufficient American military manpower had arrived in France during World War I. As an element of the American Expeditionary Force in the latter stages of World War I it was the first of three field armies established under the AEF. Serving in its ranks were many figures who later played important roles in World War II. First Army was inactivated in April 1919.
The Years Between the World Wars
As part of an army reorganization and final realization of the 1920 amendment to the National Defense Act of 1916, Army Chief of Staff, General Douglas MacArthur directed the establishment of four field armies that each commanded three corps areas that were geographically located. The field armies were established to provide organizational structure for large military organizations that might be mobilized in time of national need.
First Army was located in the northeast United States and was activated on September 11, 1933 at Fort Jay, Governors Island, New York. Initially activated as a paper army, it was commanded by General Dennis E. Nolan. Until 1942, First Army's commander was always the senior commander of one of its three corps areas. The First Corps Area was headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, Second Corps Area was headquartered at Fort Jay, Governors Island in New York, New York and Third Corps Area was located at Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Maryland. Since First Army was only a paper organization in its early days, its staff was the existing staff of the corps areas. The overall mission of the First Army and its corps areas was commanding and training regular army, army reserve and national guard units in the three corps areas.
Nolan, the American Expeditionary Force's (AEF) chief of intelligence during World War I was followed by Major General Fox Conner, First Corps Area commander and another AEF veteran and its Chief of Operations. In the years after World War I, Conner was a crucial mentor in the careers of Dwight Eisenhower and George C. Marshall. Passed over as a candidate for Army Chief of Staff for Douglas MacArthur, Conner retired.
In 1938, First Army came under command of General Hugh A. Drum who along with a build up of the Army in the late 1930s and early 1940s began to develop it into a bonafide field army in servicewide maneuvers in Louisiana and North Carolina between 1939 and 1941. Drum commanded First Army during the early years of World War II. The corps areas were reorganized in to service commands with their own commanders, handling routine state-side Army supply, logistics and housekeeping chores.
Drum was assigned a new command of the newly established Eastern Defense Command, responsible for coastal and domestic defense. Drum retired in 1943 when he reached mandatory retirement age. General George Grunert, commander of Second Service Command assumed command of First Army until Headquarters, First Army was activated in Bristol England in January 1944 under command of General Omar Bradley.
World War II
After the US entered World War II, the army moved overseas to Bristol, England in October 1943 to prepare for D-Day, the invasion of Normandy.
Upon going ashore on D-Day, First Army came under 21st Army Group and commanded all American ground forces. Three American divisions were landed by sea at the Western end of the beaches, and two more were landed by air. On Utah Beach the assault troops had a relatively easy time, but Omaha Beach came nearest of all of the five landing areas to disaster. The two American airborne divisions that landed were scattered all over the landscape, and caused considerable confusion amongst the German soldiers, as well as largely securing their objectives, albeit it with units completely mixed up with each other. First Army captured much of the early gains of the Allied forces in Normandy. Once the beachheads were joined up, its troops struck west and isolated the Cotentin Peninsula, and then captured Cherbourg. When the American Mulberry harbour was wrecked by a storm, Cherbourg became much more vital than it had been thought it would be.
After the capture of Cherbourg, First Army struck south. In Operation Cobra, its forces finally managed to break through the German lines. The newly established Third Army was then fed through the gap and raced across France. The Army then passed from the control of 21st Army Group to the newly arrived 12th Army Group. First Army followed Third Army and helped to surround the Falaise pocket. After capturing Paris, First Army headed towards the south of the Netherlands.
When the Germans attacked during the Battle of the Bulge, First Army found itself on the north side of the salient, and thus isolated from 12th Army Group, its commanding authority. It was thus transferred back (on December 20) to 21st Army Group. The salient was reduced by early February 1945. Following the Battle of the Bulge, the Rhineland Campaign began, and First Army was transferred back to 12th Army Group. In Operation Lumberjack, First Army closed up to the lower Rhine by 5 March, and the higher parts of the river five days later.
On 7 March, in one of the great strokes of luck of war, First Army found an intact bridge across the Rhine at Remagen. It crossed the river in force quickly. By 4 April, an enormous pocket had been created by First Army and Ninth Army, which contained the German Army Group B under Field Marshal Model, the last significant combat force in the north west of Germany. Whilst some elements of First Army concentrated upon reducing the Ruhr pocket, others headed further east, creating another pocket containing the German Eleventh Army. First Army reached the Elbe by 18 April. There the advance halted, as that was the agreed demarcation zone between the American and Soviet forces. First Army and Soviet forces met on 25 April. Advance elements of First Army headquarters were preparing to deploy to the Pacific theater of the war to prepare for Operation Coronet, the planned second phase of the proposed invasion of Japan, but the Japanese surrender in August 1945 terminated that effort.
