(material from the 1956 Gyroscope yearbook)
Since its organization at Camp Fremont in 1918 the 8th Infantry Division has been given a variety of missions all accomplished with recognized excellence. The mission and structure of the division were constantly changed to deal effectively with the needs of the division and the Army. When deployed to Germany in 1957 as part of Operation Gyroscope it was believed that the division would remain there for three years. Those three years turned into 35 and several reorganizations; the "pentomic" structure of the late 1950's, temporary or permanent redeployment of units in the late 60's and again in the 90's, "mechanization" of the early 80's. And finally deactivation in 1992. Several hundred thousand men and women have proudly served this division. Many outstanding units have been part of the 8th Division's heritage, including; the 8th Infantry Regiment , the 34th Infantry Regiment, 61st Infantry Regiment 2d BATTALION, 60th INFANTRY, 121st Infantry regiment, and 34 Tank Battalion 4-34 AR . More recently. The 2nd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery (The 29th Field Artillery Regimental Home Page), and the 5th battalion, 3rd Air Defense Artillery and others.
8th United States Infantry Division Operation Gyroscope 1956
The 8th Infantry Division has seen active duty three times since it was organized in January, 1918. It took part in the occupation of Germany after World War I. In 1944-45 it fought from Normandy to northern Germany by way of the Crozon Peninsula, the Hurtgen Forest and the Rhine.
From August 1950, until its transfer to Fort Carson, Colorado in June, 1954, it was an Infantry Replacement Training Division stationed at Fort Jackson, S. C. The 8th was authorized at camp Fremont, Palo Alto, California in January 1918. From the namesake of that station, the explorer and soldier John Fremont (who opened up the Oregon Trail), the division took its first nickname - "Pathfinder". Years later the name "Golden Arrow" was adopted because of the arrow which pierces a silver figure "8" in the division insignia.
In September, 1918, the division left California for France, but the armistice was signed before it reached Europe. One unit, of the division, the 8th Regiment, was made part of the Army of Occupation. The remaining elements of the division were returned to the United States, and in February, 1919, the division disbanded. In 1923 it was reconstructed as an inactive unit. In the summer of 1940, when the German drive in Europe had proved successful, the British had been evacuated at Dunkirk, and Norway and Denmark had been seized, the 8th again was called to active status as part of the American rearmament force.
In July,1940, the division was ordered to duty at Camp Jackson, S. C. (A week later Camp Jackson became Fort Jackson). The reactivated division included the 13th, 28th and 34th Infantry Regiments. In November, the 34th was replaced by the 121st Infantry. From 1940 to 1943, the division remained in the United States, concerned with security duty and with bringing its training to the hard edge the impending commitment to combat demanded. In the fall of 1941, it took part in the Carolina maneuvers. For a year in 1942-43, it trained as a motorized infantry division by participating in the Tennessee and Arizona desert maneuvers. During the latter period the division was redesignated a standard infantry division. For six weeks during the winter of 1942, the 8th patrolled the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to the Florida Keys.
Late in November, 1943, the 8th moved into the Camp Kilmer staging area, and in December it sailed in convoy to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Headquarters were established at Omagh, County Tyrone. Training was resumed in Ireland. This time the emphasis was on small-unit tactics and night-fighting. On July 1, 1944, six and one half months after it had arrived in the United Kingdom, the 8th sailed for the European Continent. It landed at Omaha Beach on the Normandy coast on the forth, 28 days after the invasion.
The 8th assembled, moved through the 82nd Airborne Division positions and took over the center of the VIII Corps front. On the morning of July 8, the division jumped off southward toward La Haye du Puits, and for the first time in its history, the 8th attacked in an all-division effort. On July 14, it reached the north bank of the Ay river, and the objective was taken. On July 27, the division drove through the Ay river line, opening a hole for the 79th and 90th Divisions, which broke east and west with armor and began the lightning drives that were to swoop past Paris to Germany. It was the beginning of the German Seventh Army's mass retreat. The 8th followed southward as far as Rennes.
In mid-August, the division moved by truck to Brest in the extreme west of France, the largest port in the country. The port was being held by an estimated 50,000 German troops under Lt. Gen. Hermann Bernhard Ramke, the man who led the German airborne invasion of Crete. The 8th took the central front in an attack on the city. Early in September, the division was withdrawn to clear the Crozon Peninsula, adjacent to Brest. At first violent resistance and counter-attack were met. But by the 17th the shaft of the peninsula had fallen. Immediately afterward, General Ramcke who had fled to the Crozon after Brest was taken, surrendered to the 8th Division.
