WWI | WWII | Cold War | Desert Storm | Post Cold War | Balkans | 21st Century

The U.S. Army has had strong European allies since the German Baron von Steuben, the Polish Gen. Kościuszko, the Hungarian Col. Kovats de Fabricy, and the French marquis de Lafayette, helped us win our first battles in the American Revolutionary War more than 230 years ago.



The American Expeditionary Forces or AEF were the United States Armed Forces sent to Europe in World War I. President Woodrow Wilson appointed Major General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing commander of the AEF in May 1917. By June 1917, 14,000 U.S. soldiers had already arrived in France, and by May 1918 over one million U.S. troops were stationed in France, half of them being on the front lines. Pershing insisted that the American force would not be used merely to fill gaps in the French and British armies, and he resisted European efforts to have U.S. troops deployed as individual replacements in decimated Allied units.

The AEF fought on the Western Front during the Aisne Offensive (at Château-Thierry and Belleau Wood) in June 1918, and fought its major actions in the Saint-Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne Offensives in late 1918. Late in the war American units ultimately fought in two other theaters at the request of European powers; Pershing sent troops of the 332nd Infantry to Italy, and President Wilson agreed to send troops, the 27th and 339th Infantry Regiments, to Russia; these latter two were known as the American Expeditionary Force Siberia, and the American Expeditionary Force North Russia. Victory was achieved on November 11, 1918.

American soldiers remained in Europe for some time as the demobilization continued, guarding against renewed hostilities. A newly activated Third Army crossed the French border into Germany on December 1, 1918, to occupy the region around Koblenz, between Luxembourg and the Rhine River. Eight U.S. divisions organized into three corps participated in the occupation of Germany. American occupation forces encountered no unusual difficulties with the populace, and their numbers were rapidly reduced after the Paris Peace Conference ended in May 1919. They numbered only about 15,000 by the beginning of 1920. After rejecting the Treaty of Versailles that resulted from the peace conference, the United States technically remained at war with Germany until a separate peace was signed in the summer of 1921. Occupying forces gradually withdrew after that, until the last thousand troops departed on January 24, 1923.

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On June 8, 1942 the War Department officially established the European Theater of Operations, U.S. Army, or ETOUSA (not to be confused with the joint United States European Command (USEUCOM) of today). Its mission was to conduct planning for the eventual retaking of Europe and to exercise operational control over U.S. forces.

That HQ has its roots in Europe in January 1942 when American soldiers opened a command post in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Fittingly, those first arrivals were the advance party of Headquarters, V Corps, which, until 2013 was still the centerpiece of USAREUR's combat forces.

Headquartered in London, ETOUSA was first commanded by Maj. Gen. James E. Chaney, an Army Air Corps officer. Then-Maj. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower replaced Chaney in late June, but the following month he departed England to assume new duties as the commander-in-chief of Operation Torch, the successful Allied invasion of North Africa. Eisenhower returned in January 1944 and the following month was officially designated as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe. He also maintained his leadership of ETOUSA, serving in a dual role until the end of hostilities in Europe in May 1945.

The command grew rapidly. At the end of January 1942 there were 4,000 American service members in the United Kingdom. That number swelled to 55,000 by the time ETOUSA was established in June, and by the end of the year 135,000 Americans were massed in Great Britain to train for the assault on the continent that would take place two years later on the beaches of Normandy. When the invasion was launched on June 6, 1944, more than 1.5 million U.S. Army personnel were on hand.

In addition to overseeing the buildup and training of combat forces, ETOUSA was also responsible for logistics and administrative services – functions that paralleled some of USAREUR's functions today.

When the war ended in Europe on May 8, 1945, the ETOUSA headquarters was located in Versailles, France, just outside Paris. As Eisenhower and his staff began to prepare for the occupation of Germany, the ETOUSA headquarters staff moved to Frankfurt, Germany, and co-located with the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces and the Office of Military Government, United States. ETOUSA was re-designated as U.S. Forces, European Theater (USFET) on July 1, 1945, with its headquarters remaining at Frankfurt.

At the end of the war, the total U.S. Army strength in Europe was almost 1.9 million: two Army groups (6th and 12th), five field armies (First, Third, Seventh, Ninth and Fifteenth), 13 corps headquarters, and 62 combat divisions (43 infantry, 16 armor, and 3 airborne). Within a year rapid redeployments had brought the occupation forces down to fewer than 290,000 personnel, and many of the larger formations had departed or been inactivated. Seventh Army headquarters remained in control of the western portion of the American zone, and Third Army controlled the eastern portion. In November 1945, the two field army commanders organized district "constabularies" based on cavalry groups, and on May 1, 1946, the zone-wide U.S. Constabulary headquarters was activated at Bamberg. From then until the early 1950s, the structure of the American occupation forces consisted of the 1st Infantry Division, a separate infantry regiment, and the U.S. Constabulary of 10 cavalry regiments.

