THE COLD WAR
Abridged Division Operations 1947-1956
From reactivation in 1947 to preparation for the return
to Germany in 1956 under "Operation Gyroscope"
||After brief occupation duty in post-WWII Germany,
the 3rd Armored Division was inactivated on November 9, 1945,
in Aalen, Germany, but this was not to be the end of the brilliant
On July 15, 1947, the 3rd 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 enlistment's and building
up morale and "esprit de corps" for both trainees and
The 3rd Armored Division was one such unit. During 221 days of
frontline combat, the Division had spearheaded nearly every major
attack by the U.S. First Army in Europe. It had been the first
Allied force to enter Germany. On 15 July 1947, the replacement
center at Fort Knox, Kentucky, was named the 3rd Armored Division.
Spearhead officially assumed the primary mission of training
nearly one-fourth of the enlisted men entering the Army.
In two unusual examples of its mission at Ft. Knox, 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." All told, between 1947 and
1955, more than 300,000 soldiers were trained by the Division
before being sent to their permanent units, which included the
period of the Korean War.
On March 15, 1955, the present history of the Spearhead Division
was launched. The 3rd Armored Division was reorganized as a combat
division capable of fulfilling its assigned role in NATO defense
of the Western World. Its mission as primarily a training unit
A few weeks later, the Department of the Army announced that
the 3rd 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 3rd 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, 1955, 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 3rd 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
On September 28, the 3rd 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, 1955, 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 PX's, some two hundred alien wives of 3rd 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, 1956..
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
3rd 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,
To men of the 3rd 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 3rd 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,
1956, 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 3rd Armored Division.
The mass movement of men, dependents, pets, household goods,
and Army equipment has kept many of the various functions of
the 3rd 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 3rd 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
"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
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
Two hundred and twenty 3rd 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.
[Note: To continue, see Division Operations 1956-1966.]