Lieutenant General John J. Yeosock – In Memorium
Lieutenant General John J. Yeosock, United States Army, commanded the Third U.S. Army during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. I had the great privilege to serve under General Yeosock when he commanded the 1st Cavalry Division. He was also a mentor and, I am honored to say, a friend. While I was a student at the Army War College, I worked with him to compose his oral history. General Yeosock passed away on February 15, 2012. He was 74.
In the foreword to General Yeosock’s oral history, General Carl E. Vuono, Chief of Staff of the United States Army from 1987 to 1991, wrote: “General Yeosock was a leader of singular ability and dedication who served with remarkable distinction as a Soldier…. It was no accident that General Yeosock performed with such singular skill and ability in the Gulf…. In a complex joint and combined operation, John Yeosock commanded the Third U.S. Army – and all the U.S. Army land combat elements in the war. Executing with operational agility and skill, General Yeosock moved two heavy corps – some eight divisions in all — across the Saudi desert to strike at the Iraqi Army where it least expected it. As a result, the United States and the Coalition won a victory of historic proportions…. The history of John Yeosock is the story of the American leader – and he stands as a model for generations of commanders who will take their places in the defense of the Nation.”
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Here are some words penned by General Yeosock from the prologue to his oral history that help mark the measure of the man:
The Date: June 11, 1991
The Setting: New York City, Battery Park
The Event: The Desert Storm Victory Parade
“America was welcoming home the heroes of a victorious war. I arrived in New York City’s Battery Park with Major Ron Fong – my highly effective aide – ready to complete the last act of Desert Storm, the New York City Homecoming Parade. A feeling of electricity and jubilation seemed to surge through the air. The sight of thousands of Soldiers assembling for the parade energized my spirit. A great victory had been won and now the Nation was going to recognize the Soldiers who had won it.
Colors and guidons were uncased as final preparations were made and organizations took their correct places in the order-of-march. I looked across the park and saw the units of Desert Storm deployed, their colors flying in the soft breeze. VIIth Corps, XVIIIth Corps, the great Army divisions – 1st Infantry (Mechanized), 1st Cavalry, 1st Armored, 3d Armored, 24th Infantry (Mechanized), 82d Airborne, 101st Air Assault – and scores of other superb brigades, groups, regiments and battalions lined the park in succession. Although all 33,000 Soldiers of the Third Army/Army Central Command were not present, they were all represented by the Soldiers standing in ranks today. It was evident to everyone present that the feeling of accomplishment and pride was shared by all.
Before the parade I took the opportunity to talk to as many of the Soldiers as I could. Eventually Ron Fong told me that it was time to take my place and step off on the route-of-march. As I walked to my position in front of the colors of the 3d Army/Army Central Command, the events of my years of service swirled through my mind.
What had I done to deserve this great honor? Countless others could have been standing in my place. How did I get here? What made it possible for me to reach this point in history?
The Army Band began to play and the troops stepped off in the streets of New York City. Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children stood along the route-of- march, cheering, clapping and waving American flags. The emotion was over-powering. I was humbled to see such sincere and emotional support for America’s Army from my fellow citizens. There were no parades for the veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars – although they had deserved them. Something in America had changed.
Again the thought echoed in my soul – why me? Why am I so lucky? Clearly, I was at the head of the Army contingent because General Carl Vuono, General Colin Powell and General Norm Schwarzkopf selected me to be the commander of the 3d Army in 1989 – but it was more than this.
Early memories of my Army service came to mind … my days in the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment with First Sergeant John Rothacher … my experiences with thousands of other Soldiers who had helped me and taught me along he way… my peers who supported me and my superiors who mentored me deserve the credit. Faces of good friends ran through my thoughts… Pete McVey, Phil Medenbach, Jerry Hensley, John Jorgenson, Davy Doyle, Tom Lynch, Charlie Teague, Paul Funk, Bo Williams, Dick Cavazos, Bob Sennewald, Butch Saint, Bill Nash, Bob Frix, Paul Schwartz, Steve Arnold, Jim Monroe, and on and on.
Why am I here? Without question my commanders Franks, Luck, Griffith, Tilelli, Rhame, Johnson, McCaffrey, Peay, Funk, and Pagonis deserved all the credit.
Applause and confetti filled the air as we approached the reviewing stand. I strained to see where my wife Betta and brother Dave were standing. I could not find them in the mass of humanity viewing the parade, but they were with me nonetheless. I knew that if it were not for the love of my wife Beta, son John and daughter Beth, I would not have been here today, leading this parade, at this great moment in history.
In spite of my questions, deep in my heart, I knew why I was here, leading the parade. MY Army had prepared me. I did yesterday what became important tomorrow. If anyone deserves the credit, therefore, it is my Army and the Nation it serves.”
Somehow, I can’t help but see General Yeosock’s smiling face as he makes his last pass in review and salutes the Nation, his Army, his Family and Friends one final time to the strains of Taps: “Thanks and praise, For our days, Neath the sun, Neath the stars, Neath the sky, As we go, This we know, God is nigh.”
Rest in peace General. See you at Fiddler’s Green someday.
—Colonel John Antal, US Army (Ret.)