Eighth Army celebrates 75th birthday at new base south of Seoul
By KIM GAMEL AND MATTHEW KEELER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 9, 2019
CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — With parachutes and cotton candy, the Eighth Army marked the 75th anniversary of its foundation with a weekend of festivities at its new home south of Seoul.
The three-day celebration comes at a time of change for the U.S. military on the divided peninsula amid diplomatic efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.
The Eighth Army and other major commands have moved to Camp Humphreys, taking most American soldiers, dependents and civilian workers with them to fulfill a long-delayed relocation plan.
Washington and Seoul also agreed last week to move the Combined Forces Command to this newly expanded base in the rural area of Pyeongtaek, reversing plans to keep it in the capital.
Lt. Gen. Michael Bills said the alliance between the two countries, which was forged in the 1950-53 Korean War, remains as strong as ever.
“The decades of strategic partnership have only strengthened the bond of our alliance and friendship between our nations’ people,” Bills said Saturday as he kicked off the three-day birthday party.
The crowd then gasped and applauded as special operations forces with American and South Korean flags parachuted onto the air field, followed by a South Korean honor guard that performed with incredible precision.
The festival, including food vendors, continued Sunday along with a golf scramble on the garrison’s new 18-hole course.
The celebration will culminate Monday, which marks the actual anniversary, with a final ceremony and the planting of a time capsule.
A new museum showcasing the history of Eighth Army and the 2nd Infantry Division also will open on Camp Humphreys.
The Eighth Army, which oversees the 2nd ID and other subordinate commands under the auspices of U.S. Forces Korea, was activated on June 10, 1944, in Memphis, Tenn.
It was soon deployed to the Southwest Pacific to help end World War II, participating in the liberation of the Philippines and the subsequent occupation of Japan.
In 1950, it deployed to South Korea and remained after the three-year war ended with an armistice instead of a peace treaty.
“Eighth Army has fought in 13 of the Army’s 189 campaigns,” Bills said. “From more than 60 amphibious landings … in World War II to the valiant defense of the Busan Perimeter during the Korean War, Eighth Army’s motto ‘Pacific Victors’ was brought to life.”
Military officials dismiss concerns the move farther from the front lines with North Korea may jeopardize security.
“The defense capabilities on the peninsula are as strong as ever, and that includes the combined nature of our ballistic missile and air defense capabilities,” Brig. Gen. Patrick Donahoe said Friday during a media roundtable at the Eighth Army headquarters.
He said that from the Eighth Army’s perspective, the move of the Combined Forces Command to Pyeongtaek will simplify cooperation with their South Korean counterparts.
South Korea has set up a central ground operations command in Yongin, on the edge of Seoul.
“Our critical interactions occur with the ground operations command in Yongin, so we no longer have to fight Seoul traffic to get to Yongin and back,” Donahoe said.
Eighth Army commander Lt. Gen. Michael Bills and wife, Megan, purchase a souvenir mug during the Eighth Army's 75th anniversary celebration at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, Satuday, June 8, 2019.
MATTHEW KEELER/STARS AND STRIPES