Jacob L. Devers
Jacob L. Devers
Portrait of Devers in Officer's Service Uniform
September 8, 1887|
|Died||October 15, 1979
|Buried at||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1909–1949|
|Commands held||9th Infantry Division
European Theate of Operations U.S. Army
North African Theater of Operations U.S. Army
Deputy Commander Mediterranean Theater of Operations
6th Army Group
Army Ground Forces
|Awards||Army Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
General Jacob "Jake" Loucks Devers (September 8, 1887 – October 15, 1979), commander of the 6th Army Group in Europe during World War II. His units were the first United States units to reach the Rhine after D-Day.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Military career: between the wars
- 3 World War II
- 4 References
- 5 Bibliography
- 6 External links
Early life and education
Devers was born September 8, 1887, in York, Pennsylvania, a small industrial town in the southeastern corner of the state. His parents were Philip Devers, a watchmaker and partner in a jewelry store, and Ella Kate Loucks Devers, a homemaker. He was the first of the couple's four children.
The Devers of Irish and German-Alsatian ancestry were strict, hard working and religious. The family were members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church which did not believe in smoking or drinking. While providing a comfortable middle-class life for their children, the couple taught them to value dependability, integrity and industriousness.
Growing up in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, young Jake Devers enjoyed the outdoors: camping, fishing and hunting. He played all the usual boyhood sports and made friends easily with his engaging smile and cheerful personality. In addition to his household chores, he did odd jobs around the neighborhood and worked on his maternal grandfather Jacob Loucks' farm.
Devers entered York High School in September, 1901. A popular student, he was elected Class President. He had an excellent academic record earning high marks in mathematics and science. Always competitive though slightly built, the 120-pound 5-foot 10-inch Devers captained the basketball team, played quarterback in football and starred in baseball.
After graduating from York high school in May, 1905, Devers accepted a Congressional appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. He entered the Academy in June with the Class of 1909. Among his classmates were George S. Patton, Jr., William H. Simpson and Robert L. Eichelberger, all of whom (including Devers) would become four-star generals in World War II.
Devers did well in his studies, and he excelled in sports, playing shortstop on the Army baseball team and guard on the Black Knights's basketball squad. He graduated from West Point in June, 1909, ranking 39th in his class of 103, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in his specialty branch: Field Artillery.
Military career: between the wars
Devers' first posting was to the 4th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Battalion, based at Vancouver Barracks in Washington state. The unit soon moved to Fort David A. Russell, Cheyenne, Wyoming. There Devers commanded a Company of Field Artillery, horse-drawn and pack mule-supplied. On October 11, 1911, Devers married Georgie Hayes Lyon of Arlington, Virginia, visiting niece of his Fort Russell commanding officer.
For his next assignment in December, 1912, Devers was sent back to West Point to teach mathematics. He also managed the baseball program and coached the Cadet basketball team from 1914 to 1916. In April, 1916, Devers was promoted to First Lieutenant.
That August Devers was transferred to the newly activated 9th Field Artillery Regiment at Schofield Barracks, Oahu, Territory of Hawaii. The United States entered World War I against Germany April 6, 1917. A disappointed Devers, promoted to Captain in May, did not see action in The Great War. The Devers' only child, daughter Frances Lyon, was born August 2.
Devers was posted to the Army Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in late December to serve as an instructor in the School of Fire. Just weeks before the World War I Armistice, November 11, 1918, he was named Executive Officer of the 9th Field Artillery Regiment, his former unit from Hawaii now at Fort Sill. Devers was made Commanding Officer of the 1st Field Artillery Regiment at Sill in March, 1919.
In June Devers was sent on a three-month temporary duty assignment to Europe with the American Army of Occupation. He attended a French artillery school to study guns, ammunition, equipment and tactics used by the Allies and the Germans during the war. Then it was back to West Point for Devers. Promoted to Major in July, he began his second tour of duty at the Academy in August, serving as Senior Field Artillery Instructor and Commander, Field Artillery Detachment. He served on the staff of Academy Commandant Brigadier General Douglas Macarthur.
