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U.S. Army Armor Center & School

The Directorate of Force Development at the U.S. Army Armor Center & School conducts combat and force development functions for the Armor Force that provide soldiers and commanders the organizations and equipment to decisively win on the 21st Century Battlefield. The Directorate of Training and Doctrine Development (DTDD) has the mission to lead the U.S. Army in all Armor/Cavalry training development, doctrine development, publication of ARMOR Magazine, and Force XXI Training Program, while improving synchronization of training and doctrine for combined arms units in the Total U.S. Army. The Force XXI Training Program is a key component of Warfighter XXI. It includes the development of methods for building training support packages to support training the brigade and battalion staff members and their supporting CS and CSS slices, individual through collective tasks across all of the BOS.

The Armor School is the rock on which the Armor Center mission is built. Its staff sections, directorates and units provide the personnel, equipment and guidance needed to train the officers, NCOs and enlisted soldiers in the execution of armored warfare and the development of its doctrine.

The American Expeditionary Force, in the midst of its vast buildup in France during World War I, established a Tank Corps to support it in battle against the German trench lines. In the beginning, the American tankers used British and French armored vehicles and took their tactics from the British, the pioneers of tank warfare. One of the first American soldiers to distinguish himself in this revolutionary form of warfare was a 33-year old cavalry captain named George S. Patton.

Patton commanded the first American armored forces to see combat. Following the Armistice, however, Congress reviewed Tank Corps operations during the war, and it concluded that the tank was an infantry weapon. Consequently, the National Defense Act of 1920 abolished the Tank Corps as an independent organization and subordinated tank development to the infantry.

The British Army, which had introduced tank warfare to the world at the Battle of Cambrai in 1916, continued to develop and employ mechanized forces following WWI. The British commitment to armored warfare spurred the Americans to develop and build their own mechanized forces. In the late 1920s, the U.S. Army's "mechanized forces" consisted of several battalions of infantry support tanks and some separate armored car companies.

In response to the widely publicized experiments of British tanks during the 1920s, the War department established the Experimental Mechanized Force in 1928 to test the viability of employing tanks in missions beyond that of infantry support. Although their Experimental Mechanized Force was disbanded after less than three months, analysis of its activities provided sufficient justification for Congress to authorize the creation of the Mechanized Force in 1930.

This organization combined elements from nine combat and service arms and served as a tactical laboratory, testing new ideas governing the integrated operation of different combat units. Although not intended to be dominated by cavalry ideas, cavalry concepts heavily influenced the Mechanized Force, and they were embodied in the appointment of Col. Daniel Van Voorhis as commander and Lt. Col. Adna R. Chaffee Jr., as his executive officer. These officers ensured that Cavalry operations became a primary focus of the new organization.

The Mechanized Force was first assembled at Fort Eustis, Va., in the fall of 1930. It was organized as a combined arms force which included armored cars, truck-drawn artillery, engineers, anti-aircraft artillery, and infantry tanks. The tank company assigned to the force - Company A, 1st Tank Regiment is today Company A, 1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment. It is the oldest tank unit in the U.S. Army. The Mechanized Force; however, became too closely associated with cavalry operations, and in 1931, the War Department disbanded it. No reason seemed to exist to maintain an organization whose mission appeared similar to that of an existing combat arm. Instead, in a new policy regarding mechanization, all combat arms were directed to develop their own mechanized programs. This policy permitted the creation of the Mechanized Cavalry, based upon a cadre from the Mechanized Force.

To permit effective development of the Mechanized Cavalry, Chaffee and Van Voorhis sought a larger post with more varied terrain than available at Fort Eustis. Both felt that Camp Knox's larger size and varied terrain were more suited for the development of armored tactics. Consequently, a small remnant of the now defunct Mechanized Force relocated to Camp Knox in November 1931 to begin organizing the Mechanized Cavalry.

Congress designated Camp Knox as a permanent garrison on Jan 1, 1932, and changed the name to Fort Knox. On Jan 16, 1932 the 1st Cavalry Regiment -- the Army's oldest mounted unit -- arrived at Fort Knox and traded its horses for combat cars.

The new 1st Cavalry Regiment (Mechanized) was joined in 1936 by the 13th Cavalry Regiment, which in turn traded its horses for tanks and, together with the 1st, comprised the 7th Cavalry Brigade (Mechanized).

