In Tornado's Wake
| Index | | Next |


In April 1942 nearly every nation of the world was somehow engrossed in World War II. The United States of America, having entered the bloody conflict only five months before, was struggling to forge the implements necessary for warfare, and almost every passing day saw some new fighting force activated. Among the many units born in these early months of our nation's active participation in World War II were the armored divisions destined, although few dared dream it in that gloomy hour, to play major roles three years in the future when the Allied forces destined to doom Nazism and Fascism would drive into the heart of Hitler's Germany

Although the theory of armored warfare was in 1942 relatively new, such farseeing pioneers as Lieutenant General Daniel Van Voorhis, Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers, and Major General Adna R. Chaffee had established the potential worth of the armor concept. High level military planners realized the need for a program to train men for armored combat. One essential of such a program would be an armored unit to train cadre personnel for armored divisions yet to be activated. Hurried, hectic conferences at War Department and Armored Force levels initiated plans for such a force and subsequently on 1 April 1942, at Fort Knox, Kentucky, General Orders Number 19, Headquarters, the Armored Force, officially activated the 8th Armored Division.

At 0930 1 April 1942 the original cadre of the Thundering Herd assembled on Brooks Field to hear the reading of the activation order and a speech by then Major General Jacob L. Devers, CG, Armored Force.

When the Division came into being with Brigadier General Thomas J. Camp as commander, it consisted of the following units:

    Headquarters, 8th Armored Division
    Headquarters Company, 8th Armored Division
    Service Company, 8th Armored Division
    Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 8th Armored Division Trains
    Supply Battalion
    Maintenance Battalion
    148th Armored Signal Company
    88th Armored Reconnaissance Battalion
    78th Armored Medical Battalion
    53rd Armored Engineer Battalion
    398th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
    399th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
    405th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
    49th Armored Infantry Regiment
    36th Armored Regiment
    80th Armored Regiment.

The names of 262 officers and 2,558 enlisted men, largely drawn from the Casual Detachment of the 5th Armored Division, appeared on the 8th Armored Division rosters.

On 13 April 1942, Brigadier General William M. Grimes replaced General Camp. General Grimes came well prepared for commanding the Division. A cavalry officer, he had become interested in armor during the interval between World Wars I and II. Immediately before his assignment to the 8th, General Grimes had been the Chief of the Operations Branch on the War Department General Staff. In that office he had written the draft of the order which ultimately created the Armored Force, America's answer to the German Panzer Division.

To facilitate training, units of the Division were grouped under Combat Commands A and B. General Camp was assigned to head CCA; Brigadier General Robert W. Grow assumed command of CCB. General Orders Number 3, Headquarters, 8th Armored Division, dated 16 April 1942, designated Lieutenant Colonel Howard L. Peckham Division Chief of Staff.

Speaking to Division officers 18 April 1942, General Grimes outlined the mission and admonished those present to remember their task:

"Keep the Eighth Armored Division mission always in mind to provide complete cadres, officers and enlisted men, for new divisions. The primary purpose is to train, organize and prepare these divisional cadres. We are a training division as distinguished from an active division."

The "filler" personnel, those men who were to form the new cadres, began arriving at the Division Classification Point on 3 May 1942. As the various units were brought up to strength, training was accelerated. Schools -gunnery, supply, maintenance, and administrative-became the order of the day. To keep abreast of current doctrine, instructors attended schools. Training was strenuous and hours were long, but the men began to absorb the spirit of armored training.

Individual units received their standards at retreat ceremonies on 13 and 14 June. On the 14th the regiments proudly passed in review for the first time with their standards waving above them.

Plans for morale and welfare of division personnel had begun even before the unit was activated. Special Services scheduled entertainment; the Red Cross field office stood by to assist in time of need; USO lounges welcomed members of the 8th Armored to nearby Louisville and Elizabethtown.

The first wedding performed in the Chapel of Tent City after Division activation united Miss Dorothy Parody and Staff Sergeant Lorin E. Hicks. Under directions of First Sergeant William Kovach a rifle squad with fixed bayonets formed the traditional rifle arbor for the bride and groom as they left the chapel.

At an all-Division track and field meet on 7 September, 88th Armored Reconnaissance Battalion teams and individual contestants captured first honors with 123 out of 200 possible points.

From June, 1942, to January, 1943, life for the 8th Armored Division was training, schools, more training, and more schools. Incoming personnel, a few short days away from civilian life, reported, processed, trained, tested and out as cadre replacements for new armored divisions. This work was all-important, for the war was growing fiercer by the month. For new landings in Sicily, Italy, and numerous Pacific islands men were needed – men trained in armored warfare. New armored divisions numbered from 9 to 14 absorbed most of the 10,833 cadre personnel processed through the 8th Armored Division during this period.

While stationed at Fort Knox the 8th Armored was the official military guardian of the United States Gold Vault located there. This duty entailed keeping a continuous 24-hour guard around the vault area.

