European Theater of Operations: Wikis


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Key American military officials in Europe, 1945.

The European Theater of Operations (ETO), is the term used in the United States to refer to US operations north of Italy and the Mediterranean coast, in the European Theatre of World War II.



The "European Theater of Operations" was the term used by the United States in World War II to refer to all US military activity in Europe that fell under the administrative command of "European Theater of Operations, United States Army" (ETOUSA). From February 1944 the operational command was the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) which as an Allied command also had operational control of British and all other allied land forces and tactical airforces in the European theatre.

The term "European Theater of Operations" should not be confused with the European Theatre of World War II which is often defined to include the years before the US entered the war, the Italian campaign, the European Strategic Bombing Campaign, the European Eastern Front, all of the European Western Front in 1944 and 1945, as well and other actions which did not involve the use of American forces.

Operation Torch, the landings in North Africa, were initially within the North African Theater of Operations, US Army (NATOUSA). On December 10, 1944,[1] the theater area was redefined to include Italy and redesignated the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTOUSA). The theater was under the operational command of Allied Forces Headquarters (AFHQ).

Command structure

The 133rd Infantry Regiment of the 34th Infantry Division was the first United States Army unit sent to Europe in World War II. The first battalion arrived in Belfast in late January 1942, followed by the rest of the regiment in February. These units were designated as U.S. Army Northern Ireland Forces, later incorporated within the European Theater of Operations. The 133rd and 168th Infantry Regiments trained in the peat bogs, and performed border guard patrols between British Northern Ireland and the neutral Irish Free State.

Five months later, the United States Department of War officially established ETOUSA, on June 8, 1942. Its mission was to conduct planning for the eventual retaking of Europe and to exercise administrative and operational control over U.S. forces. Headquartered in London, ETOUSA was first commanded by Major General James E. Chaney, an Army Air Corps officer.

U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower had multiple command appointments; he replaced Chaney in late June 1942, but in November he also commanded the Allied forces in Operation Torch through AFHQ. He then relinquished command of ETOUSA to Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews in February 1943, who was killed in an air crash in May. In December 1943 it was announced that Eisenhower would be Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. In January 1944 he resumed command of ETOUSA and the following month was officially designated as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces. (Note that Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) was the headquarters of the Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, whereas the AFHQ was the headquarters of only the Allied forces.) He served in a dual role until the end of hostilities in Europe in May 1945. From February 1944, SHAEF was the operational command and ETOUSA administrative command.

Some units were transferred between operational commands and administrative commands at different times. For example the American 6th Army Group, which was set up under the Mediterranean Theater of Operations to oversee Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France between Toulon and Cannes, was passed to SHAEF (and into ETO) a month after the invasion which took place on August 15, 1944.

By the end of 1944, Eisenhower, through SHAEF, commanded three powerful Allied army groups. In the north British 21st Army Group commanded by Field Marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, in the middle the American 12th Army Group commanded by General Omar N. Bradley, and in the South the American 6th Army Group commanded by Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers. The British 21st Army Group and French elements of the 6th Army Group were not part of ETOUSA, but by that stage of the war most of the operational forces under the command of SHAEF were American.


Campaigns and operations

Chart 12.- Typical organization of a theater of operations as envisaged by War Department Doctrine, 1940.

Operation Torch - the invasion of French North Africa - involving the 9th, 3rd Infantry and the 2nd Armored Divisions, initiated on November 8, 1942, was the first ground combat operations for the United States in World War II.[2]In the Pacific Theater of Operations, the first ground operations were carried out in August 1942.

Albert Coady Wedemeyer was chief author of the Victory Program, published three months before the U.S. entered the war in 1941, which advocated the defeat of the German armies on the European continent. When the U.S. entered the war after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 and the U.S. was at war with both Japan and Germany, a "Europe first" a modified version of his plan]] was adopted by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Under the German first policy, the plan was expanded to include the blue print for the Normandy landings.

Until SHAEF was operational ETOUSA liaised closely with the British in the planning and organising of Operation Overlord.

A theater of operations

The term "theater of operations" was defined in the American field manuals as "the land and sea areas to be invaded or defended, including areas necessary for administrative activities incident to the military operations" (chart 12). In accordance with the experience of World War I, it was usually conceived of as a large land mass over which continuous operations would take place and was divided into two chief areas-the combat zone, or the area of active fighting, and the communications zone, or area required for administration of the theater. As the armies advanced, both these zones and the areas into which they were divided would shift forward to new geographic areas of control.[3]

See also


  2. ^ American "observers" had participated in the Dieppe Raid in August 1942
  3. ^ Medical department United States Army in World War II: Chapter VII: Prewar Army Doctrine for Theater by Blanche B. Armfield, M.A., Prepared and published in 1963 under the direction of Lieutenant General Leonard D. Heaton The Surgeon General, United States Army.


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