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U.S. First Army

From Academic Kids

The United States First Army was first activated in August 1918. 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. First Army was inactivated after WWI in 1919.

In 1933, First Army was reactivated. It had the mission of training Army formations at the time, as did all the other field armies.

After the US entered World War II, the army moved overseas, to the United Kingdom, in order 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. Two 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 arrived 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 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. First Army was slated to deploy to the Far East to take part in Operation Coronet, the second phase of the invasion of Japan, but the Japanese surrender in August caused those plans to be cancelled.

After the war, First Army returned to the United States relatively quickly. Since then, during its active periods, it has controlled training formations in the United States itself.

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