A change of station came early in January 1943. Moving in five echelons, the division made a tactical march of 200 miles from Fort Knox to Camp Campbell, Kentucky. All echelons bivouacked within the post area the first night to complete last minute administrative details. The second night's bivouac area was near Central City, Kentucky. Despite unusually bad temperatures hovering between O and 10 degrees F., all echelons completed the move by 12 January. Brigadier General Robert W. Hasbrouck commanded the Division through this march, while General Grimes observed from his liaison plane.

As the Division completed the move to Camp Campbell news arrived of the losses suffered by allied tankers in the Battle of Kasserine Pass. The 8th, the only armored division having available trained replacements in the next weeks shipped more than 4,000 men directly to Tunisia to help launch the drive which ultimately pushed the "Desert Fox," Field Marshal Erwin Rommel out of North Africa.

War Department Training Memorandum Number 2, 1943, directed the 8th Armored Division to cease cadre training. The 20th Armored Division officers then working with the 8th assumed full responsibility for their own unit on 25 February 1943. 8th Armored Division cadre then began to receive and train filler replacements, the Division now being charged with replacing personnel in various units designated by Army Ground Forces.

In moments that could be spared from training during February, General Grimes dedicated a new USO in Camp Campbell, and men from the Division boxing team won 3 out of 7 regional bouts in the Golden Gloves Tournament at Nashville, Tennessee. Two of the Division sparrers went to the Mid-West Finals in Chicago.

War Department Training Memorandum Number 13, dated 26 February 1943, summed up the 8th Armored's next task: to develop itself rapidly into an integrated, highly trained, aggressive combat team. For this new mission the 8th was transferred from Camp Campbell to Camp Polk, Louisiana.

The Division arrived by train at the siding of North Camp Polk on 4 March 1943, and the 7th Armored Division band greeted it playing "Happy Birthday" in honor of General Grimes' anniversary. Major General Willis D. Crittenberger, Commanding General of the 3rd Armored Corps to which the 8th had been attached, extended official greetings.

The Thundering Herd spent March taking over the vehicles and equipment of the departing 7th Armored. From 21 March 1943 to 5 April 1943, the Division received fillers, a total of 11,497. On 5 April the first phase of the Mobilization Training Program got under way. Private James E. Johnson of Clinton, Iowa, was the first of the filler group to be processed through the Division Classification Center.

On 1 April 1943, the 8th Armored celebrated its first birthday with a parade of Division cadremen some 3,000 strong passing in review for General Grimes and General Crittenberger. Following the review the cadremen and newly arrived filler personnel, some of them in uniform less than a month, assembled in the Division Bowl to hear birthday addresses by General Grimes and General Crittenberger. General Grimes remarked, "One year after its activation at Fort Knox, Kentucky, the Division has received a new mission, a new home and a brand new complement of junior officers and enlisted men." The Division Bowl was the handiwork of the 53rd Armored Engineer Battalion. Construction begun as soon as the Engineers had drawn their equipment was completed by 18 April 1943.

From April 1943, to September 1943, the Division was engrossed in the Mobilization Training Program designed to mold the 8th Armored into an effective combat organization. In reviewing the accomplishments of the Division General Grimes wrote on 30 September 1943:

"The 8th Armored Division functioned as a cadre and replacement division, Armored Force, for one year. The unit was redesignated as a combat division in February 1943, at which time all ranks (less a division cadre, officers and enlisted men) were transferred overseas or to other armored elements. In March 1943 the 8th Armored Division was assigned to the Third Army, joining same with a complete division staff and cadre which has been in existence approximately one year."

The five months from April to September 1943 included various types of activity. During May and June all personnel of the Division participated in the Army Ground Forces physical training tests which measured the ability of the American soldier to exist for 24 hours with no sleep, one canteen of water, and a very light meal of combat rations. All members of the Division ran through the infiltration course during the daylight and again in darkness. Small units held field exercises in the Peason Ridge, Rose Pine, or Slagle Training Areas.

Company E (Bridge Company), 53rd Armored Engineer Battalion, participated in a unique field exercise when, under command of Captain William H. Linkhorn, it rushed to Camp Chaffee, Arkansas, to deliver a portable bridge as replacement for one which had been washed away. This action helped save expensive property in the devastated area and won high praise from civilian authorities, the Commanding General of 3rd Corps, and General Grimes.

In leisure moments Division men found top entertainment at the Division

Bowl. Movie stars Cary Grant and Bob Hope visited; Frances Langford donned driver's helmet and posed in an M-4 tank. The companies of the Division participated in "Recreational Convoys" to various Texas communities. Originated by the 53rd Armored Engineer Battalion, these convoys combined training in convoy driving with recreation outside Camp Polk environs.

In the Division sports program every major unit fielded a softball team. A Division baseball team included many former professional players: Heinie Mueller, Philadelphia Phillies; Earl Springer, Baltimore Orioles; and Hank Klienman, a renowned baseball clown.

Ingenuity of Division members was evident in entries in the "Unpatented Pendings Contest" sponsored by The Armored News. Master Sergeant Walter Mattern, Division G-2 Section, contrived a symbol poker game to aid in teaching map reading and intelligence. Technical Sergeant Francis Fojt, 148th Signal Company, won an award for designing a sled to recover telephone wire. His device saved many hours for signalmen detailed to recover used wire.

