Friday, August 28, 2020

48th Infantry Division Concludes Final Annual Training Aug. 28, 1955

By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Ga. Army National Guard


Armor units of the 48th Infantry Division gather at Camp Stewart for Annual Training July 24 to Aug. 7, 1955. Georgia National Guard Archives.

The 48th Infantry Division, comprised of National Guard Soldiers from Georgia and Florida, conducted its final annual training in July and August 1955 before converting to an armor division in October. The Armor units of the 48th conducted annual training at Camp Stewart, Georgia, while the infantry, artillery, engineers and specialty units trained at Fort McClellan, Alabama.

Camp Stewart, August 2, 1955 - Observing the tactics of other tanks in the area, the Georgia National Guard Soldiers of Fitzgerald's Company B, 190th Tank Battalion stand beside the turret of their M-47 tank. Left to right:  Pfc. Gerald Hilton, Master Sgt. Orvil Thompson, Sgt. William Reeves, Sgt. Maurice Swanson and 1st Lt. Thomas Clayton. Georgia National Guard Archives.

Camp Stewart[1]

From July 24 to August 7, the armor units of the Georgia Army National Guard plowed over the trails and through the pines of Camp Stewart during summer maneuvers. Lieutenant Colonel Wesley D. Willingham’s 190th Tank Battalion was joined by the tank companies of the 121st and 122nd Infantry Regiments as well as the 48th Reconnaissance Company. It was the first and last times these units would train together before the conversion of the 48th to an armor division. The training was thus observed with keen interest by division officers who would soon be called upon to lead units through the conversion from an infantry to an armor-based force.


Staff officers of the 190th Tank Battalion discuss training objectives during annual training at Camp Stewart July 24 to Aug. 7, 1955. Pointing to the map is Lt. Col. Wesley Willingham, commander of the 190th. The other officers are Maj. Jessie Reeves, executive officer, Maj. Ralph Spear, National Guard Inspection Board and Maj. George Darden, adjutant.

The armor units arrived the evening of July 24 and conducted movement the next morning with their M47 Patton tanks to the western portion of Camp Stewart near the present location of Glisson’s pond.  Field maneuvers consumed the first week of training by and concluded with a visit by Maj. Gen. George Hearn, Georgia’s Adjutant General and Brig. Gen. Charlie Camp, Assistant Adjutant General for Ga. ARNG.

Major General George Hearn, Georgia's Adjutant General reviews tanks of the 190th Tank Battalion with its commander, Lt. Col. Wesley Willingham July 28, 1955 at Camp Stewart.  Georgia National Guard Archives.

In the second week, the tankers took to the firing ranges for four days of gunnery tables. After returning from the ranges, the Soldiers enjoyed one day of fishing and swimming before returning to home stations.

Georgia National Guard Soldiers of the LaGrange-based 48th Reconnaissance Company lift a .50 machine gun out of a crate prior to installing it on one of their tanks during annual training at Camp Stewart August 2, 1955. The Soldiers are Cpl. Denny Sprayberry, Pvt. Ed Bledsoe, Pvt. Jerry Adkins, Sgt. Same Kelly, Master Sgt. James Launders and Pvt. Thomas Phillip. Georgia National Guard Archives.

In the two-week annual training, the four companies of the 190th Tank Battalion, tank companies of the 121st and 122nd Infantry Regiments and 48th Reconnaissance Company expended 3,500 rounds of 90 mm ammunition and consumed 22,000 gallons of gasoline. All line companies received effectiveness ratings of “excellent” at the end of the training period.

Fort McClellan[2]

On August 14, the remaining units of the 48th Infantry Division arrived in their familiar training areas at Camp McClellan, near Gadsden, Ala. The 48th Division had conducted annual training at McClellan since 1951 and its Soldiers swiftly set up billets, supply and command tents. Whether by design of the command and staff of the 48th Division, or by happy coincidence, the Sunday morning arrival of the division meant that if the Soldiers completed all billeting and camp set up assignments in timely fashion they would be released to watch movies at the post theater that evening. Thus, annual training at McClellan began with a feverish burst of activity followed by an evening of entertainment before the class and fieldwork began.