Post War and Peacetime Missions
First Army returned to the United States in 1946. Since then, during its active periods, it has controlled training formations in the United States itself. Immediately after the war, First Army was headquartered at Fort Jay, Governors Island, New York. Twenty years later, in 1966, First Army and Second Army were merged and relocated to Fort Meade, Maryland. In 1973, First Army's mission changed from training and preparation of active units to Army Reserve units. In a 1993 reorganization, five divisions carried out that training and support mission:
- 75th Division, Houston, TX
- 78th "Lightning" Division, Edison, NJ
- 85th "Custer" Division, Arlington Heights, IL
- 87th "Golden Acorn" Division, Birmingham, AL
- 91st "Wild West" Division, Dublin, CA
In 1995, Headquarters First Army relocated to Fort Gillem, near Atlanta, Georgia and became responsible for the training and mobilization of all Army Reserve and National Guard units in the United States and providing assistance to the civilian sector during national emergencies and natural disasters. First Army's contributions during the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster was one of the few bright spots in leading federal relief efforts in the aftermath of the storm. Its commander, Russel L. Honoré, a Louisiana native, became a nationally recognized figure in his direct, no-nonsense approach to disaster relief which earned First Army a Joint Meritorious Unit Award.
In the 21st Century, First Army was subjected to more changes as base closures and force structures were instituted to modernize and economize its mission. In 2005, a BRAC decision called for the relocation of First Army headquarters to Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois. Its former quarters at Fort Giliam will become a single national location for the mobilization and demobilization of Army National Guard and Reserve units.
As part of the 2006 Transformation of the United States Army program, First Army exchanged its civilian assistance mission for the training and support missions for military units in the western United States formally held by US Fifth Army. Fifth Army then became U.S. Army, North with responsibilities for homeland defense and domestic emergency assistance. First Army also inactivated its training divisions, reflagging then as separate training brigades under two sub commands, First Army, Division East, headquarterd at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, and First Army, Division West, headquartered at Fort Carson, Colorado. Division East oversees First Army's responsibilities in all states east of the Mississippi River while Division West oversees units in all states west of the Mississippi River.
- The First United States Army was organized on August 10, 1918 in the Regular Army in France as Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, First Army.
- Headquarters Troop was reorganized and redesignated in September 1918 as Troop A, Headquarters Battalion, First Army. It saw action in the American Expeditionary Force in the latter stages of World War I and included many figures who were later to become very famous, such as Douglas MacArthur.
- Troop A, Headquarters Battalion, First Army was redesignated on March 1, 1919, as Headquarters Troop, First Army, and Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, First Army, demobilized on April 20, 1919 in France.
- First Army was Constituted August 15, 1927 in the Regular Army as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Seventh Army, but was Redesignated October 13, 1927 as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, First Army.
- Headquarters, First Army activated October 1, 1933 at Fort Jay, Governors Island, New York. It had the mission of training Army formations at the time, as did all the other field armies.
- Headquarters Company activated November 18, 1940 at Fort Jay, Governors Island, New York.
- October 1943, Headquarters First Army relocated from Fort Jay, Governors Island, New York to Bristol, England in anticipation of Normandy invasion.
- A separate First Army was Reconstituted on June 27, 1944 in the Regular Army as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, First Army; concurrently consolidated with the original Headquarters and Headquarters Company, First Army. The consolidated unit designated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, First Army.
- First Army Headquarters returns to Fort Jay, Governors Island, New York in 1946.
- First Army was Redesignated January 1, 1957 as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, First United States Army.
- Merger of First and Second Army, relocation of headquarters to Fort Meade and closure of Fort Jay, Governors Island, New York announced November 20, 1964.
- January 1, 1966, the First and Second U.S. Armies merged and First Army headquarters moved to Fort Meade, Maryland.
- Headquarters Company inactivated June 5, 1970 at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, while Headquarters, First U.S. Army continued to function.
- In 1973 the First Army again changed its orientation to improving the readiness of the Reserve Components.
- In 1995, First Army headquarters was moved to Fort Gillem, Georgia (the former Atlanta Army Depot).
- 2005, First Army is awarded a Joint Meritorious Unit Award for leading federal response to Hurricane Katrina.
- In 2006, it was announced that subject to Base Realingment and Closure Act, Fort Gillem will eventually be closed and First Army headquarters relocated to Rock Island Arsenal Illinois.
- December 1, 2006, First Army reorganizes and reflags its five Reserve Component Training Support Divisions into 16 training brigades and establishes two sub-commands, First Army Division East and First Army Division West. First Army East at Fort Meade, Maryland administers 10 brigades east of the Mississippi River and First Army West at Fort Carson, Colorado, assumes the training responsibilities with 6 brigades formally held by U.S. Fifth Army. Fifth Army becomes U.S. Army, North, and assumes First Army's domestic assistance duties.
First U.S. Army Honors
Campaign Participation credit
- World War I
- St. Mihiel
- Lorraine 1918
- World War II
- Normandy (with arrowhead)
- Northern France
- Central Europe
Joint Meritorious Unit Award
for leading the Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina
Units of the First Army
First Army Division East - Fort Meade, Maryland
- 157th "Spartan" Infantry Brigade - Fort Jackson, SC. Formally the 87th Division's 5th Brigade.
