Published by the Division PIO
at Frankfurt, Germany, in 1966
 Operations Index      NEXT

Abridged Division Operations 1956-1965

From re-deployment to Germany in 1956 and into
the mid '60's as relations with the USSR worsened.

ABOVE PHOTOS:  (Top) Lt. General Lemuel Mathewson, V Corps Commander, reviews Spearhead troops on May 31, 1956, in Bremerhaven following the docking of the ship USNS Gen. Maurice Rose, named for the Division's fallen World War II commander. (Bottom) 3AD M-60 tanks are shown on maneuver in Grafenwoehr in the winter of 1965-66 (photo by Sp4 Bud Lee).


Continued from Division Operations 1947-1956

Operation Gyroscope began its whirl on 1 March 1956 when the first plane carrying members of the advance party departed for New York. Spearhead would be deployed in the general vicinity of Frankfurt, Germany, where it would become a part of the famous United States Seventh Army. The Division would stand astride the Fulda Gap, for over 2,000 years an historic invasion route between the upper Rhine Valley and East-Central Germany.

During the next two weeks, 650 officers and enlisted men, representing each major Division command, made the Trans-Atlantic Flight. Brig. Gen. Robert W. Porter, Jr., Assistant Division Commander, flew to Frankfurt to assume duties as acting Division Commander.

It was the principal objective of the advance party to plan an efficient and expeditious replacement of the 4th Infantry Division. They ensured availability to all supplies and serviceable equipment necessary to meet the 72-hour deadline of combat readiness for the Division.

Early Saturday afternoon, 12 May 1956, a line was thrown out from the USNS Darby to dockmen at Bremerhaven, Germany. After eight days at sea, the first elements of Spearhead had returned to Germany.

A brief but impressive ceremony was held at dockside. Then with rifles slung over their shoulders, steel helmets on their heads and packs on their backs, the combat-ready Spearheaders filed down the gangplank and boarded waiting trains for the 11-hour ride to Kirchgoens.

Spearhead Colors accompanied by the Division Headquarters Company, arrived in Bremerhaven on the last day of May. Appropriately, they had sailed aboard the USNS General Maurice Rose.

Heralding the final event of the overseas movement was the arrival in Frankfurt on 30 June of Brig. Gen. Alva R. Finch, who had served as Division Commander in the United States, supervising the departure of the Division's last elements. On the preceding day the last ship had docked at Bremerhaven. With the arrival of those troops in Gelnhausen, the Division was fully operational.

Immediately, separate battalions of Combat Commands A and C left their kasernes for Wildflecken and Grafenwoehr.

Grafenwoehr, the former training ground of the mighty Nazi tank divisions commanded by Generals Rommel and Guderian, began to hum to the sounds of 3rd Armored tanks rolling across its broad fields. During the following months, every Spearhead unit maneuvered and was tested there.

Two significant changes in the structure of the Division had then taken place. First, on 1 October 1957, Spearhead was reorganized under ROCAD. The 143rd Signal Company was converted into a battalion to meet greatly expanded needs for extensive communication. An addition of an eight-inch howitzer battery and a battery of Honest John rockets was made to Division artillery. And the Division's 12 separate aviation sections expanded, consolidated, and redesignated as the 503d Aviation Battalion.

In 1957 the division's combat arms battalions were redesignated according to the Combat Arms Regimental System (CARS). This system was designed to perpetuate the lineages of the historic regiments that were broken up into independent battalions during or after WW II. Under CARS all combat arms battalions were affiliated with a parent regiment. 

Field Training Exercises (FTX) "Sabre Hawk" began early in February 1958. The ten-day exercise tested all elements of the Division in long-range and stay-behind patrols. Spearheading the friendly "Blue Forces," under V Corps command, the Division gained praise for its maneuverabilility and coordination. Though the entire Division was committed to the field for ten days, there were no fatalities or serious injuries, the pay-off for never-ending training. The Division's professional manner was exemplified by members of the 122nd Ordnance Battalion which completed 35 recovery, and 381 service, 274 armament, and 458 track and wheel-repair jobs.

On October 1, 1958 the most famous of all Spearheaders joined the division as a Private in Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st, Battalion, 32d Armor. Private (later Sergeant) Elvis Presley served out his military obligation as a regular soldier in the division until he was honorable discharged in March of 1960. His movie G.I. Blues made later that year was based partly upon his experiences and featured scenes from the division area.

