Saturday, October 17, 2020

65 Years Ago: Birth of the 48th Armor Division

By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard

Left: M-48 Patton Tanks of the Georgia Army National Guard's 48th Armor Division staged at Fort Stewart. Right:  Shoulder Sleeve Insignia of the
48th Armor Division. The patch became available in March 1956.


In August 1955, the units of the 48th Infantry Division completed annual training maneuvers at Camp Stewart, Ga. and Fort McClellan, Ala. The next month, the National Guard Bureau approved a radical redesign of the primary combat unit of the Georgia Army National Guard. On October 17, 1955, the National Guard Bureau officially ordered the reorganization of the 48th Infantry Division as the 48th Armor Division effective November 1, 1955.[1]


Brief History of the 48th Infantry Division[2]

Maj. Gen. Henry Russell, commander of the 48th Infantry Division
in 1949. To Russell's right is Maj. Homer Flynn, public affairs 
officer and future commander of the Ga. Air National Guard. 
Georgia Guard Archives.
The 48th Infantry Division was constituted July 3, 1946.[3] At the time, the units of the 48th ID were split between Georgia and Florida, with two thirds of the division’s troops in Georgia. Maj. Gen. Henry D. Russell, former commander of the 30th Infantry Division, was appointed commander of the 48th ID when the division was constituted.

The establishment of the 48th ID saw the return of decorated World War II units to the Georgia National Guard. The 121st and 122nd Infantry Regiments were incorporated into the division and the 118th Field Artillery played a key role in Division Artillery along with the 230th and 179th FA Battalions who, like the 118th had served in the European Theater during World War II.

Russell commanded the 48th ID from 1947 to March 1951 whereupon Maj. Gen. Joseph Hutchinson of the Florida National Guard assumed command of the division. Hutchinson presided over the first division annual training event at Fort McClellan, Ala. He retired in 1952 and command was passed to Maj. Gen. Joseph Fraser.

The Fraser Era

Fraser enlisted as a private in The Liberty Independent Troop in 1915 at the age of 19. He would remain in the military for 38 years. During World War I, Fraser, then an artillery officer, served with the 129th Field Artillery Regiment alongside future president Harry S. Truman. Returning from France, Fraser rose through the ranks and in 1936 was placed in command of the 108th Cavalry Regiment. At the time, Fraser was the youngest regimental commander in the U.S. Army.

In 1941, Fraser commanded the 101st Coast Artillery Battalion comprised of former elements of the 108th Cavalry. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the 101st CA was sent to Australia, then Papua New Guinea where, as the first U.S. troops on the island, they defended Port Moresby against relentless Japanese bombing raids. Transitioning to the European Theater, Fraser commanded the 23rd AAA Group.

Returning from the war, Fraser assumed command of the 108th AAA and was promoted to brigadier general. During the Korean War, Fraser, and two battalions of the 108th AAA mobilized to Chicago with the mission of providing antiaircraft defense. At the conclusion of the Chicago mobilization, Fraser was given command of the 48th ID taking charge of the regiment in May 1952.

Observing tank fire of the Georgia Army National Guard's 190th Tank Battalion at Camp Stewart in August 1954 left to right: Lt. Col. Wesley D. Willingham, commander, 190th Tank Battalion; Maj. Gen. Joeseph B. Fraser, commanding general, 48th Infantry Division; Maj. Gen. George Hearn, Georgia's Adjutant General and Brig. Gen. Richard Mayo, commanding general, of Camp Stewart. Georgia National Guard Archives
Less than one year later, the 48th responded to its first large-scale domestic emergency following the April 18, 1953 tornado that struck Columbus, Ga. Elements of the 48th ID, to include the 560th Engineer Battalion and 3rd Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment responded within 24 hours.

Within two weeks, Warner Robbins was struck by a tornado that killed 18 and injured 300. Once again, within 24 hours, Macon Soldiers of the 121st Infantry Regiment and the heavy mortar company from Perry, Ga. were onsite assisting with recovery operations.

