1st Armored Division – WW-2

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Col Daniel Van Voorhis took a cadre of 175 officers and enlisted men from Fort Eustis to Fort Knox in February 1932, and established a Provisional Armored Car Platoon. This was based on an earlier effort but was predicated on a new Cavalry Regiment TO&E (Table of Organization and Equipment) which was published that year. Also published but never implemented, was a Cavalry Division TO&E which reflected the then unnatural assimilation of machines into the Horse Cavalry. Van Voorhis’s cadre and platoon became the kernel for the 7th Cavalry Brigade, which went active on Mar 1, 1932, at Fort Knox. At first, it was nothing more than a headquarters detachment and the Armored Car Platoon. On Jan 3, 1933, the 1st Cavalry Regiment was relieved from assignment to the 1st Cavalry Division and was moved from Fort D.A. Russell (today Francis E. Warren AFB) to Fort Knox. The earlier Mechanized Platoon was incorporated into the new regimental TO&E, and the result was the 1st Cavalry Regiment (Mechanized), which went active on Jan 16, 1933. Van Voorhis added the 13th Cavalry Regiment; the 68th Field Artillery Battalion; the 7th Reconnaissance Squadron; the 7th Signal Troop; the 4th Medical Troop; the 47th Engineer Troop and the 17th Quartermaster Battalion. The 7th Cavalry Brigade was fully formed.

Van Voorhis remained in command until Sep 1938, when he was promoted to command the V Corps at Indianapolis, Indiana. Chaffee took over from Van Voorhis. On May 7, 1940, the 7th Cavalry Brigade took part in the Louisiana Maneuvers at Monroe, Louisiana, that were instrumental in developing the armored division concept. The maneuvers concluded on May 27, 1940. The brigade returned to Fort Knox four days later and preparations began to expand the brigade into a tank division. After the brutal trench warfare of World War I, the US was looking for new ways to engage in armed conflict.

As the German Army invaded the low countries and France, the US military hierarchy realized that an armored division was essential for a modern army. While training outside of Alexandria, Louisiana, the commanders of the 7th Cavalry Brigade met in a high school basement to discuss the creation of an American armored division. Gen Frank M. Andrews, Gen Adna R. Chaffee, Gen Bruce Magruder, and Col George S. Patton Jr agreed to recommend to Washington that the US Army established its first tank division.

On June 10, 1940, during a conference with the Chief of Staff, it was decided to create an Armored Force in the Army and two weeks later Gen Adna R. Chaffee was given the order to head the creation of America’s first tank division. On Jul 15, 1940, the 1st Armored Division, largely an expanded and reorganized version of the 7th Cavalry Brigade, was activated at Fort Knox under the command of Gen Bruce Magruder. The 1st Cavalry Regiment was re-designated 1st Armored Regiment and the 13th Cavalry Regiment was re-designated 13th Armored Regiment under the 1st Armored Brigade, 1st Armored Division. For more than two years after its activation, the 1-AD trained at Fort Knox and the division pioneered and developed tank gunnery and strategic armored offensives while increasing from 66 medium-sized tanks to over 600 medium and light armored vehicles.

Order of Battle – 1-AD (Activation)

HHC, 1st Armored Division
HHC, 1st Armored Brigade
1st Armored Regiment (Light)
13th Armored Regiment (Light)
69th Armored Regiment (Medium)
68th Armored Field Artillery Regiment
6th Armored Infantry Regiment
27th Field Artillery Battalion (Armored)
16th Engineer Battalion (Armored)
81st Armored Reconnaissance Squadron
13th Quartermaster Battalion (Armored)
19th Ordnance Battalion (Armored)
47th Medical Battalion (Armored)
141st Signal Company (Armored)

1-AD – Elaboration – Creation – Perfection

The division was trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was an experiment in a self-supporting, permanent fighting unit with tanks as the nucleus. This experiment in a self-sustaining blitzkrieg force had never been tried before, and the troops necessary for such an organization were drawn from many army posts. When the organization was completed, the division had tanks, artillery, and infantry in strength. In direct support were tank destroyer, maintenance, medical, supply and engineer battalions. But bringing the division up to its full quota of tanks, guns, and vehicles was difficult. Although new equipment was received almost daily, the division had until March 1941, only nine ancient medium tanks and the main armament of the nine was a 37-MM gun. To become expert with their newly acquired tanks, half-tracks, and guns, most of the division attended the Armored Force School at Knox. The students stood reveille at 0400 sat at attention during class and at 1600 rushed to the nearest post exchange for a bottle of beer, which helped counteract the hot summer weather.
Every day, some units attacked from the steel observation tower called ‘OP Six’ to capture some part of a 25 square mile patch of Kentucky brush and gullies. The troops made three-day road marches, scraped and polished their vehicles for Saturday morning inspections, sweated out the lines at the bus station and occasionally dropped by Benny’s or Big Nell’s, the most easily accessible civilian nightspots.

