Army group
An army group is a military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 organization consisting of several field armies
Field army
A Field Army, or Area Army, usually referred to simply as an Army, is a term used by many national military forces for a military formation superior to a corps and beneath an army group....

, which is self-sufficient for indefinite periods. It is usually responsible for a particular geographic area. An army group is the largest field organization handled by a single commander — usually a full General or Field Marshal
Field Marshal
Field Marshal is a military rank. Traditionally, it is the highest military rank in an army.-Etymology:The origin of the rank of field marshal dates to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the king's horses , from the time of the early Frankish kings.-Usage and hierarchical...

 — and it generally includes between 400,000 and 1,000,000 troops.

In the Polish Armed Forces
Polish Armed Forces
Siły Zbrojne Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej are the national defense forces of Poland...

 and former Soviet Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 an army group was known as a Front
Front (Soviet Army)
A front was a major military organization in the Soviet Army during many wars. It was roughly equivalent to an army group in the militaries of most other countries except Germany...

. The equivalent of an army group in the Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
-Foundation:During the Meiji Restoration, the military forces loyal to the Emperor were samurai drawn primarily from the loyalist feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū...

 (IJA) was a General Army .

Army groups may be multi-national formations. For example, during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the Southern Group of Armies
U.S. 6th Army Group
The Sixth United States Army Group was an Army Group of the Allies during World War II, and as contained armies from both the United States Army and the French Army it is also referred to as the Southern Group of Armies.-History:...

 (also known as the U.S. 6th Army Group) comprised the U.S. Seventh Army and the French First Army
French First Army
The First Army was a field army of France that fought during World War I and World War II. It was also active during the Cold War.-First World War:...

; the 21st Army Group comprised the British Second Army
British Second Army
The British Second Army was active during both the First and Second World Wars. During the First World War the army was active on the Western Front and in Italy...

, the Canadian First Army and the US Ninth Army.

In U.S. Army usage, the number of an army group is expressed in Arabic numerals (e.g., "12th Army Group"), while the number of an army is spelled out (e.g., "Third Army").


A Chinese "army group" was usually equivalent in numbers only to a field army in the terminology of other countries. On 16 May 1940, Zhang Zizhong
Zhang Zizhong
Zhāng Zìzhōng was a Chinese general of the National Revolutionary Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Born in Linqing in Shandong province, he was the highest-ranked officer and the only Army group commander of the NRA to die in the war...

, commander of the 33rd Army Group was killed in action in Hubei
' Hupeh) is a province in Central China. The name of the province means "north of the lake", referring to its position north of Lake Dongting...

 province. He was the highest ranking Chinese officer to be killed in the war.


The German Army was organized into army groups (Heeresgruppen). (See List of German Army Groups in WWII.) Some of these army groups were multinational, containing armies from several Axis countries. For example Army Group Africa contained both German and Italian corps.


During World War II there were six General Armies:
  • Kantōgun (often known as the "Kwantung Army") originated as the division-level garrison
    Garrison is the collective term for a body of troops stationed in a particular location, originally to guard it, but now often simply using it as a home base....

     of a Japanese colony
    Kwantung Leased Territory
    The Kwantung Leased Territory was a territory in the southern part of the Liaodong Peninsula in Inner Manchuria that existed from 1898 to 1945. It was one of the numerous territorial concessions that the Empire of China was compelled to award to foreign countries at the end of the 19th century...

     in northeast China
    Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

    , in 1908; it remained in northern China until the end of World War II. The strength of the Kantōgun peaked at 700,000 personnel in 1941. It faced and was destroyed by Soviet forces in 1945.

  • Shina Hakengun, the "China Expeditionary Army", was formed in Nanjing
    ' is the capital of Jiangsu province in China and has a prominent place in Chinese history and culture, having been the capital of China on several occasions...

    , in September 1939, to control operations in central China. At the end of World War II, it consisted of 620,000 personnel in 25 infantry and one armored divisions.

  • Nanpo Gun
    Southern Expeditionary Army Group
    The was a army group of the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. It was responsible for all military operations in South East Asian and South West Pacific campaigns of World War II....

     was the "Southern Army", also known as the "Southern Expeditionary Army". By November 1941, war with the western Allies appeared likely and Nanpo Gun was formed in Saigon, French Indochina
    French Indochina
    French Indochina was part of the French colonial empire in southeast Asia. A federation of the three Vietnamese regions, Tonkin , Annam , and Cochinchina , as well as Cambodia, was formed in 1887....

