General's grandson shares leadership lessons in Korea
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea (Oct. 31, 2013) -- The grandson of a Korean War commanding general shared his grandfather's leadership lessons with senior Eighth Army leaders here, today.
Joseph McChristian Jr., the grandson of former Eighth Army Commander Gen. James Van Fleet, spoke to Eighth Army leaders in the Van Fleet Room at the Eighth Army Headquarters.
The Jupiter Island, Fla., resident is making his first visit to the country his grandfather referred to as his second home.
According to McChristian, his grandfather's ability to inspire his Soldiers was the key to his success on the battlefield.
"He had the ability to instill in people the conviction that he knew what he was doing and that they were going to win as a team," said McChristian, a Vietnam veteran and third generation West Point graduate, who served for 12 years in the U.S. Army.
"No matter how difficult the challenge or the mission might be, they never went into something half-heartedly," said McChristian. "His motto was 'the will to win,' and he lived that his whole life."
McChristian belongs to the Korea Society, a non-profit private organization that his grandfather and other prominent Americans established in 1957. The New York-based society presents the annual James A. Van Fleet Award to Americans and Koreans who improve U.S-Korean relations. The most recent recipients of the prestigious Van Fleet Award are current U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim and South Korean Ambassador Ahn Ho-young.
His grandfather graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1915, as a part of "the class the stars fell on" that included Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley.
Van Fleet was assigned to the University of Florida Reserve Officer Training Corps, from 1923 to 1924. During that tour, he took his winning ways from the battlefield to the football field, serving as the head coach of the Florida Gators. He led the Gators to national distinction with a 12-3-4 record.
A combat veteran of World War I and World War II, General Van Fleet arrived in Korea in April 1951, before the last two major enemy offensives of the Korean War.
The Communist Chinese committed 30 combat divisions and fired an unprecedented amount of artillery during these campaigns. It was the largest ground combat action of the Korean War. Following these unsuccessful enemy offensives, Eighth Army counterattacked and pushed enemy forces 10 to 15 miles north of the 38th parallel in most sectors.
Van Fleet was promoted to four-star general in August 1951.
As the Eighth Army commanding general, Van Fleet led the effort to modernize the Republic of Korea, or ROK, Army and he was often called the "Father of the ROK Army."
A statue of Van Fleet stands on the grounds of the Korean Military Academy, South Korea's equivalent to West Point, as a tribute to his support of the ROK Army. It is one of three statues that honor American Army officers in Korea, along with the Gen. Walton H. Walker Statue in front of the Eighth Army Headquarters and the General of the Army Douglas MacArthur Statute in Incheon.
A bust of Van Fleet is also located in the northern Greek town of Kastoria for his efforts to defeat the Communist-driven insurgency there after World War II.
Van Fleet retired from the U.S. Army after 37 years. McChristian credited his grandfather's successful career to his commitment to his nation and the values it represents.
"Grandfather was a profound believer in what he was fighting for," said McChristian. "He loved the United States of America and he was patriot to the core. He believed that the causes for which we were fighting were just causes.
"He could convey to people not only his confidence in what he was doing but his profound believe that what he was doing was correct, was right and served a noble cause," said McChristian.