graduate

Eichelberger, Robert Lawrence (1886-1961)


Photobraph of Robert L. Eichelberger

U.S. Army. Via Mayo (1974)

Eichelberger was born in Urbana, Ohio, and attended Ohio State University for two years (1905-1906) before attending West Point and graduating 68th out of a class of 103 in 1909. He served in the American Southwest and was in training and staff positions during the First World War. He was the operations officer of the Siberian Expedition of 1918, where he gained insight into the discipline and tactical doctrine of the Japanese Army. Later he was posted to the Philippines and Tientsin. A 1926 graduate of the Command and General Staff School, he also attended the Army War College, graduating in 1930.

Eichelberger was the superintendent of West Point at the outbreak of war.  Marshall considered him an excellent training officer and used him in that capacity from March to October 1942, training 77 Division.  Eichelberger then took command of I Corps in Australia, where MacArthur advised him to "pay [his] respects to the Australians and then have nothing further to do with them" (Larrabee 1987). Eichelberger ignored this advice, setting up his office in the Rockhampton city hall and making a point of working closely with the mayor to ensure amicable relations between the American troops and Australian civilians. He was solicitous of his men: When his wife read an Associated Press article describing a "tall, gray-haired general" making a Christmas visit to a hospital and telling the men "Good morning, lads. I only hope you will all be home next Christmas", she knew it was her husband. No other U.S. general called his enlisted men "lads."

Eichelberger led his corps into action in New Guinea, breaking the stubborn Japanese defenses at Buna in late 1942. In September 1944, Eichelberger became commander of 8 Army and led the army ashore at Leyte to reinforce Krueger's 6 Army. He directed most of the battle of Luzon, including the liberation of Clark Field and Manila. He continued directing operations in the southern Philippines for the remainder of the war, conducting a tactically brilliant if strategically questionable campaign on MacArthur's orders.

Following the surrender, Eichelberger's 8 Army became the occupying force in Japan. Eichelberger returned to the United States in September 1948, and was promoted to full general on retirement in 1954.

Favorable press coverage of Eichelberger irritated MacArthur sufficiently that Eichelberger was essentially put on the shelf for over a year following the Buna victory.  Later in the war, MacArthur hinted to Eichelberger that he was considering having him replace Sutherland as MacArthur's chief of staff, a move that would have allowed MacArthur to capitalize on Eichelberger's abilities while further limiting his publicity. Eichelberger was everything that MacArthur was not, including publicity shy, and as a result his tremendous contributions in New Guinea and in other operations in 1944-1945 remain largely unknown to the American public today.

Eichelberger's greatest weakness was that he expected others to be be as warm, honest and open as he was with them, and when they were not, he became resentful and suspicious. This was a significant liability in the world of MacArthur's headquarters. MacArthur himself played Eichelberger against Krueger, on the theory that the rivalry would prompt each to exert himself to the limit.

Service record

1886-3-9

Born in Urbana, Ohio
1905 to 1906     

Attends Ohio State University
1907 to 1909

Attends West Point, graduating 68th in a class of 103.
1918-9 to 1919  

Operations Officer, American Expeditionary Force, Siberia
1926

Graduates from Command and General Staff School
1930

Graduates from Army War College
1935-7-3

Secretary to the General Staff, War Department
1938-11-9
Colonel     
Commanding Officer, 30 Regiment
1940-11-18 to 1942-1-11     
Brigadier General
Superintendent, West Point
1942-3-25
Major General     
Commanding General, 77 Division
1942-6-22

Commanding General, I Corps
1942-10-15
Lieutenant General     

1944-9-7 to 1948

Commanding General, 8 Army
1945 to 1948

Commander in Chief Allied Land Forces of Occupation, Japan
1954
General
Retires
1961-9-26

Dies in Asheville, North Carolina

References

Boatner (1996)

Dupuy et.al. (1992)

generals.dk (accessed 2007-11-1)

Larrabee (1987)

Mayo (1974)

Perret (1991)

Taaffe (2011)


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