During the month of September 1943, the 8th Armored Division successfully accomplished complete reorganization from the old - style triangular division, armored, to the new "light" armored division. Following instructions contained in War Department Letter AG-322, dated 15 September 1943, General Grimes issued General Orders Number 3, Headquarters, 8th Armored Division, dated 20 September 1943, which effected the following major changes-'

(1) The 36th Armored Regiment less 1st and 3rd Battalions, Band, Maintenance Company, Service Company, and Reconnaissance Company, was redesignated the 36th Tank Battalion, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Byron Schwartz.

(2) lst Battalion, 36th Armored Regiment, was redesignated the 775th Tank Battalion and transferred to the 3rd Armored Corps.

(3) 3rd Battalion, 36th Armored Regiment, was redesignated the 710th Tank Battalion and transferred to the 3rd Armored Corps.

(4) The 80th Armored Regiment, less 3rd Battalion, Band, Maintenance Company, Service Company, and Reconnaissance Company, was redesignated the 80th Tank Battalion, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Forsyth Bacon.

(5) 3rd Battalion, 80th Armored Regiment, was redesignated the 18th Tank Battalion, with Lieutenant Colonel Guinn B. Goodrich assigned as Commanding officer.

(6) The 49th Armored Infantry Regiment, less 1st and 2nd Battalions, was redesignated the 49th Armored Infantry Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel William R. Orr, Commanding.

(7) 1st Battalion, 49th Armored Infantry Regiment, was redesignated the 58th Armored Infantry Battalion under command of Major Ernest G. Bias.

(8) 2nd Battalion, 49th Armored Infantry Regiment, was redesignated the 7th Armored Infantry Battalion, commanded by Major Arthur D. Poinier (promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 24 September 1943).

(9) The 88th Armored Reconnaissance Battalion was redesignated the 88th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mech.) under command of

Lt. Col. Tracy Harrington. The Reconnaissance Companies of the 36tb and 80th Armored Regiments were redesignated as Troop D and Troop E, 88th Reconnaissance Squadron (Mech.) respectively.

(10) Maintenance Battalion, 8th Armored Division, was redesignated the 130th Ordnance Maintenance Battalion.

(11) The 78th Armored Medical Battalion was redesignated the 78th Medical Battalion, Armored.

12) Headquarters, Reserve Command, was activated and put under command of Lieutenant Colonel Leo F. Kengla, Jr. This gave the Division three tactical combat organizations. However, Reserve Command was not a complete headquarters such as CCA and CCB.

The commanders of the three disbanded units (Colonel Gilbert X. Cheves, 36th Armored Regiment; Colonel Charles W. Walton, 80th Armored Regiment; and Colonel Theodore F. Wessels, 49th Armored Infantry Regiment) received new assignments outside the Division.

Preparing the Division for combat required participation in field exercises and full-scale maneuvers. October and November were months of alternating exercises and maintenance in preparation for the important "D" Series scheduled for December. Most November days and nights were spent in the field but Thanksgiving was a holiday and the mess crews pulled all stops to give the men turkey with all the trimmings.

The famed "D" Series field exercises, described by veterans as the "most rugged hardships the State of Texas and the weatherman could devise," took place between 11 and 28 December. The various problems gave the troops a chance to put to practical use the basic and unit training they had previously undergone and at the same time provided excellent training in preparation for full scale maneuvers soon to follow. The "D" the initial problems of this type for an armored division, and 8th Armored had been selected to test the validity of the problems. The Division maneuver area was located in eastern Texas and ranged from Hemphill in the north to Newton in the south.

The first problem involved gaining contact with the enemy and maintaining it until intelligence concerning enemy activities could be had.

The Division was in bivouac in the vicinity of Geneva, Texas, when the

second problem got underway. As the Division moved from the bivouac area a meeting engagement with the enemy ensued with the 8th successfully carrying through an attack.

Problem three began on 21 December 1943 with the 53rd Armored Engineering Battalion being used primarily to insure Division mobility. The efforts of the entire Battalion went toward building bypasses, breaching minefields, and constructing bridges. As the problem continued and the enemy forced the

Division to retreat from newly won ground and take up a delaying action the engineers put down minefields, blew up bridges, and built obstacles to slow the enemy advance.

Christmas Day, 1943, found the 8th still in the field. A convoy from the maneuver area moved into Camp Polk on 24 December to permit those men with families quartered in the Leesville vicinity to spend Christmas there. On Christmas Day Lieutenant Colonel Vaughn MacArthur, Division Chaplain, visited several unit bivouac areas and put forth his best efforts to dispel the general gloom. Christmas -in bivouac was a bitter contrast to the traditional Yule!

The final "D" Series problem consisted of breaching a minefield and pouring tank and armored infantry units through the gap to establish a base for another thrust into the heart of the enemy line. Following this coordinated attack came the order to cease all action and the "D" Series officially ended.

During January 1944, the Division remained in the field preparing for the maneuvers to follow. Pursuant to General Grimes' instructions, 10% of the men in each unit were given leave during the break period, and this policy was continued with respect to passes throughout the maneuvers. Maintenance of vehicles and weapons consumed the bulk of the "breather" between the "D" Series and the maneuvers. Division Special Services office sponsored much entertainment including such talent shows as "Bivouac Brevities."

