|U.S. Army forces in West Germany in 1988|
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, 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 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), four field armies (First, Third, Seventh, and Ninth), 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 Campbell Barracks in Heidelberg, where it remains to this day.
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. Even though Allied forces in the city were outnumbered 50-1, 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. 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 in Frankfurt, Germany 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 a post-WWII 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 truck, 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 Support Command it remains today). USEUCOM moved to Stuttgart.
The first Redeployment of Forces from Germany 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 Palestinian groups brazenly conducted terror operations in Europe, such as the kidnapping of Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympics, and the Red Army Faction and the Red Brigades targeted U.S. facilities and personnel with bombings, kidnapping and assassinations. In May 1972 bombs exploded at V Corps headquarters in 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 post 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 deflected the 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. And in 1986 a bombing at a Berlin disco frequented by servicemembers killed two Soldiers.
With increased combat and support components in place, the command undertook a wide-ranging modernization in the decade of the 1980s. More than 400 new systems were introduced, including individual weapons, field rations, the M1A1 Abrams tank, the M2 and M3 Bradley series of infantry and cavalry fighting vehicles, the multiple launch rocket system, the Patriot air defense system, the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and the AH-64A Apache helicopter.