BGen John Breitling Coulter (1891–1983) was a Lieutenant General in the United States Army. Coulter served during World Wars I and II and the Korean War.
Coulter was born on April 27, 1891 in San Antonio, Texas. He graduated from West Texas Military Academy in 1911, and in 1912 obtained a commission as a Second Lieutenant of Cavalry.
World War I
He initially served with the 14th Cavalry Regiment in Texas until 1916, including participation in the Pancho Villa Expedition. During World War I he served in France as aide-de-camp to General William A. Mann, the commander of the 42nd (Rainbow) Infantry Division. After returning to the U.S. for five months as adjutant of the 154th Brigade at Camp Meade, Maryland, he went back to France as commander of 2nd Battalion 508th Pioneer Infantry, an African-American unit.
After the war, Coulter served in the War Department's Personnel Branch, and then assumed command of 2nd Squadron 14th Cavalry at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. In 1922 he graduated from the Cavalry School and was assigned to the War Department as the Cavalry chief of materiel, later serving as executive officer to the Chief of Cavalry.
Coulter graduated from the Command and General Staff College in 1927, and then took command of a squadron in the 8th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Bliss, Texas, afterwards serving as assistant plans and training officer for the 1st Cavalry Division. He was subsequently assigned to the General Staff's Military Intelligence Division as a specialist in Latin American affairs.
In 1933 Coulter graduated from the Army War College, and he completed the Naval War College in 1934. In 1938 he was assigned as executive officer of the 4th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Meade, South Dakota, and in 1940 he became the regiment's commander.
World War II
In 1941 Coulter was assigned as commander of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade in Phoenix, Arizona, receiving promotion to Brigadier General. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, his soldiers patrolled the Mexican border, and Coulter received an additional assignment as the Western Defense Command's commander of the Southern Land Frontier Sector. In early 1942 Coulter was assigned to command 2nd Cavalry Division.
Coulter assumed command of the 85th Infantry Division in 1943, receiving promotion to Major General. After stateside training, he led his division in North Africa and Italy. The 85th Division fought through the Gustav and Gothic Lines during the Rome-Arno, North Apennines and Po Valley campaigns, and Coulter earned a reputation as an expert in military mountaineering and alpine warfare.
After World War II, Coulter returned to the U.S. as commander of the Infantry Replacement Center at Fort McClellan, Alabama, and then was assigned as deputy commander of Fourth Army at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
In 1948 he went to Korea as commander of the 7th Infantry Division. In 1949 he was appointed deputy commander of U.S. forces in Korea, and then commanded I Corps until its deactivation in 1950. Coulter was then assigned as deputy commander of Fifth Army, headquartered in Chicago.
After the June, 1950 invasion of South Korea, Coulter was assigned to command I Corps, reactivated as part of the Eighth Army. As the commander of Task Force Jackson, an ad hoc force of South Korean and U.S. troops, Coulter was credited with a key role in halting North Korea's advance. In September, 1950 Coulter assumed command of IX Corps, and led his organization as the supporting effort to I Corps in the U.S. counterattack against North Korea. According to American historian Clay Blair, catastrophic results ensued on the battle field due to Coulter's mistaken faith in the Turkish Brigade's fighting prowess since Coulter was as deceived as the war correspondents regarding fighting abilities of the Turks, whom Blair called "poorly led green troops".
In 1951 Coulter was promoted to Lieutenant General as deputy commander of the Eighth Army, and was Eighth Army commander General Matthew Ridgway's liaison to the South Korean Army and South Korean President Syngman Rhee. General Coulter retired from the Army in 1952.
Following his retirement, Coulter was appointed the Washington, D.C. representative of the United Nations Korean Reconstruction Agency (UNKRA), the organization formed to direct the international effort to rebuild South Korea after the Korean War. In 1953 he was named to head UNKRA, with the rank of UN Assistant Secretary-General, and he remained in this position until 1958. During his tenure, he directed the expenditure of more than $200 million for rebuilding South Korea's industry, schools, hospitals, roads and housing. During 1956 General Coulter also advised U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld on peacekeeping forces during the Suez Crisis.
In 1959, Syngman Rhee, still the President of South Korea, erected a statue of Coulter to recognize his efforts to rebuild South Korea. The statue originally stood in the Itaewon District of Sŏul. It was rededicated in 1977, and now stands at Sŏul's San 18, Neung-dong, Kwangjin-gu.
In the 1960s, Coulter was President of the Korean Cultural and Freedom Foundation, an organization formed to recognize Korean War veterans and foster cultural exchanges between the U.S. and South Korea.