Training in small unit tactics (which was decentralized to battalion and separate companies for control purposes) went forward along with the duties of equipment maintenance. Training Memorandum Number 61, Headquarters, 8th Armored Division, dated 31 December 1943, specifically stated the January objective: "-to prepare for Louisiana Maneuvers and/or overseas service."

The Sixth Louisiana Maneuver Period which began on 7 February was broken into seven tactical phases:
    1st Phase (Flag Exercises) - 7 February-17 February
    2nd Phase - 21 February-24 February
    3rd Phase - 28 February-I March
    4th Phase - 6 March-9 March
    5th Phase - 13 March-19 March
    6th Phase - 24 March-27 March
    7th Phase - 1 April-3 April.

The problem was drawn to illustrate a movement to contact in a meeting engagement stressing aggressive action by both sides, a withdrawal of the (Red) force, the arrival of Red reinforcements, and a large scale counterattack by the reinforced Red unit. The Blue Force, as part of the U.S. XVIII Corps, consisted of the 75th and the 92nd Infantry Divisions. The Red Force, the Provisional Red Corps, consisted of the 44th Infantry Division and the 8th Armored (which was to play the role of the Red Reinforcements during the latter phases of the maneuver action).

For maneuvers with an armored unit, the weather was foul. Constant rain restricted tank movement to roadways; deploying was virtually impossible. The meeting engagement resulted in complete "bog down" for all units except the engineers. During the next week the 53rd Armored Battalion utilized bulldozers and corduroy bridges to prepare the area for the 8th's entry into the contest.

The final days of February saw a coordinated attack by the Blue Forces. The maneuvers continued throughout March with the 8th Armored often employed as a flanking force or in direct support. There were two river crossing problems, which necessitated establishing bridgeheads from which an armored attack could be launched.

It was in March, while the 8th was still on maneuvers, that 1200 replacements arrived from the Army Specialized Training Program units of various universities. As the trains bearing these troops neared Leesville MacArthur greeted the new men: "I am very happy to welcome you to the 8th Armored Division. Tonight you will sleep under the stars." From clean white sheets in college dormitories and fraternity houses to pup tents and Louisiana mud! The transition was swift and difficult, but the "bookworm soldiers" soon proved their adaptability.

To integrate these ASTP men into the Division without halting maneuvers was no simple task. The replacements were received in the Administrative Center set up by Headquarters (Rear Echelon) and directed by Lieutenant Colonel L. Boyd, Division G-1. Processing took place in a special casual center commanded by Lieutenant Paul Cedergren, Division Classification officer. Before assignment to a unit, each replacement received four hours of instruction in such subjects as Chemical Warfare and Malaria Control. During non-tactical breaks the new men returned from their units to a provisional platoon for further training.

Arriving almost simultaneously with the ASTP replacements was a War Department levy which depleted the 8th Armored ranks of trained privates and privates first class. However, the key non-commissioned officers stayed in their T/O positions. The people departing on the overseas shipment moved from the maneuver area on 19 April 1944.

The Seventh Period of Louisiana Maneuvers closed on 3 April 1944. From 3 to 24 April the Division was billeted in administrative bivouac and time was devoted to maintenance, polishing up small unit tactics, correcting mistakes, and utilizing lessons learned on maneuvers.

On 19 April 1944 Staff Sergeant Donald G. Carrell, General Grimes' personal pilot, received a direct commission. The ceremony was held at Division Headquarters with General Grimes pinning on the gold bars. The Division photographer took advantage of tradition and the newly appointed lieutenant's lack of change to garner a $10 bill in recognition of his first salute.

In this same period quick thinking by Master Sergeant Albert L. Lambert, Chief Clerk of the Division Finance Office, saved the life of T/4 John E. Glebs. Glebs was filling a lamp with gasoline when the lamp exploded and flames enveloped him. He had started to run into the tent containing the section records when Sergeant Lambert tackled him and smothered the flames with his body.

Spiritual welfare of the Division was the chief concern of Chaplain MacArthur. On 9 April, Easter Sunday, Division members of Protestant faith observed the resurrection of the Lord at a service conducted by Chaplain MacArthur. A long, sloping hillside provided a magnificent setting for the religious rite. The Catholics of the Thundering Herd assembled in the same spot later in the morning to attend mass. Members of the Jewish faith had been given passes to enable them to observe the holidays of the Passover.

The Division ended almost six months of continuous life under field conditions on 28 April 1944 when the unit moved into South Camp Polk. A dance at the Post Field House under USO auspices welcomed the men. Shortly after the Division arrived in camp its depleted ranks were swelled by the influx of former aviation cadets who had been relieved from flight training and reassigned to the Army Ground Forces. Welcomed personally by General Grimes, the ex-cadets were processed and integrated into the various battalions.

The entire Division, assembled at a Bowl formation on 5 May 1944, beard General Grimes promise that the Thundering Herd would move overseas in the autumn. The formation, held to officially welcome the 8th Armored back to Camp Polk, was also addressed by Major General Frank Milburn, CG, XXI Corps.