All Division units participated in FTX "Winter Shield," Seventh Army's annual winter maneuver staged in the vicinity of Grafenwoehr during February 1960. It was the high point of winter training for Spearheaders and involved 60,000 men, drawn from V and VII Corps, and the Bundeswehr. It marked the first time that major units of the new German Army participated with the United States ground forces in a field exercise. "Winter Shield" was a test of combat readiness and provided realistic training under simulated combat conditions, with emphasis on the role of the individual soldier and small-unit leader. Maneuver with advanced weapons in all types of heliborne operations was also practiced. Action consisted of a series of attack, withdrawal, and counter-attack operations. The results, every participating unit benefited from the exercise.

In November 1961, Spearheaders moved to the field for FTX "Brandywine," a week-long exercise designed to test the Division's ability to move, shoot, and communicate. Command control systems, and teamwork between maneuver elements -- in addition to small unit tactical training -- were included in an exercise which was marked by rain, snow, mud and fog. The Division was supported by V Corps and Seventh Army units for a total of 26,000 men participating in the exercise. Pre-exercise training included cold weather indoctrination, CBR, map reading, and intelligence training.

Testing Speed, mobility, and striking power, 3rd Armored wound up an active 1962 by moving to the field for FTX "Sabre Knot". The exercise involved more than 30,000 troops from the 8th Infantry Division, V Corps Artillery, 212th Artillery Group, 37th Engineer Group, and 3rd Armored Division. It was conducted in an area encompassing Bad Hersfeld, Giessen, Ruessesheim, Eberbach, Aschaffenburg, and Fulda.

The Division began the problem by crossing the Main River at five different points near Aschaffenburg on rafts and bridges constructed by engineers, and in amphibious personnel carriers. Working in below-zero temperatures, all elements of the Division kept complete communications and continued to move throughout the problem. "Sabre Knot" was the largest maneuver since FTX "Brandywine".

IN 1962-1963 the Spearhead was given a major facelift when it was reorganized under the Reorganization Objective Army Divisions (ROAD). The Change replaced the combat commands with brigade headquarters and the number of maneuver battalions increased to six armor and five infantry battalions. ROAD called for units to be tailored for the mission they would serve.

Since the 3rd Armored Division had been withdrawn from the Army's Gryoscope Plan, Spearhead could now gird itself for the mission it serves in Europe. The changes included the redesignation of combat commands as brigades, the organization of Division Support Command, and the creation of a centralized filing system in an administrative company -- the 503rd Admin Co.

The Division itself continued training at Grafenwoehr and home stations and participated in numerous field training maneuvers by itself and with other NATO allies.

The Division underwent extensive training during both summer and winter at Seventh Army reservations and Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels, and during various field training exercises.

In June 1963, the Division played host to President John F. Kennedy, at a giant review ceremony held at Fliegerhorst Kaserne in Hanau. More than 15,000 troops and 700 pieces of equipment from all over USAREUR and USAFE took part in the ceremony hosted by the 3rd Armored Division.

After inspecting the honor guard, the Commander-In-Chief and Maj. Gen. John R. Pugh, Spearhead Commanding General and commander of troops, reviewed the men massed in a mile-long parade front.

After Trooping the Line, President Kennedy mounted the reviewing stand and drew attention to the U.S. fighting men serving their country and the free world some 3,500 miles from home. "Never before in History," he said, "has a country had so many of its sons serving so far away from their own land in a time of danger, not for the purpose of conquest, but for the purpose of freedom."

After completing an inspection of static displays of combat equipment, the President sat down to lunch with 328 soldiers and airmen in a Fliegerhorst mess hall.

December 1964, saw another major FTX in which the Division participated -- "Gallant Sword." The exercise involved over 23,000 men and 7,000 vehicles. It demonstrated, as Maj. Gen. Berton E. Spivy, Jr., Division Commander, explained, "in a realistic and dramatic way, the ability of the 3rd Armored Division and its U.S. Army and Bundeswehr comrades-in-arms to instantaneously react to any threat of aggression." Once postponed, delayed by heavy snow, plagued by rain, thaws and soft ground, the exercise reached a successful conclusion 9 December with 3rd Armored Division and its supporting forces driving the invader back to his border on the Eder River.

[Note: To continue, see Division Operations 1966-1992.]

Return to Top

 Operations Index      NEXT