2nd Armored Division (United States)

2nd Armored Division (United States)

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= 2nd Armored Division

caption=2nd Armored division patch. Uniquely among U.S. Army units, this patch was worn over the left chest pocket of the fatigue and camouflage uniforms rather than on the sleeve. It was worn in the traditional sleeve position on the dress uniform.
dates= 1940-1995 {Units became part of 4th Infantry Division}
country= United States
branch= Regular Army
type= Armored Division
motto=Hell On Wheels
battles=World War II
Vietnam {units}
War in Southwest Asia
notable_commanders=George S. Patton
George Patton IV
US Armor
previous=1st Armored Division
next=3rd Armored Division ("Inactive")
The 2nd Armored Division of the United States Army —nicknamed Hell On Wheels— played an important role during World War II in the invasions of North Africa and Sicily and the liberation of France, Belgium, and Holland and the invasion of Germany. During the Cold War the division was primarily based at Fort Hood, Texas, and had a reinforced brigade forward stationed in the Federal Republic of Germany. After participation in Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the division was deactivated in 1995.

World War II

The 2nd Armored was formed at Fort Benning, Georgia on July 15, 1940, originally commanded by Major General Charles L. Scott, with Colonel George S. Patton in charge of 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 Division served with the First, Seventh, and Ninth Armies.The 2nd Armored was organized as a "heavy" armored division having two armored regiments of four medium tank and two light tank battalions of three companies each. Along with the 3rd Armored Division, it retained its organization throughout World War II while all 14 other U.S. armored divisions were reorganized as "light" armored divisions having three tank battalions, each consisting of three medium tank companies and one light tank company. Both types had an infantry component of three mechanized battalions, although the heavy divisions maintained an "armored infantry regiment" organization.

The core units of the 2AD were the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, the 66th Armored Regiment, the 67th Armored Regiment, the 17th Armored Engineer Battalion, the 82nd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and the 142nd Armored Signal Company.

The 2nd Armored had three artillery battalions (the 14th, 78th, and 92nd). The Division also had support units, including the 2nd Ordnance Maintenance Battalion, a Supply Battalion, the 48th Armored Medical Battalion, and a Military Police Platoon.

Elements of the division participated in Operation Torch, landing at Casablanca on November 8, 1942, but the whole division first went into action in the Operation Husky landing at Gela in Sicily, July 10, 1943, and fighting through to Palermo.

The division then landed in Normandy on June 9, 1944, operated in the Cotentin Peninsula and later formed the right flank of the Operation Cobra assault. It blunted the German attack on Avranches, then raced across France with the rest of the Third Army, reaching the Albert Canal in Belgium on September 8. It crossed the German border north of Schimmert, 18 September to take up defensive positions near Geilenkirchen. On 3 October, the division launched an attack on the Siegfried Line from Marienberg, broke through, crossed the Wurm River and seized Puffendorf 16 November and Barmen 28 November. The Division was holding positions on the Roer when it was ordered to help contain the German Ardennes offensive. The Division fought in eastern Belgium, blunting the German Fifth Panzer Army's penetration of American lines. The Division helped reduce the Bulge in January, fighting in the Ardennes forest in deep snow, and cleared the area from Houffalize to the Ourthe River of the enemy. After a rest in February, the division drove on across the Rhine 27 March, and was the first American Division to reach the Elbe at Schonebeck on 11 April. It was halted on the Elbe, 20 April, on orders. In July the division entered Berlin-the first American unit to enter the German capital city.

During World War II the 2nd Armored Division took 94,151 prisoners-of-war, liberated 22,538 Allied prisoners of war, shot down or damaged on the ground 266 enemy aircraft, and destroyed or captured uncountable thousands of enemy tanks and other equipment and supplies.

In 238 battle days the 2nd Armored suffered 7,348 casualties, including 1,160 killed in action. The division was recognized for distinguished service and bravery with 9,369 individual awards, including two medals of honor, twenty-three distinguished service crosses, and 2,302 silver stars, as well as nearly 6,000 purple hearts. The division was twice cited by the Belgian Government and division soldiers for the next 50 years proudly wore the fourragere of the Belgian Croix de Guerre.

Cold War Service

After a brief period of occupation duty, the division returned to Fort Hood, Texas, in 1946 to retrain and rebuild. The 2nd Armored Division returned to Germany to serve as part of NATO from 1951 to 1957. Several of the division's battalions participated in the Vietnam War. However, the main division would spend much of the next 35 years at Fort Hood.