After five years at West Point (1919-1924), Devers was selected to attend the Army's Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He began his studies there in September, 1924, and finished as a Distinguished Graduate in June, 1925. Posted once again to hot and dusty Fort Sill, Devers directed the Field Artillery School's Gunnery Department for four years (1925-1929). During his tour he was credited with making a number of innovative artillery tactical and technical improvements, including advanced fire-support techniques successfully used during World War II.
In September, 1929, Devers was ordered to Washington, DC, to serve on the staff of the Army's Chief of Field Artillery (Operations and Training) Lieutenant Colonel Adna M. Chaffee, Jr. Chosen to attend the Army War College in Washington, he began his studies there in August, 1932, and graduated in June, 1933. After a one-year assignment to Fort Hoyle, Maryland, with the 6th Field Artillery Regiment, in June, 1934 Devers, a Lieutenant Colonel since February, was sent to Fort Myer, Virginia, near the District of Columbia, as Commander of the 1st Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment.
In 1936 it was back to the Military Academy for the third time for Devers. He remained at the Point for three years (1936-1939) on the Headquarters Staff as Executive of Construction and Graduate Manager of Athletics. Devers was promoted to full Colonel in July, 1938. Named Chief of Staff to Major General Daniel Van Voorhis, Commander of the Panama Canal Department, Devers transferred to the Zone in August, 1939. Germany's invasion of Poland September 1, 1939, and the subsequent declarations of war by Great Britain and France against Chancellor Adolph Hitler's Nazis, marked the beginning of World War II.
World War II
On the recommendation of Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall and with the approval of Secretary of War Henry H. Woodring, Devers was advanced in rank to Brigadier General in April, 1940. His promotion over 474 other Colonels made him at age 52 the youngest Brigadier in the Army. In July Devers was recalled to Washington from the Panama Canal Zone to assume command of the District's Provisional Brigade. That September General Marshall, with the approval of new Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, named Devers Senior U.S. Army representative to the Presidential Board tasked with surveying bases in the Caribbean and Newfoundland to be leased from the British in exchange for overage U.S. Navy destroyers.
9th Infantry Division Fort Bragg, NC
Devers was promoted to two-star Major General in October and sent to command the newly formed 9th Infantry Division at Fort Bragg, Fayetteville, North Carolina. He would supervise training of the 9th while managing Bragg's huge base expansion program. Devers directed basic and advanced infantry training at Bragg for the thousands of troops under his command: Regular Army, National Guard, Reservists and draftees. During Devers' tour Fort Bragg's strength grew from 5,000 to 66,000 soldiers. At the same time, he pushed forward immense construction projects for base housing, training facilities and roads on the overcrowded post. By working closely and cooperatively with engineers, local contractors, quartermasters and staff—and by cutting through red tape—in six months Devers oversaw completion of 2,500 buildings and 93 miles of roads.
Chief of the Armored Force Fort Knox, Kentucky
In August, 1941, General Marshall named Devers Chief of the Armored Force, which was headquartered at its "Home", Fort Knox, Kentucky. Devers replaced a mechnized cavalry legend, the terminally ill General Chaffee, who just twelve months before had been appointed the first Chief of the newly created Armored Force. Devers would report directly to General Marshall  and would be responsible for inspecting, organizing and training the Army's Armored Divisions and separate non-divisional Tank Battalions, including all nontank personnel assigned. Army General Headquarters (GHQ), commanded by General Marshall's Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Leslie J. McNair, was in tactical charge of all U.S. ground forces. But GHQ specifically did not control the semi-autonomous Armored Force, which was considered "provisional" (Service Test) and would not become a "Branch" until 1955.
At the time Devers took command, the Armored Force had just two operational Armored Divisions: the 1st at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and the 2nd at Fort Knox. Both participated in the large-scale two-phase corps vs. corps GHQ 1941 Maneuvers. These war games were held in Louisiana in September and the Carolinas in September. Despite some successes, the maneuvers revealed armored unit and equipment operational deficiencies, plus a general lack of combat readiness. In particular, post-maneuver reports showed a vulnerability of U.S. tanks to antitank fire. This bolstered the pro-antitank philosophy strongly held by General McNair. Devers differed, countering that the number of tank "kills" credited to antitank gunners was unrealistic and biased. General McNair continued to push for an independent "tank destroyer force". Devers argued that the best weapon against a tank was a better tank. Nevertheless, in November General Marshall authorized creation of such a force. Battlefield experience would prove that Devers was right. In combat tank destroyers were mainly used as mobile artillery support. At the end of the war, the Tank Destroyer Force was disbanded.
