National Guard August 2011 : Page 92
G UARD R OOTS : W ISCONSIN A Crisis Hits Home By 1st Lt. Brian Faltinson Cha lle ng e d b y th e S o vi e t s in Eu ro p e a ha l f ce ntu ry ag o , a yo ung p res id e nt mo bi l iz es th e Gua r d in a s h ow o f f orce IVE DECADES AGO, the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 32nd Infantry Division—the famed Red Arrow division from the two world wars—was called upon again as the world ap-peared headed for another European conﬂict. Although the division didn’t have to leave America this time, its preparation and capability demonstrated Amer-ica’s will when the Cold War heated up over the divided city of Berlin in 1961. At the end of World War II, the four major allied pow-ers divided Germany into four sections, with the Soviet-held portion becoming East Germany. Berlin, the capital of Nazi Germany, was located in East Germany, and also was split into four zones of occupation. F 92 | Na tional Guard
A Crisis Hits Home
1st Lt. Brian Faltinson
GUARD ROOTS: WISCONSIN
Challenged by the Soviets in Europe a half century ago, a young president mobilizes the Guard in a show of force
FIVE DECADES AGO, the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 32nd Infantry Division–the famed Red Arrow division from the two world wars–was called upon again as the world appeared headed for another European conflict.
Although the division didn't have to leave America this time, its preparation and capability demonstrated America's will when the Cold War heated up over the divided city of Berlin in 1961.
At the end of World War II, the four major allied powers divided Germany into four sections, with the Sovietheld portion becoming East Germany.
Berlin, the capital of Nazi Germany, was located in East Germany, and also was split into four zones of occupation. The Soviet area became East Berlin, while the other three sectors were known collectively as West Berlin.
Through the 1950s, the Cold War simmered and millions of East Germans fled to West Berlin. By 1961, 20 percent of the East German population had left the country.
In April 1961, after only a few months in office, President John F. Kennedy authorized the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. A complete failure, the CIA-led operation signaled to the Soviets the new president's potential weakness.
On June 4, 1961, during summit talks in Vienna, Austria, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev informed Kennedy that, by year's end, the Soviet Union would sign a separate treaty with East Germany and prohibit access to Berlin by U.S., English and French forces.
In an address to the nation July 25, 1961, Kennedy expressed his willingness to talk to the Soviets about the issue of Berlin. The United States, he said, "will seek peace, but will not surrender."
He asked Congress for an additional $3.25 billion to raise six new divisions for the Army and two for the Marine Corps.
Kennedy sought an increase in the active-component Army from 875,000 to 1 million troops, along with large increases to the Air Force and Navy. He planned, too, to call up the National Guard and Reserves.
On Aug. 13, 1961, the East Germans began building the wall around West Berlin to stop the outward flow of East Germans. By October, U.S. and Soviet tanks were staring at each other 100 yards apart from their respective sides of the city.
The Soviets ended up blinking first in what would be the high point of the confrontation, but the wall would remain until 1989.
At the time, the Army Guard maintained a force of 27 divisions, of which seven were considered "high priority" units, including two armored divisions and five infantry divisions, one of which was Wisconsin's 32nd Infantry Division.
On Sept. 6, 1961, the Pentagon ordered 148,000 Guardsmen, Reservists and Ready Reservists to undertake "combat readiness" training, which consisted of a second weekend drill per month.
Shortly before, Congress had granted Kennedy authorization to call up 250,000 Guardsmen and Reservists without an emergency declaration. Although not a formal alert, the order essentially was a warning of a possible call to active duty.
Such call-ups would allow the Pentagon to deploy up to six stateside active-duty divisions to Europe with the mobilized Guard and Reserve backfilling their positions in the United States.
Eventually, the 32nd and the Texas Army Guard's 49th Armored Division were activated and their troops told to report to their armories Oct. 15 for up to one year of stateside training.
In the summer of 1961, the 32nd was within 100 men of its authorized strength of 10,200. During its annual training, the division earned 13 stafflevel and 24 company-level superior unit awards, with many other elements rated as excellent.
The 32nd possessed a significant number of experienced soldiers, starting with its commander, Maj. Gen. Herbert Smith. Enlisting in 1919 as an Army private, Smith joined the Wisconsin National Guard in 1921 and was activated with the rest of the division in 1940.
During most of World War II, then-Lt. Col. Smith commanded the 2nd Battalion, 128th Infantry Regiment, which served with distinction in the Pacific. The division's ranks in 1961 also included more than 80 other soldiers who had been activated with the division in 1940, many of whom were now senior commissioned and noncommissioned officers.
After about a week at home station, an advance party flew to Fort Lewis, Wash., to prepare for the division's arrival. They cleaned barracks that had been mothballed since World War II and, in between half-mile hikes to the nearest mess hall, cut the cantonment area's knee-high grass.
The rest of the division received a final weekend furlough to spend with families. Many celebrated an early Thanksgiving.
In scenes reminiscent of those 21 years earlier, thousands tearfully watched their community's soldiers board one of 17 troop trains that would carry them into service for the nation.
Two thousand more journeyed via automobile across the Rocky Mountains in an era before interstate highways, and 1,500 experienced their first airplane rides on a chartered commercial carrier.
All arrived safely despite the fact that one car with two soldiers fell nearly 4,000 feet in the mountains, and a troop train hit a gravel truck in Montana, killing six civilians.
Once at Fort Lewis, the men of the 32nd engaged in the time-honored troop ritual of complaining. Conditions were cramped as 4,000 reservists trickled in to fill out the division's strength to near 14,000.
With classrooms pressed into barracks, training shifted outdoors during the area's notorious rainy season. Most of these buildings had not been used since the war and possessed few amenities. Hot water and furnaces were notably missing.
Supplies and equipment were slow to arrive, and there was much idle time as the division was brought up to strength and adjusted to active duty.
These conditions nurtured questions among many soldiers as to their purpose at Fort Lewis. Some soldiers made their thoughts known to their state's congressional delegation.
Rep. Alvin O'Konski received 16 separate complaints and, after a three-day tour of the base, called for an investigation by the House Armed Services Committee. Sen. William Proxmire conducted a surprise visit to Fort Lewis and spent considerable time interviewing enlisted soldiers about living conditions, training and their general thoughts on the mobilization.
Ultimately, Proxmire explained that many of the division's supply problems stemmed from the different supply systems of the Guard and the active component, but the Army's individual filler policy to bring the unit up to full strength also concerned him.
Another interested member of the Wisconsin congressional delegation was Rep. Melvin R. Laird, who would introduce the Total Force concept in 1970 as defense secretary. He, too, visited the 32nd at Fort Lewis.
After some bad press, the men of the 32nd did not want to give the impression that they were whining. Pvt. Laurence Matzat clarified to the Milwaukee Journal about the deployment: "It's a soldier's prerogative to gripe, but there is a difference between griping and crying."
Other issues sorted themselves out as the training tempo increased and soldiers were allowed to live off post if their families followed them from Wisconsin.
Kennedy addressed the need for the activation when he said, "We called them in to prevent a war, not to fight a war."
The mobilization placed a significant strain on soldiers' families and their communities. The small northern Wisconsin town of Rib Lake petitioned the governor for a physician after its sole doctor mobilized.
Privates who earned little more than $100 a month wondered how they could pay their mortgages and support their families. Soldiers with small businesses pondered what condition their businesses would be in when they returned.
The mobilization even affected the Green Bay Packers, which had three players in the Army Reserve.
Shortly after star halfback Paul Hornung deployed with an engineer unit to Fort Riley, Kan., linebacker Ray Nitschke and flanker Boyd Dowler received word that they were going to Fort Lewis with the 32nd.
The Packers and the Army eventually agreed to furlough Nitschke and Dowler on weekends so they could play in games. However, the Packers had to provide a game film for the Wisconsin troops' entertainment.
Training began in earnest after a Christmas furlough. Soldiers spent hours on ranges honing their skills with individual and crew-served weapons before moving on to more advanced training with a large-unit focus.
The 32nd had not maneuvered as a division since World War II. Drills and annual training had focused only on creating proficient squads, platoons and companies. The complexity of exercises increased with a combinedarms focus, as well as in joint maneuvers with the regular Army's 4th Division.
The 32nd participated in several large-scale exercises and special training events in the winter and spring of 1962. The 1st Battle Group, 128th Infantry, was the first unit in the Army to undergo counterguerilla training, culminating with an exercise against Special Forces units in the rainforests of Olympic National Park in Washington.
In March, several elements trekked to California's Fort Irwin for desert training.
In May, the training culminated in a massive exercise at the Yakima Firing Center. Dubbed Operation Mesa Drive, it featured the entire division, active-component Army elements and Air Force assets.
It was the Army's largest military exercise since World War II and it simulated a combined conventional and nuclear battlefield.
The 32nd's hard training paid off when it was made part of the Strategic Army Corps, which meant the division could deploy anywhere in the world within a few hours.
With STRAC status achieved and crisis in Berlin averted, the division's training schedule lightened considerably.
In August, the men of the 32nd returned to Wisconsin to resume their civilian lives confident that their division was ready to defend and serve the United States.
First Lt. Brian Faltinson is the historian of the Wisconsin Army National Guard.
At a Glance
The National Guard & the Berlin Crisis
Members of the 32nd Infantry Division were not the only National Guardsmen affected by events in Berlin.
In all, nearly 60,000 Guard soldiers and airmen were mobilized. About 10,000 Air Guard personnel and 284 aircraft deployed to France, Germany and Spain. Another 12,000 were activated stateside.
Nearly 34,000 Army soldiers mobilized. Another 33,000 were on accelerated (two weekends a month) training schedules, including members of Massachusetts' 26th Infantry Division and Pennsylvania's 28th Infantry Division. No Army Guard units or personnel deployed overseas.
By February 1962, the Pentagon removed all nonactivated units from accelerated training schedules. All mobilized units were released from duty in August 1962.
Read the full article at http://www.nationalguardmagazine.com/article/A+Crisis+Hits+Home/807464/78403/article.html.