ARMOR-CAVALRY: Part 1; Regular Army and Army Reserve/Post-World War II

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  • Armor, as the ground arm of mobility, emerged from World War II with a lion's share of the credit for the Allied victory. Indeed, armor enthusiasts at that time regarded the tank as being the main weapon of the land army. But demobilization quickly followed the end of hostilities and, in essence, the armor strength was destroyed. By mid-1948 the Regular Army divisions of all types were reduced to ten; the 2d Armored Division remained as the lone division organized as armored until 1951, when the 1st Armored Division was again activated. Furthermore the Armored Center at Fort Knox was inactivated on 30 October 1945, and most of its functions were assumed by the Armored School.
  • Even after the end of World War II, however, there was unusual need for mechanized organizations in the requirements of the occupational forces in Europe. Highly mobile security forces with flexible organizations and a minimum of personnel were needed, and armor and cavalry units were more readily adaptable to the task than infantry. Consequently, the U.S. Constabulary in Europe absorbed most of the elements of the 1 st and 4th Armored Divisions. These units were gradually reorganized and redesignated as constabulary organizations, the U.S. Constabulary becoming fully operational on 1 July 1946.
  • In addition to its headquarters and special troops, the Constabulary consisted of the 1st, 2d, and 3d Constabulary Brigades and the 1st, 2d, 3d, 4th, 5th, 6th, 10th, 11th, 14th, and 15th Constabulary Regiments. Most regiments had the usual three squadrons. Each regiment, to carry out its peculiar peacetime duties, had a light tank troop, a motorcycle platoon (25 motorcycles), and a horse platoon (30 horses).
  • By early 1947 the Constabulary strength reached nearly 35,000, but continuing turnover in personnel was one of its major problems. On 24 November 1950, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Constabulary, was inactivated; most of its units were assigned to the newly activated Seventh Army. The last of the units, the 2d Constabulary Brigade and the 15th and 24th Constabulary Squadrons, continued to operate until inactivated on 15 December 1952.
  • Since the Armored Force had been created as a temporary measure for World War II, armor was not a permanent arm to which officers could be assigned. The officers retained their basic branch while serving with armored (tank) units. To prevent the loss of identity of armored officers, the War Department began action in early 1947 to assign them to the cavalry. At the same time, announcement was made of expected eventual statutory approval of an armored cavalry arm to replace cavalry. Pending that action, all qualified armored (tank) officers were to be detailed in cavalry, unless they objected. Cavalry officers not qualified in and not desiring to serve with armor could be transferred to or detailed to other arms and services.
  • As late as August 1949, official publications listed armored cavalry, instead of cavalry, as a branch of the Army. Described as "an arm of mobility, armor protected firepower, and shock action," armored cavalry was to engage in all types of combat actions in co-ordination with other arms and services. Reconnaissance types of missions were usually to be performed by light armored cavalry units, which were to avoid sustained offensive or defensive combat.
  • Use of the term armored cavalry was a compromise between those who wanted the word armor in the new branch name and those who were as reluctant to discard the term cavalry as they had been to part with their horses. To others, especially those who had not served with horse cavalry, armor was a new medium, and that term best described the branch. On the other hand, proponents for the continued use of the term cavalry contended that armor, or whatever it might be called, still was the mounted branch- regardless of its mode of transportation- teaching the same principles of mobility, firepower, and shock action. The combination term, armored cavalry, was not popular with either group, but the matter was finally resolved, at least legally, when Congress, in its Army Organization Act of 1950, designated armor as the new branch name and further provided that it would be "a continuation of the cavalry."
  • The armored division after World War II was larger and heavier than it had been during the war. Its authorized personnel strength was increased in 1948 from 10,670 to 15,973; its tank strength was increased from 272 to 3'73, most of the additional tanks being in the medium and heavy classes. The reserve command received additional officers, men, and equipment, placing it on a par with the two combat commands and enabling it to function as a third combat command when needed. Also added to the division were a battalion of heavy tanks, a battalion of heavy artillery, and a battalion of infantry; infantry companies were increase from 3 to 4 in the battalions, boosting the total infantry companies for the division from 9 to 16.
  • The 1st Cavalry Division, which continued to be the only division bearing the cavalry designation, was reorganized as infantry in 1945, its units retaining their cavalry designations. In the 1949 reorganization, however, only the division and its cavalry regiments survived the change to infantry designations, the squadrons becoming battalions and the troops becoming companies. The 1949 reorganization deleted one cavalry regiment, leaving the division with three, the 5th, 7th, and 8th; the 12th was inactivated and withdrawn.
  • Except for the cavalry units in the U.S. Constabulary and those in the 1st Cavalry Division, there were no other active cavalry regiments in the Regular Army until the 3d Armored Cavalry was organized in 1948. Later that year three other armored cavalry regiments, the 2d, 6th, and 14th, were organized, their elements consisting of converted and redesignated units of the U.S. Constabulary.
  • The armored cavalry regiment of late 1948, with three reconnaissance battalions as its principal elements, had an authorized strength of 2,883 and was equipped with 72 light and 69 medium tanks.
  • One of the most difficult problems facing the National Guard after World War II was preservation of the historical continuity of its units. While in Federal service during the war, most National Guard units had undergone many redesignations, reorganizations, and inactivations. After the war the types of units allotted to the National Guard often varied considerably from the types inducted during the war. To keep from losing the histories of units traditional to certain geographical areas, the Department of the Army permitted the postwar units to retain the histories of the prewar units. Thus, in most instances, units allotted after the war perpetuated histories of prewar units.
  • Heading the post-World War II list of National Guard armor and cavalry units were the 49th and 50th Armored Divisions of Texas and New Jersey, respectively. Nondivisional units included 5 armored groups, 3 cavalry groups, 31 tank battalions, and 15 cavalry reconnaissance squadrons. Each of the 25 National Guard infantry divisions had a mechanized cavalry reconnaissance troop and a tank battalion, and each infantry regiment had a tank company. The National Guard had no horse cavalry units.
  • In the Organized Reserves, cavalry and tank units activated in late 1946 were the 19th Armored Division, the 301st through the 304th Cavalry Groups, the 75th Amphibian Tank Battalion, the 782d Tank Battalion, the 314th and 315th Cavalry Reconnaissance Battalions, and the 83d Reconnaissance Troop. In early 1948 the Organized Reserves became the Organized Reserve Corps, and in 1952 this component became the Army Reserve.
  • With swift advances during the postwar period in the development of atomic and recoilless weapons, rockets, and guided missiles, the tank appeared to many to be obsolete. Although emphasis upon armor did decline, efforts continued toward development of a tank with greater firepower and armor protection without losing mobility. But costs were increasing sharply. For example, the initial price of equipping an armored division rose from 30 million dollars in 1944 to about 200 million in 1950. A single light tank costing $27,000 in 1939 increased to about $225,000 in 1950.
  • Because of rising costs and the trend toward atomic weapons and missiles, the modern Army's requirement for tanks was not sufficient to command all the funds for the tank development many advocated. Some progress, however, was made. In late 1948 the M46 Patton was introduced. Named for General Patton, the M46 was a modified version of the M26 of late World War II. Still mounting a 90-mm. gun, but with increased power and speed, the M46 was capable of 30 miles per hour. The Army was also modifying the M24 light tank into the T37 and T41, mounting 76-mm. guns.

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This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).