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James Van Fleet

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Subject: Eighth United States Army, National Football Foundation Distinguished American Award, 8th Infantry Regiment (United States), Battle of Triangle Hill, First Battle of Maryang San
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James Van Fleet

James Van Fleet
Head-and-shoulders photo of General James Van Fleet, 60-year-old white man shown wearing khaki uniform blouse, four-star insignia and neckerchief.
General James Van Fleet, commanding officer, U.S. Eighth Army, c. 1953.
Birth name James Alward Van Fleet
Born (1892-03-19)March 19, 1892
Coytesville (Fort Lee, New Jersey
Died September 23, 1992(1992-09-23) (aged 100)
Polk City, Florida
Buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1915–1953
Rank General
Commands held
Other work
  • Football Coach
  • Diplomat
  • Businessman
  • Author
  • Rancher

James Alward Van Fleet (March 19, 1892 – September 23, 1992) was a U.S. Army officer during World War I, World War II and the Korean War. Van Fleet was a native of New Jersey, who was raised in Florida and graduated from the U.S. Military Academy. He served as a regimental, divisional and corps commander during World War II and as the commanding General of U.S. Army and other United Nations forces during the Korean War.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Military career 2
  • World War II 3
  • Post World War II 4
  • Korea 5
  • Legacy and death 6
  • Awards and decorations 7
  • Promotions 8
  • Head coaching record 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • Bibliography 12
  • External links 13

Early life and education

James Van Fleet was born in the Coytesville section of Fort Lee, New Jersey, but his parents moved to Florida when he was an infant and he was raised there. Van Fleet received his high school education at the Summerlin Institute in Bartow, Florida.

After graduating from Summerlin in 1911, Van Fleet received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. While he was a cadet at West Point, he was a member of the Army football team and was a standout fullback on the undefeated Army team of 1914. Van Fleet graduated in the West Point Class of 1915 that included many future generals, and which military historians have called "the class the stars fell on." Van Fleet's classmates included Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley. After graduation, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army infantry.

Military career

During World War I, he served as a battalion commander as part of the American Expeditionary Force under General John J. Pershing.

While serving as the senior officer of the University of Florida's U.S. Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program, Van Fleet also served as the head coach of the Florida Gators football team in 1923 and 1924, after assisting William G. Kline for a year.[1][2] He led the Gators into national prominence with a 12–3–4 (.737) record.[2]

World War II

Van Fleet commanded the 8th Infantry Regiment for three years and led it into combat in Europe in George Marshall, erroneously confused Van Fleet with a well-known alcoholic officer with a similar name.

When Eisenhower, now the European Theater commander, informed Marshall of his mistake, Van Fleet was soon promoted to divisional and corps command. On 17 March 1945, he replaced General Third Army.[4]

Post World War II

In 1946, Van Fleet was sent to Greece as the executor of the "Truman Doctrine," and he was instrumental in the outcome of the Greek Civil War by providing advice to the Greek government and 250 military advisers, as well as administering $400 million in military aid.[5] The central square in the northern Greek city of Kastoria has featured a bust of Van Fleet for many years, and was replaced with a new statue as recently as 2007.

Van Fleet was commanding general of the Second United States Army from August 10, 1950 to April 11, 1951.


In April 1951, Van Fleet replaced General Matthew B. Ridgway as commander of the U.S. Eighth Army and United Nations forces in Korea when Ridgway took over for General MacArthur upon MacArthur's recall to the United States. He continued Ridgway's efforts to strengthen the Eighth Army in its campaign against numerically superior Communist Chinese and North Korean enemy forces. His only son, U.S. Air Force Captain James A. Van Fleet, Jr., was a B-26 bomber pilot who was killed in the Korean War.[6]

Legacy and death

At the time of his retirement from active duty on March 31, 1953, former President Harry S. Truman said "General Van Fleet is the greatest general we have ever had . . . I sent him to Greece and he won the war. I sent him to Korea and he won the war."[7] Van Fleet was the recipient of three Distinguished Service Crosses (the U.S. Army's second highest award for bravery in combat),[8] three Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars, three Purple Hearts for wounds received in combat, and his most prized possession—the Combat Infantryman's Badge of the common foot soldier.[7] He appeared on the July 26, 1953, episode of What's My Line?.[9]

In 1957, Van Fleet was the moving spirit behind the establishment in New York of the

Van Fleet died in his sleep on his ranch outside Polk City, Florida on September 23, 1992, several months after celebrating his 100th birthday in 1992.[7] He was the oldest living general officer in the United States at the time of his death. Van Fleet was buried in Section 7 of Arlington National Cemetery.

Shortly after his death, The Korea Society established its annual James A. Van Fleet Award to recognize those who have made outstanding contributions to closer U.S.-Korea ties. The Gen. James A. Van Fleet State Trail, running from Polk City to Mabel, Florida, is also named in his honor. The University of Florida bestowed an honorary doctorate on him in 1946, and the university's military sciences building, which houses the U.S. Air Force, Army and Navy ROTC programs, is named Van Fleet Hall.[10] He was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as an "honorary letter winner" in 1971.[11][12] In 1998, a panel of Florida historians and other consultants named Van Fleet one of the fifty most important Floridians of the 20th century.[13]

Van Fleet's estate donated his papers to the George C. Marshall Foundation, and are the second largest collection of papers held by the foundation, after those of General Marshall.

General Van Fleet was also an art collector and donated many rare and exceptional Asian objects to the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art.

Van Fleet and his wife, Helen Moore Van Fleet (1892-1984), had three children, eight grandchildren, and twelve great-grandchildren.