A new medium tank was beginning to come off the production line: the M3 Grant. But Devers lobbied, sometimes against the views of his superiors, for a still more heavily armored and better armed medium tank, the M4 Sherman. Devers played an important role in the M4's design, development and manufacturing, particularly its engine and armament. The Detroit Tank Arsenal began turning out Shermans in the Fall. The reliable, versatile, low-cost M4 and its variants would prove to be the most-produced tank in the U.S. Army during World War II. Throughout his tour as Chief of the Armored Force Devers worked closely with the Ordnance Department, manufacturers and the Armored Force Board at Knox on the research and testing of tanks, guns, armored vehicles and ammunition.
After the GHQ Maneuvers, the Army expected to have a period of "remedial training" to fix problems. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941, shattered those expectations and plunged an unprepared United States into the war.
At the beginning of 1942, two Armored Divisions were operational, five were in training and two more scheduled to be activated in February. Army planners called for the eventual formation of 16 armored divisions and 54 Tank Battalions. Activity at Knox accelerated. The Armored Force Replacement Training Center (RTC) gave arriving soldiers twelve (later 17) weeks of training before they were sent on to armor units. The Armored Force School provided advanced individual training in specific areas such as gunnery, field tactics, communications and maintenance. And the Armored Force Officer Candidate School prepared selectees to serve as Commissioned Officers in Armor. With so many men undergoing training existing bases were overwhelmed. Devers had to oversee a massive construction of barracks, facilities and infrastructure, particularly at Fort Knox. A large maneuver area where soldiers could train for desert warfare was sorely needed. Devers sent General Patton, now commander of I Armored Corps which included the 2nd Armored Division, to set up the Desert Training Center (DTC) in the California-Arizona Mojave Desert.
Devers was an articulate proponent of the Army's now-emerging tactical doctrine of combined arms: Infantry-Artillery-Armor-Close Air Support. At his direction an updated, comprehensive (460 pages) Armed Force Field Manual: Tactics and Technique FM 17-10 was written, published and distributed in March, 1942.
Also in March, a major reorganization of Army Headquarters was ordered by General Marshall. General McNair was named Commander of a new component, Army Ground Forces (AGF), which replaced GHQ. Relations between GHQ/AGF and the Armored Force were distant and lines of authority and responsibility were often unclear. General McNair seemed to prefer leaving Devers alone. Under a new Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E) originally proposed by Devers, Armored Divisions were downsized. The number of regiments was cut from six to three: two tank and one armored infantry. In a first, at Devers' insistence, a flight of light aircraft to be used for artillery spotting, recon and liaison were included in the new TO&E for each division.
With the approval of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, during April the Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCS) reached agreement on Operation ROUNDUP which called for cross-Channel landings by the Allies on Continental Europe in 1943. In May the CCS agreed to Operation BOLERO, a plan to transport and base 1,000,000 U.S. soldiers and airmen and their equipment in the British Isles to support ROUNDUP. Operation TORCH, an Anglo-American invasion of French Vichy-held Northwest Africa planned for Fall and backed by Prime Minister Churchill was reluctantly agreed to by President Roosevelt in June. ROUNDUP had to be put on hold. In August, Lieutenant General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Commanding General European Theater of Operations U.S. Army (ETOUSA), was named Commander-in-Chief Allied Force Headquarters (AFHQ) to lead the TORCH landings, planned for late Fall. The 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions were assigned to the Operation.