With more than a year’s training behind them, the division left in Sep 1941, for three month’s maneuvers in Louisiana. The day before Pearl Harbor (Dec 7, 1941) the division was back at Fort Knox. The draftees had proved themselves as soldiers in the maneuvers. They looked forward to discharges after their year’s service and the regular army men expected furloughs. Training took on a new intensity. The division was reorganized, and all tanks, both medium and light were put into two armored regiments, the 1-AR, and the 13-AR. A third armored field artillery battalion, the 91-AFAB, was formed, and the 701-TDB was organized and attached to the division.

A few months later, in March 1942, the division was en route to the Fort Dix, New Jersey, staging area under command of Maj Gen Orlando Ward. Ward relieved Magruder who had commanded the division since its organization. It was a ‘secret’ move, but no surprise to the townspeople of Washington Court House, Ohio, who had waited four days for the division to arrive. There were movies, food, hot water for shaving and a mammoth banner saying ‘Welcome First Armored Division’ across the main street. At Dix, there were 36-hour passes to New York and motor parks jammed with division vehicles. Nobody knew when or where the division was going.
At Fort Knox, the division purposely renamed ‘First Armored Force’, participated in the Technicolor short movie – The Tanks Are Coming. It deployed then to participate in the VII Corps Maneuvers (Aug 18, 1941). Once the maneuvers concluded, the 1st Armored Division moved on Aug 28, 1941, and arrived at Camp Polk for the Second Army Louisiana Maneuvers (Sep 1, 1941). The division moved then to Fort Jackson (Oct 30, 1941) to participate in the First Army Carolina Maneuvers and returned to Fort Knox on Dec 7, 1941, but started to prepare for deployment overseas instead of returning to garrison.

In fact, the 1st Armored Division was ordered to Fort Dix to await their deployment overseas. The division’s port call required them to board the RMS Queen Mary at the New York Port of Embarkation at the Brooklyn Army Terminal on May 11, 1942. They arrived in Northern Ireland on May 16, and trained on the moors until they moved on to England on Oct 29, 1942. At the end of the training period Combat Command B, with about one-half of the division’s troops, was alerted to leave Ireland and prepare for an overseas trip where ‘You’ll get off fighting’. Alerted for the invasion the following units ready for the next were the 1/1st Armored Regiment, the 1/13th Armored Regiment, the 2/13th Armored Regiment, the 6th Armored Infantry Regiment (-), the 27th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, Baker Co, 701st Tank Destroyer Battalion, Charlie Co, 701st Tank Destroyer Battalion, the 16th Armored Engineer Battalion (Det), the Supply Battalion, the Maintenance Battalion, the 47th Armored Medical Battalion and the 141st Signal Company.

1-AD – Combats

The unit’s first contact with an enemy was as part of the Allied invasion of Northwest Africa, Operation Torch, on Nov 8, 1942. Elements of the division were part of the Eastern Task Force and became the first American armored division to see combat in World War II. Combat Command B landed east and west of Oran under the command of Gen Lunsford E. Oliver and entered the city on Nov 10, 1942. On Nov 24, CCB moved from Tafaroui, Algeria to Bedja, Tunisia, and raided Djedeida airfield the next day. Djedeida was finally conquered on Nov 28. CCB moved southwest of Tebourba on Dec 1, engaged German forces on El Guessa Heights on Dec 3, but its lines were pierced on Dec 6. CCB withdrew to Bedja with heavy equipment losses Dec 10/11 and was placed in reserve. CCB next attacked in the Ousseltia Valley on Jan 21, 1943, and cleared that area until Jan 29 when sent to Bou Chebka. The 1-AD arrived at Maktar on Feb 14.

