U.S. Army South combines lineage and historical significance from both the original Panama Canal construction and guard and the Sixth United States Army, which played a pivotal role for Allied Forces in the Pacific during World War II.
The Isthmian Canal Commission of 1904–1914 and the Panama Canal Guard both played a pivotal role in the construction and early defense of the Canal. The Panama Canal Guard was active from 1907 to 1917. On July 1, 1917, the Panama Canal Department was established as a separate geographic command with headquarters at Quarry Heights. Units included the 19th Brigade, composed of the 14th and 33rd Infantry, the 42nd Field Artillery, the 11th Engineers, and special troops.
In the late thirties, events in Europe and technological developments, such as the aircraft carrier and long-range bombers, precipitated construction of more modern defenses, a network of roads, and Albrook Field. By 1939, the military strength in the Canal Zone was about 14,000 and by early 1940, the troop strength rose to almost 28,000.
On February 10, 1941, the Caribbean Defense Command became the senior Army headquarters in the region, assuming operational responsibility over air and naval forces assigned in its area of operations. In January 1943, troop strength peaked at just over 67,000. The coastal defense network grew to include machine guns, barrage balloons and smoke machines which protected the canal's locks. Army aircraft patrolled the Caribbean Sea, searching for enemy German submarines.
November 15, 1947, following inactivation of the Caribbean Defense Command and reorganization of the Army, Navy, and Air Force (now an independent service), the Panama Canal Department was re-designated as United States Army Caribbean.
Headquartered at Fort Amador, one of U.S Army Caribbean's primary missions, from 1951 to 1999, was the task of "keeping jungle warfare alive in the Army." Fort Sherman became the home for U.S. Army Caribbean's Jungle Warfare Training Center (JWTC), which ran up to ten three-week courses per year. Many Soldiers destined for South Vietnam during the Vietnam War first received their jungle training at Fort Sherman.
Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara decided to bolster available U.S. Army forces in the Caribbean area in 1961 after the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion and rumors of Soviet assistance to Cuba. The Army reinforced the resident 1st Battle Group, 20th Infantry Regiment in the Panama Canal Zone with the 193rd Infantry Brigade, which was activated August 8, 1962.
June 6, 1963, U.S. Caribbean Command (the theater command) was re-designated as U.S. Southern Command, to reflect primary responsibility in Central and South America rather than the Caribbean. Meanwhile, U.S. Army Caribbean was re-designated as United States Army Forces Southern Command.
During the 1970s, troop strengths averaged between 10,000 and 14,000 soldiers. Implementation of the Panama Canal Treaties of 1977 on October 1, 1979, brought with it the following changes: a new arrangement for the defense of the Panama Canal; the disestablishment of the Canal Zone; a change in designation for the brigade to the 193rd Infantry Brigade (Panama), resulting in the beginning of the process of reorganizing from a heavy to a light infantry brigade; and a headquarters move from Fort Amador to Fort Clayton.
December 4, 1986, United States Army South was activated as a major Army command and the Army component of U.S. Southern Command, with headquarters at Fort Clayton.
Operation Just Cause, the U.S. military action used to depose Panamanian dictator, Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, was officially conducted from December 20, 1989 to January 31, 1990. U.S. Army South's Headquarters became the headquarters for Joint Task Force-South, the headquarters designated to execute the operation. During the Panama invasion, total troop numbers increased to 27,000. Of these, 13,000 were already stationed in Panama and 14,000 were flown in from the U.S.
October 14, 1994 the 193rd Infantry Brigade was the first major unit to inactivate in accordance with the Panama Canal Treaty of 1977, which mandated U.S. Forces withdrawal from Panama by December 1999.
As part of a unified command plan change, on June 1, 1997 U.S. Southern Command assumed geographic responsibility for U.S. military forces operating in the Caribbean Basin and the Gulf of Mexico. Within this framework, U.S. Army South's geographical area of responsibility expanded to now include today, 31 countries and 15 areas of special sovereignty in Latin America and the Caribbean, except Puerto Rico and Mexico. In 1998, U.S. Army South units participated in 15 platoon exchanges at the Jungle Operation Training Center with soldiers from Belize, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Chile, Argentina, and Paraguay.
U.S. Army South was subsequently relocated in August 1999 to Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico and finally to Fort Sam Houston, Texas in September 2002.
The Sixth United States Army was activated in January 1943, commanded by Lt. Gen. Walter Krueger. Under the code name "Alamo Force," Sixth Army assumed control of the majority of U.S. Army units involved in Operation Cartwheel, the campaign to isolate and neutralize the Japanese base at Rabaul in New Britain. Following the completion of Operation Cartwheel, Sixth Army joined Australian Army and other U.S. forces on the north coast of New Guinea. Similar in conception to the island hopping operations of the central Pacific, the objective of the attacks was to land, establish a garrison and airfield which could support the next strike, and then move on.
