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Fort Carson's 4th Infantry Division carved the strategic trail to the Atomic Age

By: Sgt. 1st class Mike Cline Fort Carson
November 5, 2017 Updated: November 5, 2017 at 7:40 am
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Caption +
Soldiers with the 4th Infantry Division drill with an Honest John rocket in this undated photo. The weapon was capable of carrying a tactical nuclear weapon. It was phased out of service in the 1980s. (ARMY PHOTO)

Fort Carson is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 4th Infantry Division with stories about the unit's past.

This article tells the story of the 4th Infantry Division's transition after World War II from Cold War response force into counterinsurgency operations force.

In May 1951, the 4th Infantry Division embarked on the troop ship General Alexander M. Patch and sailed to Germany. The division's troops were the first American soldiers committed to the newly formed North Atlantic Treaty Origination.

After five years, the division returned to Fort Lewis, Wash., as a battle-ready division, and was reorganized under the new pentomic structure with five battle groups.

It was a response to the threat of tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield.

In 1958, the division was designated a "STRAC" unit and became a component unit of the new Strategic Army Corps.

These units were tasked with the mission of maintaining themselves at the highest state of readiness, to act as a "fire brigade, " designed to quell aggression and put out "brush fires" around the globe.

The division's leaders were charged with containing and limiting smaller conflicts so that larger wars could be prevented, thereby preventing total war or, even worse, nuclear war.

The mission was to provide a flexible-strike capability that could deploy worldwide without an emergency declaration.

The 4th Infantry and three other infantry divisions, were the STRAC's first line. The divisions had to be "ready around the clock" and able to deploy in nine hours to anywhere around the globe.

The STRAC mission was limited by airlift constraints. Without the declaration of a national emergency, the required planes would not be released.

The Army also faced problems with foreign governments for the use of their airspace and airports. Theses constraints ultimately became insurmountable.

In 1965, the Army finalized its implementation of the Reorganization of Army Divisions Program.

That program shifted all divisions to an identical structure of three brigades of three battalions. This was the final chapter of the pentomic divisions and the demise of the STRAC mission.

The operational tempo of the Ivy Division, with almost continual exercises and maneuvers from 1951-1965, can hardly be matched to this day.

During that time the soldiers of the division trained in every conceivable type of terrain and mode of warfare in over 24 major exercises and named operations.

The "Steadfast and Loyal" soldiers traversed the continent multiple times. Training in the ice of Alaska and the tundra of Greenland to the deserts of California,

Nevada and Washington and through the torrid jungles of Puerto Rico and the Philippines; from the swamps of North Carolina to the streets of Berlin - holding the line opposite Russian troops.

Amphibious landings, transcontinental airlifts, and joint maneuvers employing conventional and nuclear weapons, to counterinsurgency operations - through it all the famous fighting 4th demonstrated it was always fit for any test.

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