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James A. Van Fleet
March 19, 1892(1892-03-19) – September 23, 1992 (aged 100)
James van Fleet.jpg
Place of birth Coytesville, New Jersey
Place of death Polk City, Florida
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1915–1953
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Unit 3rd Infantry Regiment
6th Infantry Division
5th Infantry Regiment
Commands held 17th Machine Gun Battalion
42nd Infantry Regiment
29th Infantry Regiment
8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division
90th Infantry Division
III Corps
U.S. Second Army
U.S. Eighth Army
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Korean War
Awards Distinguished Service Cross (3)
Distinguished Service Medal (4)
Silver Star (3)
Bronze Star (3)
Purple Heart (3)
Other work Football Coach

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, and served as the commanding General of U.S. Army and United Nations forces during the Korean War.



James Van Fleet was born in Coytesville, New Jersey and raised in Florida. Van Fleet received his high school education at the Summerlin Academy in Bartow, Florida, and after graduation in 1911, he received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He 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 an infantry officer in the U.S. Army.

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.[1] He led the Gators into national prominence with a 12–3–4 (.7368) record.[1]

Van Fleet commanded the 8th Infantry Regiment for three years and led it into combat in Europe in World War II, participating in the D-Day landings on Utah Beach in June 1944. Although widely regarded as an outstanding officer, he was blocked from promotion because the Army Chief of Staff, General George Marshall, erroneously confused Van Fleet with a well-known alcoholic officer with a similar name. When Marshall learned of his mistake, Van Fleet was soon promoted to divisional and corps command. He later served with General George S. Patton's U.S. Third Army.

In 1946, Van Fleet was sent to Greece, as the executor of the "Truman Doctrine" where he was instrumental in the outcome of Greek Civil War by providing advice to the Greek government and 250 military advisors, as well as administering $400 million in aid. A square in the Northern Greek city of Kastoria was named after him for many years. It was recently changed due to the anti-American sentiment in Greece.

Van Fleet was Commanding General of the U.S. Second Army from August 10, 1950 to April 11, 1951.

In 1951, he replaced General Matthew B. Ridgway as commander of the U.S. Eighth Army and United Nations forces in Korea. He continued Ridgway's efforts to strengthen the Eighth Army in its campaign against numerically superior Communist foes. His only son, U.S. Air Force Captain James A. Van Fleet, Jr., was a B-26 pilot who was killed in the Korean War.

In 1957, General Van Fleet was the moving spirit behind the establishment in New York of the Korea Society, the first nonprofit organization in the United States dedicated to the promotion of friendly relations between the peoples of the United States and Korea "through mutual understanding and appreciation of their respective cultures, aims, ideals, arts, sciences and industries."

Van Fleet died in 1992 in Polk City, Florida several months after reaching his 100th birthday. He was the oldest living general officer in the United States. 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.[2] In 1998, a panel of Florida historians and other consultants named van Fleet one of the fifty most important Floridians of the twentieth century.[3]

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 George C. Marshall.

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

Awards and decorations

Record as head football coach

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl Rank#
Florida Gators (Southern Conference) (1923–1924)
1923 Florida 6–1–2 1–0–2 2nd
1924 Florida 6–2–2 2–0–1 3rd
Florida: 12–3–4 3–0–3[4]
Total: 12–3–4[1]
      National Championship         Conference Title         Conference Division Title
Indicates BCS bowl game. #Rankings from final Coaches Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.

See also


  1. ^ a b c College Football Data Warehouse, All-Time Coaching Records, J.A. Van Fleet Records by Year. Retrieved September 21, 2009.
  2. ^ University of Florida Foundation, Named UF Facilities, Gen James A. Van Fleet Hall. Retrieved September 21, 2009.
  3. ^ The 50 Most Important Floridians of the 20th Century, newspaper magazine published by The Ledger, Lakeland, Florida (March 1, 1998).
  4. ^ 2009 Southern Conference Football Media Guide, Year-by-Year Standings, pp. 74–77 (2009). Retrieved March 16, 2010.

External links


  • Braim, Paul F., Will to Win: The Life of General James A. Van Fleet, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland (2001).
  • Obituary, Los Angeles Times, p. A28 (September 24, 1992).
  • Obituary, The New York Times, p. D24 (September 24, 1992).
Sporting positions
Preceded by
William G. Kline
University of Florida Head Football Coach
1923 – 1924
Succeeded by
Harold Sebring
Military offices
Preceded by
Lt. Gen. Matthew Ridgway
Commanding General of
Eighth United States Army

1951 – 1953
Succeeded by
Lt. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor


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