Georgia National Guard Soldiers of the Reidsville-based COmpany E, 560th Engineer Battalion construct a bailey bridge during annual training at Fort McClellan August 17, 1955.  Left to right:  Sgt. 1st Class Barry Stubbs, Master Sgt. Sullivan Smith Jr. and Master Sgt. Jack Durrely, all of Glennville, Ga.  Georgia National Guard Archives.

Monday morning kicked off with the units conducting committee training. This training approach brought together specialized unit sections such as motor sections and service companies for common training tasks. Medical platoons from various units conducted collective training while headquarters companies participated in a command post exercise. The 560th Engineer Battalion received specialized training in combat engineer tasks such as mine laying and obstacle breaching while McClellan’s ranges welcomed machine gunners and recoilless rifle sections of the 121st and 122nd Infantry Regiments for anti-tank practice.

Georgia National Guard Soldiers of Company H, 121st Infantry Regiment engage targets with M1917 machine guns during annual training at Fort McClellan, Ala. August 17, 1955. Pictured are Sgt. 1st Class Quinton Slaughter, Pfc. Hubert Drew, Pct. Ronald Ponsell and Pvt. Leman Hutchinson. Georgia National Guard Archives.

The second week of annual training brought the Soldiers to the field. The 560th Engineer Battalion practiced construction of trestle and bailey bridges and infantry units took to the fields for maneuver while the cacophony of howitzer fire from the 48th Division Artillery echoed through the hills.

Georgia National Guard field artillery units of the 48th Infantry Division conduct fire missions at Fort McClellan, Ala. during annual training in August 1955. Georgia National Guard aAchives.

August 20 featured the traditional parade and awards ceremony of Governor’s Day as Georgia’s Governor, Marvin Griffin, reviewed the entire division alongside Florida's Governor, Thomas Collins. The governors presented awards to units for marksmanship and training excellence before witnessing a pass in review of the entire division. The summer heat shortened the ceremony whereupon Maj. Gen. Joseph Fraser, commanding general of the 48th ID, and Maj. Gen. Hearn briefed the governors on the proposed unit structure of the new 48th Armor Division.

Georgia Governor Marvin Griffin presents the Governor's Trophy to 1st Lt. John Birchall, commanding officer of Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 122nd Infantry Regiment during Governor's Day activities at Fort McClellan, Ala. August 20, 1955. The Governor's Trophy was awarded to the unit with the best combined scores in the rifle competition.  Georgia National Guard Archives.

On the final day of annual training, Aug. 28, 1955, the 48th ID departed Fort McClellan for the last time. Many of the officers left with training reservations already established for the armored course at Fort Knox while other senior commissioned and non-commissioned leaders received a glimpse of the future on the dusty trails of Camp Stewart.

Captain William Salem, commander of the Lyons-based Company A, 286th Infantry Battalion instructs his Soldiers while on field training at Fort McClellan, Ala. August 16, 1955. Georgia National Guard Archives.

Most of the 48th ID’s infantry companies would be reorganized as armor units in the coming weeks. Soldiers from the 286th Infantry Battalion, which had only been organized in 1953[3], would constitute the 160th Tank Battalion. The companies of the 121st and 122nd Infantry Regiments, which dated back to 1917, would be broken up and reorganized across the state.[4] The Macon headquarters of the 121st Infantry Regiment would serve as the Headquarters and Headquarters Company of Combat Command B while the Atlanta-based 122nd Infantry Regiment would see its headquarters company reorganized to form Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Combat Command C. The reorganization would ultimately impact 97 units in 45 communities across the state.[5]


[1] “Georgia's Armored Units Exercise Tanks at Camp Stewart”. The Georgia Guardsman Magazine, August/September 1955, 12.

[3] NG AROTO 325.4 October 15, 1953

[4] NG AROTO 325.4 October 17, 1955

[5] “48th Armored Division and 160th Armored Group Approved by NGB”. The Georgia Guardsman Magazine, August/September 1955, 3.

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