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8th Infantry Division

Bad Kreuznach Info [click on photo..]

Rose Barracks raising the flag
Bad Kreuznach, Germany

Hat crest before 1962
Hat crest after 1962

History of the 8th Infantry Division 1955 - 1978

(Source: "8th Infantry Division (Mechanized) - Pride and Professionalism" (Welcome Pamphlet,1981?)

In November 1955 the Department of the Army named the 8th Division an OPERATION GYROSCOPE unit and announced that it would change places with the 9th Infantry Division in Germany.   On October 9, 1956, the 8th Infantry Division officially took its place among the NATO forces in Germany under the US Seventh Army.

Within a year the 8th Division participated in GYROSCOPE, reorganization and BIG SWITCH operations, and on December 14, 1957, the division headquarters became operational at Bad Kreuznach, Germany.

In 1958 the 8th Infantry Division (M) gained an airborne capability with the assignment of the 1st Airborne Battle Group, 504th Infantry.   On January 15, 1959, the 1st Airborne Battle Group, 505th Infantry was also assigned to the Division.1)   These two battle groups were relieved from assignment to the 8th in April 1963, but the Division's airborne capability was maintained by the assignment of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 509th Infantry (Abn).

In August 1961, when the East Germans erected the Berlin Wall, one of the division's battle groups, the 18th Infantry, moved overland to reinforce the Berlin garrison.

The year 1963 was a busy one for the Pathfinders.   On April 1, the ROAD concept was implemented in the division.   In early November, as the 2nd Armored Division was arriving at Rhein-Main Air Base from Fort Hood, Texas, in OPERATION BIG LIFT, Pathfinder elements moved into "battle positions" near the East German border.   After several days of organizing, the "Hell on Wheels" from Texas conducted a relief operation with the 8th Division. BIG LIFT was the largest military air movement ever conducted up to that time.

The training highlight of 1965 was Exercise NORDIC AIR, in which division airborne units made a parachute assault into the Jutland peninsula.   Exercise WINTER ARROW and SOUTHERN ARROW were the most important events in 1966's training calendar.   SOUTHERN ARROW, conducted in May, was one of the largest joint-service airborne operations in Europe since World War II.

A joint exercise, PATHFINDER EXPRESS, was held in 1967 which involved troops from the division and Spanish Forces.   The exercise was conducted in Spain, and airborne units from the 8th Division also parachuted into Turkey during the exercise DEEP FURROW in September.   The second of the PATHFINDER EXPRESS exercises was held in December 1968 in Spain.

In February of 1972 the Pathfinders conducted KARNIVAL KING, the first FTX of division size in USAREUR since 1966, giving credence to the Commander-in-Chief, USAREUR's statement that USAREUR was "on the move again".   The division's 1st Brigade conducted many joint airborne operations, including BOLD LEAP IV and FIRM LION in 1971, and GOLDEN STEP in Italy in June of 1972.

In 1973 LARAMIE GOLDEN ARROW was the high point of the 8th Division's training year.   The operation was a complete success.   It started on May 10, with about ten thousand men and three thousand vehicles from the 8th Division, as well as hundreds of Germans, Scottish, and Belgian troopers.   It is believed to be the only full division-sized crossing of the Rhein ever attempted during maneuvers.

Also in 1973, the division lost its airborne mission.   The 2nd Battalion, 509th Inf (Abn) was inactivated and the 1st Battalion, 509th Inf (Abn) was assigned to the US Army Southern European Task Force (SETAF).   With the reassignment of the 1st Battalion, 509th Airborne Battalion Combat Team, SETAF accepted the missions of maintaining and deploying the battalion on its own or as part of the Allied Command Europe Mobile Force (Land).

Following an equally impressive and successful Division-size FTX in March 1974, the 8th Division pioneered the introduction of ARTEPs in USAREUR during March and April 1975 when six mechanized and five armored battalions participated in the first ARTEP evaluations conducted at Hohenfels.   While injecting increased realism and maximum individual participation into training, the pitting of battalion-sized task forces against an opposing force unit provided battalion staffs with the unique opportunity to perform missions utilizing the combined arms team concept.

The Bicentennial year witnessed the first of the highly successful annual REFORGER training exercises, GORDIAN SHIELD.   After long hours of training and planning, the combined armored and infantry attacks of Pathfinder units pushed back, surrounded, and captured an "enemy" force that included the 101st Airborne Division.   In March, Brigade '76 arrived in Wiesbaden, Germany.   Attached to the 8th Division, the 4th Brigade reunites the 4th "Ivy" Division and the Pathfinder Division who fought side by side in the bloody battle of the Hurtgen Forest in World War II.   The 4th Brigade adds two infantry battalions, an armor battalion, a field artillery battalion and a support battalion as well as a cavalry troop and an engineer company to the combat strength of the Division.

In 1977 the anti-armor and combined arms capabilities of the division were enhanced by the activation of the 8th Aviation Battalion (Combat) stationed at Finthen Army Airfield.   The battalions boasts two Attack Helicopter Companies equipped with TOW-armed Cobra helicopters.

The Pathfinder Division continued its spirited drive toward "interoperability" with allied NATO units.   Pathfinders maneuvered in the British-sponsored Operation SPEARPOINT in 1976, the Belgian-sponsored Operation BLUE FOX in 1977, and hosted Operation CERTAIN SHIELD in 1978.

During his mid-July 1978 economic summit conference in Bonn, the 4th Brigade and its partnership unit, the 14th Panzer Brigade greeted President Carter with an impressive display of over 5,000 soldiers, 100 tanks, 300 armored personnel carriers, and 70 self-propelled howitzers at Wiesbaden Air Base.

The President saw interoperability in action, viewing a demonstration of the ability to mass anti-armor forces and equipment in a short period of time on the modern, mobile battlefield.

The division's success proves the capabilities of the division as a highly trained professional command able to meet the enemy head-on in any type of terrain under any conditions. The professionalism and pride with which each unit preforms shows the true credentials of the 8th Infantry Division (M).

1) The 1st Abn BG, 504th Inf and 1st Abn BG, 505th Inf joined the division as part of the 1st Brigade.   This made the 8th the only division in US Army history to be designated Infantry Division (Mechanized)(Airborne). The 5th Bn, 81st FA; Troop A, 3rd Bn, 8th Cav; and Company A, 12th Engr Bn were also designated as airborne and added to the 1st Brigade. (Source: The Pathfinder Orientation Magazine, 1985?).

Bridges Houses built around the year 1500
The Nahe River flows underneath

Bad Kreuznach and The Nahe River
Kurzenburg Castle upper left - 1961
Bad Kreuznach and The Nahe River
Kurzenburg Castle upper right
Kurzenburg Castle high on a hill
looking northwest from the park and the
Nahe river below.
View from Kurzenburg Castle looking
down at the park and the Nahe river where the
above photo was taken - April 1961

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