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
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
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.]