FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) - Fifty years of history ended Friday
in Frankfurt as the U.S. Army's 3rd Armored Division was formally
deactivated and packed away its flag in a stirring ceremony.
"Sir, this is my final salute. Mission accomplished,"
said Maj. Gen. Jerry Rutherford, the division commander.
Rutherford preceded the final salute to Gen. Crosbie Saint,
the Army's commander in Europe, with a loudly shouted "Spearhead!"
- the division's nickname, which it earned in combat in World
War II. Tears rolled down the cheeks of some of the soldiers
gathered for the ceremony.
Gen. Gordon Sullivan, U.S. Army chief of staff, and Hans Eichel,
governor of Germany's state of Hesse, were among those witnessing
the deactivation at Drake Barracks in Frankfurt.
Farewell speeches recounting the division's history, a deafening
salute of 13 rounds from Howitzer cannons, a marching band and
a color guard were all part of the activities. Several hundred
civilian guests attended.
As a final tribute to German guests in attendance, the band
played the country's traditional "Auf Wiedersehen"
The unit's colors will be returned to the United States, where
they could be reactivated later, Sullivan said.
The ceremony marked the end of an illustrious 50 years for
the division, founded in Louisiana in 1941.
After training in California's Mojave desert and other parts
of the United States, the division transferred to Britain in
1943. In June 1944, it stormed the beaches of Normandy in France
to take on Hitler's Nazi army and earn its nickname.
Deactivated in 1945, the unit was reactivated two years later
and returned to Germany in 1956 as the West's frontline of defense
against the now defunct Soviet-led Warsaw Pact forces.
In November, 1990, a year after the Berlin Wall fell, the
unit was ordered to Saudi Arabia to help drive Iraqi President
Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait.