When World War II ended, and the men who contributed so much to the Victory returned to their homes, it was inevitable that those who served in the 8th Armored Division would want to preserve the friendships they had made over a four year period in training and battle. For all the bonds that keep men together, there are none so strong as those which bind together comrades at arms.
Fraternalism born at Fort Knox, Campbell and Polk, bred in England, France, Holland, Germany and Czechoslovakia, reached maturity at War's end.
Shortly after the deactivation of the division, a group of officers and men formerly with the 8th and then on duty at Fort Knox, Kentucky, together with some veterans living in the Louisville area, organized the 8th Armored Division Association under General Devine, Colonel Ed Burba and Dave Hairston. Col. E. R. White, former G-2 of the Division, was the first secretary and began to contact all the former men of the Thundering Herd he could find. It was a thankless, tiresome job, as for some unknown reason, practically every "home address" available was wrong. Too many of the men found new interests in new places and could not be found. But the work of locating men went on, and the ranks grew. Col. White was ordered back to Europe for duty and the Association headquarters was moved to Chicago and Dan Garside of the 130th Ordnance took over as secretary.
The fellows began to get lonesome for their old friends, and it was decided to hold a Reunion and Convention in Chicago over the 4th of July weekend, 1950. The first reunion brought men from almost every state to the Congress Hotel on Michigan Avenue and it was resolved to have a reunion each year. In 1951 the Association again met in Chicago and in 1952 in New York. It was a great sight to see a tank parked outside of the Astor Hotel announcing that the 8th was "at home" inside the hotel. In 1953 we met at Philadelphia, 1954 at Cleveland and in 1955 we had a bang up affair in Washington, D.C.
As the families of the men grew, so did the attendance at reunions. More wives and children began accompanying their 8th Armored husbands and fathers to enjoy the comraderie and good fellowship. Vice President Nixon, Senators Duff, Knowland, Chavez and Cooper, Asst. Secretary of the Army Chester Davis, the Ambassador from the Netherlands, and important military and public officers from each city in which we have met, have been convention guests.
The 8th was always proud of its leaders, its men and its ideals. Not satisfied to seek publicity for itself by some non-worthwhile gimmick, the Association at its first reunion decided that no man really appreciated the full meaning of peace until he had been intimately exposed to War. Proud of its war record, yet jealous of its right to enjoy peace, the Association decided to single out each year, the American who contributed the most toward the cause of peace, without compromising the principles of America. In 1950 General George C. Marshall, then Secretary of State, was selected for the first award for his contribution through the Marshall Plan. Then 1951 and 1952 General Eisenhower was selected for his work in stabilizing Europe through NATO. In 1953 Cardinal Spellman, whose great work was recognized wherever American soldiers found themselves, was chosen. In 1954 Adlai Stevenson was honored for his utterances and outstanding Americanism while on his around-the-world tour. The year 1955 found the tireless Secretary of State, the Hon. John Foster Dulles, receiving the plaque at a ceremony in Washington which was nationally televised.
From the very beginning it was decided that a Division History would have to be written. Sergeant Richard Betts, not a member of the Division, but a student of Military History, did the original research by using all the available data and material found in Washington. Then our own Lt. Charles Leach, formerly of the 7th A.I.B. took over the job, and together with his wife as typist, spent hundreds of hours putting the history together.
The history is one of fact. No one instructed the author as to what would be contained in the text, or as to how the chips would fall. Lt. Leach is to be thanked by each member of the Association for his loyal and devoted work.
There are many more projects and events of interest and importance planned for former members of the 8th Armored Division in the future. Be our guest-be one of us-help to continue the fine traditions and fraternalism of the 8th Armored Division. The history of the men of the 8th is not yet ended.
The 8th Armored Division Association