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2nd Armored Division
Hell on Wheels

Looking for more information from military/civilian personnel assigned to or associated with the U.S. Army in Germany from 1945 to 1989. If you have any stories or thoughts on the subject, please contact me.


Occupation Period (1945)

Division History
(1951-57)

12th Anniversary (1952)

Page 2
Combat Comds
Div Arty

Page 3
Div Trains

Related Links



 
Occupation History
 
(Source: A History of the Second United States Armored Division, 1940 to 1946, Lt Col E. A. Trahan, Editor. Published by Albert Love Enterprises, 1946)
A revised history of the 2nd Armd Div during the Occupation period with maps is being worked on!
   

 
Hell on Wheels - Some of the issues published while in Berlin

July 18, 1945

July 25, 1945

Aug 1, 1945

 

Aug 9, 1945
       
 
ISSUES IN COLLECTION
DATE ISSUE HQS  
  Vol. 1, No. 1-5   missing
Jun 13, 1945 Vol. 1, No. 6 Wolfenbüttel  
Jun 20, 1945 Vol. 1, No. 7 Wolfenbüttel  
Jun 27, 1945 Vol. 1, No. 8 Wolfenbüttel  
Jul 11, 1945 Vol. 1, No. 9   missing
Jul 18, 1945 Vol. 1, No. 10 Berlin  
Jul 25, 1945 Vol. 1, No. 11 Berlin  
Aug 1, 1945 Vol. 1, No. 12 Berlin  
Aug 8, 1945 Vol. 1, No. 13 Berlin  
Aug 16, 1945 Vol. 1, No. 14 Bad Orb  
Aug 23, 1945 Vol. 1, No. 15 Bad Orb  
  Vol. 1, No. 16-20 Bad Orb missing
Oct 4, 1945 Vol. 1, No. 21 Bad Orb  
Oct 11, 1945 Vol. 1, No. 22 Bad Orb  
Oct 18, 1945 Vol. 1, No. 23 Bad Orb  
  Vol. 1, No. 24-29 Bad Orb missing
Dec 12, 1945 Vol. 1, No. 30 Bad Orb FINAL ISSUE!

 
Occupation
(Source: "A Condensed History of Hell on Wheels, 2nd Armored Division", by Maj Gen Briard P. Johnson. Published by the 2nd Armored Division Association in 1980.)
  Early in May (of 1945) the Division assembled south of Wolfenbüttel where VE-Day was quietly celebrated. Here the Division was occupied with training, athletics and a dismounted review for visiting Russians. 3,000 Hell on Wheelers having the longest service left for home by the end of June. On 19 June the Division moved 70 miles to assemble in the Bernburg-Köthen area to prepare for the entry into Berlin, 100 miles northeast.

Starting on 3 July, the Division was held up by Russian bridge work at the Elbe. Marching east in the rain that night, the Division crossed the river at Torgau early the 4th entering Berlin late that afternoon as the first American occupation troops in the city. The five weeks in Berlin were busy. The demands of maintenance and normal garrison duties were squeezed into periods between outposting the American zone of the city, patrols, practice reviews and honor guards and security for the Potsdam Conference. Standing reviews with all combat vehicles lined hub to hub along the "Outer Ring" and dismounted reviews were conducted. During these ceremonies President Truman, (Prime Minister) Churchill, Generals Marshall, Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton were honored. General Patton's visit was his last contact with his old division.
Relieved by 82nd Airborne Division, the Division started its long march to the Hanau-Bad Orb-Schlüchtern occupational area. The Division remained there until almost Christmas (1945), performing occupational duties, training and athletics. Personnel shuffles were constant as groups of veterans left for home and were replaced by new men requiring indoctrination in Hell of Wheels traditions and standards. This paid off as morale and discipline remained high in contrast to disturbances and clamor in many units impatient to go home. During the last few weeks departures were not replaced and all equipment except trucks and jeeps were turned in. Moving in the retained trucks and at much reduced strength, the Division left on December 20th on the three-day march to the Marseille, France port area.

Christmas was celebrated in the muddy Calais staging area. While awaiting transports all remaining equipment except individual arms were turned in and personnel were rotated between Calais and the Army rest centers along the Riviera coast. After a month waiting for transports, the remnants of the Division sailed for New York and on to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey for dispersal.
 

 
Division History
 

2nd Armored Division, Bad Kreuznach, 1954 (YouTube)
 
July 1951 - 1957
  (By late 1950 there were strong indications that the USSR might move against Western Europe. The 2nd Armored Division, located at Fort Hood, Texas, was alerted for movement to Europe as part of the Troop Augmentation program. In June 1951, most training was halted to prepare for the move to Germany.)

Packing and crating completed and now with the combat commands organized tactically, the Division moved by rail to the New Orleans Port of Embarkation. CC "B", the first increment of the Division to leave, paraded in New Orleans on 4 July, boarded transports that evening and sailed early the 5th for Germany, arriving at Bremerhaven 10 days later. It was followed at intervals of a few days by the other increments.
 