Awards and decorations

Van Fleet's personal decorations include:
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Silver star
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
1st Row Combat Infantryman Badge
2nd Row Distinguished Service Cross
w/ two Oak leaf clusters
Distinguished Service Medal
w/ three Oak leaf clusters
3rd Row Silver Star
w/ two Oak leaf clusters
Bronze Star
w/ two Oak leaf clusters
Purple Heart
w/ two Oak leaf clusters
Air Medal
w/ one Oak leaf cluster
4th Row Army Commendation Medal Mexican Border Service Medal World War I Victory Medal w/ 3 bronze service stars Army of Occupation of Germany Medal
5th Row American Defense Service Medal American Campaign Medal European-African-Middle Eastern
Campaign Medal
w/ Arrowhead
and five Service stars
World War II Victory Medal
6th Row Army of Occupation Medal National Defense Service Medal Korean Service Medal
w/ seven Service stars
United Nations Korea Medal
7th Row Army Presidential Unit Citation Republic of Korea
Presidential Unit Citation

Van Fleet also received the following foreign decorations:[14]

Also decorations from the following countries:[14]

  • Ethiopia
  • Thailand
  • Philippines
  • Republic of China


No insignia Cadet, United States Military Academy: June 14, 1911
Second Lieutenant, United States Army: June 12, 1915
First Lieutenant, United States Army: July 1, 1916
Captain, United States Army: May 15, 1917
Major, Temporary: June 17, 1918
Major, Regular Army: July 2, 1920
Captain, Regular Army: November 4, 1922
Major, Regular Army: December 6, 1924
Lieutenant Colonel, Regular Army: October 1, 1936
Colonel, Army of the United States: June 26, 1941
Colonel, Regular Army: February 1, 1944
Brigadier General, Army of the United States: August 1, 1944
Major General, Army of the United States: November 15, 1944
Brigadier General, Regular Army: June 27, 1946
Major General, Regular Army: January 24, 1948
Lieutenant General, Army of the United States: February 19, 1948
General, Army of the United States: July 31, 1951

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Florida Gators (Southern Conference) (1923–1924)
1923 Florida 6–1–2 1–0–2 2nd
Florida: 12–3–4 3–0–3[15]
Total: 12–3–4[2]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c College Football Data Warehouse, All-Time Coaching Records, J.A. Van Fleet Records by Year. Retrieved September 21, 2009.
  3. ^ Dennis Hevesi, " James A. Van Fleet, Leader In Korean War, Dies at 100," The New York Times, p. D36 (September 24, 1992; correction September 26, 1992). Retrieved May 15, 2010.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Ilias Chrissochoidis (ed.), Spyros P. Skouras, Memoirs (1893-1953) (Stanford, 2013), 129.
  6. ^ Find a grave
  7. ^ a b c "Gen. James Van Fleet, 100; Hero Exalted by Truman," Los Angeles Times, p. A28 (September 24, 1992).
  8. ^, Hall of Valor, James Alward Van Fleet. Retrieved May 27, 2010.
  9. ^ What's My Line? - General James A. Van Fleet (Jul 26, 1953)
  10. ^ University of Florida Foundation, Named UF Facilities, Gen. James A. Van Fleet Hall. Retrieved September 21, 2009.
  11. ^ F Club, Hall of Fame, Honorary Letter Winners. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  12. ^ Associated Press, " O'Connell Lauded for Actions," Sarasota Journal (May 3, 1971). Retrieved July 24, 2011.
  13. ^ The 50 Most Important Floridians of the 20th Century, newspaper magazine published by The Ledger, Lakeland, Florida (March 1, 1998).
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^ 2009 Southern Conference Football Media Guide, Year-by-Year Standings, pp. 74–77 (2009). Retrieved March 16, 2010.


  • 2012 Florida Football Media Guide, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida (2012).
  • Braim, Paul F., Will to Win: The Life of General James A. Van Fleet, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland (2001).
  • Bruce, Robert B., " Tethered Eagle: Lt-General James A. Van Fleet and the Quest for Military Victory in the Korean War, April - June 1951," Army History 82 (Winter 2012).
  • Carlson, Norm, University of Florida Football Vault: The History of the Florida Gators, Whitman Publishing, LLC, Atlanta, Georgia (2007). ISBN 0-7948-2298-3.
  • Golenbock, Peter, Go Gators! An Oral History of Florida's Pursuit of Gridiron Glory, Legends Publishing, LLC, St. Petersburg, Florida (2002). ISBN 0-9650782-1-3.
  • McCarthy, Kevin M., Fightin' Gators: A History of University of Florida Football, Arcadia Publishing, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina (2000). ISBN 978-0-7385-0559-6.
  • McEwen, Tom, The Gators: A Story of Florida Football, The Strode Publishers, Huntsville, Alabama (1974). ISBN 0-87397-025-X.
  • Nash, Noel, ed., The Gainesville Sun Presents The Greatest Moments in Florida Gators Football, Sports Publishing, Inc., Champaign, Illinois (1998). ISBN 1-57167-196-X.
  • Proctor, Samuel, & Wright Langley, Gator History: A Pictorial History of the University of Florida, South Star Publishing Company, Gainesville, Florida (1986). ISBN 0-938637-00-2.

External links

  • Korean Art: Collecting Treasures, online exhibition featuring Korean objects from the Van Fleet Collection at the Harn Museum of Art
  • James Van Fleet Digital Collection from the University of Florida
  • James A. Van Fleet at the College Football Data Warehouse
  • James Alward Van Fleet
  • "WILL TO WIN: The Life of General James A. Van Fleet"
Military offices
Preceded by
Lt. Gen. Matthew Ridgway
Commanding General of
Eighth United States Army

Succeeded by
Lt. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor
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