CCA fought at Faid Pass commencing on Jan 30, and advanced to Sidi Bou Zid, where it was pushed back with heavy tank losses on Feb 14, and had elements isolated on Djebel Lessouda, Djebel Kasaira, and Garet Hadid. CCC, which had been constituted on Jan 23 to raid Sened Station on Jan 24, advanced towards Sbeita, and counterattacked to support CCA in the Sidi Bou Zid area on Feb 15, but was repulsed with heavy losses. The division withdrew from Sbeita one day later, but by Feb 21, CCB contained the German attack toward Tebessa. The German withdrawal allowed the division to recover the Kasserine Pass on Feb 26 and assemble in reserve.

The division moved northeast of Gafsa on Mar 13 and attacked in heavy rains on Mar 17 as CCA took Zannouch, but became immobilized by rain the next day. The 1-AD drove on Maknassy (Mar 20), fought the Battle of Djebel Naemia (Mar 22/25) then fought to break through positions barring the road to Gabès (Mar 29 – Apr 1). It began to follow up the withdrawing German forces on Apr 6 and attacked towards Mateur with CCA (Apr 27), which fell after hard fighting on Hills 315 and 299 (May 3). The division fought the Battle for Djebel Achtel between May 5 and May 11 and entered Ferryville on May 7. The German forces in Tunisia surrendered between May 9 and May 13. The division was reorganized in French Morocco and began arriving in Naples, Italy on Oct 28.

After the fall of Sicily, the 1-AD, part of Clark’s Fifth Army, invaded mainland Italy. It took part in the attack on the Winter Line in Nov 1943. It then flanked the Axis armies in the landings at Anzio, and then passed through the city of Rome and pursued the retreating enemy northward until mid-July 1944. At that point, Gen Harmon was replaced by Gen Prichard who led the 1-AD through the rest of the war.

Three days after Gen Prichard took command, the division was reorganized, based on experiences in the North Africa Campaign. The change was drastic. It eliminated the armored and infantry regiments in favor of three separate tank and infantry battalions, disbanded the Supply Battalion, and cut the strength of the division from 14000 to 10000.
The result of the re-organization was a more flexible and balanced division, with roughly equivalent infantry and tank battalions. These forces could be combined or custom-tailored by the command to meet any situation. The additional infantry strength would prove particularly useful in future campaigns in the largely mountainous combat of the Italian campaign. The division continued in combat to the Po Valley until the German forces in Italy surrendered on May 2, 1945. In June, the division moved to Germany as part of the occupation forces.

1-AD – Casualties

Killed in Action: 1194
Wounded in Action: 5168
Died of Wounds: 234

1st Armored Division – Commanding Officers

Maj Gen Bruce Magruder: July 1940 – March 1942
Maj Gen Orlando Ward: March 1942 – April 1943
Maj Gen Ernest N. Harmon: April 1943 – July 1944
Maj Gen V. E. Prichard: July 1944 – September 1945
Maj Gen Roderick R. Allen: September 1945 – January 1946
Maj Gen Hobart R. Gay: February 1946 – to inactivation

1-AD – Order of Battle 1944 – Organic

Hqs Company 1st Armored Division
Combat Command A
Combat Command B
Reserve Command (CCR)
1st Armored Division Band
1st Engineer Assault Company
1st Tank Battalion
4th Tank Battalion
6th Armored Infantry Battalion
11th Armored Infantry Battalion
13th Tank Battalion
14th Armored Infantry Battalion
16th Armored Engineer Battalion
27th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (105-SP)
47th Armored Medical Battalion
68th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (105-SP)
81st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Mechanized
91st Armored Field Artillery Battalion (105-SP)
123rd Ordnance Maintenance Battalion
141st Armored Signal Company
Military Police Platoon
501st Counter Intelligence Corps Detachment

Order of Battle – 1-AD, April 9 1945

1-TB, 4-TB, 13-TB
6-AIB, 11-AIB, 14-AIB
81st Cav Recon Sq (Mez)
1-AD Artillery
27-AFAB, 68-AFAB, 91-AFAB
16th Armored Engineer Battalion

