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1st Armored Division  "Old Ironsides"

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Taken from globalsecurity.org website

The 1st Armored Division is the oldest and most prestigious armored division in the United States Army. From its desert tank battles against Field Marshall Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps, to its stunning victories in the Persian Gulf War, in peace or war, the "Old Ironsides" Division has amassed a proud record of service to America.

Soon after the activation of the 1st Armored Division at Fort Knox on July 15, 1940, its first commander, Major General Bruce R. Magruder, began searching for an appropriate nickname for the division. In 1941 General George S. Patton Jr. had just named his 2nd Armored Division "Hell on Wheels" and everyone thought that the 1st Armored Division needed a name too. General Bruce Magruder, the Commander of the 1st Armored Division, announced a contest to find a suitable name for his Division. Approximately 200 names were submitted including "Fire and Brimstone" and "Kentucky Wonders." The General took them home to study over the weekend but failed to find any that appealed to him. While mulling the matter over, he happened to glance at a picture of the U.S.S. Constitution that he had bought during a drive for funds for the preservation of that famous fighting ship known as "Old Ironsides." That ended the search for a name. Impressed with the parallel between the early development of the tank and the Navy's "Old Ironsides" spirit of daring and durability he decided the 1st Armored Division should also be named "Old Ironsides." Thus a famous warship of the US Navy and the famous 1st Armored Division of the US Army are historically and appropriately welded by name "Old Ironsides."

As part of Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of French Northwest Africa, November 8, 1942. In doing so, Old Ironsides became the first American Armored Division to see combat. Although encountering unexpectedly heavy Vichy-French opposition, the Allied invasion force suppressed all resistance in the beachhead within three days. The Division then advanced toward Tunisia where it clashed with Axis forces and learned many hard lessons in armored warfare. Harsh conditions and primitive roads spoiled an early opportunity to capture Tunisia and cut off Rommel's supply lines. January 1943 found the Division under control of the II Corps. Old Ironsides received the mission of defending central Tunisia against an Axis counterattack. A month later, the 1st Armored Division collided with a superior German armored force at Kasserine Pass. Sustaining heavy personnel and equipment losses, Old Ironsides withdrew, battered but wiser. Outrunning his supply lines and facing stiffening Allied resistance, Rommel's advance ground to a halt. Regardless, three more months of fierce fighting followed before the Allies could finally claim victory in North Africa.

The fall of Sicily in the summer of 1943 cleared the way for an Allied Invasion of the Italian mainland. As part of General Mark Clark's Fifth Army, the 1st Armored Division crushed enemy resistance in an assault landing at Salerno on September 9, and led the drive to Naples. The city fell on October 1, and the Allies pressed onto the Volturno River. In November, the 1st Armored Division attacked the infamous Winter Line. Although breaching the line, the Allied advance came to a halt in the mountainous country near Cassino. To break the stalemate, the Allies made an amphibious assault well behind enemy lines at Anzio on January 23, 1944. Beating back repeated German counterattacks, the 1st Armored Division led the Allied breakout from the beachead on May 23, and spearheaded the drive to Rome, liberating the city on June 4. The 1st Armored Division continued its pursuit of the enemy to the North Apennies where the Germans made their last stand. Rugged mountains and winter weather now stood between the Allies and the open land of the Po Valley. The 1st Armored Division broke into the valley in April 1945 and on May 2, 1945, German forces in Italy surrendered.

In June 1945 the 1st Armored Division was transferred to Germany to serve as part of the Allied occupation forces. Old Ironsides returned to the United States in April 1946 and was inactivated at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. Several of the Division's Units, however, remained in Germany as part of the U.S. Constabulary.

The success of the Russian made T-34 Tank at the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 brought renewed enthusiasm for armor. As part of the Korean War build up of American forces, the 1st Armored Division was reactivated at Fort Hood, Texas on March 7, 1951. Continuing its tradition of "firsts", Old Ironsides became one of the first divisions in the Army to integrate black soldiers throughout the ranks. It was also the only combat-ready armored division in the continental United States and the first to receive the M48 Patton Tank.

