Texas Military Forces Historical Sketch

A Brief History of the Texas National Guard after World War II

Reorganization of the Texas National Guard after World War II. 

Patches - 36th Infantry Division and 49th Armored DivisionTexas was assigned two National Guard division-sized units after World War II. The 36th Infantry Division was reformed and an armored division, the 49th, was also assigned to Texas.  The state was one of two states to be asked to form an armored division “as an experiment.”

Both units recruited strongly from the large number of World War II veterans in the State and by 1949 both had strengths of 10,000 soldiers each.  The 36th remained a three-infantry-regiment triangular division with the 141st, 142nd, and 143rd Infantry Regiments.

The orphan 144th Infantry was returned to the Texas force structure in 1952 when armored infantry units of the 49th Division were re-designated as battalions of the 144th.  The 144th Armored units replaced the 145th, 146th and 147th Armored Infantry Battalions originally assigned to the 49th.  Tank Battalions – also re-designated in 1952 – traced their heritage to the 636th Tank Destroyer Battalion and the 112th Cavalry Regiment of World War II.  Armored Field Artillery Battalions numbered the 645th, 646th and 647th were renumbered to include units of the 131st and 132nd Field Artillery assigned to Texas in World War II.

New leaders took their place as the commander of the two divisions.  Major General Albert Sidney Johnson became the 49th AD Commander, serving from 1948 to 1958.  He was followed by Major General Harley N. West.  Major General Miller Ainsworth led the 36th Division, followed by Major General Carl M. Phinney and Major General Everett Selden Simpson.

Training for the new divisions took place during the 1940s and 1950s at North Fort Hood, Texas, where a summer training center was developed.  Troops marched in the caliche dust or operated armored personnel carriers and M-48 and M-60 tanks on the tank trails of the sun-baked training center.

In 1956, the soldiers of the 36th Division paraded past a reviewing stand that included – as always – the Governor of Texas and the Commanding General – Carl Phinney.  Also taking the salute was Captain Audie Murphy, the most decorated American soldier of World War II.  Murphy was an officer in the 36th Division from 1950 to 1960, serving as a small unit tactics and marksmanship instructor.

The Army National Guard Underwent Changes in the 1950s.

In 1959, both the 36th and 49th Divisions were reorganized under plans referred to as the “Pentomic reorganization.”  The 36th units were shaped around “Battle Groups,” fighting teams including infantry, armor, and artillery.  Battle groups can be best described as “heavy battalion with artillery,” according to one account. The Battle Group concept was replaced after a five year application.

The 49th reorganization replaced two “Combat Commands” with “Brigades.” Infantry, armor and armored field artillery were assigned to each.  Soon after the reorganization, the world situation became tenser as Russian forces closed access to Berlin, Germany.  A number of U.S. National Guard divisions were called into Federal service.

The 49th Armored Division was mobilized in September, 1961, and spent from October 1961 to August 1962 at Fort Polk, Louisiana.  During the 49th’s mobilization, they participated in “Operation Iron Dragon,” the largest reserve unit armor deployment since World War II.  Included in the exercise was the first National Guard firing of a 25-mile range “Honest John” missile, which had nuclear capability.  An “Honest John” rocket is displayed at the entrance to Armor Row at the south end of the Texas Military Force Museum.

The U.S. Army struggled to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world situation.  Portions of the 36th Infantry Division were structured in 1963 into what was called the 36th Infantry Brigade (Separate), which had high priority for training and equipment as a leading “reinforcing unit” available to assist the regular army units being deployed.  Designated as SRF or “Strategic Reserve Force,” the 36th Brigade was brought up to a high level of training after its creation in 1963.  Many other units of the 36th Division were given new assignments as aviation, engineer, military police and other specialized areas.

The rest of the 36th was reorganized under the “R.O.A.D.” plan in 1963, in which artillery, armor and infantry battalions were assigned to maneuver units called brigades.  There were three brigades in the 36th, with a total of two armor battalions, six infantry battalions and five field artillery battalions assigned to the three brigades.  This more flexible organization of varying brigade structures allowed for differing missions.

Changes in Unit Structure, 1968-1973.

Both the 36th and the 49th Armored Divisions were deactivated in 1968.  The U.S. Army was looking for leaner, more rapidly-moving units.  A new 71st Airborne Infantry Brigade, a new 72nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade and a new 49th Armored Group were created using the units of the old 36th and 49th Divisions.  The airborne infantry brigade was built around the three battalions of the 143rd Infantry of east Texas and the mechanized infantry brigade structured around the mechanized infantry of south and north Texas and the armor from around the state.  The Armor Group included two battalions of Armor in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Engineer, combat support, medical and other units were also included.  The Active Army would increase National Guard unit assignments of support and specialist units as the years would pass.

The mission of the 71st Airborne Infantry Brigade was to train to serve as a “round-out brigade” for the 82nd Airborne Division.  By 1968, military assets of the United States were stretched so thin by world wide commitments that the 82nd Airborne was the last full division left in the United States for new demands.  The 71st Airborne Infantry Brigade and its successor 36th Airborne Brigade of 1973 carried that responsibility for reinforcing the 82nd as a 3rd Brigade.  All 3,300 troopers of the 71st Brigade became jump-qualified, including the “Jumpin’ Judge,” Brigadier General Thomas Blackwell, who was a Texas District judge while commanding the unit.

In 1973, unit assignments were changed once again.  The old 49th Armored Division was reformed, assuming the assets of the 36th Infantry Brigade, the 72nd Mechanized Brigade, the 49th Armored Group and many of the independent units created in 1968.  The 36th Division was not reformed.  One battalion of the 71st Airborne Infantry Brigade received a new assignment as tankers in the 49th Armored, and the two-battalion Airborne Brigade was renumbered the 36th Infantry Brigade (Airborne).

The airborne soldiers continued to jump every three months from C-130 aircraft, from CH-47 Chinook helicopters, Air National Guard C-130 transports, and from other Army and Air Force aircraft.  They remained “jump Qualified” until re-tasked in the 1980s.  Some airborne troopers continued assignment into the 1990 LRRP (Long Range Recon Patrol) jumpers in Company G (Airborne), 143rd Infantry.

After 1973, all of the Texas armored units were renumbered as battalions of the 112th Armored Regiment.  From 1988-1993, Texas had eight battalions assigned to the 112th, making the Texas unit the largest armored formation in the U.S. Army.  The 7th and 8th Battalions of the 112th Armored along with other support units in the “Texas Brigade” served in the 50th Armored Division of the New Jersey National Guard.  Reorganization in 1993 ended the relationship with the 50th and saw the deactivation of the 7th and 8th Battalions.

Note to readers:  We would like to bring the story of the 49th Armored Division up to date of its re-flagging in 2004.  Anyone who would like to contribute stories about the 49th should send the material to the museum.

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