General James Van Fleet graduated from Summerlin Institute in Bartow, FL. After graduation in 1911, he received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where he graduated in the Class of 1915 that included many future generals, including Dwight D. Eishenhower and Omar Bradley.
Former President Harry Truman said of Van Fleet “General Van Fleet is the greatest general we have ever had . . . I sent him to Greece and he won the war. I sent him to Korea and he won the war.” Van Fleet is the recipient of many awards such as the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, and many more. During World War I, Van Fleet served as a battalion commander of the American Expeditionary Force. He commanded the 8th Infantry Regiment for three years and led it into combat in Europe in World War II, participating in the D-Day landings on Utah Beach in June 1944. He was sent to Greece as executor of the U.S. Second Army from August 10, 1950 to April 11, 1951.
While serving as the senior officer of the University of Florida’s U.S. Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program, Van Fleet also served as the head coach of the Gators’ football team team in 1923 and 1924. He led the Gators into national prominence with a 12–3–4 (.737) record during the 1923 and 1924 seasons.