Narrative History


Activated in Chaumont, France on November 7, 1918, only five days before the end of hostilities during World War I, the Third U.S. Army consisted of three Corps (III, IV, and VII.) The Commander, Major General Joseph Dickman, received the mission to move quickly into central Germany. Once his forces were in position, they were to disarm and disband German forces as ordered by General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces. Third Army established its headquarters in Koblenz, Germany on December 15, 1918. On July 2, 1919, after Germany signified their intentions to sign the Treaty of Versailles, the Third Army deactivated. The remaining headquarters elements and troops were designated American Forces in Germany.



Third Army reconstituted on August 9, 1932 as part of an Army-wide reorganization. The Third Army reactivated at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, on October 1, 1933. Under Lieutenant General Walter Kreuger, it became the premier training Army of the country. Their area of responsibility extended from Texas to the Carolinas. With war approaching, the Third Army training mission expanded, and the need for large-scale unit training was identified. The Louisiana Maneuvers trained hundreds of thousands of Soldiers and shaped U.S. Army doctrine for the coming war.


Following the outbreak of World War II, Third Army retained the mission of molding U.S. citizens into U.S. Soldiers. In 1943, command of Third Army passed to Lieutenant General Courtney Hodges who continued the mission of training U.S. Army units for war. On New Years’ Eve, 1943, Third Army was alerted for overseas movement to the United Kingdom for participation in the European invasion. When the headquarters departed for England, Hodges did not travel with the unit. When Third Army arrived in England, they had a new Commander, Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr. Publicly, Patton was in command of the First U.S. Army Group (FUSAG), but this was a feint. FUSAG was a fake organization with fictitious units which aided in deceiving the Germans as to the location of the Allied invasion of France, which the Germans were convinced Patton would lead. When the D-Day landings came, the FUSAG deception held German reinforcements in place for weeks, while Third Army units began landing in France. The Third Army Headquarters landed on French soil on July 5, 1944, and began to organize.


In late July 1944, First Army began Operation Cobra to break out of Normandy. The Third Army Headquarters became operational on August 1. Offensive operations led by 4th and 6th Armored Divisions punched through German defenses, and Third Army went slashing through France. By the end of August, Third Army conducted the southern envelopment of the German Army in Falaise pocket, while the rest of the Third Army stretched out from Breast on the west coast of France to the Meuse River in the east, approximately 475 miles. The Third Army dash across France was not stopped by the Germans, but by a lack of supply. Starting in September, the Allied main effort shifted north, along with the supplies. Third Army was permitted to make limited advances as far as the rationed gas and ammunition allowed. This persisted through September to November with the Third Army slowly pushing forward and the Germans grudgingly giving ground.


As early as late November 1944, the Third Army G2 (Intelligence) began noticing a potential buildup of German Panzer units on the western front and warned of a potential large-scale enemy offensive. Third Army warned of a potential offensive building against the VIII Corps in the Ardennes, just north of Third Army. Antwerp was the German objective where they could seize the Allied source of supply and cut the Allied Army in half. The German offensive struck VIII Corps on December 16. General Patton met with General Omar Bradley on December 18. Bradley asked what Patton could do. Patton responded that he could counter attack three divisions in two days. So ordered, Patton instructed that the 4th Armored Division, 26th and 80th Infantry Divisions disengage from attacking eastward and move to attack the German salient (the Bulge). Traversing 125 miles on icy roads in bad weather, the 4th Armored Division reached the encircled 101st Airborne Division on December 26, allowing supplies to flow in and the wounded to flow out. Over the next thirty days, American forces set to the task of reducing the bulge and finally returned to the original lines about January 25, 1945. With the Battle of the Bulge concluded, Third Army turned to drive into the heart of Germany to end the war. After a month of hard fighting, Third Army broke through German resistance and raced for the Rhine River. With the first bridgehead established over the Rhine River by First Army at Remagen, Third Army conducted an assault river crossing at Oppenheim, halfway between Mainz and Worms on March 22-23. With six more weeks of the war, Third Army units fought across Germany, pushing as far east as Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, and south to Linz, Austria. When the war ended on May 8, 1945, the Third Army traveled farther than any other Army in Europe and captured over 1,250,000 prisoners. Third Army remained in Germany until 1947.


Upon return to the United States, Third Army headquarters was established at Fort MacPherson near Atlanta, Georgia, where it took on a training role like its pre-World War II mission. Third Army deactivated October 1973. The Third Army reactivated in December 1982, at Fort MacPherson as the United States Army Central (USARCENT) to serve as the Army Service Component Command (ASCC) for United States Central Command, which was established January 1, 1983.


In response to Saddam Hussein’s August 2, 1990 invasion of Kuwait, USARCENT deployed to Kuwait to command land forces for Operation Desert Shield. As diplomacy failed and Desert Shield turned into Operation Desert Storm, USARCENT commanded nine division under two Corps to eject Iraqi Forces from Kuwait. USARCENT swept into Kuwait and destroyed most of the Iraqi Republican Guard, liberating Kuwait on February 26, 1991. For more than a decade following the liberation of Kuwait, USARCENT remained engaged in the region, responding to provocative Iraqi actions. During those years, USARCENT was involved in Operation Vigilant Warrior, Operation Vigilant Sentinel, Operation Desert Strike, Operation Desert Thunder I & II, and Operation Desert Fox.


In response to the September 11 attacks, USARCENT provided command and control for all the coalition land forces engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom. As the Coalition Forces Land Component Command (CFLCC), USARCENT commanded the ground war in Afghanistan and the surrounding countries from November 11, 2001 to May 31, 2002. In late 2002, U.S. Central Command designated USARCENT as the CFLCC for planned ground operations in Iraq. Operation Cobra II, USARCENT’s plan for the invasion of Iraq, began on March 20, 2003. Iraqi forces were overwhelmed by U.S. Ground forces. The liberation of Iraq took six weeks with U.S. Forces moving faster than General Patton’s dash across France in August 1944. The end of the ground campaign saw USARCENT involved in its third occupation in less than 100 years. USARCENT passed responsibility for Iraq to Combined Joint Task Force 7 on June 14, 2003. USARCENT returned to its role as a manning and resource provider for the theater. In 2011, USARCENT executed Operation Nickel II, the withdrawal of forces and equipment out or Iraq and the subsequent buildup of forces and material in Afghanistan. In July 2014, the USARCENT Commander and staff deployed to Iraq with instructions to blunt the expansion of the group DA’ESH. In December 2014, the U.S. Central Command named this Operation Inherent Resolve. The USARCENT Headquarters was the nucleus of what became Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR). Composed of personnel from over 30 nations, the mission of CJTF-OIR is to militarily defeat DA’ESH, al-Dawla al-Islamiya fi al-Iraq wa al-Sham. USARCENT passed this mission to the U.S. III Corps in September 2015.


In July 2011, USARCENT relocated the main command post from Fort McPherson, Georgia to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. Today USARCENT consists of over 600 Soldiers and civilians at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina as well as approximately 20,000 assigned Soldiers in several locations in the CENTCOM Theater. U.S Army Central shapes and sets the theater to support operations; improve relationships, access and partner capacity; and deter adversaries while providing a mission command structure to execute Unified Land Operations in support of Combatant Commander Directives.