MEMORIAL SERVICE - 40th REUNION
WICHITA - 1987
Memorial Address by Ernie DeSoto
One of the great reunion services
||The setting was on the banks
of the Arkansas River under ideal mild weather. The service included
a band, color guard, 3AD soldier-guests from Germany, and most
inspiring talks by then 3AD Commander, Maj. General Griffin from
Frankfurt and by Board Member and former Association President
Ernie DeSoto. The Newsletter Editor described this as a memorial
service for the history books.
MEMORIAL ADDRESS - WICHITA, KANSAS
September 19, 1987
by Ernie DeSoto
My Fellow Spearheaders:
It is in compliance with the resolution set forth in our constitution
that the Association of the 3rd Armored" "Spearhead"
Division remember and never forget, by paying tribute and honor
in solemn ceremony, those of our division who over 43 years ago
paid the supreme sacrifice.
It is more than a duty, however, for it is to tender the respect
and deep regard that we feel for those that are no longer with
In the five campaigns of WWII in which the division fought,
we suffered losses on the battlefields of Europe of men with
whom we shared the experiences of training and conditioning to
prepare us for the enemy we were to face. Remembering those of
our comrades that died brings back memories that dim with the
advancing of years. We, too, sadly remember as well, those of
our Association who have left us with each passing year.
In those five campaigns of WWII we earned the battle streamers
that hang proudly from the colors that are now in the headquarters
of the 3rd Armored Division, that proud division that is presently
serving as a bastion of security on the German border at this
very moment. In the battles for which these streamers were awarded,
our Division suffered the loss of 2,214 of our comrades killed
in action and, in the completion of our mission as the battering
ram of VII Corps of First Army, we suffered 9,130 casualties,
more than any other armored division in the European theatre.
When next you visit the museum of Armor and Cavalry at Fort
Knox, you will see our division monument with the plaques that
tell the story of the 3rd in the memorial park that honors all
of the Armored Divisions in WWII.
I ask you to think back with me as we stir our memories, back
some 44 years ago, and reminisce of the advance of the Spearhead
Division from the Normandy beachhead. We left Omaha Beach and
were in assembly in the Bocage County in France, 26 June 1944.
Formed into task forces we prepared for our first blooding in
the hedgerows of Normandy. We advanced to cross the Vire River
in early July. From 9-15 July CCA, CCB and CCR fought against
stubborn resistance. At this point we had lost 48 officers and
558 enlisted killed in action.
Our next advance, the St. Lo breakthrough, fighting an almost
continuous resistance by the enemy, we reached Mortain on 2 August.
MG Rose took command of the Division on 7 August. The enemy fought
desperately to cut off Mortain, but by 12 August their counterattack
had spent itself. Our next engagement was at the Falaise Gap,
which was closed on 18 August. We crossed the Seine on 25 August
and were given new objectives of Sedan and Charleville. We continued
to advance until 31 August. We reformed on 1 September in an
advance toward Mons with CCA, CCB and CCR, each in two columns,
left to right. The Battle of Mons proved to be the decisive battle
of the West. The enemy dead could be counted in the thousands.
Next Charleroi and Liege on 8 September. As we fought into Namur
and Liege, our advance was down the Namur Valley. CCA worked
patrols into the city of Liege, and CCB surprised the enemy and
crossed the bridge south of the city.
Now, on to Verviers, and when secured, the Division was close
to the first barrier of the Siegfried Line. On 12 September Task
Force Lovelady followed its advance patrols and entered the town
of Roetgen, Germany, the first German town to fall to the Allies
Task Force Doan fought through the first row of dragons teeth
and on 15 September had crossed the second row. Mopping up in
the Stolberg Area continued until 23 September. The Division
was engaged in maintenance badly needed by both men and machines.
The Division had traveled some 700 miles without proper maintenance
because of the enemy counteractions.
The Ardennes Campaign had begun with the Von Rundstedt breakthrough
in the Belgium sector on 16 December. The Division had the mission
to meet the attacking German columns and in these battles suffered
1,473 casualties. The Division was returned to the Stolberg area
and the planning for the Rhine offensive began. In late February,
the Division crossed the Roer and later the Erft Canal. Advancing
across the Cologne Plain, the Division fought into the city of
Cologne. Crossing the Remagan Bridge, the Division advanced in
the longest march in armor history in one day of 101 miles, the
encirclement resulted in the capture of over 300,000 enemy troops
as the Division joined with the 2d Armored to form the Rose Pocket.
