The 1940s were a time of transition in the landscape of military training at Norwich. In addition to the mountain and winter warfare training program getting its start in 1947, the decade also saw the transition from mounted to armored cavalry training—and the arrival of tanks on campus. Following the end of World War II, mounted cavalry training was initially revived with much enthusiasm. After all, Norwich had been a cavalry school for more than a generation.
But armored cavalry had clearly demonstrated itself to be the cornerstone of 20th century warfare. Before the last horses had left the stables, the university had begun to acquire armored vehicles and arrange for their use in cadets’ training as future military leaders. In 1947, an article in the Record touted the acquisition of a new prefabricated garage building to house a growing collection of three armored cars, two cargo trucks, one jeep, one weapons carrier, and three light tanks that were soon to be acquired.
Not long after this report, in 1949, the Corps of Cadets formed the Honor Tank Platoon. This special unit of the Corps was originally created with 25 members of the Cavalry Unit—an echo of the evolving relationship between mounted and armored cavalry in the military landscape. Its purpose was to participate in ceremonies and formations where tanks were needed, and to recognize cadets who demonstrated particular aptitude and interest in armor training. Members were hand-selected based on rigorous criteria that included GPA and a character reference.
Honor Tank Platoon was an integral part of the Corps of Cadets for many years. They participated in countless parades and ceremonies, including the parade through the town of Northfield to celebrate the Grenville Dodge centennial in 1951. One of the more unique and memorable activities of Honor Tank Platoon was giving tank rides to visitors and guests on campus during events such as Winter Carnival and Regimental Ball.
The Honor Tank Platoon era ended in the 1970s. Today, Sabine Sally—an M4 Sherman tank acquired in 1958—serves as a reminder of this period in our history, and of the many contributions made to American military history by the men and women who trained in Norwich tanks. Notable among them are the no fewer than three Norwich generals who commanded the 2nd Armored Division during World War II.