It was here that the words were spoken which were to become the division's motto. Ramcke was in a dugout. His staff brought the 8th's assistant commander, Brig. Gen. Charles D. W, Canham, down the concrete stairway to the underground headquarters. Ramcke addressed Canham through his interpreter, "I am to surrender to you. Let me see your credentials." Pointing to the infantrymen crowding the dugout entrance, Canham replied, "These are my credentials".
Late in September, the 8th was ordered to the Ninth Army sector facing the West Wall. The movement across France was completed by October, and the division took over a 23 mile front along the Orr River German Luxembourg boundary. The following month was relatively quiet. A rest camp was set up in Clerveaux Luxembourg. In mid-November, the division took up new positions southeast of Aachen, Germany, located at the point where Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany meet. The mission of the 121st Infantry was to break out of the Hultgren Forest and seize high ground which controlled the German defenses west of Duren and the Cologne plain. Other elements of the division were put in support of the 121st. Very little progress was possible at first. Finally, on Nov. 27, a week after the opening of the drive, the 121st broke through the woods west of the forest, succeeding where three regiments of other divisions had failed. The city of Hurtgen fell shortly afterword to the 121st and 13th, backed up by tanks. Kleinhau fell next. The Division cleared and consolidated the whole area.
Throughout the German break-through at Ardennes, Belgium, just south of the 8th's position, the division held its ground and made limited advances. On January 1, 1945, the enemy had cleared from west of the Roer river and the 8th took over a defensive mission and began regrouping and reequipping. Early in February, the division was transferred to VII Corps control and moved northward to the west bank of the Roer near Duren. On Feb. 23, the division began the difficult Roer crossing, broke into the industrial area between the Roer and the Rhine and took Duren and Erft Canal. In the meantime the 13th Infantry had been attached temporarily to the 3rd Armored Division, and this team seized Cologne. On March 5, the 13th Infantry reached the Rhine, making it the first of the United States First Army troops to reach the river.
Action east of the Rhine began on March 29. The 8th was under Gen Matthew Ridgeway's XVIII Corps, which was to clear the Ruhr-Sieg pocket. The 8th crossed the Rhine in the south, near Bonn, and then cut back to the northwest. In early April, the German defenses began to crumble. The attack reached the Ruhr river and moved west again. Resistance ended on the morning of the 17th. The division's final mission was to move north to Luneberg, near Hamburg, to team with the British Second Army. The attack was northeastward toward Lake Schwerin. It was to cut across the bottom of the Danish peninsula, and if carried far enough would have reached the Baltic Sea. The Germans were in no condition to fight. What resistance there was fell back, and on May 2, the 121st followed closely by the 28th and elements of the 13th, made contact with the Russian armies of the north at Lake Schwerin.
After that, the division spent most of its energy in handling the enormous numbers of prisoners. In a single day, 55,000 Germans were taken. Near Wobbelin, the division found and liberated 2,500 German and Polish political prisoners held in a concentration camp. In 10 months of combat, the division had captured 316,187 prisoners. It flew battle streamers for the major parts it had taken in the campaigns of Normandy, Northern France, the Rineland and Central Europe. A total of 13,293 men of the division had been killed, wounded or captured. Awards had included two Medals of Honor and 5 distinguished unit citations.
Reactivation in 1950
The division returned to the United States, where it was inactivated at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in November 1945. In August, 1950, the 8th was activated for the third time in its history. Again stationed at Fort Jackson and placed under command of Brig. Gen. Frank C. McConnell, it was organized as an infantry training division. The 13th and 28 Regiments again made up a part of the division. The third regiment assigned was the 61st. The 28th, 43rd, 45th and 56th Field Artillery Battalions made up Division Artillery.
The basic training cycle was scheduled originally for 14 weeks. In July, 1951, it was changed to 16. Most new soldiers were assigned to the full 16-week cycle and became qualified infantrymen. Emphasis in the training was on all infantry weapons, from the automatic pistol to the 75mm recoilless rifle, and on small-unit tactics. Night-fighting and hand-to-hand combat both were emphasized increasingly on the basis of experience gained on Korean battlefields. A limited number of men reporting to the division for training were assigned to an eight-week cycle, and subsequently were sent to such common specialist schools as the clerk-typist and automatic maintenance courses conducted by the 8th Division's Specialist Training Regiment. In addition to the basic training given by the three regiments and Division Artillery (which gave training identical to that of the infantry regiments), the Specialist Training regiment conducted clerks, drivers, mechanics, cooks, field wiremen's supply and radio specialist schools, and the Infantry Leaders Course for non-commissioned officer training.
