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European Theater of Operations
The European Theater of Operations, or ETO, was the term used by the United States in World War II to refer to all US military activity in Europe which fell under the adminstative command of "European Theater of Operations, United States Army" (ETOUSA). From Febury 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 Stratigic 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.
Because Dwight Eisenhower held positions in the ETO and the North African Theater of Operations (NATO) here is a brief explanation of that theatre. Operation Torch, the landings in North Africa, were referred to as occurring in the North African Theater of Operations and then later (December 10, 1944), when the theater was redefined to include Italy, as the Mediterranean Theater of Operations or MTO. US forces in that theatre were initially under the administrative command of NATOUSA which was redesignated MTOUSA. They were under the operational command of Allied (Expeditionary) Forces Headquaters AFHQ.
The War Department 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.
Dwight Eisenhower's had multiple command appointments; he was replaced Chaney in late June 1942, but in November he also commanded the Allied forces in Operation Torch through AFHQ. He then gave up command of ETOUSA in February 1943 to be NATOUSA. In December 1943 it was anounced that Esisenhower 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 Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), serving 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 transfred 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, but 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 Montgomery, In the middle the American 12th Army Group commanded by General Omar 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
(see also U.S. campaigns in WWII)
Albert Coady Wedemeyer was chief author of the Victory Program, published 3 months before the U.S. entered the war in 1941, it 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 December 7, 1941, and the U.S. declared war on both Germany and Japan, a modified version of his plan was adopted by President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Under the German first policy, the plan was expanded to include the blue print for the Normandy landings.
Until SHEAF was operational ETOUSA liaised closely with the British in the planning and organising of Operation Overlord.
- Normandy Campaign June 6, 1944 - July 24, 1944
- Northern France Campaign July 25, 1944 - September 14, 1944
- Southern France Campaign
- Rhineland Campaign
- Ardennes-Alsace Campaign December 16, 1944 - January 25, 1945 ("Battle of the Bulge")
- Central Europe Campaign March 22, 1945 - May 11, 1945
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.
- GENERAL RECORDS OF ALLIED FORCE HEADQUARTERS (AFHQ) 1941-47
- THE EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS
- USAREUR celebrates sixty years of service
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