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U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) celebrates 77 years

By Lori A. Bultman | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Jan. 13, 2020

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —

It was 77 years ago when Fifth Army officially activated, Jan. 5, 1943, at Oujda, French Morocco. In 2004, with its rich, vibrant history that originated during the ongoing battles of World War II, Fifth Army became U.S. Army North.

To celebrate this distinguished Army’s accomplishments over those 77 years, Soldiers, family members and civilians gathered at the Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Military Family Readiness Center Jan. 10 for a birthday celebration, which included a streamer ceremony.

Streamers are awarded to units as recognition for a display of heroism or meritorious service that is the result of a group effort, including campaign or war service.

During the ceremony, a narrator read the historic events which earned each of the Fifth Army’s five streamers as they were placed on the Army North colors by Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, commander, United States Army North (Fifth Army) and senior commander, JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and JBSA-Camp Bullis.

The first steamer placed was the Naples-Foggia streamer, earned in September 1943, when, under the direction of Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark, Fifth Army landed on the beaches along the Gulf of Salerno, Italy. Heavy fighting ensued, and on Sept. 16, Fifth Army joined forces with the British Eighth Army, together they fought their way to Naples, establishing and holding a line that would not break.

The second streamer placed was in recognition of actions at Anzio, Italy.

On Jan. 22, 1944, the VI Corps, under Fifth Army, made an amphibious landing at Anzio, Italy, behind the German line. Although the Anzio maneuver did not provide a breakthrough initially, the landing forced the Germans to use their tactical reserve and scarce resources.

At the same time, other Fifth Army personnel held the line around Anzio and continued to press the Germans.  In May of that year, allied forces planned an assault on the winter line, a drive which carried all the way to Rome, which eventually fell to allied forces June 4, 1944. The third streamer placed was for resiliency and dedication to duty in the Rome-Arno Campaign. 

The Germans made their next stand along the North Apennine Mountains, where on Sept. 10, 1944, Fifth Army and allied forces, while reduced in strength due to the relinquishment of divisions for use in France, initiated a drive that broke the enemy line after a three-month campaign. These actions resulted in Fifth Army receiving the fourth streamer, the Apennines streamer.

The final steamer placed on the guidon was the Po Valley streamer.

In the spring of 1945, allied forces pushed across the Po Valley in Italy while the German resistance began to crumble. Fifth Army and allied forces, made spectacular advances which ended with the surrender of German forces May 2, 1945.

Notably, at its inception at the height of World War II, Fifth Army was recognized as both an ethnically and internationally diverse force that contained units from Canada, Britain, France, Italy, Brazil, South Africa, India, New Zealand, Morocco and Algeria. In its smaller units were exiled forces from Poland, Greece, Czechoslovakia, and anti-fascist Italians. From the United States, came the Buffalo Soldiers of the 92nd Infantry Division and Japanese-Americans from the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

Currently, U.S. Army North’s mission is to conduct homeland defense, support civil authorities, and theater security cooperation with the Canadian and Mexican militaries in order to protect the United States and its interests.

Read more about the history of Army North (Fifth Army) at https://www.arnorth.army.mil/about/pages/history.aspx.