Robert Lawrence Eichelberger was a highly popular commander who led many successful operations in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II.
He was the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at time of the Pearl Harbor attack. He was then appointed Commanding General of the 77th Infantry Division in January 1942, and then commander of the United States First Corps, whose staff he took to General Douglas MacArthur's Southwest Pacific Area command in Australia in August of that year with orders to turn back Japanese Papuan offensive.
He was the only senior United States land commander in the Pacific able to maintain good relationships with his Australian colleagues, in contrast to MacArthur. In December was sent to Buna front in Papau, New Guinea, to revitalize the stalled offensive, winning the first small but important victory against Japanese ground forces there before he took the First Corps on
through New Guinea to the Huon peninsula and then to American landings at Hollandia in April 1944. Operating as Operation Reckless Task Force, the First Corps Corps began a lightning campaign from Hollandia which secured a major base site for the support of subsequent Allied operations.
He was then Commander of the newly formed Eighth Army from September 1944, and was responsible for all American forces in Dutch New Guinea, for mounting of operations in the southern Philippines and for the cleaning-up operations on Leyte and later Luzon. After fighting in the Philippines ceased, he and his command supervised the surrender of over 50,000 Japanese troops from northern Luzon alone.
He was aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Harbor and attended the Japanese surrender there.
After the Japanese surrender, he commanded the first occupation forces in Japan and retired in 1948 as overall commander of Allied ground forces in the Japanese home islands.
General Eichelberger died at Asheville, North Carolina, on September 26, 1961. He was buried with full military honors in Section 2, Grave 4737, Arlington National Cemetery.
He has been born at Urbana, Ohio, on March 9, 1886. His family had come from Switzerland in 1726 and had members in every war this country fought. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1909.
During his career he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Distinguished Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and the United States Navy Distinguished Service Medal.
His wife, Emmaline Guder Eichelberger (Miss 'Em). August 12, 1888-February 11, 1972, is buried with him.