1962 - 1968
Ft Carson, once a busy post, was on the list for deactivation in the early 1960s. However with the growing need for more combat troops in Southeast Asia, the 5th Infantry Division was formally reactivated on February 19, 1962 and assigned to Ft Carson. Brig. Gen. Ashton H. Manhart was its first commander. The 1st BN of the 61st Regiment was also re-activated on 19 February 1962 and assigned to the 1st Brigade of the Fifth Division.
This was the post that according to folklore was visited by General Custer where he told the Post Commander to change nothing until his return. Gen. Custer then rode off to Ft. Abraham Lincoln ND on his way to the battle of the Little Big Horn.
The 5th was the Army's first Mechanized Infantry Division to be organized under the "ROAD" (Reorganization Objectives Army Division) concept. Battle Groups became Brigades and Armored Rifle Battalions became Armored Infantry Battalions. Money was made available for construction and upgrading the buildings and training facilities of the Division.
Training was intense. Large scale maneuvers became the order of the day with the Tarryall Maneuver in June 1962 which was the first large unit training exercise for the Division. This was followed by an exercise later that summer in South Carolina and then in Oct for a few days the Cuban Missile Crisis put the Division on alert with war seeming just around the corner. In May 1963, a motor march was conducted to the Yakima Firing Range, and in August maneuvers again in South Carolina, flying to and from courtesy of the USAF.
Pictures taken by Dick Bernard during the training of 1/61 are included in the Ft Carson Pictures file.
Training intesified. M-16 rifles replaced M-1s and M-14s, M-60 MGs replaced M-1918A1s, M-151 jeeps replaced M-38A1s. Officers and NCOs understood that Vietnam was "hotting" up and things took on a much more serious feel.
In 1964 the Division participated in the Joint (USAF and USA) Exercise Desert Strike.
Armored Personnel Carriers (APC) were in short supply but slowly the Division replaced its trucks with M 113s and then M113 A-1s (and M557 A-1s).
The mid 60's were a time of problems at Ft Carson. Race troubles, drugs, anti-war protests and the great flood of June and July 1965. Many officers and NCOs had completed one tour in Viet Nam and had been alerted for another one. Over 20,000 draftees had been trained and levied to the ever growing war in Southeast Asia. Through it all the Fifth Division continued to train and hone its war fighting skills. Rumor had the 1st Brigade, which included the 1/61, going directly into combat in Viet Nam and training equaled survival. In April 1966, the 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry was activated at Ft. Carson, CO, using the personnel and assets of the 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry and departed for service in Vietnam. The 1/11 was reconstituted and remained part of the 1st Brigade Fifth Division.
On maneuvers at Ft Carson prior to VIETNAM deployment. CPT VERNON standing in the hatch wearing CVC helmet. SGT TOMMY DORRIS, Arty FO, sitting on right rear of M113 hanging five.
The word was official. The 1st Bde of the 5th Div was going to Vietnam. But the 5th Div still had its War Plans missions to perform. To fill the gap left by the eminent departure of the 1/5 the Kansas National Guard's 69th Inf Bde was called to Federal Duty in May of 1968 and assembled at Ft Carson, Colorado. There it underwent intensive training as it prepared to take its place in the 5th Div. Although some 2,350 members of the 69th Infantry were levied to Vietnam as individual replacements the Bde remained a part of the 5th Division until it returned to the control of the State of Kansas in December 1969.
Pictures taken by Steve Brandenburg during the training of the 5th DIV "Round Out" BDE are included in the Ft Carson Pictures file.
In July 1968 the 1st Bn 61st Inf, now a highly trained mechanized unit, deployed to the Republic of Vietnam as part of the 1st Bde 5th Inf Div (Mech).