    , to control IJA operations in southern China, South Asia
    South Asia
    South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

    , South East Asia, and the South Pacific
    Oceania is a region centered on the islands of the tropical Pacific Ocean. Conceptions of what constitutes Oceania range from the coral atolls and volcanic islands of the South Pacific to the entire insular region between Asia and the Americas, including Australasia and the Malay Archipelago...


In April 1945, the Boei So-Shireibu (translated as "General Defense Command" or "Home Defense General Headquarters" and similar names) was split into three General Armies:
  • Dai-Ichi So-Gun ("1st General Army", headquartered in Tokyo
    , ; officially , is one of the 47 prefectures of Japan. Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the center of the Greater Tokyo Area, and the largest metropolitan area of Japan. It is the seat of the Japanese government and the Imperial Palace, and the home of the Japanese Imperial Family...

  • Dai-Ni So-Gun ("2nd General Army", headquartered in Hiroshima
    is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It became best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 A.M...

  • Koku So-Gun ("Air General Army", headquartered in Tokyo)

By August 1945, these comprised two million personnel in 55 divisions and numerous smaller independent units. After the surrender of Japan
Surrender of Japan
The surrender of Japan in 1945 brought hostilities of World War II to a close. By the end of July 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy was incapable of conducting operations and an Allied invasion of Japan was imminent...

, the IJA was dissolved, except for the Dai-Ichi So-Gun, which existed until 30 November 1945 as the 1st Demobilization Headquarters.

Soviet Union

The Soviet Army was organized into Front
Front (Soviet Army)
A front was a major military organization in the Soviet Army during many wars. It was roughly equivalent to an army group in the militaries of most other countries except Germany...

s (фронт) which were often as large as an army group. (See List of Soviet fronts in World War II.) Some of the Fronts contained Allied formations raised in exile. For example, the Polish First Army
First Polish Army (1944-1945)
The Polish First Army was a Polish Army unit formed in the Soviet Union in 1944, from the previously existing Polish I Corps as part of the People's Army of Poland . The First Army fought westward, subordinated to the Soviet 1st Belorussian Front, during the offensive against Germany that led to...

 was part of the 1st Belorussian Front
1st Belorussian Front
The 1st Belorussian Front was a Front of the Soviet Army during World War II...


Western Allies

In April 1944, the previously informal British-United States collaboration in the European Theater
European Theatre of World War II
The European Theatre of World War II was a huge area of heavy fighting across Europe from Germany's invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 until the end of the war with the German unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945...

 was strengthened by the establishment in London of a formal planning headquarters called Chief of Staff Supreme Allied Command, or COSSAC, and in February 1944, this headquarters was replaced by the final interallied headquarters for the Theater—Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF). SHAEF was the operational command, headed by General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

, that planned the invasion and issued operational commands once the invasion took place. General Eisenhower also became (in January 1944) the commanding general of the European Theater of Operations United States Army (ETOUSA) that was responsible for the administration of American forces in the theater (dealing with matters such as pay and recreation). The staff organizations of SHAEF and ETOUSA were distinct. As a rule, each headquarters had its own staff sections manned by separate personnel. The staff organization in SHAEF was headed by the Chief of Staff and had as an important officer the Secretary of the General Staff. The G-2 and G-3 divisions of SHAEF, which comprise a portion of this accession, functioned according to the United States War Department General Staff pattern.

SHAEF had operational control over three inter-Allied ground commands known as Army Groups. The initial two were the 21st Army Group and the 12th Army Group (originally the U.S. 1st Army Group or FUSAG), and in September 1944, operational command of the Sixth Army Group (which had landed in the south of France during Operation Dragoon
Operation Dragoon
Operation Dragoon was the Allied invasion of southern France on August 15, 1944, during World War II. The invasion was initiated via a parachute drop by the 1st Airborne Task Force, followed by an amphibious assault by elements of the U.S. Seventh Army, followed a day later by a force made up...

) passed from Allied Force Headquarters (AFHQ) to SHAEF. As part of the pre-invasion deception plan called Operation Quicksilver
Operation Quicksilver
Operation Quicksilver may refer to:*Operation Quicksilver , a World War II plan by the Allies that was a sub-plan of Operation Fortitude...

, the original FUSAG was renamed 12th Army Group, and "FUSAG" continued as a notional army group threatening to invade France across the Straits of Dover.

Allied Forces Headquarters
Allied Forces Headquarters
Allied Force Headquarters was the headquarters that controlled all Allied operational forces in the Mediterranean Theatre of World War II from late 1942 to the end of the war....