Increased pressure was on Devers, promoted to three-star Lieutenant General (equal in rank to General McNair) in September, to push more armored units through the pipeline even faster. Training was sometimes neglected because of the pressing need to get units ready for overseas deployment. Despite obstacles such as lack of personnel trained in critical Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) and a persistent shortage of tank engines  the Armored Force Chief succeeded in getting divisions and battalions to their Ports of Embarkation (POE) on time. American and British forces went ashore at Casablanca, Oran and Algiers on November 8, 1942, as Operation TORCH was launched.
So far during the year seven more Armored Divisions had been activated. At peak strength, some 225,000 soldiers were either trainers or in training under Dever's command. On a battlefield inspection tour, Devers flew to the United Kingdom in mid-December. He continued to North Africa in January, 1943. Returning to Fort Knox at month-end, he supervised implementation of ideas for making armor training more realistic, reflecting actual combat experience. The 20th Armored Division was activated March 15. Only one more, the 16th, remained to be organized.
While on an aerial inspection tour, Army Air Forces Lieutenant General Frank M. Andrews, ETOUSA Commander since replacing General Eisenhower in February  was killed May 3 in an aircraft crash in Iceland. With the approval of President Roosevelt, four days later General Marshall named Devers to take command of ETOUSA.
European Theater of Operations U.S. Army (ETOUSA)
Devers arrived at ETOUSA Headquarters, 2 Grosvenor Square, London, May 10, 1943. As Commanding General and the ranking American officer in the European Theater, his wide range of duties would include everything from overseeing preparation of detailed planning and estimates of men and materials needed for OVERLORD (formerly ROUNDUP), to making public appearances at ceremonial and morale-building events.
ETOUSA exercised operational and administrative control over all U.S. Army units and installations in the United Kingdom and Iceland. Its territorial boundaries were all of Western Europe (including Germany)from the North Atlantic to North Africa. Three major subordinate commands made up ETOUSA: the V Corps (Army Ground Forces); the Eighth Air Force (Army Air Forces); and, the Services of Supply (service forces). The number of American soldiers and airmen in the U.K. serving under Devers totalled 110,818.
The Eighth Air Force, under the command of Brigadier General Ira C. Eaker since January, had been flying bombardment missions (55) against the enemy for almost a year. It was the only U.S. Army organization carrying the war from England to the Germans in Occupied Europe. Commanded by Lieutenant General Leonard T. Gerow, V Corps was functioning in a training role. It managed the tens of thousands of American ground troops arriving in the British Isles stationed in staging areas to the south. The Services of Supply (SOS) had recently been consolidated under Lieutenant General John C.H. Lee, who also served as Deputy Commander, ETOUSA.
The Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCS) had directed that the Commanding General, ETOUSA should be considered the direct representative of the U.S. Chiefs of Staff and that as such he should be consulted on all plans involving American troops. The previous month the CCS had appointed British Lieutenant General Frederick E. Morgan Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander (designate), or COSSAC as it was called, an Anglo-American planning group tasked with making preparations for OVERLORD. COSSAC included ETOUSA staff members on its committees and Morgan's proposals were referred to Devers for comment.
All German and Italian forces remaining in North Africa surrendered to the Allies May 18th ending that campaign.
During June, 1943, as its part in the CCS-ordered Combined (USAAF/RAF) Bomber Offensive, or CBO, the Eighth Air Force carried out daylight raids on German-held ports and U-Boat pens along the French coast.
The newly-activated U.S. Seventh Army under General Patton and the British Eighth Army commanded by General Bernard L. Montgomery landed on the Italian offshore island of Sicily July 9, 1943, in Operation HUSKY. Dictator Benito Mussolini was deposed July 25th by King Victor Emmanuel and replaced as Prime Minister by Marshal Pietro Bagdoglio.
In Operation POINTBLANK August 17, 1943, Eighth Air Force B-17s flew the first "double strike" mission, deepest ever into Germany. Two split formations of Flying Fortressess, 376 planes—largest number dispatched to date by the Eighth—hit the crucial ballbearing works at Schweinfurt and the aircraft factories at Regensburg. Bombing results were disappointing and losses were heavy: 60 Flying Forts.