Maj. Gen. Harry J. Collins, wartime commander of the 42nd (Rainbow) Division, first took charge of the 8th in January, 1951. General McConnell subsequently became commander of Camp Gordon, Ga. On February 1, 1952, General Collins left the 8th to take a new appointment as Senior Military Attaché to the Soviet Union, relinquishing his command of the "Golden Arrow" Division to Maj. General Whitfield P. Shepard, who had just returned from overseas duty as Deputy Chief of Staff, Headquarters, Far East Command. On January 31, 1952. General Shepard was reassigned as Chief of the U. S. Military Mission, Ankara, Turkey. He was succeeded as commanding general of the 8th Division by Brig. Gen. John A. Dabney, who immediately prior to assignment at Fort Jackson, had served as a consultant to Anna Rosenberg, former Assistant Secretary of Defense. General Dabney continued to serve as commanding general until February 22, 1954; when he was succeeded by Maj. Gen Riley F. Ennis.
On May 1, it was announced that the 8th Division would be reorganized at Camp Carson, Colo., on June 15, replacing the 31st Infantry "Dixie" Division commanded by Maj. Gen. Harry J. Collins, a Mississippi-Alabama National Guard unit whose colors and designation would be returned to state control on that date. Thus Gen Collins became Commanding General of the 8th Infantry "Golden Arrow" Division for the second time in his career. The Commanding General at Fort Riley, Kansas, Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Harrold succeeded General Collins as commander of the 8th upon the latter's retirement in August, 1954. After a brief period of command by Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Sherburne, Maj. Gen. John G. Van Houten arrived from an assignment in Germany to become commander of the 8th. late in 1954.
Shortly after General Van Houten's arrival, the 8th Division was informed that in January 1955, it would be given an additional mission of conducting basic and advanced individual training. In accomplishing its replacement training mission from January, 1955 to February, 1956, units of the 8th put 17,000 men through basic training and almost 7,000 through individual advanced training. Principle training organizations of the division were the 13th and 28th Infantry Regiments and Division Artillery. Trainees with the 8th received instruction by the "troop leader" system rather than the committee system. Troops were taught by officers and non-commissioned officers of their own unit and not by committees set up to teach particular subjects. While training basic and advanced soldiers, the division retained its structure as a combat division.
In October 1955, the 61st Infantry, the only regiment in the division not assigned a replacement training mission, moved to Louisiana to take part in Exercise Sage Brush, the largest joint Army-Air Force maneuvers since World War II. The 61th returned to Fort Carson in December. In November, Department of the Army named the 8th an Operation Gyroscope unit and announced the division would change places with the 9th Infantry Division in Germany.
Movement of the 8th was scheduled in three increments in August, September and October of 1956. It would occupy an area of South-Central Germany and become a component of the American Seventh Army. The 8th said goodbye to its commander of 14 months, Maj. Gen. John G. Van Houten, in January. General Van Houten as named to command the Washington, D. C. Military District. Replacing General Van Houten as commanding general of the division was Maj. Gen. Thomas M. Watlington. A veteran artillery officer, General Watlington came to the division from his post as deputy assistant chief of staff for research, requirements and special weapons.
Early in 1956, the division began preparations for its coming move to Germany. The replacement training mission was completed and cadre training was undertaken. In February, March and April thousands of newcomers to the Army were poured into Fort Carson to be trained as the backbone of the division on its Operation Gyroscope move overseas. On November 3, 1955 the Department of the Army announced that the 8th Infantry Division would become the second unit of division size to move to Germany under operation Gyroscope. The 8th, which was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, at the time was operating as a training division, training new as individual replacements for soldiers in overseas stations who were returning to the U.S.A.
Under Operation Gyroscope, the 8th was to become a TO&E organization, train its own men and, as a unit, replace the 9th Infantry Division which was then stationed in southern Germany with headquarters in Goeppingen. Operation Gyroscope was a plan that was initiated after World War II to cut down the expense of replacing men for overseas duty. Operation Gyroscope also presented several advantages to the men participating in it.. Not the least of these was to have their families , autos, and household goods shipped to their new stations with them.