Transition to Armor

Fraser guided the 48th ID through its transition to an armored division in 1955. Under Maj. Gen. Fraser’s guidance, nearly 100 Georgia Guard units were reorganized and redesignated. Prior to the conversion, the 48th ID had an authorized strength of 9,803 officers and enlisted. The 48th Armored Division would be authorized 7,727 officers and enlisted, but the creation of a non-divisional Armored Combat Group would provide slots for 2,911 personnel. This group, designated the 160th Armored Group, would be commanded by Lt. Col. Wesley Willingham and comprise eight new units. In addition to the establishment of the 160th Armored Group, the two infantry regiments of the 48th ID were designated as combat commands. The 121st Infantry was designated Combat Command B while the 122nd Infantry was designated Combat Command C. The 124th Infantry Regiment, Florida Army National Guard constituted Combat Command A under the command of Col. Robert Harkness.[4]

New Commands, New Commanders[5]

Col. Roy Hogan, commanding, 
121st Infantry Regiment in 1955.
Georgia National Guard Archives
The shift to armor prompted new assignments and major staff changes. While Maj. Gen. Joseph Fraser retained overall command of the division, the creation of the combat commands created new opportunities for combat-tested senior leaders of the division. Colonel Roy Hogan assumed command of Combat Command B and Col. Edward Mackey was placed in charge of Combat Command B.

Colonel Roy Hogan commanded the 3rd Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment in World War II and received the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Combat Infantry Badge during his service with the regiment. Prior to his appointment as commander of Combat Command B, Hogan served as regimental commander of the 121st Infantry Regiment. Combat Command B headquarters remained in Macon, home of the 121st Infantry.

Colonel Edward Mackey, former executive officer and commander of the 122nd Infantry Regiment was placed in command of the Atlanta-based Combat Command C. Mackey enlisted as a private in Company B, 122nd Infantry Regiment in 1929 and advanced to the rank of master sergeant before commissioning as a 2nd Lt. in 1939. During World War II, Mackey commanded Headquarters Company, 30th Infantry Division. As a member of the 119th Infantry Regiment, Mackey served in the European Theater campaigns from Normandy to Germany. He was awarded two Bronze Stars and the Combat Infantry Badge for his service. After the war, Mackey rejoined the 122nd Infantry Regiment.

Colonel Wesley Willingham assumed command of the 160th Armored Group headquartered in Forsyth. Willingham enlisted in the Georgia Guard’s 30th Tank Company in 1924. He commanded Company A of the Georgia Guard’s 193rd Tank Battalion in 1940 and served as a tank battalion commander during World War II. Returning from the war, Willingham was promoted to colonel. He accepted a one-grade reduction to Lt. Col. In order to serve as battalion commander of the 190th Tank Battalion. Upon assuming command of the 160th Armored Group, Willingham was again promoted to colonel.

Equipping the Division

In the intervening months between the conversion and the 48th Armored Division’s first annual training in 1956, units across the state received hundreds of M-41 Walker Bulldog light tanks and M-47 Patton medium tanks. Drivers, gunners, and vehicle commanders trained on new tanks, self-propelled howitzers and artillery pieces. In November 1955, curious attendees of the Coastal States Fair in Savannah could view the first M-7 tank-mounted 105 mm self-propelled howitzers assigned to the 118th Field Artillery and Division Artillery.[6] Massive self-propelled 155 mm howitzers would add additional firepower and range at a cost of $194,000 per howitzer.[7]

M-41 Walker Bulldogs of the 48th Armor Division. Georgia National Guard Archives.


Infantry of the former 121st and 122nd Infantry Regiments adapted to their new mechanized role as armored infantry battalions. They were joined by the 171st AIB and 144th AIB.[8]

By July 1956, the division’s transition was complete. But more changes would follow. The division upgraded to M-48 Patton heavy tanks in 1958.[9] In 1963, the division reorganized into a three-brigade structure with all units belonging to Georgia. The 121st Infantry expanded to four battalions and the 108th Armored Regiment was composed of five battalions. The 748th Cavalry Squadron, 560th Engineer Battalion and 148th Aviation Battalion rounded out the division while Division Artillery was composed of three battalions from the 118th Field Artillery, and a battalion each from the 179th and 214th Field Artillery. For the remainder of its existence, the 48th Armored Division conducted annual training at Fort Stewart.

