South Korean ministry honors late 8A commander, son
SEOUL - The South Korean Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs selected a former Eighth Army commander and his U.S. Air Force pilot son as the Korean War heroes of the month for March 2014.
The ministry recognized former Eighth Army Commander Gen. James Van Fleet and his son, Capt. James A. Van Fleet Jr.
The South Korean ministry pays tribute to a Korean War hero every month, usually a member of its armed forces who served with distinction during the war.
In March, they honored the American father and son for the important role they played in the brutal three-year conflict.
A celebrated combat leader of World War I and World War II, General Van Fleet became the Eighth Army commanding general in April 1951, before the last two major enemy offensives of the Korean War.
Communist Chinese forces committed 30 combat divisions and employed an unprecedented amount of artillery fire during the offensives.
They were the largest ground combat actions of the Korean War. Following the 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 U.S. Air Force B-26 pilot, Capt. James A. Van Fleet was shot down during a night bombing mission over Haeju, North Korea in April 1952. He met with his father on the general's 60th birthday on March 19. It was the last time they met.
A statue of General Van Fleet stands on the grounds of the Korean Military Academy, South Korea's equivalent to West Point. A bust of Capt. James Van Fleet Jr. is in front of the Officer's Club on Osan Air Base, home of the 7th Air Force and 51st Fighter Wing in South Korea.
General Van Fleet retired from the U.S. Army after 37 years.
Van Fleet's grandson, Joseph McChristian Jr., visited South Korea in October 2013 and spoke to leaders in the Van Fleet Room at the Eighth Army Headquarters.
"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."
"Grandfather was a profound believer in what he was fighting for," said McChristian, a Jupiter Island, Fla., resident and third generation West Point graduate. "He loved the United States of America and he was a 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.