The 8th was scheduled to move to Germany during the months of August, September and October of 1956. Much would have to be accomplished before then. Work was begun immediately. The first problem was to assemble 18,000 gyro-qualified soldiers. Officers and enlisted men who were then assigned to the division were given the opportunity to volunteer for Gyroscope provided they had sufficient time left during their current tour. Others were invited to re-enlist with the guarantee that they would go to Germany with their present units.
On November 16, the first volunteers for Gyroscope were accepted into the 8th Division. By December, the various units in the division were given their geographical assignments in Germany. Goeppingen was designated as the location of the division's headquarters. Ulm, Heilbroon, and Fuerth were assigned to the three infantry regiments - the 13th, the 28th, and the 5th. Battalions of Division Artillery were stationed with infantry regiments and at other strategic points. The 41st Tank Battalion was given the southernmost station at Leipheim, and the divisions other units were placed so they could service the "line" outfits most advantageously.
Later in December, it was announced that the 9th Division, which was being replaced by the 8th, would assume the 8th's training mission at Fort Carson. On December 9, a two-man liaison staff from the 9th arrived at Carson to prepare for the arrival of the entire division in the fall. During December, gyro personnel were informed who would be eligible for concurrent travel of dependents and for government housing. The program for concurrent travel was outlined and the men were told about the excellent living conditions in government quarters in Germany.
The men of the 8th were oriented in their mission overseas. They were told that as part of the strategic 7th Army, they must achieve a status of high combat readiness even before they depart from the United States. This status would be maintained during the approximately three years that the division would be in Germany. The 8th Division would be right next to the Iron Curtain, ready to meet any aggression at all times. On February 1, a party of nine high-ranking officers from the 8th left Carson for a two-week tour of Southern Germany to survey the garrison and training areas and to report back to the new commanding general, Maj. Gen Thomas M. Watlington.
February 1956, was declared "8th Infantry Division Month" in Colorado in an effort to spur enlistments for Operation Gyroscope. In February, the first group of gyro-bound trainees arrived at Carson. They numbered almost 5,000. Many were draftees and enlistees. Others were men who had transferred from other units to participate in Gyroscope. On February 17, the 8th Division graduated its last trainees under its old mission and all efforts then swung into the program of training combat-ready soldiers to serve on the frontiers of the free world in Germany. On February 27, six of the divisions units, including the 13th Infantry Regiment began basic training with the men who would make up those units for the next two or three years.
On March 5, General Watlington addressed several thousand of the divisions trainees and stressed that they were not part-time soldiers but were being trained as "professional fighters" for one of the most important jobs in the NATO defense program. Along with their combat training, the men were given information on the German people. It was stressed that Germany was no longer an occupied country and that the 8th Division would be stationed there as guests of the German government. The men were told that the manner in which they conducted themselves would reflect on their service and their country. German traffic signs were installed all over Fort Carson in order to familiarize the men with the signs and signals they would be seeing when they went overseas.
Meanwhile the headquarters personnel of the division and its units were wading through mountains of paper work. Thousands of passports for dependents, tens of thousands of inoculations, inspections of equipment that would be taken along or turned over to the 9th, and hundreds of other details that were processed smoothly and efficiently. May 15 marked an important event in the story of the 8th's Gyroscope movement. On that date the first member of the 8th reported for duty in Germany as part of the advance party of the 41st Tank Battalion.
In June it was announced that members of the 8th who were taking their pre- embarkation leaves in the east would be allowed to report directly to the port of embarkation in New York City instead of coming back to Carson and traveling East with their units. This necessitated the establishment of two detachments in New York by the 8th Division. One was a holding detachment in Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, to receive unaccompanied men when they returned from their leaves. The other was a liaison detachment in Brooklyn's St. George Hotel to house and process the men who reported to the port with their dependents. On the Last Saturday in June, the 8th Division held a farewell review for the citizens in Colorado Springs, Fort Carson's neighboring community. It marked the last time the unit would appear together for several years.
Training continued at a hectic pace and on July 26, the 13th, first infantry regiment to start training, finished its stateside cycle and its men left Carson for their pre-embarkation leaves. For many of these men, who would report directly to the port, this was goodbye to the mountain post. On August 12, the first trainload of 8th Division soldiers left Carson for New York via troop trains. Three days later they boarded ships and sailed for their new stations in Germany. By August 27, the division's first increment. comprising a third of the men who were gyroing, had left Carson and Operation Gyroscope was well on its way.