 (AFHQ) in the Mediterranean theater
Mediterranean Theatre of World War II
The African, Mediterranean and Middle East theatres encompassed the naval, land, and air campaigns fought between the Allied and Axis forces in the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and Africa...

 also had operational command of the 15th Army Group (a multi-national army group) fighting in Italy.

South East Asia Command
South East Asia Command
South East Asia Command was the body set up to be in overall charge of Allied operations in the South-East Asian Theatre during World War II.-Background:...

 (SEAC) in the South-East Asian theater
South-East Asian theatre of World War II
The South-East Asian Theatre of World War II was the name given to the campaigns of the Pacific War in Burma , Ceylon, India, Thailand, Indochina, Malaya and Singapore. Conflict in the theatre began when the Empire of Japan invaded Thailand and Malaya from bases located in Indochina on December 8,...

 had operational command of the British 11th Army Group that was later reorganised and redesignated Allied Land Forces South East Asia (ALFSEA). Like most other Western Allied army groups, ALFSEA co-ordinated a mixture of Allied forces from several nations.

NATO 'Army Groups'

During the Cold War, NATO land forces in what was designated the Central Region (most of the Federal Republic of Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

) would have been commanded in wartime by two 'Army Groups'. Under Allied Forces Central Europe
Allied Forces Central Europe
Joint Force Command Brunssum is the NATO military command based in Brunssum, Netherlands. JFC-B reports to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe based at Casteau, Belgium. It is one of three operational level commands in the NATO command structure, the others being Joint Force Command...

 and alongside air force elements, the two Army Groups would have been responsible for the defence of Germany against any Soviet/Warsaw Pact
Warsaw Pact
The Warsaw Treaty Organization of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance , or more commonly referred to as the Warsaw Pact, was a mutual defense treaty subscribed to by eight communist states in Eastern Europe...

 invasion. These two Principal Subordinate Commanders (PSCs) had only limited peacetime authorities, and issues such as training, doctrine, logistics, and rules of engagement (ROE) were largely a national, rather than Alliance, responsibility.

The two formations were the 'Northern Army Group
Northern Army Group
The Northern Army Group was a NATO military formation comprising four Western European Army Corps, during the Cold War as part of NATO's forward defence in the Federal Republic of Germany.- History :...

' (NORTHAG) and the 'Central Army Group' (CENTAG). By World War II and previous standards these two formations were only armies, as they contained four corps each. NORTHAG consisted, from north to south, of I Netherlands Corps (I (NE) Corps), I German Corps (I (GE) Corps), I (BR) Corps, and I Belgian Corps (I (BE) Corps). Its commander was the British commander of the British Army of the Rhine
British Army of the Rhine
There have been two formations named British Army of the Rhine . Both were originally occupation forces in Germany, one after the First World War, and the other after the Second World War.-1919–1929:...

 (BAOR). CENTAG consisted, from north to south, of III (GE) Corps, V US Corps
United States V Corps
The V Corps, also known as the Victory Corps, is a corps-level formation of the United States Army and the main land component of United States Army Europe. The corps headquarters is located at the Wiesbaden Army Airfield in Wiesbaden, Germany...

, VII (US) Corps, and II (GE) Corps in the extreme south of the Federal Republic of Germany
West Germany
West Germany is the common English, but not official, name for the Federal Republic of Germany or FRG in the period between its creation in May 1949 to German reunification on 3 October 1990....

. The commander of the United States Army Europe commanded CENTAG.

In November 1991, the NATO heads of state and government adopted the "New Strategic Concept" at the NATO Summit in Rome. This new conceptual orientation led, among other things, to fundamental changes both in the force and integrated command structure. Structural changes began in June 1993, when HQ Central Army Group (CENTAG) at Heidelberg
-Early history:Between 600,000 and 200,000 years ago, "Heidelberg Man" died at nearby Mauer. His jaw bone was discovered in 1907; with scientific dating, his remains were determined to be the earliest evidence of human life in Europe. In the 5th century BC, a Celtic fortress of refuge and place of...

 and Northern Army Group (NORTHAG) at Mönchengladbach
Mönchengladbach , formerly known as Münchengladbach, is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located west of the Rhine half way between Düsseldorf and the Dutch border....

, GE were deactivated and replaced by Headquarters Allied Land Forces Central Europe (LANDCENT), which was activated at Heidelberg on 1 July 1993.
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