On March 15, 1947, USFET was re-designated as European Command (not to be confused with the present joint command, USEUCOM), and between February and June 1948 the headquarters relocated to the Campbell Barracks in Heidelberg, where it remained until 2013.

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Cold War

The Berlin Blockade began June 24, 1948 when the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies' railway and road access to the sectors of Berlin under Allied control. General Lucius D. Clay, in charge of the US Occupation Zone in Germany, gave the order for the Berlin Airlift. Headquartered out of Wiesbaden Army Airfield, the Allies supplied almost 9,000 tons per day of supplies to the beleaguered city until the blockade was lifted on May 12, 1949.

From 1948 to 1950, the Cold War began to warm, and the outbreak of hostilities in Korea heightened East-West tensions in Europe. The Seventh Army was reactivated at Stuttgart in late November 1950, the V and VII Corps headquarters were organized, and four divisions were alerted to move back to Europe from the United States. The first to arrive was the 4th Infantry Division in May 1951, followed by the 2nd Armored Division and the 43rd and 28th Infantry Divisions during summer and fall of 1951.

A new joint United States European Command (USEUCOM) was established on Aug. 1, 1952. On that day, the Army headquarters at Heidelberg, formerly known as EUCOM, became Headquarters, United States Army, Europe.

In 1953, the Korean War Armistice was signed, and tensions began to ease in Europe. About 13,500 soldiers manned each of the USAREUR divisions. New equipment fielded at the time included the M-48 tank, the M-59 armored personnel carrier, and tactical nuclear weapons.

On July 15, 1958 USAREUR forces were ordered to assist the Lebanese government. Task Force 201, the Army component of Operation Blue Bat rapidly deployed more than 8,000 Soldiers from Europe to Beirut by air and sea. As the situation quickly stabilized, all U.S. forces redeployed from the country within 4 months.

Although the open East-West conflict had ended, political tensions remained high in Europe. Particularly troublesome was the impasse over the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany, the former British, French and U.S. zones of occupation) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany, the former Soviet zone of occupation). Berlin posed an additional problem; it was surrounded by East Germany, but Great Britain, France, the United States, and the Soviet Union all occupied sectors in the city. At that time, travel between the sectors was unrestricted. At the time Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev announced in June 1961 that the Soviet Union was planning to conclude a peace treaty with the East German government, 3,000 East German refugees flowed daily into Berlin.

Suddenly on the night of Aug. 12, 1961, the Soviets closed the border crossing points and began to construct the Berlin Wall, isolating the three western sectors of the city both from East Germany and the Soviet sector, or East Berlin.

In response, the United States deployed an additional armored cavalry regiment to Europe, along with additional support units. USAREUR strength reached an all-time high of 277,342 in June 1962 as the crisis deepened. The command dispatched a reinforced infantry battle group to Berlin to strengthen the existing garrison.

The crisis cooled in Berlin from 1962 to 1963, and augmenting forces returned to the United States. Equipment modernization programs during this period included the M-113 armored personnel carrier, the M-14 rifle, the M-60 machine gun, the OV-1 fixed wing observation aircraft, the UH-1B Huey helicopter, the M-151 jeep, and the M-60 tank.

On Dec. 1, 1966, the separate headquarters of Seventh Army was eliminated, and USAREUR became Headquarters, U.S. Army, Europe, and Seventh Army. At the same time, France withdrew from the military structure of NATO, and U.S. forces were withdrawn from France. The communications zone headquarters moved from Orleans, France, to Worms, Germany, (and later to Kaiserslautern, where as 21st Theater Sustainment Command it remains today). USEUCOM moved to Stuttgart.

The first Redeployment of Forces From Germany (REFORGER) took place in 1968, with the removal of about 28,000 military personnel from Germany. The units and personnel withdrawn remained committed to NATO and during REFORGER I – Return of Forces To Germany – conducted in January 1969, more than 12,000 soldiers returned to Germany for an exercise using pre-positioned equipment.