Training for nuclear war became a major theme in the mid-1950s. Accordingly, the 1st Armored Division participated in tests of the "Atomic Field Army" at Fort Hood and in Operation Sagebrush, the largest joint maneuver conducted since World War II. Upon completion of the exercise in February 1956, the 1st Armored Division moved to its new home at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

Toward the end of the 1950s, the Army's preoccupation with a nuclear battlefield waned. The Army experienced years of austere budgets. Reduced in size and moved back to Fort Hood, the 1st Armored Division reverted to a training cadre for new inductees. The start of the 1960s, however, inaugurated a period of military renewal. Important changes in organization, doctrine, and equipment stemmed from the realization that the Army must be prepared to fight anytime, anywhere. In 1962, the 1st Armored Division was brought back to full strength and reorganized. Brigades replaced Combat Commands, and the Division's aviation assets doubled.

Intense training followed the reorganization. In October 1962 the 1st Armored Division was declared combat ready, just in time for the Cuban Missile Crisis. In response to the Soviet stationing of missiles in Cuba, Old Ironsides deployed from Fort Hood, Texas to Fort Stewart. The entire operation took just 18 days. For the next six weeks, the 1st Armored Division conducted live-fire training and amphibious exercises on the Georgia and Florida coasts. One highlight was a visit from President John F. Kennedy on November 26, 1962. Shortly thereafter, tensions eased and the 1st Armored Division returned to Ft. Hood.

Although the 1st Armored Division did not participate as a Division in the Vietnam War, two units, Company A, 501st Aviation and 1st Squadron, 1st Calvary served with distinction. Both earned Presidential Unit Citations, and 1-1 Cavalry received two Valorous Unit Awards and three Vietnamese Crosses of Gallantry. Neither unit was officially detached from the 1st Armored Division and veterans of both units may wear the Old Ironsides as a combat patch. In 1967 the 198th Infantry Brigade was formed from three of the Division's Infantry Battalions and deployed from Fort Hood to Vietnam. After the war, two of the three battalions, 1-6 Infantry and 1-52 Infantry, returned to the 1st Armored Division.

1968 was a crisis-filled year of domestic unrest. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, several inner cities exploded into violence. The 3rd Brigade deployed to Chicago to assist in restoring order.

The early 1970's brought the withdrawal of American Forces from Vietnam and a major restructuring of the Army. Old Ironsides was rumored to be on the list of units to be inactivated. Veterans of the Division organized a letter-writing campaign to "save" the 1st Armored Division. Their efforts were rewarded when on May 10, 1971, 1st Armored Division left its home at Fort Hood, Texas to replace the 4th Armored Division in Germany.

Old Ironsides marched into its second half century celebrating victory in the Cold War - a triumph symbolized by the fall of the Berlin Wall, the unification of Germany, and the crumbling of East European, communist regimes.

Almost immediately the 1st Armored Division was called upon to meet a new challenge. In November 1990 it was alerted for deployment to the Middle East in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. In less than two months the Division moved 17,400 soldiers and 7,050 pieces of equipment by rail, sea, and air to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield/Storm. The Division's own 1st Brigade stayed in Germany and was replaced by 3d Brigade, 3d Infantry Division. On February 24, 1991, the 1st Armored Division crossed into Iraq leading VII Corp's main flanking attack - its mission to destroy the elite, Iraqi Republican Guards Divisions. In its 89-hour blitz across the desert Old Ironsides traveled 250 kilometers; destroyed 768 tanks, APCs and artillery pieces; and captured 1,064 prisoners of war. Four 1st Armored Division soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice in this historic effort. Old Ironsides marked its successful return to Germany on May 8, 1991, when MG Griffith uncased the Division Colors in Ansbach. The 1st Armored Division celebrated its triumph with a visit from the Vice President of the United States and attendance at victory parades in Washington, D.C. and New York City.

On December 14, 1995, the 1st Armored Division was ordered to Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of Operation Joint Endeavor. This task force, known as Task Force Eagle, assumed control of its area of responsibility during a transfer of authority ceremony with United Nations forces at Eagle Base, Tulza on December 20, 1995. After the historic bridging of the Sava River on December 31, 1995, the Old Ironsides Division, with supporting forces from the 5th U.S. Corps, was joined by Nordic-Polish, Turkish, and Russian brigades - in total - 12 Nations: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Turkey, and the United States.