The division remained on active service during the Cold War. Its primary mission was to prepare to conduct heavy armored combat against Warsaw Pact forces in defense of NATO. The division formed a key component of the U.S. military's plan to move 'ten divisions in ten days" to Europe in the event of a Soviet threat to NATO. The division practiced this task numerous times during Exercise REFORGER from 1967 to 1988. To build and maintain combat skills, the division's maneuver brigades deployed almost annually to the National Training Center to face an opposing force modeling Soviet military weapons and tactics.

However, with the end of the Cold War the U.S. military began to draw down its combat units. The 2nd Armored Division was scheduled to inactivate in the spring of 1990.

2nd Armored Division (Forward)

In 1978 the 2nd Armored Division's third brigade forward deployed to the Federal Republic of Germany and was assigned to NATO's Northern Army Group (NORTHAG). The brigade received additional aviation, engineer, military intelligence, medical, and logistics support units and was re-designated 2nd Armored Division (Forward). The unit's primary mission in case of conflict with the Warsaw Pact was to either secure airfields and staging areas for the deployment of III Corps from the United States, or to deploy directly to the Inter-German Border (IGB) and establish a blocking position as part of a NATO combat force.

2nd Armored Division (Forward) was based at a new military facility near the village of Garlstedt just north of the city of Bremen. The facilities cost nearly $140 million to construct, half of which was paid for by the Federal Republic of Germany. The brigade had approximately 3,500 soldiers and another approximately 2,500 family dependents and civilian employees. The German government constructed family housing in the nearby city of Osterholz-Scharmbeck. In addition to troop barracks, motor pools, an indoor firing range, repair and logistics facilities, and a local training area, facilities at Garlstedt included a troop medical clinic, post exchange, library, movie theater, and a combined officer/non-commissioned officer/enlisted club. In April 1986 a Burger King restaurant opened on the kaserne.

The brigade was officially designated as 2nd Armored Division (Forward) during ceremonies at Grafenwoehr, FRG on 25 July 1978. The Garlstedt facilities were officially turned over to the United States by the German government in October. At that time the Garlstedt kaserne (camp) was named after General Lucius D. Clay, revered by the German people for his role as the American military commander following World War II. His son, a retired U.S. Army major general, attended the ceremony.

The brigadier general in charge of 2nd Armored Division (Forward) had a unique command. In addition to command of the heavy brigade, he also functioned as the Commander, III Corps (Forward), headquartered in Maastrict, The Netherlands, and as commander of all US Army forces in Northern Germany, including the military communities of Garlstedt and Bremerhaven. In the event of the deployment of III Corps and/or the 2nd Armored Division from the United States, the division commander would revert to his job as assistant division commander for operations of 2nd Armored Division. This contingency was practised during REFORGER exercises in 1980 and 1987. As a result of this varied and demanding job, command of the 2nd Armored Division (Forward) was considered a plum assignment for armor branch brigadier generals, on par with perhaps only the Berlin Brigade for high visibility and potential for advancement to higher rank. Brigadier generals who held the position included James E. Armstrong, George R. Stotser, Thomas H. Tait, James M. Streeter, John C. Heldstab, and Jerry R. Rutherford.

The brigade's subordinate combat units initially consisted of the 3rd Battalion of the 41st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion of the 50th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment (Iron Knights), 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery Regiment, and C Troop, 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment. In 1983, as part of the army's regimental alignment program, 2-50 Infantry was redesignated as 4-41 Infantry and 1-14 Field Artillery as 4-3 Field Artillery. Other brigade subordinate units eventually included the 498th Support Battalion, D Company, 17th Engineer Battalion, and the 588th Military Intelligence Company. The brigade also had a military police platoon and an aviation detachment.

The brigade deployed to Germany with the M60 Patton tank and the M113 armored personnel carrier. 4-3 Field Artillery had the M109 howitzer 155 mm self-propelled gun. In 1985 the division's maneuver battalions transitioned to the new M1 Abrams main battle tank and the M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Also in 1985 C/2-1 Cavalry was replaced by an air cavalry troop, D/2-1 Cavalry, armed with AH-1S Cobra attack helicopters.

In 1986, under the army's COHORT unit manning and retention plan, 3-41 Infantry returned to Fort Hood and was replaced with 1-41 Infantry. In 1988 4-41 Infantry returned to Fort Hood, Texas and was replaced by 3-66th Armor (Burt's Knights, named for Captain James M. Burt who won the Medal of Honor as a company commander in the 66th Armored Regiment in the Battle of Aachen during World War II). Now an armor-heavy brigade, 2nd Armored Division (Forward) fielded 116 M-1A1 Abrams tanks and nearly 70 M2/3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

The division participated in numerous major NATO training exercises including Trutzige Sachsen (1985), Crossed Swords (1986) and the Return of Forces to Germany (REFORGER) (1980 & 1987). Division subordinate units utilized the NATO training area at Bergen-Hohne for gunnery and maneuver training and each year the division as a whole deployed south to Grafenwöhr and [http://www.hohenfels.army.mil Hohenfels] training areas for annual crew and unit gunnery and maneuver qualification.

