Monday, October 20, 2014

Following the 10th Armored Division (2) - Some Back Story

This is part two of a series that, over the next year, will follow my father's 10th Armored Division in World War II seventy years ago. While we are still in the month before they entered battle, let me give you some of the back story of the division.

It was created in 1942 in the months after Pearl Harbor. The United States was finally in the war but without a broad-based and large enough military. In fact it was only through the first peace-time draft in history the previous two years that gave the foundation for what would become a huge fighting force. New armies and divisions were being created as long-range planning developed in Washington for a war across both oceans very far from home. The 10th Armored was officially activated on July 15, 1942.

My dad had been drafted in early 1941 and was put into the reserves in late 1941 or early 1942 after his initial active service training. Then, on July 25, 1942 he got his notice to return to service. A week later, August 6 he left his home in northern Pennsylvania for New Cumberland where his reserves met. Another nine days and he was called up and left for Georgia, arriving at Fort Benning on August 20. He was now with the medical battalion assigned to the 10th Armored, most likely the 80th Medical Battalion.

When the 10th was created the new commander, Major General Paul Newgarden held a competition to give the unit a nickname. They took the name “The Tiger Division” and lived up to the name for the next three years. Newgarden, it is reported, was a strong leader with a sense of pride in unit identity and the importance of teamwork. His initial work in forming the 10th was given a lot of credit from the troops when they reached battle.

The Tiger Division’s shoulder patch was the standard patch for
armored divisions, simply adding the number “10” on the top of the triangle. The top third of the patch was yellow that stood for the cavalry. At the beginning of the war the cavalry had been reorganized, mechanized and given armor. The lower left third was blue for the infantry and the lower right, red for artillery. The tank tracks signified the mobility of the division, the cannon was for firepower and the lightning for their speed of attack. All together the colors and symbols showed their teamwork.

For the next year, Lester Nichols, author of the 10th’s history, Impact, writes, the
training was especially rugged. There was the Tiger Camp with its night problems, forced marches, endurance tests, 'dry runs' and firing problems. (What the medical battalions did then isn’t reported in the book. I will write more about the medical department in the war later.)
In that first year I know my dad had two furloughs home. The first was from January 28 to February 11, 1943 and the second in the spring when he made it back north for two weeks in late May.

In late June the Division packs up and leaves Fort Benning, Georgia for maneuver training in Tennessee. There, Nichols reports, that the maneuvers were
the scene of combat with chiggers, choking dust, sleepless nights, sore backs and aching feet. As always, the ‘enemy’ was constantly pursued. The battle umpires, too, were on hand to declare tank, track and truck ‘knocked out’ by a hidden ‘enemy’ anti-tank crew.
The first week of September 1943 and the 10th moved to its new home. They left Tennessee and settle at Camp Gordon near Augusta, Georgia. Here they would continue to train, grow and develop into a highly effective unit for the battles that lay ahead.
Note: Some information in these posts comes from a combination of books as well as personal effects of my father’s family. Most notably is the book, Impact, The Battle Story of General S. Patton’s Spearhead Tenth Armored Division in Europe in World War II, by Lester M. Nichols (1954).

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