The Tank Destroyer Center, at Fort Hood, Texas, completed its last few activities and officially closed on November 10, 1945. The inactivation of the tank destroyer battalions began in the fall of 1945 and continued into the spring of 1946. The last TD Battalion, the 656th, was deactivated on November 1, 1946 at Camp Campbell, KY.
During the 35 years that the Tank Destroyer Forces lingered in oblivion and obscurity, from 1946 to 1981, tank destroyer battalions held separate annual reunions around the United States….some continue to this day. It was the vision of Marshall Hanks (815th and 805th TD Bn) that led to the creation of the Tank Destroyer Association in 1981, as a California veteran’s organization, with the mission to “Tell the Story of the Tank Destroyer Forces of WWII”. For an eleven year period, the group did just that by publishing a newsletter, establishing permanent museums to showcase the activities of the Tank Destroyer Forces, dedicate monuments and create a unified roster, from the many individual Battalion Associations, which included over 14,000 personnel in the late 80’s.
In one of its final acts, the TD Association supported the publication of what is still the single most comprehensive resource on the Tank Destroyers. The book, Tank Destroyer Forces – WWII, published in 1992, covers every aspect of the history and men of the Tank Destroyers and is truly a credit to the TD Association and the efforts of their Honorary Historian, Lonnie Gill. His work and input as author and pictorial editor throughout all stages of the process made this excellent reference possible. The book was published by Turner Publishing Company and is to this day, almost twenty years later, is still highly sought after and highly recommended by this researcher.
The founders of the Association were as follows: Quintus Atkinson, 610th; Jerome Cohen, 807th; Marshall Hanks, Sr. 815th & 805th; Warren Mitchell, 661st; Marvin Ravely, 776th & 807th and Alex Woodside, 807th. Their efforts will memorialize the Tank Destroyer Force for future generations.
Over the years, the TD association worked to create a lasting visual presense of the Tank Destroyer Forces. In 1982, the first National TD Association Reunion was held at Ft. Hood, TX (formerly Camp Hood), home of the Tank Destroyer Training Center in WWII. The reunion was held again at Ft. Hood in 1983, with the Association dedicating a large monument to the memory of the TD Force of WWII. In 1985, the Military Museum of Southern New England was established, recreating “A” Co. 643rd TD Battalion and in 1986 the Tank Destroyer Forces joined the Patton Museum. The third and final national TD Reunion was held at Fort Knox, KY in October of 1989. One year later the National Tank Destroyer Association began phasing out in November of1990. A Tank Destroyer Force Monument located in the Armor Memorial Park, Fort Knox, KY, was dedicated on October 12, 1989. and the Military Museum of Southern New England arrived at Fort Knox, KY with an operational Tank Destroyer… the M18 Hellcat.
On the national level, the Armored Forces Monument was dedicated on November 11, 1991, located on Memorial Drive, “Avenue of Heroes”, Arlington, VA. The Tank Destroyer forces exploits of WWII are clearly depicted on this most impressive monument at the entrance to the Arlington National Cemetery. The numerical designation of eighty-five (85) Tank Destroyer combat formations in the European and Pacific theaters are engraved in stone.
In 1992 the outstanding history of the Tank Destroyer Forces WWII was published and distributed. The highlight of 1993 was the permanent display of one M10 “Wolverine” Tank Destroyer in the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor. A second 3” Gun M10 was located outside near the entrance to the Armor Memorial Park of the Patton Museum.
A second plaque on the Tank Destroyer Forces Monument and the 899th TD Bn Monument were dedicated at a joint ceremony 9 Sept, 1995 at The Armor Memorial Park, Fort Knox, KY, where, at the latest count 24 TD Battalion monuments are located.
Portions of the above text were prepared by COL. Cecil R. French (retired) and used by permission.
Tank Destroyer Newsletter:
History of the Association and Society – by former Society President William Oettle (805th)