The months at South Camp Polk were spent in post-maneuver training. The month of May emphasized two aspects of this: service schools and the beginning of the Preparation for Overseas Movement program. Large numbers of officers and enlisted men left on TDY and Detached Service to attend various schools. The Division conducted its own schools for those in need of formalized schooling. Lieutenant Colonel Edmund T. Bullock, Division Signal Officer, conducted a "Signal University" at the 148th Signal Company to teach proper radio maintenance and operating procedure. Lieutenant Colonel Boyd, Division G-1, directed classes in administrative methods for unit personnel officers. The training schedule was filled from 0730 to 1700 with small unit tactics, hikes, and practical exercises, thus requiring most of the classes to be held at night.

The Division assembled on the parade ground at North Camp Polk on Memorial Day, 1944, to honor the memory of 32 of their comrades who died in training since 4 March 1943. The traditional three volleys were fired by Company C, 49th Armored Infantry Battalion, following the reading of General Order Number 2, dated 30 May 1944, by Lieutenant Colonel David L. Hariston, Division Adjutant General. A moment of silent prayer was offered in memory of:

    Private Donald F. Dreher
    Company H, 49th Armored Infantry Regiment
    10 April 1943

    Private William J. Maher
    Company E, 80th Armored Regiment
    10 May 1943

    Private Vernon H. Dahl
    Service Company, 8th Armored Division
    15 May 1943

    Private Melburn L. Diehl
    Company D, 53rd Armored Engineer Battalion
    21 May 1943

    Private Velmar R. Kaae
    Company C, 53rd Armored Engineer Battalion
    29 May 1943

    Private Irving T. Main
    Company C, 53rd Armored Engineer Battalion
    29 May 1943

    Second Lieutenant Willard J. Ester
    Company D, 36th Armored Regiment
    5 June 1943

    Staff Sergeant Harry M. Vickers
    Company D, 36th Armored Regiment
    5 June 1943

    Private Raymond W. Jackson
    Company B, 80th Armored Regiment
    30 June 1943

    Private William S. Anstrom
    Company F, 36th Armored Regiment
    24 July 1943

    Staff Sergeant Robert L. Hadenfelt
    Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 8th Armored Division
    I August 1943

    Private Joseph A. Tokarick
    Headquarters Battery, 398th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
    7 August 1943

    Captain Edward J. Doherty
    Service Company, 49th Armored Infantry Regiment
    10 August 1943

    Corporal John J. Galvin
    Company B, 49th Armored Infantry Regiment
    I September 1943

    Sergeant William M. Schmidt
    Service Company, 80th Armored Regiment
    14 September 1943

    Second Lieutenant Frank E. Argenio
    Headquarters Battery, 399th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
    17 September 1943

    Private William B. Boyer
    Headquarters Company, 36th Tank Battalion
    12 October 1943

    T/5 George DeSavage, Jr.
    Troop B, 88th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mech.)
    23 October 1943

    Sergeant Emil L. Phaneuf
    Company C, 53rd Armored Engineer Battalion
    3 November 1943

    Private First Class Joseph C. Walus
    Headquarters and Service Troop, 88th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mech.)
    20 November 1943

    Master Sergeant Wilfred W. Emerick
    Headquarters Company, 58th Armored Infantry Battalion
    22 November 1943

    Private Vincent Carleo
    Company C, 49th Armored Infantry Battalion
    30 November 1943

    Staff Sergeant Robert J. Reynolds
    Company C, 78th Medical Battalion
    7 December 1943

    Private Franklin R. McCune
    Troop C, 88th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mech.)
    14 December 1943

    Technical Sergeant George Angell
    148th Armored Signal Company
    10 January 1944

    Private John R. Clayton
    Company B, 53rd Armored Engineer Battalion
    12 January 1944

    Captain Edward M. Fitzgerald
    Company C, 78th Medical Battalion
    12 February 1944

    Corporal Joseph W. Keller
    Company A, 49th Armored Infantry Battalion
    16 February 1944

    Private Andrew Carrigan, Jr.
    Company A, 7th Armored Infantry Battalion
    16 April 1944

    T/5 Frank E. Senffher
    Service Company, 18th Tank Battalion
    18 April 1944

    Corporal Albert L. Baldell
    Company B, 36th Tank Battalion
    9 May 1944

    Private Donald A. Johnson
    Headquarters Company, 49th Armored Infantry Battalion
    12 May 1944.

D Day in Europe was big news for the Division early in June 1944. 8th men had sober expressions as they listened to the broadcasts originating off the coast of France. Their thoughts went either to those marching with the invasion forces or to the future when they also would be facing enemy fire.

To celebrate Infantry Day, 15 June 1944, the three infantry battalions of the Division (7th, 49th, and 58th), accompanied by detachments from the tank battalions, the engineers, the medical, artillery, and ordnance battalions, made a 125 mile motor march to Shreveport, Louisiana. The combined force, under command of Colonel Charles F. Colson, pitched tents in a model bivouac at the Municipal Fairgrounds and prepared many displays which were set up on the Caddo Parish Courthouse lawn.

