Thursday, July 1, 2021

Reorganization of 1959: Bracing the Guard for Nuclear War

By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard


More than 200 M-48 Patton medium tanks of the 48th Armored Division’s tank battalions are parked in the National Guard Concentration Site
at Fort Stewart, Ga. in 1964 Photo by Fort Stewart PIO.

On July 1, 1959, the Georgia Army National Guard reorganized as part of a US Army plan to prepare ground formations for the possibility of atomic warfare and the employment of tactical nuclear devices.[1] It was the second major reorganization of the Georgia Army National Guard following the conversion of the 48th Infantry Division to Armor in October 1955.[2]

The 1959 reorganization had its genesis in 1954 when then Army Chief of Staff Gen. Matthew Ridgway directed the Army to develop solutions to make Army divisions more maneuverable and mobile. Army divisions of 1954 had greater firepower but were more unwieldy than in World War II. Ridgway therefore tasked leaders to develop solutions to make divisions more flexible, mobile and survivable on the battlefield with greater combat to support unit ratios while maximizing technological advances and developing new doctrine in support of the changes which were to be implemented by January 1, 1956.[3] The Army field tested new division designs dubbed Atomic Field Army divisions; however, on April 10, 1956, the new Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Maxwell Taylor, called a halt to the study without implementing design recommendations. Over the next three years, several modifications were tested and on Dec. 29, 1958 the Army approved a divisional reorganization plan.[4]

FORT STEWART, Ga. July 19 to August 2, 1959 – Georgia Guardsmen of the Savannah-based Battery B, 1st Howitzer Battalion, 118th Field Artillery
admire their new M52 105 mm self-propelled howitzer. Left to right: Cpl. Ronnie Huggins, Pvt. Donald Bell, Pvt. James Cannon,
Sgt. Joe Pritchard and 1st Lt. Emmet Bridges. Georgia National Guard Archives.

Senior leaders of the Georgia Army National Guard provided input on reorganization and stationing to Maj. Gen. George Hearn, Georgia’s Adjutant General, who briefed the plan to the National Guard Bureau in April 1959. By June 10, NGB had formally accepted Georgia’s reorganization plans.[5]

Georgia realized several successes as part of the reorganization. Not only did the Ga. ARNG maintain strength in all of its 66 communities it received an additional 287 personnel allocations.

FORT STEWART, Ga., 1962 - An M-41 of Troop B, 1st Reconnaissance Squadron moves up flanked by Infantrymen. 
Image courtesy of National Guard Educational Foundation, Washington, D.C

The core of the new 48th Armored Division structure was comprised of four tank battalions of 719 personnel each. Georgia supplied the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Medium Tank Battalions, 108th Armored while the Florida National Guard supplied a fourth tank battalion. The Calhoun-based 163rd Tank Battalion reorganized to form the 2nd Medium Tank Battalion while Macon’s 162nd Tank Battalion formed the 3rd Medium Tank Battalion. The 190th Tank Battalion, based in Americus reorganized to form the 4th Medium Tank Battalion.[6]

Four armored infantry battalions of 1,022 personnel supported the tank battalions. The Florida National Guard’s 124th Infantry Regiment supplied personnel to form two of the battalions. The Dublin-based 160th Tank Battalion was redesignated the 1st Armored Rifled Battalion 121st Infantry while Albany’s 121st Armored Infantry Battalion was redesignated the 2nd Armored Rifle Battalion, 121st Infantry.

The 560th Engineer Battalion retained its designation in the 48th AD but the 48th Reconnaissance Battalion was redesignated the 1st Recon Squadron, 108th Armored with headquarters in Newnan, Ga.

November 1959 - Sergeant J. D. Jones, Specialist 5 Grady Bragg and Specialist 4 E. W. Thomas of the Savannah-based 248th Transportation Detachment
put one of the 48th Armored Division's L-20 Beaver aircraft back into flying shape. Georgia National Guard Archives

New units to the 48th AD included the Atlanta-based 248th Signal Battalion, the 148th Aviation Company and 548th Admin Company in Macon and the Savannah-based Headquarters Detachment, 202nd Medium Battalion.