Near the city of Paderborn, our gallant commander MG Rose was
cut down at the front of one of our armor columns. We continued
our advance and into the city of Dessau where our advance elements
were halted on the Elbe River. On 24 April the 3rd had been in
contact with the enemy for 221 combat days. The war was over,
the guns stilled, the loss of life no more.
In this brief review we can recall the names and faces of
those who fought alongside us, from the beachhead to the final
objective, those who gave their lives to ensure the advance of
the Spearhead Division.
These fellow soldiers are still remembered in this span of
45 years. They fought with us to preserve the freedom and values
of our beloved country. We all have bonds of mutual affection
and a special regard for these friends that have left us for
We fought for peace, in a world that cries for peace. We know
the terrible price that nations pay in war and revolution. Our
world has not been at peace since WWII, and nations, soldiers
and innocent people are still suffering the results of war at
this very moment.
We can appreciate the terrible scars that death causes on
the minds of those that suffer the loss of family members in
the throes of war. We all die a small death when we lose that
person. We ache, we hurt, we agonize. We want to shake a fist
at someone, even you, God, but finally we turn to Christ our
comforter, and pray that he will guide us and give us strength.
We all have certain images of those of our absent comrades.
Perhaps a smile, a handclasp, a word, a kindness, these will
remain with us until our memory fades completely. It is in such
thought that we can visualize our missing comrades to be with
us again. It is in silence that our emotions are laid bare, that
we are often inarticulate. There are so many things to say that
to say nothing and to let our hearts speak for us is often the
best of all.
We are all realists and know the inevitability of death. Why
are we here? The issue of the moment is immortality. If we can
say that all natural appearances to the contrary, we know ourselves
to be of immortal spirit, nothing else really matters. The implication
of faith in immortality will bind us to the life of Christ. God
has set eternity into the hearts of man. However, little we know
about this world we live in, we bear with us some pattern of
a world outside and beyond ourselves when compensation might
be expected for the trials and tribulations of this present life.
This is a necessary reaction if we are to go on living, if we
are to find ourselves capable of loving again. God with his great
love will spread his healing over those who must join him, as
a mother watches over a sleeping child.
Jesus said, "In my Father's house are many mansions,
if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place
for you that where I am, there you may be also." This reminds
us that He is there and where he is cannot be other than a place
of peace and serenity. Thus, sorrow is lifted by our faith in
the goodness of God.
I say then that this service must not be filled with morbid
grief, but that it must be a tribute to those of our comrades
that served with us. I, like each of you, recognize that we are
on a journey of life in which death is but an incident. These,
our friends, have been granted a just reward - the peace that
passeth all understanding.
Suffering comes to us in many ways. Death, for instance, or
separation, is an experience of all mankind. Our minds become
pervaded by deep emotions and the capacity to question - Why?
This is above all else. We can think of a name that answered
to the report when we stood in ranks together. That soldier can
no longer answer "present".
These men, young in age, were cut down in the prime of their
lives. How they would have loved to be with us today. We find,
too, that with the passing of each year, the responses to our
roll call becomes less and less. We must realize pragamatically
that our days are numbered.
We cannot fail to remember those of our brothers who have
journeyed to distant shores. With this remembrance, this service
becomes more sacred, with our deep nostalgia, it becomes more
meaningful. Each one of our deceased, if they could speak, would
say: "To you is returned the flag of our country, unsullied."
I will always remember the words carved over the entrance to
a military cemetery, "Tell them that we gave our todays
for their tomorrows."
Someone has said that death at any age is to die young. Death
is like a door and we move through a corridor, not in darkness,
but in light; not in pain, but in peace; and, not to extinction,
but to be with our Lord. We then must commit our dead into the
hand of God whose love does not fail. Out of darkness, will come
dawn; out of rain, a rainbow; out of death, eternal life.
Let us vow that each of us with all the strength we possess,
and only if it is humanly possible, will join with our Association
in our next reunion to mark our 41st year. There are so few of
us left to attend we must not fail to continue our bonds. Give
us the strength, Lord, the health, the determination, that we
will treasure these passing years and join in our final roll
calls before we leave this mortal soil.
We close now with bowed heads: May the grace of the risen
Lord, the peace of our father God and the consolation of the
Holy Spirit give rest to our comrades. They have passed into
the light which is in stillness beyond the shadow of death, the
places that have known them shall know them no more. But we shall
remember our friends for they have a special place in our hearts.
Lord, God, keep them in your care. These were our comrades. Amen.