Order of Battle – 1-AD (IV Corps) April 23 1945

Hqs and Hqs Co – CCA
Combat Command A
Hqs and Hqs Co – CCB
Combat Command B
Hqs and Hqs Co – CCR
Reserve Combat Command
Hqs and Hqs Co 1-AD
6th Armored Infantry Battalion
11th Armored Infantry Battalion
14th Armored Infantry Battalion
1st Tank Battalion
4th Tank Battalion
13th Tank Battalion
1st Armored Division Artillery
Hqs and Hqs Battery
27th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (105mm Howitzer) SP
68th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (105mm Howitzer) SP
91st Armored Field Artillery Battalion (105mm Howitzer) SB
81st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mez)
47th Armored Medical Battalion
16th Armored Engineer Battalion
1st Engineer Assault Company (Provisional)
141st Armored Signal Company
501st Counter Intelligence Corps Detachment [att]
123rd Ordnance Maintenance Battalion
Military Police Platoon
1st Armored Division Band
1st Armored Division Trains

Thomas W. Fowler, 2/Lt, 1-AD, MoH

Rank and organization: 2/Lt, US Army, 1-AD
Place and date: Near Carano, Italy, May 23, 1944
Entered service at Wichita Falls, Tex
Birth Wichita Falls, Tex. G.O. No.: 84, Oct 28, 1944

/>Citation For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, on 23 May 1944, in the vicinity of Carano, Italy. In the midst of a full-scale armored-infantry attack, 2d Lt Fowler, while on foot, came upon 2 completely disorganized infantry platoons held up in their advance by an enemy minefield. Although a tank officer, he immediately reorganized the infantry. He then made a personal reconnaissance through the minefield, clearing a path as he went, by lifting the antipersonnel mines out of the ground with his hands. After he had gone through the 75-yard belt of deadly explosives, he returned to the infantry and led them through the minefield, a squad at a time. As they deployed, 2d Lt Fowler, despite small arms fire and the constant danger of antipersonnel mines, made a reconnaissance into enemy territory in search of a route to continue the advance. He then returned through the minefield and, on foot, he led the tanks through the mines into a position from which they could best support the infantry. Acting as scout 300 yards in front of the infantry, he led the 2 platoons forward until he had gained his objective, where he came upon several dug-in enemy infantrymen. Having taken them by surprise, 2d Lt Fowler dragged them out of their foxholes and sent them to the rear; twice, when they resisted, he threw hand grenades into their dugouts. Realizing that a dangerous gap existed between his company and the unit to his right, 2d Lt Fowler decided to continue his advance until the gap was filled. He reconnoitered to his front, brought the infantry into a position where they dug in and, under heavy mortar and small arms fire, brought his tanks forward. A few minutes later, the enemy began an armored counterattack. Several Mark IV tanks fired their cannons directly on 2d Lt Fowler’s position. One of his tanks was set afire. With utter disregard for his own life, with shells bursting near him, he ran directly into the enemy tank fire to reach the burning vehicle. For a half-hour, under intense strafing from the advancing tanks, although all other elements had withdrawn, he remained in his forward position, attempting to save the lives of the wounded tank crew. Only when the enemy tanks had almost overrun him, did he withdraw a short distance where he personally rendered first aid to 9 wounded infantrymen in the midst of the relentless incoming fire. 2d Lt. Fowler’s courage, his ability to estimate the situation and to recognize his full responsibility as an officer in the Army of the United States, exemplify the high traditions of the military service for which he later gave his life.

Nicholas Minue, Pvt, 1-AD, MoH

Rank and organization: Private, US Army
Able Co, 6-AIR, 1-AD
Place and date, Near MedjezelBab, Tunisia, Apr 28, 1943
Entered service at Carteret, NJ
Birth Sedden, Poland. G.O. No.: 24, Mar 25, 1944.

Citation For distinguishing himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the loss of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy on 28 April 1943, in the vicinity of MedjezelBab, Tunisia. When the advance of the assault elements of Company A was held up by flanking fire from an enemy machine-gun nest, Pvt Minue voluntarily, alone, and unhesitatingly, with complete disregard of his own welfare, charged the enemy entrenched position with fixed bayonet.
Pvt Minue assaulted the enemy under a withering machine gun and rifle fire, killing approximately 10 enemy machine gunners and riflemen.
After completely destroying this position, Pvt Minue continued forward, routing enemy riflemen from dugout positions until he was fatally wounded.
The courage, fearlessness, and aggressiveness displayed by Pvt Minue in the face of inevitable death was unquestionably the factor that gave his company the offensive spirit that was necessary for advancing and driving the enemy from the entire sector.

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