FORT STEWART, Ga.  1959 - Two M55 8-inch self-propelled howitzers of the 1st Rocket/Howitzer Battalion, 179th Artillery from Atlanta, Ga.
during annual training of the 48th Armored Division at Fort Stewart, Ga.  Image courtesy of the National Guard Educational Foundation, Washington D.C.

Division Artillery remained based in Savannah but was authorized additional firepower in the form of an Honest John missile battery. Battery C of the Atlanta-based 179th Field Artillery was the intended recipient of the weapon system; however, the missiles would subsequently be authorized to the 4th Gun Battalion which would field four different artillery and air defense platforms over the next four years. The 179th continued to field 155 mm self-propelled howitzers as well as the massive M55 9-inch self-propelled howitzer which was capable of firing nuclear rounds. Rounding out Division Artillery, the 1st and 2nd Howitzer Battalion, 118th Field Artillery based in Savannah and Waycross, respectively were equipped with 105 mm self-propelled howitzers.

FORT STEWART Ga. 1960 - A 75 mm Skysweeper emplaced behind sandbags at Fort Stewart, Ga.  The Skysweeper is part of the Hartwell-based
Battery B, 4th Gun Battalion, 214th Artillery. National Guard, 1960.  Courtesy of the National Guard Education Foundation, Washington, D.C.
The units of the 160th Armored Group were absorbed into the 48th Division but other non-divisional units carried on under the reorganization. The Winder-based 108th Antiaircraft Artillery Brigade retained its battalions under new designations as the 1st-4th Gun Battalions. Batteries of the 1st Gun Battalion were based in Augusta, Thomson and Sparta while the 2nd Gun Battalion equipped batteries in Statesboro, Swainsboro, Lyons and Reidsville. The 1st and 2nd Gun Battalion was equipped with 90 mm antiaircraft guns while the 4th Gun Battalion, with armories in Elberton, Hartwell and Toccoa fielded the 75 mm Skysweeper platform. The 3rd Automatic Weapons Battalion, a newly constituted unit, was based in Milledgeville with batteries in Monroe, Forsyth, Eatonton and Thomaston. Its batteries were armed with the M42 self-propelled antiaircraft gun. The gun and automatic weapons battalions formed the 214th Artillery. The 216th Radio Controlled Aerial Target Detachment continued to fly target drones for anti-aircraft artillery training as the 5th Detachment, Air Target based in Washington, Ga.

FORT STEWART, June 26-July 10, 1960 - Twin 40 mm cannons of these M42 Dusters blast skyward at a target craft streaking overhead.
Manned by Guardsmen of the 3rd Automatic Weapons Battalion, 214th Artillery, the guns on these self-propelled mounts are capable of devastating
a target with up to 250 rounds per minute. Georgia National Guard Archives

Other state units established by the reorganization included the Hinesville-based 406th Ordnance Company and 110th and 111th Signal Battalions headquartered in Brunswick and Washington, Ga. respectively. 

The Georgia Army National Guard would remain under the 1959 organizational structure until the 1963 reorganization prompted by the Reorganization Objective Army Division 1961-1965 plan.


[1] “Army Guard Reorganization July 1st Boosts Strength of State Force by 287.” The Georgia Guardsman Magazine, May, June 1959, 6-7.

[2] William Carraway. “65 Years Ago: Birth of the 48th Armor Division.”

[3] John B. Wilson. Maneuver and Firepower: The Evolution of Divisions and Separate Brigades. (Washington: Center for Military History, 1998), 265.

[4] John B. Wilson. Maneuver and Firepower: The Evolution of Divisions and Separate Brigades, 284.

[5] “Army Guard Reorganization July 1st Boosts Strength of State Force by 287.” The Georgia Guardsman Magazine, May, June 1959, 6.

[6] RA 73-59. National Guard Bureau, June 10, 1959.

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