The 2nd Armored Division was formed at Fort Benning (Georgia) on July 15, 1940, by reorganizing and redesignating the Provisional Tank Brigade composed of the 66th Infantry Regiment (Light Tanks), the 67th Infantry Regiment (Medium Tanks), and the 68th Infantry Regiment (Light Tanks). It was originally commanded by Gen Charles L. Scott, with Col George S. Patton in charge of the training. Scott was promoted to command the I Armored Corps in November of that year which put Patton, now a brigadier general, in command of the division. The 2-AD participated then in the VII Corps Tennessee Maneuvers June 2/28, 1941, then moved to Ragley (Louisiana), on August 12, 1941, to participate in the 2nd and 3rd Army Louisiana Maneuvers. The 2-AD returned to Fort Benning on September 29, 1941, and participated (November 2, 1941), in the 1st Army Carolina Maneuvers, then returned to Fort Benning on December 2. In February 1942, the 2-AD passed over to the command of Gen Willis D. Crittenberger and was relocated to Monroe (North Carolina) on July 10, for the II Armored Corps Carolina Maneuvers then was transferred to Fort Bragg (North Carolina) on August 15, 1942.
The 2-AD staged at Fort Dix (New Jersey), and moved, on November 3, 1942, to the New York Port of Embarkation (POE) for oversea crossing preparation. Elements of the division were among the first US military to engage in offensive ground combat operations in the European and Mediterranean theater during World War II. The 2-AD, now commanded by Gen Ernest N. Harmon, served in North Africa along with the 1-AD. They were part of the Western Task Force during Operation Torch, which landed at Casablanca in French Morocco on November 8, 1942. The remainder of Torch’s American component was the 1-ID, the 3-ID, the 9-ID and the 34-ID. However, the 2-AD did not see much action in North Africa and instead remained in French North Africa on garrison and training duties. In April 1943, Gen Harmon relinquished command of the division to Gen Hugh Joseph Gaffey. Training in amphibious operations began in preparation for an amphibious landing at Sicily.
As the reserve force of the Western Task Force of Operation Husky (codename for the Sicily invasion), the division landed on July 10, 1943, in support of the 1-ID during the Battle of Gela. Afterward, the division next went into action in the second landing at Licata, Sicily on July 21 following the 3-ID’s better-known earlier landing on July 10. The 2-AD, operating closely with the troopers of the 82-A/B, then fought through to the Sicilian capital of Palermo. Along the way, the 2-AD captured thousands of Italians. The fighting in Sicily came to an end on August 17, with the 2-AD having sustained relatively light casualties in the brief campaign, where it had gained its first Medal of Honor of World War II, belonging to Sgt Gerry H. Kisters. Soon afterward, the 2-AD was sent to England, in preparation for the Allied invasion of Normandy, and remained there until June 1944. In April the division received a new commander, Gen Edward H. Brooks, a decorated veteran of World War I.
The 2-AD landed in Normandy, on Omaha Beach on D+3, June 9, 1944, and operated in the Cotentin Peninsula and later formed the right flank of the Operation Cobra assault. The division encircled the 2.SS-Panzer-Division ‘Das Reich’ and the 17.SS-Panzergrenadier Division ‘Götz von Berlichingen’.
During the confrontation, the Das Reich Panzer Division and the Götz von Berlichingen Panzergrenadier Division lost most of their armored equipment. Two columns of the 2.SS-Panzer-Division were mauled by the 2-AD. Over the course of two hours, the American artillery fired over 700 rounds into the enemy column causing destroying more than 260 combat vehicles while 1150 German soldiers were killed during the confrontation. The Germans also lost an additional 96 armored combat vehicles and trucks. The 2-AD alone was credited with the score of 64 German tanks and 538 other German combat vehicles destroyed during Operation Cobra while the division suffered 49 tank losses. Also credited with the score of over 7370 casualties in the enemy forces, the 2-AD suffered 914 casualties.
The 2-AD blunted then, the German attack on Avranches, then raced across France with the rest of Patton’s 3-A, reaching the Albert Canal in Liège, Belgium, on September 8. It crossed the German Border near Sittard, Holland, on September 18, to take up defensive positions near Geilenkirchen, Germany. On October 3, the 2-AD now commanded again by Gen Ernest Harmon, launched an attack on the Siegfried Line from Marienberg, broke through, crossed the Wurm River and seized Puffendorf on November 16, and Barmen on November 28. The 2-AD was holding positions on the Roer when it was ordered to help contain the German Ardennes Offensive. The division fought in eastern Belgium, blunting Manteufell 5.Panzer-Army’s penetration of American lines. The division helped reduce the Bulge in January, fighting in the Ardennes Forest in deep snow and clearing the area from Houffalize to the Ourthe River.