2nd Armored Division (Forward) developed a reputation for excellence during these deployments, particularly in tank crew gunnery. Tank companies from 2-66 and later 3-66 Armor competed in the bi-annual NATO tank gunnery competition, the Canadian Army Trophy. C Company 2-66 contested for the trophy in 1985 and D Company 2-66 in 1987. In 1989 C Company of 3-66 Armor won the competition outright.

The division had a formal partnership with the Federal Republic of Germany Bundeswehr unit Panzergrenadierbrigade 32, a mechanized infantry brigade headquartered in nearby Schwanewede. The division also had informal relationships with Dutch, Belgian, and British NATO forces in the NORTHAG area, often conducting joint training activities at Bergen-Hohne.

The First Gulf War

The invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein in August 1990 caught the division in the midst of the post-Cold War drawdown of the U.S. military. The division's 2nd Brigade could not be deployed as it was in the middle of deactivating. The division's 1st brigade, renamed the Tiger Brigade for the war and commanded by Colonel John B. Sylvester, deployed to Saudi Arabia independently and participated in Operation Desert Storm by providing heavy armor for USMC forces in their attack into Kuwait.

The division's 3rd brigade, the 2nd Armored Division (Forward) based in Germany, deployed to Saudi Arabia in the fall of 1990 and conducted combat operations as the third maneuver brigade of the 1st Infantry Division from Fort Riley, KS. Unfortunately, several friendly-fire incidents marred the division's performance in the conflict. Between the cease-fire and the official end of the war in April 1991, 2nd Armored Division (Forward) took part in security operations to ensure peace in Kuwait. The Division then redeployed to Saudi Arabia where some of its soldiers established and ran three refugee camps near Raffia, Saudi Arabia. Division relief workers processed over 22,000 Iraqi refugees between April 15 and May 10. After turning the camps over to the Saudi Arabian government, the unit redeployed to Germany.


The fate of the division after the Gulf War is a confusing series of deactivations and redesignations. Due to the restructuring of the U.S. Army after the end of the Cold War, the division was ordered off the active duty rolls, ending more than 50 years of continuous active service. Upon return to Fort Hood in 1991 the Tiger Brigade, all that remained of the U.S.-based division, was redesignated as the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. On September 1, 1991, 2nd Armored Division (Forward) officially became 2nd Armored Division (-) after main elements of 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood inactivated. Over the summer and fall of 1992, 2nd Armored Division (-) was inactivated. Lucius D. Clay Kaserne was turned back over to the German government and was later to become home of the German Army Logistics and Supply School.

In December 1992 the 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Polk, Louisiana, was redesignated as the 2nd Armored Division. In 1993 the unit moved to Fort Hood. In December 1995 the 2nd Armored Division was again redesignated, this time as the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized), stationed at Fort Carson, CO. This formally ended the 2nd Armored Division's 55-year history. Several units historically associated with the 2nd Armored Division, including battalions from the 66th Armored Regiment and the 41st Infantry Regiment, currently serve as part of the 4th Infantry Division. Ironically, that division is now stationed at Fort Hood. Texas, the post that was for so long the home of the "Hell on Wheels" division.


External links

* [http://www.2ndarmoredhellonwheels.com/ 2nd Armored Division page]
* [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/army/2ad.htm GlobalSecurity.org page on 2AD]
* [http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg/documents/eto-ob/2AD-ETO.htm Army Order of Battle of 2AD]
* [http://www.american-divisions.com/doc.asp?documentid=118 Historical record operations of US 2nd Armored Division]
* [http://www.ww2museum.com/maps/bigmap.jpgHell On Wheels War Against the Axis (map)]
* [http://www.history.hqusareur.army.mil/Strengthening%20NATO.pdf Strengthening NATO: Stationing of the 2nd Armored Division (Forward) in Northern Germany]
* [http://www.usarmygermany.com/Units/2nd%20Armd%20Div/USAREUR_2nd%20ArmdDivFwd.htm 2nd Armored Division (Forward)]
* [http://www.army.mil/cmh/lineage/branches/ar/066ar.htm 66th Armor Lineage and Honors]
* [http://www.army.mil/cmh/lineage/branches/ar/067ar.htm 67th Armor Lineage and Honors]


* Donald E. Houston, "Hell on Wheels", (Presidio Press, 1977) ISBN 0-89141-273-5
* E. A. Trahan, "A History of the Second United States Armored Division" (1946)

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