In September 1944, Sixth Army was relieved from operations in New Guinea by the Eighth United States Army. On October 20, 1944, X Corps and XXIV Corps, under Sixth Army, invaded Leyte in the Philippines. By December, Leyte was secured and the Sixth Army was relieved again by Eighth Army to prepare for the invasion of Luzon. As a prelude to that invasion, the island of Mindoro was invaded by the Western Visayan Task Force which was comprised of the 19th and 503rd Regimental Combat Teams. Sixth Army took part in the Invasion of Lingayen Gulf on January 9, 1945 with the subordinate units of I and XIV Corps. Sixth Army units fought south until they met up those of Eighth Army advancing from around Manila. Sixth Army then continued to clear the north of Luzon until the end of the war. Prior to the Japanese surrender, Sixth Army was planning to provide ground forces for the first phase of the invasion of Japan.
Occupation duty then followed for a short while until Sixth Army returned to the United States, headquartered at the Presidio of San Francisco. Sixth Army then took responsibility for training of Army forces from part of the continental United States, until it was inactivated as part of force reductions in June 1995.
As part of a larger Army transformation in response to the demands of post-9/11 operations worldwide, U.S. Army South merged with U.S. Sixth Army on July 16, 2008, a change that expanded its size and capabilities to include an operational command post that could serve as the nucleus of a joint task force or joint forces land component command headquarters anywhere in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility. In addition, U.S. Army South incorporated the lineage and heraldry from Sixth Army. While U.S. Army South received an exception to policy from the Army Chief of Staff to retain its distinctive Spanish galleon insignia, its colors were merged with Sixth Army's to mark the new, combined lineage and heraldry of the two historic organizations—one that played a pivotal role in the security of the Panama Canal and the broader region of Latin America and the Caribbean, and one that fought a series of famous battles in the Pacific theater of the Second World War.
The U.S. Army South Motto is “Defense and Fraternity.” "Defense" originally signified the primary mission of defending the Panama Canal. Now, "Defense" signifies the defense of shared values across the Western Hemisphere. "Fraternity" is symbolic of the fraternal bonds of friendship and mutual cooperation existing between the United States and all Latin American countries.
On a 2 1/2 inch (6.35 cm) ultramarine blue disc, a white galleon with a red cross on the sail, riding on white wave lines with a 1/8 inch (.32 cm) ultramarine blue border. The overall dimension is 2 3/4 inches (6.99 cm) in diameter.
The galleon is symbolic of the Caribbean area. This type of ship is usually associated with the Caribbean area since it predominated during the Spanish regime. The blue background represents the color of the Caribbean Sea. The cross was the insignia of Columbus, the first explorer to land in the Caribbean area.
The insignia was originally approved for the Caribbean Defense Command on May 3, 1944. It was re-designated for United States Army Caribbean on February 2, 1948. The insignia was re-designated for United States Army Forces Southern Command on July 11, 1963. It was reassigned for United States Army South with the description amended on April 1, 1987. The insignia was amended to correct the description and symbolism on July 28, 2009.
A gold color metal and enamel device 1 3/16 inches (3.02 cm) in height consisting of a rectangle arced at top and bottom divided saltirewise gold and red and bearing a stylized blue "S"; overall a white Spanish galleon charged on the upper fore-topsail with a red cross formy, all enclosed at the bottom by a gold scroll inscribed "DEFENSE AND FRATERNITY" in black.
The Spanish galleon and the colors red and gold are historically associated with the Caribbean and the command's theater of operations. The stylized "S" underscores the designation of the command, "South," while suggesting the two bodies of water -- the Atlantic (Caribbean) and the Pacific-- connected by the Panama Canal, with the red areas representing Central and South America.
The insignia was originally approved for the U.S. Army Forces Southern Command on June 24, 1969. It was reassigned for U.S. Army South on April 1, 1987. The insignia was amended to change the description and symbolism on July 29, 1996.
The white star was originally designed as an anti-fratricide marking for vehicles, but it soon became America’s national symbol. During the course of World War II, this symbol became synonymous with America and the Allied cause. For generations of Americans and their allies, when problems seemed truly insurmountable, the white star meant America was bringing a fix, courtesy of the U.S. Army. By the 1990s, the national symbol faded in prominence when the Army began painting it as 4-inch black stars on vehicle bumpers instead of white stars on the hoods and sides
To connect the modern, technological Army with its past, the colors black, white and yellow—representative of the components of gunpowder: charcoal, saltpeter and sulfur—were eventually applied to the star as homage to the heritage of the Army. Not only did this design appeal to younger generations, but in 2006 it was adopted as the official U.S. Army logo. Today, the Army Star is one of the most recognizable logos in the United States—more recognizable than the U.S. Marine Corps’ eagle, globe and anchor, and the U.S. Air Force’s Hap Arnold wings. Americans associate the Army Star with the U.S. Army and America. It invokes the same feelings of pride, strength and hope as the national symbol of the past.
On a six pointed white star 2 1/2 inches (6.35 cm) in diameter with a red border 3/32 inch (.24 cm) wide and 3/32 inch (.24 cm) in from the edge, a red letter "A" 7/8 inch (2.22 cm) high, all on a 2 3/4 inch (6.99 cm) Army Green disc.
The six-pointed star is significant of the number "six" and the red letter "A" signifies "Army." The red and white colors are the colors of the design approved for distinguishing flags for the numbered Armies.
The shoulder sleeve insignia was originally approved for the Sixth Army on January 26, 1927. The original design was cancelled and a new design approved on January 10, 1945. It was amended to change the background color from olive drab to Army Green on December 6, 1960.