In the 1970s, USAREUR continued to improve its firepower when it received the new M-16A1 rifle, the TOW anti-tank weapon, the OH-58 observation helicopter, and the AH-1G Cobra helicopter.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the needs of the war in Vietnam reduced USAREUR's assigned strength, sometimes drastically. As the war began to wane, forces began to return to Europe, and USAREUR adopted a new system based upon the community commander concept. In 1974, efforts to streamline the headquarters resulted in the termination of the U.S. Theater Army Support Command, and its replacement by a smaller organization, the 21st Theater Army Area Command, now known as 21st TSC.

During the 1970s, force protection concerns grew as various groups conducted terror operations targeting U.S. facilities and personnel with bombings, kidnapping and assassinations. In May 1972 bombs exploded at V Corps headquarters Frankfurt, killing an Army lieutenant colonel, and in Heidelberg at Campbell Barracks, killing three Soldiers. U.S. installations were attacked sporadically throughout the remainder of the decade, including a failed 1977 attack on a U.S. Army base in Giessen. On Sept. 15, 1982, an assassination attempt was made on USAREUR commander Gen. Frederick J. Kroesen and his wife as they were driving through Heidelberg—the automobile trunk lid was hit by a RPG-7 anti-tank projectile. In 1985 a Soldier was lured out of a Wiesbaden nightclub and killed for his ID card which was then used to enter Rhein-Main Air Base the next day to plant a bomb that killed two. In 1986 a bombing at a Berlin disco frequented by service members kills two Soldiers.

Despite these threats, the Warsaw Pact remained the primary focus for U.S. leaders and soldiers. Planning and exercises strengthening USAREUR’s ability to deter a Communist attack led to increased numbers of combat and support units concurrently with a wide-ranging modernization in the decade of the 1980s. More than 400 new systems were introduced, including individual weapons, field rations, the M1Al Abrams tank, the M2 and M3 Bradley series of cavalry and infantry fighting vehicles, the multiple launch rocket system, the Patriot air defense system, the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and the AH-64A Apache helicopter. Complete divisional sets of equipment were pre-positioned in climate-controlled facilities close to airfields and ports to expedite the arrival of reinforcing divisions from the Army’s active and reserve forces. These units rehearsed their roles in annual REFORGER exercises, which also included forces from all members of the NATO alliance. The result was interoperability and confidence.

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Desert Storm

The dramatic events of the late 1980s – the opening of the Berlin Wall, German reunification, and the collapse of the Soviet Union – combined to change USAREUR again. Intermediate nuclear weapons were withdrawn, chemical weapons were moved out of Europe, and units began to depart the European continent while others were inactivated.

Then Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

The first deployments from USAREUR to Saudi Arabia in August 1990 included the 45th Medical Company and advance elements of the 12th Aviation Brigade, which by September had deployed two Apache attack helicopter battalions, a Kiowa scout helicopter company, a Black Hawk utility helicopter company, a Chinook platoon, and associated support and maintenance units.

These were quickly followed by intelligence specialists, chemical warfare experts, logistical personnel, many individual replacements, and finally almost the entire VII Corps.

The command eventually deployed more than 75,000 personnel plus 1,200 tanks, 1,700 armored combat vehicles, more than 650 pieces of artillery, and more than 325 aircraft. When the war ended, many USAREUR soldiers remained to complete the logistical cleanup; others were deployed to northern Iraq or Turkey to aid refugees. Upon return to Europe, many also found that their units were in the process of either relocating to CONUS or inactivating.

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Post Cold-War

In 1992 alone, about 70,000 soldiers redeployed to CONUS with about 90,000 family members. The command shrank from 213,000 soldiers in 1990 to 122,000 in 1992. From 858 installations in 1990, USAREUR went down to only 415 in 1993 with more scheduled to close in the years ahead.

After the Gulf War and the subsequent drawdowns, USAREUR faced a wholly different challenge in Europe. The command was engaged in humanitarian support operations, to include disaster relief and rescue and recovery, peacekeeping and non-combatant evacuations. Between 1990 and 1993 the command supported 42 deployments, which involved a total of 95,579 personnel.

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Conflict in the Balkans quickly became one of the U.S. Department of Defense’s primary areas of focus, and peace enforcement in Bosnia was a harbinger of future military operations. From 1990 to 1995 USAREUR conducted mostly humanitarian operations in the area. In Oct. 1992, we sent the 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital and personnel from the 7th Medical Command to Zagreb, Bosnia to provide medical support for Former Yugoslavia United Nations Protective Force (UNPROFOR) casualties.  Throughout 1993-1995, USAREUR's 5th Quartermaster Company, in conjunction with U.S. Air Force Europe, delivered humanitarian aid to the region.