GERMANY
On arrival at Bremerhaven the Division transferred directly to troop trains for the move to Camp Y-79 near Mannheim for staging. From Y-79 units moved by truck to the various new stations. Tanks, artillery and heavy equipment were drawn from depots and other equipment unpacked. By mid-August all units had resumed training, this time in preparation for fall maneuvers and the new mission of defense of Western Europe as part of NATO forces.

General Eisenhower visited the Division at its new stations shortly after training was resumed. Utilizing local training areas, small unit and crew drills, road movement and night operations were carried out concurrently with command post exercises. The September maneuver, Exercise "Jupiter," involved a crossing of the Rhine and attack from the bridgehead. Despite the short period of training between arrival and maneuver, the Division performed well. "Jupiter" was soon followed by Exercise "Combine." Part of the Division was employed across the Rhine, while CC "B" went into the field in the Mainz area to defend bridges and probable drop zones outside the city. At this time the Soviets gave indication of a possible attack with the Rhine bridges a highly probable objective.

The Division was now dispersed to scattered stations as follows:
UNITS   HOME STATION
Combat Command (CC) "A" comprised of 57th MTB, 12th and 41st AIBs and 3rd AFA.   Worms
     
CC "B" with 66th and 67th MTBs, 42nd AIB, 14th AFA, Co B, 17th Engr Bn and Co B, 124th Ord Bn.   Mainz
     
CC "R" with 29th MTB and 43rd AIB.   Baumholder
     
Division Artillery with 16th AFA were at Baumholder, while 78th AFA and 94th AAA BN were at Wackernheim.   Wackernheim
     
Division Headquarters, Div. Trains Headquarters, 48th Med Bn, 124th Ord Bn (-), 2nd QM Bn, 502nd MP Co, Ranger Co and 142nd Signal Co.   Bad Kreuznach
     
82nd Rcn Bn was at Baumholder until the new barracks at Dexheim, 10 miles south of Mainz, were completed in the fall. At that time the battalion came under CC "B".   Dexheim
 
Following maneuvers troops settled down to perfect battalion and combat command tactics which had not been possible before leaving Fort Hood. Battalions of CC "A", CC "B" and Div Arty rotated to Baumholder for combat exercises and firing, for periods of three to four weeks throughout the year. In home kasernes units conducted platoon and company exercises and small arms training in local training areas.

During the first winter all tank companies were sent, one or two at a time, for firing at the British Army tank ranges at Belsen. During the second year some units moved to the Wildflecken training area, east of the Rhine for field training. On most moves to Baumholder and other distant areas tanks and full tracked vehicles moved by rail, units becoming extremely adept in the important task of loading and detraining.

Spit and polish were not overlooked. Weekly inspections of varied types and garrison parades at home stations broke the periods of field training and assured high standards of maintenance and discipline. The Division took part in several large reviews
, the first marking the departure from Europe of General Eisenhower prior to his nomination for President.

In the spring of 1953, the Division as part of a two-sided, four division maneuver, moved closer to the East Zone borders south of Kassel to attack toward Frankfurt. Penetrating the "enemy" rapidly and deeply into the rear areas, the rampaging 2nd Armored brought the maneuever to an early end. It had reached the peak of readiness.

Parts of the Division participated in other maneuvers in Southern Germany and Austria. In another 1953 exercise, the Division reinforced by 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment and separate tank and armored infantry battalions engaged in a two-sided exercise involving a crossing of the Nahe River and attack north to secure passes through the Hunsrück Hills.

One organizational action of note occurred in 1952 when the Division became fully integrated. While at Fort Hood partial integration had been affected. 29th MT Bn, 16th AFA Bn and the bridge company of 17th Engr Bn were black units. In 1952 when complete integration was ordered, all units made up packages of personnel by military specialty. Packets picked at random from black and white units and similar packets exchanged between black and white units. A uniform percentage of about 10 percent throughout the division resulted with no problems.

Another personnel problem was the fact that the 12,000 men who joined the Division at Fort Hood in 1951, representing the greater part of its strength, were recruited or inducted at about the same time. To avoid a mass exodus with loss of effectiveness until new men could be trained and absorbed, many of these men were transferred over a period of several months and replaced by men having a uniform spread of expiration of services dates. Both this action and the integration were accomplished without adversely affecting combat readiness of the Division.

The remaining years in Germany were as busy as the first two but, without the problems of resettlement in Germany, integration and major personnel adjustments. Maneuvers, field exercises and maintaining combat readiness and the usual home station activities, including monthly alerts, kept units on their toes. The Division had fulfilled its mission as an important element of the NATO defense of Western Europe for six years when it was returned to Fort Hood in 1957.

 
12th Anniversary
 

click on thumbnail to view larger image of the unit crests


Some of the images and information from the 12th Anniversary yearbook will be posted in the next few days

 

 
Related Links:
2nd Armored "Hell on Wheels" Division - a great web site dedicated to those who served in the 2nd Armd Div from Ft. Benning in 1940 until the division was last inactivated at Ft. Hood in 1996.