- 158th "Warrior" Infantry Brigade - Patrick Air Force Base, FL. Formally the 87th Division's 2nd Brigade.
- 174th "Patriot" Infantry Brigade - Fort Drum, NY. Formerly the 78th Division's 2nd Brigade.
- 181st "Eagle" Infantry Brigade - Fort McCoy, WI. Formerly the 85th Division's 2nd Brigade.
- 188th "Battle Ready" Infantry Brigade - Fort Stewart, GA. Formerly the 87th Division's 4th Brigade.
- 189th "Bayonet" Infantry Brigade - Fort Bragg, NC. Formerly the 78th Division's 4th Brigade.
- 72nd "Warrior Eagle" Field Artillery Brigade - Fort Meade, MD. Formerly the 78th Division's 5th Brigade.
- 4th "Saber" Cavalry Brigade - Fort Knox, KY. Formerly the 85th Division's 4th Brigade.
- 177th "Mudcats" Armored Brigade - Camp Shelby, MS. Formerly the 87th Division's 3rd Brigade.
- 205th "Bayonet" Infantry Brigade - Indianapolis, IN. Formerly the 85th Division's 3rd Brigade.
First Army Division West - Fort Carson, Colorado
- 120th Infantry Brigade - Fort Sam Houston, TX. Formerly the 75th Division's 2nd Brigade.
- 191st Infantry Brigade - Fort Lewis, WA. Formerly the 91st Division's 4th Brigade.
- 5th Armored Brigade - Fort Carson, CO. Formerly the 91st Division's 2nd Brigade.
- 402nd Field Artillery Brigade - Travis Air Force Base, CA. Formerly the 91st Division's 3rd Brigade.
- 479th Field Artillery Brigade - Fort Sill, OK. Formerly the 75th Division's 4th Brigade.
- 166th Aviation Brigade - Fort Riley, KS. Formerly the 75th Division's 3rd Brigade.
- After Action Report First U.S. Army, 1–3 December 1944. Fort Jackson, 1945.
- American Battle Monuments Commission. American Armies and Battlefields in Europe. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1938. Reprint. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1992.
- Blumenson, Martin. Breakout and Pursuit. United States Army in World War II. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1961.
- Borovatz, Frank M. "First United States Army: A Working Army". Army Digest 25 (February 1970): 4–8.
- A Brief History of the First United States Army From 1918 to 1946. Fayetteville, N. C.: Worth Publishing Co., 1947.
- Cole, Hugh M. The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge. United States Army in World War II. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1965.
- Cole, Hugh M. The Lorraine Campaign. United States Army in World War II. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1950.
- First Army, TI&E Section. History of the United States First Army. Fort Jay, 1953.
- First United States Army Combat Operations Data, Europe, 1944–45. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1948.
- First United States Army Report of Operations, 20 October 1943–1 August 1944. 7 vols. Paris, 1944.
- First United States Army Report of Operations, 1 August 1944 to 22 February 1945. 4 vols. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1946.
- First United States Army Report of Operations, 23 February–8 May 1945. 3 vols. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1946.
- Gabel, Christopher R. The U.S. Army GHQ Maneuvers of 1941. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1991.
- Hallas, James H. Squandered Victory: The American First Army at St. Mihiel. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Pubs., 1996.
- Harbord, James G. The American Army in France, 1917–1919. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1936.
- Harrison, Gordon A. Cross-Channel Attack. United States Army in World War II. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1951.
- Historical Section, Army War College. Order of Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War; American Expeditionary Forces; General Headquarters, Armies, Army Corps, Services of Supply, and Separate Forces. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1937. Reprint. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1988.
- Historical Section, Army War College. The Genesis of the American First Army. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1929. 2d ed. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1938.
- Liggett, Hunter. Commanding an American Army, Recollections of the World War. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1925.
- MacDonald, Charles B. The Last Offensive. United States Army in World War II. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1973.
- MacDonald, Charles B. The Siegfried Line Campaign. United States Army in World War II. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1963.
- "Why Didn't They Let First Army Win the War?" Army 9 (April 1959):48–52.
- Pershing, John J. My Experiences in the World War. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Co., 1931.
- Pogue, Forrest C. The Supreme Command. United States Army in World War II. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1954.
- Report of the Commanding General, First Army, American Expeditionary Forces: Organizations and Operations, First Army, A.E.F. France, 1919.
- Report of the First Army, American Expeditionary Forces: Organization and Operations. Fort Leavenworth: General Service Schools Press, 1923.
- Report of the First Army, American Expeditionary Forces, Organization and Operations, General John J Pershing, Aug. 10, 1918; Lieutenant General Hunter Liggett, Oct. 16, 1918, Apr. 20, 1919. Fort Leavenworth, Kans.: General Service School Press, 1923.
- "Salute to the Numbered U.S. Armies". Army Information Digest 17 (October 1962):32–39.
- Walker, Glenn D. "First U.S. Army: A New Challenge". Army 23 (October 1973):72–76.
- Ziemke, Earl F. The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany 1944–1946. Army Historical Series. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1975.