After months of conversion, training, equipping and planning, Maj. Gen. Joe Fraser commanded the 48th AD’s first annual training at Fort Stewart in July 1956. At the conclusion of AT, Fraser retired with the rank of lieutenant general passing command to Maj. Gen. Patrick Seawright, former commander of the 48th ID Artillery.[10]

  

Units of the 48th Armored Division, October 17, 1955 with previous 48th ID designations

 Headquarters Company, Band, and Medical Detachment – Macon HQ, Band Med Det, 48th ID

 Headquarters Company, Combat Command B –Macon- HHC 121st Inf Regt

Headquarters Company, Combat Command C – Atlanta – Formerly Headquarters, 122nd Inf Regt

48th Armored Signal Company – Atlanta – 48th Signal Company

48th Military Police Company – Atlanta – Service Company, 122nd Inf Regt

48th Replacement Company – Newly created unit

 

48th Reconnaissance Battalion

48th Recon Bn 
Headquarters and Service Company – Jackson

Company A – LaGrange – 48th Recon Company

Company B – Newnan – Company C, 122nd Inf Regt

Company C – Griffin – HQ Company, 48th ID

Company D – Marietta – Tank Company, 122nd Inf Regt

Medical Detachment – newly created unit

 

121st Armored Infantry Battalion

121st AIB

Headquarters Company – Albany – HHC 3-121st Inf Regt

Company A – Dawson – Company I, 121st Inf Regt

Company B – Albany – Company B, 121st Inf Regt

Company C – Thomasville – Company F, 121st Inf Regt

Company D – Bainbridge – Tank Company, 121st Inf Regt

Medical Detachment – newly created unit

 

162nd Tank Battalion 

162nd Tank Bn

Headquarters and Service Company – Macon – HHC 1-121st Inf Regt

Company A – Perry – Heavy Mortar Company, 121st Inf Regt

Company B – Thomaston – Company K, 122nd Inf Regt

Company C – Macon – Company C, 121st Inf Regt

Company D – Montezuma – Company B, less Sep Det, 121st Inf Regt

Separate Detachment, Company D – Reynolds – Sep Det, Company B 121st Inf Regt

Medical Detachment – Macon – Separate Detachment, Company B, 121st Inf Regt

 

163rd Tank Battalion 

163rd Tank Bn

Headquarters and Service Company – Calhoun – HHC 2-122nd Inf Regt

Company A – Rome – Company E, 122nd Inf Regt

Company B – Cedartown – Company F, 122nd Inf Regt

Company C – Canton – Company G, 122nd Inf Regt

Company D – Dalton – Company H, 122nd Infantry Regt

Medical Detachment – Calhoun – Med Det, 122nd Inf Regt

 

190th Tank Battalion 

190th Tank Bn

HQ and Service Company – Americus – Company C, 190th Tank Battalion

Company A – Hawkinsville – Company M, 121st Inf Regt

Company B – Fitzgerald – Company B, 190th Tank Battalion

Company C – Cordele – Company K, 121st Inf Regt

Company D – Moultrie – Battery C, 250th AAA Battalion

Medical Detachment – newly created unit

 

48th Armored Division Artillery

Headquarters and Headquarters Battery – Savannah – HQ and HQ Battery, 48th ID Arty

Medical Detachment – Savannah – Med Det, less 3 BN Dets, 48th Div Arty

 

179th Armored Field Artillery Battalion

179th AFA Bn

HQ and Service Battery – Atlanta – HHB and Service Battery, 179th FA

Battery A – Atlanta – Battery A, 179th FA

Battery B – Atlanta - Battery B, 179th FA

Battery C – Atlanta – Battery C, 179th FA

Medical Detachment – Atlanta – Med Det, 179th FA

 

118th Armored Field Artillery Battalion

118th AFA Bn

Headquarters and Service Battery – Savannah – Headquarters and Service Battery, 118th FA

Battery A – Savannah – Battery A, 118th FA

Battery B – Savannah – Battery B, 118th FA

Battery C – Savannah – Battery C, 118th FA

 