Task Force Eagle, one of the most powerful military formations ever fielded, enforced the cease-fire, supervised the marking of boundaries and the zone of separation between the former warring factions, enforced withdrawal of the combatants, and the movement of the heavy weapons to designated storage sites. Task Force Eagle also supported the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's efforts to administer the country's first ever democratic national elections. On November 10, 1996, the 1st Armored Division transferred authority for command and control of Task Force Eagle to the 1st Infantry Division. The 1st Infantry Division deployed as a covering force to allow the safe return of the 1st Armored Division to Germany.

In April 1999, the 1st Armored Division was alerted to send soldier to Albania as part of Operation Allied Force in response to the ethnic cleansing and fighting in Kosovo. The 1st Armored Division then sent the first soldiers into Kosovo in operation Joint Guardian to uphold the United Nations Security Council resolution to bring peace back to the Kosovo region.

First Armored Division began the year 2000 with a bang as the 1st Brigade Combat Team blasted its way through the rolling fog of Grafenwoehr Training Area in a challenging January gunnery. Second Brigade struck hard in validating the Immediate Reaction Force in a frosty-February exercise designed to deploy a highly effective battalion-sized force anywhere in the European Command's theater of operations within 48 hours.

February 2000 also saw 1st Armored Division Headquarters announce the closure of military facilities in Bad Kreuznach and subsequent relocation to Wiesbaden scheduled for June 2001. First Armored Division rocked HTA and GTA in three seperate exercises in March. Ready First stormed into Hohenfels Training Area for Mountain Guardian III, a Mission Rehearsal Exercise designed to test the limits of Iron Soldiers preparing to deploy to Task Force Falcon 2A. Fourth Brigade and 2-3 Field Artillery combined the bone-jarring shock of the M109 Paladin with the lethality and pin-point-precision of Apache and Kiowa Warrior helicopters in a Fire Control Exercise.

First Armored Division's command and control elements pushed the envelope during a highly effective Warfighter in GTA, March 21-April 17. First Armored Division took command of Task Force Falcon in Kosovo as Brig. Gen. Randal Tieszen accepted the colors from 1st Infantry Division's Brig. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. First Armored Division celebrated its 60th birthday at home and abroad in Kosovo, July 15.

Second Brigade blistered through a July gunnery while 3rd Brigade's Task Force 2-70 mounted up and rode out from Ft. Riley, Kan., on their way down the long, dusty trail to Kuwait. Maj. Gen. George W. Casey, Jr. traveled to Boston Harbor in August where he forged a new bond with Commander Bill Foster, of the USS Constitution. The meeting rekindled the fires of a 60-year love affair between the prestigious ship "Old Ironsides" and 1st Armored Division. The clear, ocean-side skies of Putlos, Germany ran red in the September sun and the fiery explosions of the 1-4 Air Defense Artillery gunnery. The battalion made the most out of its first gunnery as a whole in three years.

15 September 2000 marked a great day for 1st Armored Division as the 1-94 Field Artillery (MLRS) stood up at Strassburg Kaserne. Second Brigade's preparation for Kosovo became fully realized during Mountain Guardian IV in Ocotober. Lessons learned in Kosovo were applied to make this the most challenging and exciting MRE ever. SETAF and 1st Armored Division's 1-1 Cavalry teamed up to save the day during an October CMTC rotation that combined light forces and heavy-mechanized forces to throw back an ever relentless OPFOR. Second Brigade began deploying at the end of November and officially took command of Task Force Falcon on Dec. 18. First Brigade began redeploying to Germany from six months in Kosovo at the beginning of December. Thanks to the hard work by both brigades the transition was effective and seamless.

The 1st Armored Division received orders on March 4, 2003, to deploy to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in support of the global war on terrorism and to prepare for future contingencies as may be directed. The deployment was to consist of the whole division. However, on March 14, Stars & Stripes reported that 1AD had been ordered to put their deployment on hold as transporting the division's equipment to the AOR had been complicated by the refusal of Turkey to permit the 4th Infantry Division to stage from its territory.

In the DoD's 2005 BRAC report, DoD recommended relocating 1st Armored Division from Germany and to Fort Bliss, TX. Relocating 1st Armored Division units and echelons above division (EAD) units to Fort Bliss would transform it from an institutional training installation into a major mounted maneuver training installation and would avoid overcrowding and overuse at other installations.

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