A crowd of 25,000 watched the infantry battalions parade through the downtown business district on the morning of 15 June. Following the parade the crowd swelled to 40,000 and thronged about the exhibits of weapons, ammunition, vehicles, rations, and clothing. When Colonel Colson made jeeps and armored cars available so the officials of the 5th War Loan Drive could reward purchasers of War Bonds with rides, the Division vehicles helped sell over $25,000 worth of War Bonds. An impressive exhibition of infantry close order drill came when a squad from Company C, 49th Armored Infantry Battalion, under leadership of Technical Sergeant Alverie Parody, performed the entire manual of arms with the M-1 rifle, including the difficult "Queen Anne Salute," without a command being given.

The 8th Armored Division baseball team, coached by Captain William D. Black, won a 4 to 0 decision over the Shreveport All-Stars. T/4 Harry Potts won his own game when he blasted a home run in the ninth inning to bring in three runs. Following the ball game retreat was held at the Fair Grounds bivouac area.

A dance at the Municipal Auditorium wound up the day's activities. At intermission "Miss Shreveport" met "Typical Doughboy" of the 8th Armored, Corporal Walter R. Blair, Company B, 49th Armored Infantry Battalion, who had been selected from a group of contestants representing each company of the three infantry battalions.

The combined unit broke camp on 16 June and returned to Camp Polk, where they found turmoil. The post ammunition dump had blown up at noon on 16 June, causing all electricity to be cut off for several hours. Many of the roads were blocked as a safety measure, since shells were still exploding from the heat of the flames. A combination of circumstances, the chief of which was the direct rays of the summer sun, had started the chain reaction that resulted in three blasts heard as far away as DeRidder, Louisiana. Quick action by camp officials prevented further explosions and there were no casualties from the blasts.

The drivers of the Division also discovered something new at Polk on the morning of 16 June 1944. Devised and supervised by Second Lieutenant Frank J. Sapyak, Division Trains, a system of spot checks utilizing a four-man roving maintenance team from the 130th Ordnance Maintenance Battalion, was in operation. At any given spot the team, with the assistance of the MP's, would stop a vehicle and check the performance of first echelon maintenance. The effect was to bring about a vast improvement in the condition of Division vehicles!

During the remainder of June the infantry and tank battalions fired the light and heavy .30 caliber machine guns for record on various ranges. A large detachment from the Division departed for two weeks firing on the Anti-Aircraft Ranges at Camp Dona Anna, Texas. The 53rd Armored Engineer Battalion completed a swimming pool at South Camp. Built both for training purposes and recreation, the pool was a favorite spot during the sweltering months of summer.

July ushered in the second phase of post-maneuver training. The objective of this phase was "to perfect the tactical and technical proficiency of units from the platoon to the reinforced battalion." Assault of fortified areas, indirect fire of tank, anti-aircraft, and air-ground training were all included. The training schedules of the Division units reflected a directive that 50% of all training would take place at night. The 53rd Armored Engineer Battalion was given the mission of building a new "mock village" to be used in the phases of training specifying combat in cities.

Many a sore-footed Herder could testify that the Division hiked! A favorite device of battalion commanders, the twenty-five mile hike came around at least once a month. Many units, in efforts to escape the heat of the day, marched into camp on Friday evening after a week in the field.

Sporting events marked the 4th of July. An all-Division field meet took place during the morning. The 58th Armored Infantry Battalion captured first place; the 7th Armored Infantry Battalion, second; the 88th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mech.), third. Private Frank Antonelli, representing the 58th AIB, won a $100 War Savings Bond for individual high honors. Sergeant Norman Rucks, also from the 58th AIB, captured second spot. Corporal Charles Hardy, 7th AIB, and Private John Valtza, 398th AFA Battalion, tied for third place.

The 58th AIB wall-scaling team broke the all-Army record in the wall-scaling event. The team, coached by Lt. Walter J. McDermott, Company B, scaled the 16-foot board barrier in 25.4 seconds, 4 seconds under the score posted by a Fort Knox team in 1943. Sergeant Dorris W. Sherrow directed the operation, which sent the climbers from knee to shoulder to top, and was the last man pulled over the barrier.

Three thousand fans turned out in the afternoon to see the clash between the 8th and 9th Armored baseball teams. T/4 Harry Potts, ace pitcher for the Herders, struck out eleven 9th Armored men in posting a two hit 2-0 win.

The 8th Armored Division band lost its organizer and leader when CWO Meyer N. Goldman retired from active service after more than 40 years in uniform. Goldman turned the baton over to Chief Warrant Officer Carroll H. Grummish. About this same time members of the band organized a swing band under direction of Technical Sergeant John Getty, and including Sergeant Harold Diner, Sergeant Beebe and Corporal Buddy Crouch and this small group proved in great demand for USO dances and NCO Club functions.

Twenty-five men and one officer of Company C, 36th Tank Battalion, participated in tests of gas protective equipment under supervision of the Army Medical Research Laboratory. Commanded by First Lieutenant John McLaughlin, the unit was in the field from 10 July to 13 August 1944. Spurred on by the knowledge that they were trying out equipment that might one day save their own lives, not one of the tankers accepted the opportunity to withdraw from the arduous tests and return to company duty. Clothed in impregnated suits, the crew members ran through driving tests, combat firing, and tank platoon tactics. At the conclusion of the tests all participants received high commendation from General Grimes.