In the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in June 1993, the command formed Task Force Able Sentry in Macedonia with the headquarters at Camp Able Sentry near the capital Skopje.  These forces, along with personnel from 26 other countries, were originally part of the U.N. Protection Force or UNPROFOR which in 1995 became the U.N. Preventative Deployment force (UNPREDEP) deterring the spread of armed conflict. Upon expiration of the initial UN mandate in February 1999, we renamed the U.S. Army organization Task Force Sabre, with the task to protect U.S. facilities and equipment. They were relieved in June 1999 by the U.S. national support element to KFOR-Task Force Falcon (Rear). U.S. Soldiers left Camp Able Sentry in 2002, but it remained as a contractor operated logistics base until Aug. 2004 when all U.S. personnel departed and NATO assumed control of the camp.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, after agreement to the Dayton Peace Accords in Nov. 1995, USAREUR's 1st Armored Division began deploying there in December, with the first C-130 landing in Tuzla, Bosnia, Dec. 2, and the first trains departing Germany Dec. 8.  One major barrier to the deployment of the 1st Armored Division was the bridge over the Sava River, which was destroyed during the four-year civil war. Construction of the longest assault float bridge in military history, 620 meters long, ribbon float (pontoon) bridge between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina began on Dec. 22. Despite melting snow that flooded the river and freezing temperatures, the bridge was completed on Dec. 31 and the first M1A1 Abrams tank crossed the bridge at 10 a.m. The division, along with many reserve component support troops, formed Task Force Eagle as part of the NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR) (also known as Operation Joint Endeavor) with the mission to implement and monitor the military aspects of the agreement, enforce the cease-fire, supervise the marking of boundaries and the zone of separation between the former warring factions, and enforce the withdrawal of the combatants to their barracks and the movement of heavy weapons to storage sites. It was the first time a NATO sponsored force had deployed operationally outside the NATO boundaries. IFOR was succeeded in Dec. 1996 by a smaller, NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) (Operation Joint Guard) whose mission was to deter renewed hostilities. On June 20, 1998 the mission was renamed Operation Joint Forge, and USAREUR continued to serve as the Army service component command providing oversight for the mission. On Nov. 24, 2004, Task Force Eagle officially disestablished and closed its base in Tuzla, with European Union forces assuming responsibility for the Bosnia mission.

In early 1999, in response to growing ethnic tensions in Kosovo and military and paramilitary forces in daily conflict resulting in the more than 1,500 Kosovar Albanian deaths and 400,000 refugees, USAREUR's 1st Infantry Division formed Task Force Falcon.  On June 9, 1999, after an inconclusive air campaign, Task Force Falcon deployed forces in the largest combined air-rail-sea-road movement since Operation Desert Storm, entering Kosovo on June 12, 1999, as part of Operation Joint Guardian, a NATO-led peacekeeping force with a UN mandate to separate warring factions, oversee the withdrawal of Serb forces and interdict the flow of arms to insurgents. On Feb. 17, 2008, the Kosovo Assembly declared Kosovo independent. Currently, the U.S. Army, with approx. 800 Soldiers, has the lead for Multinational Battle Group East (MNBG-E) in the eastern region, headquartered near Uroševac at Camp Bondsteel as part of KFOR. Contributing nations include Greece, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine. The majority of U.S. Soldiers come from U.S. Army National Guard units, with a different state taking over the lead for each rotation of approximately nine months.

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21st Century

Following the September 2001 attacks, USAREUR became a logistics hub for operations in the Central Command AOR.  Furthermore, V Corps headquarters and the 173rd Airborne Brigade deployed to Iraq in 2003.  After that campaign 1st Armored Division followed on occupation duties.  After the return of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and 1st Armored Division, the 1st Infantry Division deployed to Iraq.

Spc. Ross McGinnis from 1st Infantry Division in Schweinfurt was the second U.S. Soldier to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq. Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta became the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since Vietnam for actions in Afghanistan with the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

U.S. Army's modularization transformation relocated the 1st Infantry Division to Fort Riley, Kansas and the 1st Armored Division moved to Fort Bliss, Texas in 2010-2011 after its return from a year long deployment to Iraq.

Currently U.S. Army Europe consists of the USAREUR HQ, 21st Theater Sustainment Command, 7th Army Training Command and its subordinate Joint Multinational Readiness Center (the only OCONUS combat training center in the Army) 2nd Cavalry Regiment, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, 173rd Airborne Brigade, along with Intelligence, Signal and Medical support elements.

Today, as USAREUR engages allies throughout our 51-country Area of Operations via combined exercises and security cooperation partnerships. And, as U.S. forces prosecute the war on terrorism, USAREUR units and individual soldiers are deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

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