Compiled from Div. PAO publications  Operations Index      NEXT

Abridged Division Operations 1966-1992

Continued Defense of Western Europe

NOTE: This very abridged summary for 1966-1992 is to be expanded.

  As the Vietnam War began to drain the Army's manpower and its budget, the Spearhead Division continued to train for its mission to defend the Fulda Gap, and to continue as the "Point of the NATO Shield." The Soviet and Warsaw Pact threat to Western Europe remained undiminished. In fact, it was a time of steady modernization of the Soviet Army and of rapid growth of Soviet nuclear weaponry.

But, undeniably, by early 1966 Vietnam would noticeably affect all of the U.S. Army in Europe in terms of, for example, budgetary restraints, a near-freeze on modernization, and an influx of less-than-happy draftee's. Still, the division remained strong and ready, if without such luxuries as flak vests, M16 rifles, and large-scale helicopter support, which were reserved for Vietnam until the early 1970's.

In January 1966 more than 22,000 soldiers from 3rd Armored Division and 17 supporting units, including a German Armor brigade, moved into the field south of Wuerzburg for a wintry mock war. The complex FTX "Silver Talon" -- so named because it started the Division's silver anniversary year -- rolled through a dramatic four-day battle with a powerful aggressor force. There was action to test every facet of the Division's strength, from the movement of tanks and other heavy weapons over rugged terrain to the maintenance of supply lines and artillery support and the tracking of the hidden enemy.

With the end of the Vietnam War and the draft, the mid and late 1970's brought new challenges to the division. The army was in a transition as it reformed itself to an all-volunteer force. The decade was dominated by cleaning up the problems brought on by the protracted war in Vietnam, to include morale and disciplinary issues. Training at Grafenwöhr, Hohenfels, Wildflecken, and in NATO exercises such as REFORGER continued to keep the division busy as its conspicuous presence continued to deter Soviet aggression.

The 1980's was a tremendous decade for the division and changed its character in many ways. The Army finally fielded the new equipment that it had been developing since the end of the Vietnam War. Another reorganization initiative called Division 86 added an Aviation Brigade to the organic Spearhead organization as well as substituting a battery of the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) in place of the General Support (GS) 8-inch howitzer battalion. The M1 Abrams tank, M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, M3 Cavalry Fighting Vehicle, AH-64 Apache helicopter, and MLRS truly modernized the fire power of the division.

Also during this decade the division's subordinate units again changed designations as the army adopted the U.S. Army Regimental System (USARS). Designed to foster esprit de corps and a sense of continuity, USARS was meant to give soldiers recurring assignments with different battalions of the same regiment. Units were redesignated to align units in the continental U.S. with units stationed overseas. In doing this, the historic relationships between divisions and regiments were often broken. The regimental alignments meant that Spearhead soldiers would primarily rotate between Ft. Hood, Texas and Germany. A small minority, those aligned with the 18th Infantry would rotate between Ft. Benning, Georgia and Germany.

In 1986 the division said farewell to 2-33 Armor which had served with 1st Brigade for 23 years. The battalion's personnel left Germany for Ft. Hood where they were assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division. In turn the 1st Cavalry transferred 2-5 Cavalry (an armor battalion) to the Spearhead Division. This COHORT rotation was similar to the Gyroscope except it was done at battalion level. 2-5 Cavalry only served with division for three months before it was reflagged as 4-32 Armor under USARS.

On June 19, 1987, a 3rd Armored unit did what no other Army unit had ever done. 1st Platoon, Company D, 4-8 Cavalry (an armor battalion previously designated as 3-33 Armor) won the Canadian Army Trophy (CAT). The CAT competition is like the America's Cup of Tank Gunnery; it pits tank platoons from all the NATO countries against each other in a competition that covers several days. It was a great moment for the Army, the M1A1 tank, and the Spearhead Division.

In November, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. This event signaled the coming end of Soviet dominance in Eastern Europe as well as the downsizing of its military. Soviet military reductions precipitated the drawdown of the U.S. Armed Forces, eventually spelling the end of the mighty Spearhead Division, but not before the division carried out one more mission in the sands of the Arabian Desert as part of the U.S. VII Corps during the Gulf War.

Return to Top

Operations Index      NEXT