John H. Michaelis

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John Hersey Michaelis
John H Michaelis.jpg
John H. Michaelis as a lieutenant general
Nickname(s) Iron Mike
Colonel Mike
Born August 20, 1912
Presidio of San Francisco, California[1]
Died October 31, 1985(1985-10-31) (aged 73)
Clayton, Georgia[2]
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1936-1972
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands held United States Forces Korea
US Eighth Army
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War
Cold War
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Silver Star (2)
Legion of Merit (4)
Bronze Star (3)
Purple Heart (2)

John Hersey Michaelis (August 20, 1912 – October 31, 1985) was a United States Army four-star general who served as Commander in Chief, United Nations Command/Commander, United States Forces Korea/Commanding General, Eighth United States Army (CINCUNC/COMUSFK/CG EUSA) from 1969 to 1972.

Michaelis was a 1936 graduate of the United States Military Academy.

In World War II, he was executive officer of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, but took command of the unit after the commanding officer, George Van Horn Moseley, Jr., broke his leg on the drop into Normandy. Later, Michaelis was severely wounded in the Netherlands.[3] He served as chief of staff of the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of Bastogne and ended the war as a colonel.[4]

He served as aide-de-camp to Dwight Eisenhower from 1947 to 1948.[4]

During the Korean War, he commanded the 27th Infantry Regiment (the " Wolfhounds") at the Pusan perimeter, for which he received a Distinguished Service Cross.[5] Early in the war, most American units were prone to breaking down and retreating. However his unit fared much better, General Matthew Ridgway believed, because of the fact that Colonel Michaelis had been an airborne commander and therefore did not panic whenever his unit was in danger of being surrounded.[citation needed] For as long as his unit preserved unit integrity with interlocking fields of fire, then it could handle being surrounded and cut off as they could be resupplied from the air. It was to become an important template used by General Ridgway in his conduct of the Korean War once he assumed command from General Douglas MacArthur.[citation needed] Ridgeway's policy was to become one of "No more retreat" and he sought to acquire many more commanders like Michaelis as the war continued.[citation needed] In fact, shortly after Ridgeway took command, he began to improve the Army's morale by sending the units north, starting with Michaelis's unit, under an offensive named Operation Wolfhound in their honor. Michaelis's unit began a new phase of the war that started a complete turnaround for U.N. troops. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1951 and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.[4]

Michaelis described the Turkish Brigade's combat readiness in unflattering terms, according to American historian Clay Blair. Blair wrote that war correspondents were misled into thinking that the Turks were "tough" fighters by their "flowing mustaches, swarthy complexions, and fierce demeanors", while in fact Blair declared them "ill trained, ill led, and green to combat."[6][7] Blair quoted Michaelis as stating:

The Turks were commanded by an aged brigadier who had been a division commander at Gallipoli in 1916 fighting the British! He was highly respected, high up in the Turkish military establishment, and took a bust to brigadier to command the brigade. The average Turk soldier in the brigade came from the steppe country of Turkey, near Russia, had probably had only three or four years of school, was uprooted, moved to western Turkey, given a uniform, [a] rifle, and a little smattering of training, stuck on a ship, sailed ten thousand miles, then dumped off on a peninsula – ‘Korea, where’s that?’ – and told the enemy was up there someplace, go get him! The Turk soldier scratches his head and says, ‘What’s he done to me?[8][9]

In 1952, he returned to the United States and became commandant of cadets at the United States Military Academy.[4] Later he commanded the Fifth Army.[4] He was promoted to full general upon his retirement in 1972.[4]

Michaelis died of heart failure on Thursday, 31 October 1985, at in Clayton, Georgia. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.


  1. ^ United States Military Academy. Association of Graduates; West Point Alumni Association, Inc (1989). Assembly. 48. ISSN 1041-2581. Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  2. ^ "Los Angeles Times: Archives - Retired Gen. 'Iron Mike' Michaelis Dies". Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  3. ^ "Personalities and Commanders | "Iron Mike"". Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Retired Gen. 'Iron Mike' Michaelis Dies : Veteran of WWII, Korea Was Eisenhower Aide, West Point Chief". Los Angeles Times. November 3, 1985.
  5. ^ "TIME magazine article April 06, 1959". Retrieved 20 August 2015.
  6. ^ Blair 2003, p. 451.
  7. ^ Blair 1987, p. 451.
  8. ^ Blair 2003, p. 451.
  9. ^ Blair 1987, p. 451.

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