The 2.Panzer-Division was on its original mission to the Meuse River. Mechanized units of this Division ultimately ran out of fuel at Celles, Belgium, where they were destroyed by the 2-AD and the British 29-AB. After a rest in February, the division, now commanded by Gen Isaac D. White, drove on across the Rhine River on March 27, 1945, and was the first American division to reach the Elbe River at Schonebeck on April 11. It was halted on the Elbe on April 20, on orders. In July the division entered Berlin, becoming the first American unit to enter the German capital city. During World War II, the 2nd Armored Division took 94.151 POWs, liberated 22.538 Allied POWs, shot down or damaged on the ground 266 enemy aircraft, and destroyed or captured uncountable thousands of enemy tanks and other equipment and supplies.
Members of the Division received 9369 individual awards, including two Medals of Honor, twenty-three Distinguished Service Crosses, and 2302 Silver Stars as well as nearly 6000 Purple Hearts; among those receiving the Silver Star were Edward H. Brooks, Hugh Armagio, Stan Aniol, John J. Henry, William L. Giblin, Neil J. Garrison, Morton Eustis, son of William Corcoran Eustis, and Kenneth J. White. The division was twice cited by the Belgian government and division soldiers for the next 50 years wore the fourragère of the Belgian Croix de Guerre.
Legion of Merit, 13
Silver Star Medal, 2302
Soldiers Medal, 131
Bronze Star Medal, 5331
Air Medal, 342
Purple Heart, 5991
POWs Taken: 76.963.
Maj Gen Hugh J. Gaffey – 24 Nov 1943 – 18 Mar 1944
Maj Gen Edward H. Brooks 18 Mar 1944 – 12 Sep 1944
Maj Gen Ernest N. Harmon 12 Sep 1944 – 18 Jan 1945
Brig Gen Isaac D. White 18 Jan 1945 – 23 Mar 1945
Maj Gen Isaac D. White 23 Mar 1945 – VEDay
Col Thomas A. Roberts Jr 24 Nov 1943 – 5 Aug 1944
Lt Col Carl I. Hutton 5 Aug 1944 – 2 Nov 1944
Col Carl I. Hutton 2 Nov 1944 – Until the deactivation.
Chief of Staff
Col Redding F. Perry 24 Nov 1943 – 18 Mar 1944
Col Charles D. Pamer 18 Mar 1944 – 29 Sep 1944
Col Clayton J. Mansfield 29 Sep 1944 – 30 Dec 1944
Col Gustavus W. West 30 Dec 1944 – Until the deactivation.
Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1
Lt Col Harold M. Forde 24 Nov 1943 – 7 Oct 1944
Maj Calvin S. Hannum 7 Oct 1944 – 10 Jan 1945
Lt Col Calvin S. Hannum 10 Jan 1945 – Until the deactivation.
Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2
Lt Col Harold M. Forde 24 Nov 1943 – 27 Apr 1944
Lt Col Jesse M. Hawkins Jr 27 Apr 1944 – 9 Sep 1944
Maj Eugene A. Trahan 9 Sep 1944 – 16 Dec 1944
Lt Col Eugene A. Trahan 16 Dec 1944 – Until the deactivation.
Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3
Maj Lindsay C. Herkness Jr 24 Nov 1943 – 27 Dec 1943
Lt Col Russell W. Jenna 27 Dec 1943 – 23 Jan 1945
Lt Col Briard P. Johnson 23 Jan 1945 – 24 Apr 1945
Lt Col Jasper J. Wilson 24 Apr 1945 – Until the deactivation.
Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4
Lt Col Charles C. Peterson 19 Feb 1944 – 15 Dec 1944
Lt Col Lewis M. Flint 15 Dec 1944 – Until the deactivation.
Assistant Chief of Staff, G-5
Maj Marcel F.J. Brunow 19 Feb 1944 – 15 Jul 1944
Lt Col Marcel F.J. Brunow 15 Jul 1944 – 11 Dec 1944
Maj Byron L. Connell (Actg) 11 Dec 1944 – 26 Dec 1944
Lt Col Marcel F.J. Brunow 26 Dec 1944 – Until the deactivation.
Lt Col Robert H. Shell 24 Nov 1943 – 19 Mar 1945
Maj Clem G. Hailey 19 Mar 1945 – 7 Apr 1945
Maj Robert F. Smith 7 Apr 1945 – Until the deactivation.
Brig Gen Rose 24 Nov 1943 – 4 Aug 1944
Col John H. Collier 4 Aug 1944 – 12 Nov 1944
Brig Gen John H. Collier 12 Nov 1944 – Until the deactivation.
Col Isaac D. White 24 Nov 1943 – 28 May 1944
Brig Gen Isaac D. White 28 May 1944 – 19 Jan 1945
Col Sidney R. Hinds 19 Jan 1945 – 21 Mar 1945
Brig Gen Sidney R. Hinds 21 Mar 1945 – Until the deactivation.