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[CCB Reunion]

[33d Armor]

[7th Sig Bde]



[2d Inf Bde]





(Page 3.3)

3d Armored Division - from World War II to the Return to Germany in '56

Training Div.
Combat Div.
4th Inf Div.





The 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:

Nickname: 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

Spearheaders 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 German city.

The 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.

Training 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.

After 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.

During 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.

On 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.

The 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 in Europe.

These 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."

On 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 World.

A 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.

Events 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.

On 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.

During 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.

On 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

A 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 Honor Guard.

On 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.

Next 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.

As Christmas decorations begin to appear in the stores and PXs, some two hundred alien wives of 3d Armored Division men successfully complete their naturalization interviews, prior to receiving U.S. citizenship. This takes place while another event is also occupying attention: processing for the movement of the first group of men and dependents to Western Germany on the Advance Party. The move is planned for March ‘56.

With the first mass naturalization since World War II at Fort Knox, battalion tests, and a Division Alert, January proves to be a busy month. In the last week of the year, the big effort was undertaken -- the climax to all the months of training. On January 31, the men successfully braved rugged terrain, sudden rains, and mountains of mud in a division-wide, week-long mock war named "Operation Hercules", which pronounces the 3d Armored Division ready to meet its mission in Germany. All that remains now is the movement of men themselves. By mid-summer all will be at their new destination: the area of Frankfurt, Germany.

To men of the 3d Armored Division, the beginning of a new era is nearing as troops begin the peacetime move under "Operation Gyro­scope" to Germany. To the division which 12 years earlier had fought its way across Europe fighting Germany, this time they would go in defense of that country as part of America’s NATO mission in Europe.

Under the Army's present policy known as "Operation Gyroscope" the sending of entire units, rather than individual replacements abroad, the 3d Armored Division will be rotated with the 4th Infantry Division in West Germany.

The Advance Party and dependents – 761 military personnel and 429 families will begin leaving New York the first of March, to set the stage for the main body.

Nine planes will take off from the United States between March 1 and 13, carrying the first team of the Advance Party. The second team leaves between March 19 and 30, followed by the final advance group April 1 through 12.

After 18 hours in the air, dependents will arrive and be greeted by their counterparts who will escort them to prearranged quarters and assist them in getting settled.

For the hungry man of the house, there will be food in the refrigera­tor, put there by families of 4th Infantry Division personnel who will play host for families of the arriving 3d Armored Division.

The mass movement of men, dependents, pets, household goods, and Army equipment has kept many of the various functions of the 3d Armored Division going at a furious pace for months. Each section has been hard at work at its own individual tasks.

Tasks of Moving:  Most of the questions confronting both those shipping overseas and those at work administratively have centered about legal requirements, completing forms, pictures, passports, and shots for the dependents, air, rail and sea transportation, deciding which men and units will ship with particular groups, housing for family groups, boxing and crating goods and equipment--plus the overall planning required to accomplish these matters.

"The gyroscope move with the 3d Armored Division will cost hun­dreds of thousands of dollars and will entail the movement of about twenty-one thousand people men and dependents. Our job is to get them there quickly, safely, comfortably, and of course, at the least cost to the Government," said Major Melvin Piel, Division Transportation Officer, who has a big part in the move.

"Several thousand Conex containers will be used to ship goods and equipment saving the government hundreds of dollars on each shipment. It makes for faster handling, less chance of individual pieces or articles being lost. After they have been blocked and braced for shipping, then shipped, they are re-usable," said Major Piel.

To answer the need for increased numbers of men to handle the supply problem, the Division found it necessary to train three classes and set up a supply school to accomplish this. Three hundred and fifty-seven men successfully completed the instruction. The effect of the additional personnel was to better than double the number of qualified men to handle supply matters.

Another busy function was the Division Processing Center. In only six weeks they processed more than 1,745 families, and 4,314 dependents. The Medical Section of the center has been busy preparing dependents to meet the medical requirements necessary prior to overseas shipment. More than 30,000 immunization shots were administered through mid-January.

Better than 2,000 people have completed passports through mid-January and some 1,500 passport applications were completed and transmitted to the Military District of Washington. The same period saw 300 passports sent to the port in New York to await arrival of the dependents concerned.

Two-hundred and twenty 3d Armored Division dependents were made American citizens on January 6 during a special session of the United States District Court in Shadows Field House, Fort Knox, in another step to prepare them to meet legal requirements as speedily and easily as possible.

Naturalization examiner Patrick B. McHugh of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service said the class of 227, with citizens from 22 countries, was the largest to be naturalized in many years in his area and the first class to receive citizenship on the Fort Knox military reservation since the years of World War II. Classes in naturalization were started soon after the Division was alerted for duty in Germany.

The main body of the division at Fort Knox will be moved by ship to Germany beginning about April 2, starting with Combat Command “A," then Combat Command “B"; and finally Combat Command “C". The Division will occupy the area of near Frankfurt in the state of Hessen in West Germany and is expected to be in place June ‘56.