The pace of activity at Fort Knox picked up quickly in the late 1930s. The post served as the center for cavalry mechanization and developed much of the tactics and doctrine which the Armored Force would use upon establishment.

Fort Knox, and Mechanized Cavalry personnel in particular, also provided support and leadership for the youth work groups of the Civilian Conservation Crops throughout the V Corps area.

The emerging threat of Hitler's Germany in the late 1930s caused the Army to re-evaluate the status of its mechanized warfare capability. When the German army overran Poland in 1939 and forced France's surrender in June 1940 after only a six-week campaign, its Panzer Divisions played a decisive role. Each comprised a mixture of tanks, mechanized infantry, and artillery capable of mobile combined-arms operations on a large scale. The success of these new formations shocked the War Department into a frenzied effort to create an American counterpart to the Panzer Division. The Third Army maneuvers of 1940 that included the 7th Cavalry Brigade (Mechanized) and Infantry tank units further demonstrated that combined-arms formations could not be created on an ad hoc basis. They required time to train and develop unit cohesion. Consequently, at the end of the maneuvers infantry and mechanized cavalry officers, including Chaffee and Van Voorhis, met to discuss future mechanized development in the Army. These meetings generated a consensus that American armor must develop together and not be subordinated to the infantry or cavalry.

The Armored Force was born on July 10, 1940, with the Headquarters, Armor Force and the Headquarters, I Armored Crops established at Fort Knox. On July 15, 1940, the 7th Cavalry Brigade (Mechanized) became the 1st Armored Division; the 7th Provisional Tank Brigade, an infantry tank unit at Fort Benning, became the 2nd Armored Division. The Tank Battalion was established at Fort Meade, Md., and a small Armored Force School was also established.

The Armored Force School and the Armored Force Replacement Center were officially established at Fort Knox Oct 1, 1940. The school trained armored force soldiers in military fundamentals and in specific areas such as tank gunnery, armor tactics, communications, and maintenance. As the armored force grew and the U.S. entered WWII, the school expanded proportionately. From an initial cadre of 155 officers and 1,458 enlisted men in October 1940, the school grew to more than 700 officers and 3,500 enlisted men by May 1943. The school alone used more than 500 buildings, many of them "temporary" wooden structures built to meet the expansion of the post. Many of those temporary buildings are still in use today.

The Armored Force School, at the peak of its operation during the war, operated on two daily shifts to satisfy the demand for qualified armor soldiers. The training reflected the rapid evolution of armored warfare doctrines, which changed constantly in the face of battle experience and in the alterations to the force structure and its tables of organization and equipment. Some of the buildings used by the school reflected these new doctrines and techniques. The building at 1538 Eisenhower Ave. was built in the shape of a Landing Ship Tank (LST) to train soldiers how to load and unload armored vehicles for transport at sea. The building still stands today and is used by the Patton Museum for storing historic armored vehicles. By 1943, Fort Knox had expanded to 106,861 acres and had 3,820 buildings, compared to 864 buildings in 1940.

By the end of World War II the Armored Force grew to include 16 armored divisions and more than 100 separate tank battalions and mechanized cavalry squadrons.

The I Armored Corps, under Patton, led the American invasion of French Morocco in November 1942. The 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions also fought in North Africa - the 1st in Algeria and Tunisia and the 2nd in Morocco. The 1st Armored Division went on to win fame with the 5th Army in Italy, participating in the battles around Cassion, Anzio, and in the Po Valley. It led the liberation of Rome on June 4, 1944.

The 2nd Armored Division fought in Sicily in 1943, then on June 9, 1944, was the first American armored division to land in /France, The division fought in all of the campaigns in northwestern Europe, becoming the first U.S. unit to reach the Elbe River and enter Berlin.

In 2005, as part of its BRAC Recommendations, the DoD recommended relocating The Armor Center and School to Fort Benning, GA. This recommendation would would support the consolidation of the Armor and Infantry Centers and Schools at Fort Benning and would create a Maneuver Center of Excellence for ground forces training and doctrine development. It would consolidates both Infantry and Armor One Station Unit Training (OSUT), which would allow the Army to reduce the total number of Basic Combat Training locations from five to four.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:37:30 ZULU