230th Armored Field Artillery Battalion

230th AFA Bn

Headquarters and Service Battery – Savannah – HQ and Service Battery, 230th FA

Battery A – Savannah – Battery A, 230th FA

Battery B – Savannah – Battery B, 230th FA

Battery C – Springfield – 48th MP Company

 

560th Armored Engineer Battalion

560th En Bn

Headquarters and Service Company – Columbus – HHC, 560th Eng Bn

Company A – Columbus – Company A, 560th Eng Bn

Company B – newly created unit

Company C – Reidsville – Company C, 560th Eng Bn

Company D – Columbus – Company D, 560th Eng Bn

Company E (Bridge) newly created unit

Medical Detachment – Columbus – Med Det, 560th Eng Bn

 

122nd Armored Infantry Battalion

122nd AIB

Headquarters and Service Company – Atlanta – HHC, 122nd Inf Regt

Company A – Atlanta – Company A, 122nd Inf Regt

Company B – Atlanta – Company B, 122nd Inf Regt

Company C – Gainesville – Company L, 122nd Inf Regt

Company D – Douglasville – Company D, 122nd Inf Regt

Medical Detachment – Atlanta – Medical Company, less 3rd BN Platoons, 122nd Inf Regt

 

160th Armored Group (Non-Divisional)

Headquarters Company, 160th Armored Group – newly

created unit

 

160th Tank Battalion (90 mm)

Headquarters and Service Company – Dublin – HHC, 286th Infantry Battalion

Company A – Lyons – Company A, 286th Infantry Battalion

Company B – Sandersville – Company B, 286th Infantry Battalion

Company C –Louisville – Company I, 122nd Inf Regt

Company D – Eastman – Company A, 190th Tank Battalion

Medical Detachment – Dublin – Med Det, 190th Tank Battalion

 

161st Tank Battalion (120 mm) 

161st Tank Bn

HQ and Svc. Company – Milledgeville- HHC, 3rd Bn 121st Inf Regt

Company A – Covington – Heavy Mortar Company, 122nd Inf Regt

Company B – Forsyth – HHC, 190th Tank Battalion

Company C – Eatonton – Company D, 190th Tank Battalion

Medical Detachment – Milledgeville – Med Det 3-122nd Inf Regt

 

144th Armored Infantry Battalion 

144th AIB

HQ and Svc. Company – Brunswick – HHC 2-121 Inf Regt

Company A – Brunswick – Company H 121st Inf Regt

Company B – newly created unit

Company C – newly created unit

Company D – newly created unit

Medical Detachment – newly created unit

 

171st Armored Infantry Battalion

Headquarters and Services Company – Waycross – Company G 121st Inf Regt

Company A – Valdosta – Company E, 121st Inf Regt

Company B – Douglas – Company B, 560th Eng Bn

Company C – newly created unit

Company D - newly created unit

Medical Detachment - newly created unit

 




[1] NG-AROTO 325.4 30 Sep 55 – Ga. National Guard Bureau, Washington DC, October 17, 1955.

[2] The 48th Armored Division Georgia Army National Guard, 1946-1965 Scrapbook. Georgia National Guard PIO, Atlanta, 1965.

[3] The 48th Armored Division Georgia Army National Guard, 1946-1965 Scrapbook provides July 3, 1946 as the date of activation for HHC, 48th ID. July 11, 1946 is given as the activation date in “Allotment of National Guard Ground Force Units for the State of Georgia” War Department, Washington D.C. July 11, 1946 as amended August 8, 1946.

[4] “Sikes to Speak at NG Banquet.” Tallahassee Democrat, December 18, 1955, 13.

[5] “Shift to Armor Provides New Assignments and Promotions.” Georgia Guardsman, Oct.- Dec. 1955, 15-16.

[6] Georgia Guardsman, Oct.-Dec. 1955, 1.

[7] Georgia Guardsman, May-June 1956, 1.

[8] “New Armor Units,” Georgia Guardsman, Aug. – Sept. 1955, 14.

[9]“Newer M-48 Tanks Replacing M-47s. 256 ‘Iron Monsters’ Authorized.” Georgia Guardsman, March-April 1958, 1.

[10] Scrapbook, 9.

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