The Division completed individual POM Requirements. The artillery battalions moved onto the range to fire the Army Ground Forces Artillery Tests, while other Division units stressed march discipline, first aid treatment and simulated gas casualties, overnight bivouacs, and malaria discipline. Salt tablets became a part of every meal, and the mess sergeant was posted at the mess hall door to insure that all men took the required tablets.

Three members of the Medical Detachment, 80th Tank Battalion, received practical experience when they treated the crew of an Air Corps B-17 Flying Fortress which crashed near Pitkin. Staff Sergeant Peter E. Gooddrich, T/4 Ennis Young, and Private First Class John Hoffner were returning from a field problem when a civilian directed them to the scene of the crash. They treated the five members of the crew, then sent them by ambulance to the U.S. Army Hospital at South Camp.

The top non-coms of the 58th AIB were pressed into service as officers at a retreat parade on 18 August 1944. The companies were in parade position when the officers of the Battalion were summoned to a special meeting at Division Headquarters. Stepping into the shoes of Lieutenant Colonel Paul L. Fowler, commanding officer of the Battalion, Master Sergeant Everett E. Smock, Battalion Sergeant Major, took the review.

Division Training Memorandum Number 45, dated 22 August 1944, outlined the proposed training from 4 September to 11 November. The objective, "to complete the training of the Division for combat," had been long awaited. The preliminaries were nearly over; the main bout would soon be underway.

"Alligator stories" occupied the Division's off-duty moments during the week of August. Lieutenant Robert Amos, 49th AIB, had started the ball rolling by shooting a five-foot alligator when the unit was on bivouac near Pitkin. On 25 August Sergeant Virgil; Gibson, 80tb Tank Battalion, caught a three and one-half foot alligator behind the 10th Street Chapel in the 80th Tank Battalion area. Thereafter most members of the Division were on the lookout for the crawling creatures, and the stories about them multiplied at a frantic rate.

The sports program (baseball, softball, and volley ball) was in full swing throughout August with the 7th AIB, 88th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mech.), and 398th AFA leading their respective leagues. Special Services office sponsored talent shows such as "Cavalcade of Music" and "Tank Traps." Weekend "chiggerless" bivouacs in Shreveport, Louisiana, and in Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Orange, Texas, drew recreational convoys from all Division units.

At a raffle General Grimes drew the ticket which won a $1,000 War Savings Bond for Staff Sergeant James C. Ernst, Company B, 130th Ordnance Maintenance Battalion.

All members of the Division received pictorial yearbooks containing unit pictures and action shots portraying all phases of the Division training.

The 8th Armored was placed in top priority for overseas movement in September. Necessary inspections to insure that all records and equipment were up to date occupied a major portion of the month. Combat firing tests for the Division's tank, infantry, and engineer units netted excellent score for all elements. The 58th AIB topped the Division in four of seven Army Ground Force combat firing tests. With a total score of 80.5 amassed by taking first place in 81mm, mortar, anti-tank platoon, rifle platoon, and infantry platoon tests, the 58th was far ahead of the other infantry battalions. The 18th Battalion scored highest among the tank units participating.

General Grimes personally conducted a school which stressed organization, tactics, techniques, and employment of an armored division. Held from 1 September to 27 September, the school was for members of the general staff sections and commanders of all major units and their staffs.

Company A, 53rd Armored Engineer Battalion, commanded by Captain James Gettings, set a new record for construction of the Army Bailey Bridge. Under the direction of Private Harold Arbagh, a civil engineer by profession, the crew from Company A set up the bridge in three hours, one minute-almost two hours under the previous record. Built from 600-pound pre-fabricated 5' x 10' panels hooked up two rows deep and two rows wide, the bridge supported a maximum of 45 tons.

Lieutenant Robert D. Eaton and Lieutenant James M. Seamans were in charge of the Division Mine School which taught techniques of assaulting blockhouses. Lieutenant Seamans was injured by premature explosion of a detonating cap and had to be taken to the hospital for treatment.

The Star Spangled Circus entertained the Division the week of 25 September. The morning of the 26th someone called Captain Will H. Burger, Division Provost Marshal, with a frantic tale of a runaway elephant. Hurrying to the scene, Staff Sergeant William R. Miller and Corporal Gregory Foley found 6,200 pounds of elephant very contentedly basking in the sun behind the Field House.

The weekly talent show "Fun Incorporated," sponsored by Special Services office, closed after a successful summer. Miss Connie Lawrence of Leesville was crowned queen of the show by Major Henry B. Rothenberg.

Military courtesy in the Division seemed to relax during the hot months of summer. To correct this without punishing offenders too severely a system of courtesy patrols was inaugurated. The patrols would move through the Division area checking dress, saluting, and courtesy. Violations noticed would be called to the attention of the persons concerned and the patrol would pass on. The incidence of violations decreased sharply.

