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SECOND ARMORED DIVISION [HELL ON WHEELS]

SECOND ARMORED DIVISION [HELL ON WHEELS]. The Second Armored Division was formed at Fort Benning, Georgia, on July 15, 1940, under the command of Maj. Gen. Charles L. Scott. Training of the new division was the responsibility of Col. George S. Patton, Jr. When Scott was appointed commander of the First Armored Corps in November 1940, Patton now a brigadier general and the most colorful of all the division's leaders, assumed command. Under his leadership the division continued training through 1941 and participated in general maneuvers in Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, and the Carolinas. While on these maneuvers Patton reportedly said the division would be "Hell on Wheels" when it met the enemy. The name stuck and became part of the division patch. The Second Armored Division's combat history in World War II covered three years, two continents, and ten countries. On November 8, 1942, the division landed on the shores of North Africa and took Casablanca. Eight months later it participated in the invasion of Sicily, fighting against the elite Hermann Göring Panzer Division. In November 1943 the division moved to England and began preparations for the invasion of Europe. It landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day plus 3, first engaging the Germans at Carentan, France. The division shattered the German defenses at St. Lo, crossed the Seine River north of Paris, passed through Belgium, pierced the Siegfried line, and entered Germany. During the Battle of the Bulge the Hell on Wheels division was part of Montgomery's Twenty-first Army Group. Breaking out, they raced nearly 100 miles and crossed the 1,153 foot Rhine River in an unprecedented seven hours while under mortar fire. On July 4, 1945, the Second Armored was the first American unit to enter Berlin. During World War II the division was recognized for distinguished service and bravery with 9,369 awards, including two medals of honor, twenty-three distinguished service crosses, and 2,302 silver stars, as well as nearly 6,000 purple hearts. In 238 battle days the Second Armored suffered 7,348 casualties, including 1,160 killed in action. The division returned to Camp Hood, Texas, in 1946 to retrain and rebuild.

Still based at Fort Hood, the Second Armored Division furnished thousands of trained replacements to units serving in the Korean War. In 1951 the Hell on Wheels division returned to Germany to serve for six years in support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, then returned to Fort Hood. The First Battalion, Fiftieth Infantry; Second Squadron, First Cavalry; First Battalion, Fourteenth Field Artillery; and First Battalion, Ninety-second Field Artillery fought in the war in Vietnam. The division sent brigades to participate in exercises in Germany from 1973 through 1979, and in 1987 the division was engaged in the largest deployment to Europe since World War II as a part of the Third Corps exercise "REFORGER 87" to demonstrate the ability to deploy and fight in support of NATO. On October 10, 1990, the division began to deploy more than 5,000 soldiers to Saudi Arabia. On February 24, 1991, the Second Armored entered Iraqi-held Kuwait. In 100 hours allied forces had taken back the emirate. Desert Storm had temporarily interrupted the inactivation of the division begun in 1990. Upon the division's return from Operation Desert Storm deactivation was continued, and the last unit became inactive on May 2, 1991, ending fifty-one years of continuous active duty. On May 23, 1991, the First "Tiger" Brigade was rededicated as the Third "Grey Wolf" Brigade of the First Cavalry Division, rejuvenating a Second Armored Division unit stationed at Fort Hood. In December 1992 the Fifth Infantry Division was redesignated the Second Armored Division, which in turn was redesignated in December 1995 as the Fourth Infantry Division (mechanized), stationed in Colorado.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Donald E. Houston, Hell on Wheels: The 2nd Armored Division (San Rafael, California: Presidio Press, 1977).

Art Leatherwood

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Art Leatherwood, "SECOND ARMORED DIVISION [HELL ON WHEELS]," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qns01), accessed July 25, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.