50th Armored Division (United States)

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50th Armored Division
50th US Armored Division SSI.svg
50th Armored Division shoulder sleeve insignia
Active 1946–93
Country  United States
Branch  United States Army
Type Armor
Role Armored warfare
Size Division
Part of New Jersey Army National Guard
Nickname(s) "Jersey Blues"
Donald W. McGowan
Distinctive unit insignia 50 Arm Div DUI.jpg
U.S. Armored Divisions
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49th Armored Division (Inactive) N/A

The 50th Armored Division was a division of the Army National Guard from July 1946 until 1993.


On 13 October 1945 the War Department published a postwar policy statement for the entire Army, calling for a 27-division Army National Guard structure with 25 infantry divisions and 2 armored divisions to accommodate the desires of all the states. Once the process of negotiation was complete, among the new formations formed, for the first time in the National Guard, were armored divisions, the 49th and 50th. The 50th Armored Division replaced the 44th Infantry Division within the New Jersey Army National Guard. New Jersey, which had supported part of the 44th Division before the war, now supported the 50th Armored Division, which became nicknamed the "Jersey Blues." Therefore, most of its elements 'inherited' the history of the organic units of the old 44th, and elements of the new 44th perpetuated the history and traditions of former units in Illinois.

In a 1968 reorganization, the 48th and 49th Armored Divisions were disbanded but not the 50th, which from that point was joined by the 27th Armored Brigade from New York, the remnant of the 27th Armored Division. At this point, the division lost its 'Jersey Blues' nickname. Following efforts by Army Chief of Staff General Frederick C. Weyand to raise the readiness of the Army National Guard, the 50th Armored Division was reorganized as a bi-state division in New Jersey and Vermont. At the time, individual armor battalions in NJ and VT were issued 90-mm M48A1 and M48A3 medium tanks.

The bi-state organization comprised:[1]

  • Headquarters, 50th Armored Division (Somerset, NJ)
  • 1st Brigade (Woodbridge, NJ)
  • 2nd Brigade (Cherry Hill, NJ)
  • 86th Brigade (Montpelier, VT)
  • Division Artillery (Trenton, NJ)
  • Division Support Command

Between 1975-76 Vt & NJ armor battalions started turning in their M48A3 tanks and began receiving M48A5 105mm models, which were practically identical to the base-model M60 medium tank with the round turret. The M48A5 had the same main gun system as on the M60A1 and M60A3's in use by active-army. During this time, many VT tank crews competed in gunnery exercises held in West Germany and consistently brought back awards. Training within the 50th was rigorous during the Soviet threat peak years of the late 1970s to mid 1980s. Germany was the primary AO of the 50thAD if it were to be activated.

The Center of Military History notes that reorganizing the Army National Guard to meet the new 'Division 86' structures in the mid-1980s was a challenging process, and most Guard divisions expanded their recruiting areas. The 50th Armored Division did not, and instead had the allotment for one of its brigades moved to the Texas Army National Guard, making the future of the division within the force structure 'uncertain'. During this time, both battalions of Vermont's 172nd Armor 86th BDE began doing their annual training at Ft Hood TX, a change from their former armor deployment base of Ft Drum NY. By October 1986, Vermont's 86th Brigade left the 50th Armor Division and became part of the 26th Infantry Division. A few years later the 86th went to the 42nd ID and got M60A3 medium tanks.

On 1 September 1993, the 50th Armored Division was inactivated and its remaining brigades joined other divisions.[2] New Jersey's 50th Infantry Brigade, which took the Division's lineage, was made part of the 42nd Infantry Division. The 36th Infantry Brigade from Texas was reabsorbed into the 49th Armored Division. In the early 1990s further consolidation followed the fall of the Soviet Union, and the 26th Infantry Division disbanded, causing Vermont's 86th Brigade to join the 42nd Infantry Division and soon receive M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks. While under the 50th Armor Division, Vermont's 1-172nd and 2-172nd Armored Battalions of the 86th Brigade excelled at tank gunnery and field exercises, making the 86th Brigade the only Army National Guard unit to ever consistently accomplish Tank Table XII, an honor it continued to earn even after the 50th AD disbanded.[citation needed] Due to further military consolidations, the 86th Brigade turned in its Abrams tanks in 2006 and ended its Armor designation just short of 40 years.


  1. David C Isby and Charles Kamps Jr, Armies of NATO's Central Front, Jane's Publishing Company Ltd, London, 1985, p. 384
  2. New Jersey Military and Veterans Affairs – Militia Museum of New Jersey