General Patton's troops took Sicily's capital city of Palermo and the port of Messina August 17th. The last German and Italian soldiers were evacuated to the nearby Italian Mainland as HUSKY ended successfully. In the second phase of Operation AVALANCHE September 9, 1943, the U.S. Fifth Army, commanded by Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, came ashore at Salerno on the west coast of Italy 50 miles south of Naples. The surrender of Italy to the Allies was announced and German forces seized control of the country. Naples with its key port was taken by Fifth Army October 1, 1943, as Eighth Army to the east captured the vital airfields around Foggia. Italy declared war on Germany and joined the Allies October 13th.
Eighth Air Force B-17s flew a second mission against Schweinfurt October 14. Escorted part of the way to the target by P-47 Thunderbolts, 291 Flying Fortresses unloaded on the ballbearing works. Once again results were poor and 77 Forts were lost.
Major General Omar N. Bradley, formerly commander of II Corps in Sicily, was named to head the newly activated First U.S. Army Group (FUSAG). He arrived in England October 23 to take operational control from ETOUSA of all American ground forces in the British Isles assigned to OVERLORD.
Devers was awarded his first Army Distinguished Service Medal November 11, 1943, for "his untiring efforts in the rapid expansion, direction and training of the Armored Force." 
On December 7, 1943, President Roosevelt with the approval of Prime Minister Churchill named General Eisenhower Supreme Allied Commander Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) for OVERLORD. General Eisenhower was then serving as Commanding General Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO). As part of an ongoing swap of top commanders and staff between the ETO and the MTO, on December 31 General Marshall named Devers Commander North African Theater of Operations U.S. Army (NATOUSA) and Deputy Commander MTO. General Eisenhower replaced Devers as Commander ETOUSA.
North African Theater of Operations U.S. Army (NATOUSA) and Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO)
In January 1944 Devers had become Commanding General North African Theater of Operations, U.S. Army and also Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean Theater under General Sir Henry Maitland Wilson. When the Allied landings in Southern France took place in August 1944 (Operation Dragoon) Devers formed a special headquarters in Corsica to oversee the Franco-American forces commanded by Lieutenant General Alexander Patch. As the ground forces built up in southern France French Army B headquarters was activated alongside Patch's 7th Army and Devers' headquarters became that of an army group subordinated to Wilson's theater H.Q.. It was officially designated 6th Army Group once his forces had advanced to link with the Allied advance in northwest Europe and had become subordinate to Dwight Eisenhower's Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF). With his twelve American and eleven French divisions, Devers cleared Alsace, reduced the Colmar Pocket, crossed the Rhine River and accepted the surrender of German forces in western Austria on May 6, 1945.
General Devers' career spanned more than thirty-five years. He was promoted to brigadier general in May 1940, major general in October 1940, lieutenant general in September 1942 and general on March 8, 1945. He retired on September 30, 1949. He died in 1979 in Washington, D.C. and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
- David P. Colley (November 2, 2009). "How World War II Wasn’t Won". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-11-23.
- Markey, Michael A. (1998). Jake: The General from West York Avenue. York, PA: The Historical Society of York County. p. 10.
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- McNair, Lt. Gen. Leslie J. (1943). Conclusions and Recommendations of Gen. Devers in His Report on His Observations Abroad December 14, 1942 to January 25, 1943. Washington, DC: Army Ground Forces Memo. p. 1.
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- Craven and Cate, Wesley Frank and James Lae (1983). The Army Air Forces in World War II: Vol. Two - Europe: TORCH to POINTBLANK August 1942 to December 1943. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. p. 682.
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- Jackson, p. 176.
- Jackson, pp. 176-178.
- David P. Colley (2008). Decision at Strasbourg: Ike's Strategic Mistake to Halt the Sixth Army Group at the Rhine in 1944. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-133-8.
- Jackson, General Sir William & Gleave, Group Captain T.P. (2004) [1st. pub. HMSO:1988]. Butler, Sir James, ed. The Mediterranean and Middle East, Volume VI: Victory in the Mediterranean, Part 3 - November 1944 to May 1945. History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series. Uckfield, UK: Naval & Military Press. ISBN 1-84574-072-6.
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|Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe
7 May 1943 to 16 January 1944
Dwight D. Eisenhower