The month of October brought major changes. Major General Grimes departed on 6 October 1944. Named as Commandant of the Cavalry School at Fort Riley, Kansas, General Grimes concluded almost two and one-half years at the helm of the 8th Armored Division. Commenting on these years in General Orders Number 7, Headquarters, 8th Armored Division, dated 5 October 1944, General Grimes expressed his feeling for the Division:

"Upon relinquishing command of the Division I desire to record my deep appreciation of the high privilege that has been mine to lead the splendid personnel that has composed the rank and file of the Thundering Herd.

"During the past two and one-half years since activation the Division has had a major role in the development of armor-ours was a mission to train and produce the cadres for four armored corps and seven of our sister divisions besides furnishing thousands of overseas replacements. Today sees the Division ready to perform its primary mission that for which all of us have waited and trained so hard for so long.

"It has been a great honor to have been at the helm and along with you to have shared in the Division's performance of its varied duties. No division commander has ever had more loyal or willing support than you have given me.

"I know as you join in battle the divisions that have preceded you that the 8th Armored Division will add fresh lustre to the already glorious accomplishments of our forces-I wish I could share the future you. Since duty takes me elsewhere, I say to all ranks good luck, good going and God bless you."

On 5 October the entire Division passed in review for the departing commander. General Grimes was escorted from camp by a troop of armored cars. An honor guard of 2,500 men representing each unit of the Division lined both sides of Louisiana Avenue for a mile as General Grimes drove through.

Pursuant to General Orders Number 8, Headquarters, 8th Armored Division, dated 6 October 1944, Brigadier General John M. Devine assumed and of the Division. General Devine came to the 8th from assignment as commanding General, Combat Command B, 7th Armored Division. He had been in combat almost continuously since D plus 2 when he had landed on Normandy Beach as Artillery Commander of the 90th Infantry Division. Selected by General Dwight D. Eisenhower to return to the continental United States and assume command of the 8th Armored, General Devine arrived on the same plane with Lieutenant General Ben Lear, Chief of Army Ground Forces, who was coming to Polk to inspect the Division. In his first appearance before the 8th, General Devine remarked, "I don't think I've seen a better looking group of soldiers who were better trained than this division." A combat veteran, General Devine stressed the importance of leadership in the small units as the key to success in battle.

Another major event occurring during the month of October was the official alert for movement to the Port of Embarkation. Members of the Division knew that their stay in the U.S. was coming swiftly to a close. The air was tinged with an atmosphere of excitement and expectation. Inspections, records' checks, the condemning of combat unserviceable equipment all pointed to a port date in the near future. Invoices bearing the tell-tale red ball confirming shipment of new equipment for the Division to the Holding and Reconsignment Point at Elmira, New York, left no doubt as to where the next station of the Division would be.

During the first half of October all equipment except TAT (To Accompany Troops) items was packed and crated. The advance party left the Division on 14 October and reported to Elmira, New York. Members of the 8th were urged to settle all personal affairs as soon as possible. On 18 October 1944 General Devine officially ended training with an address delivered to the entire Division assembled in the Division Bowl. The remaining time in Camp Polk was spent in cleaning up odds and ends and closing out the area.

On Saturday, 7 October 1944, the operators of a gas-distillate well near Mansfield, Louisiana, appealed to the Division for help in curbing a dangerous blaze. Responding were an assault gun section from Headquarters Company, 49th AIB, commanded by Lieutenant Franklin Palmer, and two 57 mm gun sections from Company C, 58th AIB, under Lieutenant Calvin 0. Bishop. An elaborate Christmas tree system of control valves had dispersed the flames over an area 200 feet in diameter. Thus sighting devices on the guns were useless and each shot had to be bore sighted. Intense heat made it impossible for the asbestos clad crews to fire more than five rounds from any one location. The anti-tank gun crews fired from 9 p.m. Monday night until 4 a.m.

Tuesday. Unable to determine the effect of firing, the crews departed for Camp Polk.

Two days later the well operators again contacted the Division for aid in finishing the job. The anti-tank section then fired from midnight until 4 a.m. when the 75 mm assault gun was moved into position. Two rounds cleared all problems except for one piece of metal twelve inches long lodged directly over the vent of the well. Three more rounds dislodged this obstruction, permitting the gas to shoot straight into the air, and the operators closed the mouth of the well. High tribute went to the gun crews had fired under almost impossible sighting conditions.

Members of three infantry battalions participated in the series of tests for the Expert Infantry Badge. The tests, under the direction of Colonel Elliott Watkins, CO, Reserve Command, were held on 9 October 1944. The Expert Infantry Badge was worth $5 extra pay per month, so participants in the tests went all-out to pass the various items.

To the winner of the contest held to determine a suitable name for a Division newspaper went a ten-day furlough and $10 in cash. Private Alvin Modra, Battery B, 399th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, triumphed. The artilleryman had thought up the name "Buffalo Chips" while walking guard. In publication only a short time, the paper was discontinued when Division left Camp Polk.

Naming train commanders, picking kitchen car details, and preparing loading plans consumed the time between 18 October and 27 October. On the 27th, the Division boarded troop trains which would stop in Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.