Coulter died in Washington, D.C. on March 6, 1983 and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
His awards and decorations included the Distinguished Service Medal (3), Silver Star (2), Bronze Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, and Air Medal (6).
Citation for first Distinguished Service Medal:
June 18, 1944
As Commanding General, 85th Infantry Division, from February 21, 1943 to June 5, 1944, he led his troops on a series of brilliant advances over a hundred miles of the most difficult terrain, climaxed by their entry into Rome on June 4, 1944. The outstanding accomplishments of this division in its first experience of combat, against a ruthless and battle-hardened enemy, were due primarily to his aggressive leadership. His continued emphasis on rigorous, intensive training, his indoctrination of his men with the proper mental conditioning for battle, and his comprehensive grasp of military tactics proved decisive factors in the grim fighting against the enemy-held strong points of Colle San Martino, Hill 121, Formia, Terracina and Mount Ceraso. By the diligent exercise of his gifts of leadership and constant presence at the front he made a signal contribution to the smashing defeat of the enemy's forces before Rome.
Citation for second Distinguished Service Medal:
May 16, 1945
For exceptionally meritorious service in duty of great responsibility, from 17 August 1944 to 2 May 1945, in Italy. General Coulter commanded the 85th Division in its operations from the Cecina River to the Arno River and Gothic Line.
September 18, 1945
Later, in the difficult cracking of this strongly held and prepared line the 85th Division, under the exceedingly brilliant direction of General Coulter, took Mount Altuzzo on 18 September after a 5-day battle. This was one of the most important tactical features of the Gothic Line, the capture of which greatly facilitated the further advance of the Fifth Army through the strongly defended German positions. Throughout winter action in the Apennines and during the victorious Allied offensive in the spring, Major General Coulter ably led his troops in the accomplishment of a vital role leading to the crushing defeat of the German forces in Italy. While preparing his division for its assignment in the offensive, he skillfully readjusted troop dispositions, consolidated and strengthened a vulnerable and important mountainous sector, and at the same time provided all possible facilities for the welfare of his troops then undergoing the hardships of mountain fighting in bitter weather. Having perfected plans for the offensive, Major General Coulter directed his division in a smashing attack, inspiring his men by his aggressive leadership and firm determination to press the attack rapidly and relentlessly. Advancing across the Po Valley, the 85th Division severed the vitally important Highway 9, crossed the Po River and continued its drive across the Adige Line, accomplishing an advance of more than one hundred miles in a period of ten days. The brilliant tactical skill and inspiring leadership of Major General Coulter resulted in an extremely vital contribution to the victory achieved by the 15th Army Group.
August 2, 1950
August 2, 1950 I Corps was activated at Fort Bragg, N.C., with General Coulter in command.
August 27, 1950
At the briefing at Eighth Army headquarters in Taegu on Sunday, 27 August,
General Walker showed his concern over this development. One of those present
was Coulter who
had arrived in Korea about a month earlier. Half an hour after the briefing
ended, General Walker called General Coulter to him and said, "I can't get
reliable reports. I want you to go to the eastern front and represent me. I am
sending a regiment from the 24th Division to help."
Coulter flew to KYŏngju at once, arriving there at noon. Walker in the meantime formally appointed Coulter Deputy Commander, Eighth Army, placing him in command of the ROK I Corps, the U.S. 21st Infantry, the 3d Battalion, 9th Infantry, and the 73d Medium Tank Battalion, less C Company. General Coulter designated these units Task Force Jackson and established his headquarters in the same building in KYŏngju in which the ROK I Corps commander and the KMAG officers had their command post.
August 27, 1950 Noon
He assumed command of Task Force Jackson at
1200, 27 August.
When he arrived at KYŏngju that Sunday, General Coulter found the ROK I Corps disintegrating rapidly and in low morale. Coulter talked to the ROK commanders and their staffs about the terrible effect of their failure to stop the North Koreans and the danger it posed for the entire Pusan Perimeter. General Walker had instructed him to issue his orders to the ROK I Corps commander or his chief of staff in the form of advice, which Coulter did. Coulter had the mission of eliminating the enemy penetration in the Kigye area and of seizing and organizing the high ground extending from north of Yŏngch'ŏn northeasterly to the coast at Wolp'o-ri, about twelve miles north of P'ohang-dong. This line passed ten miles north of Kigye. Coulter was to attack at once with Task Force Jackson, his immediate objective being to gain the first high ground north of Kigye.
August 27, 1950
The U.S. 21st Infantry Regiment on the morning of 27 August was moving to a position north of Taegu, when General Walker revoked its orders and instructed Colonel Stephens to turn the regiment around and proceed as rapidly