following article was printed in the 1956 3d Armored Division Yearbook,
Fort Knox, and provides background information on the Division's return
to Germany in '56:
The 3d Armored Division won its famed nickname--the "Spearhead
Division"--while leading attacking American forces across Europe
during World War II. The term itself came from an oft-used expression of
General J. Lawton Collins, VII Corps Commander: "You will spearhead
the attack," when giving his orders to Major General Maurice Ross,
who was then Division Commander
have a tradition of "firsts" they are justly proud of: first
Americans to enter Belgium, first to fire an artillery shell at German
soil, first to break through the Siegfried Line and first to capture a
wartime Division was activated at Camp Beauregard, Louisiana,
in 1941. After forming there, they moved to Camp Polk, Louisiana, for
basic training, and then to the Mojave Desert Training Center in
California. Still later, the men went to Camp Pickett, Virginia, and
Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, Pennsylvania. On September 5, 1943,
the Division was on the seas headed for Europe.
continued in England at a feverish pitch, and on June 23, 1944, forward
elements of the Division landed on Omaha White Beach, below Isigny, France.
On June 29, Combat Command "A" was committed at Villiers
Fossard near St. Lo. For the Spearheaders, it was their baptism by fire,
their introduction to combat.
a slow fight through the Normandy hedgerows, the advance gained a rapid
momentum. Within two months, the Division had crossed the Seine River,
taking only an additional 18 days to sweep through Belgium.
the Battle of the Bulge progress was temporarily halted, but as the
German Advance fizzled, the "Spearhead" began rolling again,
picking up speed as it moved deeper and deeper into Germany. One of the
Division's most famous accomplishments was a one-day advance of 101
miles, the longest in military history. This drive continued until VE
Day was officially proclaimed.
After brief occupation duty, the 3d Armored Division was inactivated on
November 9, 1945, at Aalen, Germany, but this was not to be the end of
the brilliant record.
July 15, 1947, the 3d Armored Division was reactivated. Action stemmed
form a Department of the Army decision to give Replacement Training
Centers, as they were then called, the names of war-time divisions noted
for outstanding combat records. Military officials saw this as a means
of encouraging enlistments and building up morale and "esprit de
corps" for both trainees and permanent party.
3d Armored Division was one such unit. It had a World War II record that
was indeed outstanding. During 221 days of frontline combat, the
Division spearheaded nearly every major attack by the U.S. Army
qualities of aggressiveness and leadership were carried over into
training activities. In the summer of 1953, the Division trained the
Army's first light infantry "carrier company" composed of
four-man "buddy teams," and in January, 1954, it graduated the
Army's first Armor "packet platoon."
March 15, 1955, the present history of the Spearhead Division was
launched: the 3d Armored Division was reorganized as a combat division
capable of fulfilling its assigned role in NATO defense of the Western
few weeks later, the Department of the Army announced that the 3d
Armored Division would become a part of the "new look" in the
Army: "Operation Gyroscope?' a policy of sending entire units,
rather than replacements, abroad.
quietly but quickly began to shape themselves. Taking a glimpse at this
new phase for the Spearheaders, one sees the fragments of the new
picture become a part of the whole effort.
April 15, 1955, Major General
John Willems, from a post in Pentagon-level intelligence, assumes
command and immediately sets the wheels in motion to begin the
processing and training of the new members of the Division.
early June, the cadre of the Division ready themselves for the mission
of training new men as the 3d Armored Division is brought up to full
strength in the months to come. Each who has the mission of instruction
realizes he must first know his own job and the skills required, before
he can pass these on to those about to join him.
a certain Monday morning -- July 17, an air of expectancy hangs over
gathered men. Someone shouts: "Here
they come!" The hustle and bustle is the arrival of chartered
busses bringing in the first group of, personnel to the new 3d Armored
Division through induction by selective services
New York nation-wide radio-television program, August 4, marks the
closing phase of the Spearheader's recruiting program. Stage and
television star Martha Wright interviews the new Commanding General who
appears with the Fort Dix Band and Soldier Chorus, and Fort Knox's ARTC
September 28, the 3d Armored Division goes into the field for the first
command Post Exercise whose object is to help the unit reach the goal of
becoming "combat ready" prior to overseas movement.
the largest review parade ever held at Fort Knox goes off smoothly as on
October 28, 16,000 men are together marching in a single unit for the
first time. Pictures of the event appear in the local papers.