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Resulting in The History Channel Production of
"Rolling Thunder - The True Story of the 3rd Armored Division"

  The year was 1999, and the tireless Bill Ruth, then President of the 3rd Armored Division Association, was looking for some way where the Division would finally be the subject of a film documentary that it so richly deserved. In his letter below, Ruth set forth his idea and his request to Roger Mudd, then the primary on-screen anchor for The History Channel, and former nationally known CBS and NBC television journalist and broadcaster. Mudd's reply to Ruth, also below, offered hope but no guarantee. Neither could have imagined that the ultimate result, coming in November, 2002, would be The History Channel's national television release of "Rolling Thunder " - a powerful, classic, 2-hour documentary that covers the Division's 50-year history.

Scroll further below for larger, readable text.

Bill Ruth to Roger Mudd:


3rd Armored Division Association
Worthington, OH

June 1, 1999

Mr. Roger Mudd
c/o The History Channel
111 East Wacker Avenue, Suite 2206
Chicago, Illinois 60601

Dear Mr. Mudd,

My wife and I enjoyed your narration of the Big Red One, The First Infantry Division and D-Day, The Total Story which aired on The History Channel in Columbus, Ohio. As often as we view these films there is always a surge of pride and patriotism that flows through our veins. I served with the Third Armored Division (Spearhead) in all five campaigns in Europe. My wife experienced the hardships, sacrifices and worries on the home front.

As the Third Armored fought its way toward the Siegfried Line, spearheading the First Army attack on many occasions, we were privileged to fight side by side with the Big Red One. What a comfort to see that Big Red One shoulder patch. We Third Armored men really respected the First Infantry Division troops. They were seasoned troops by the time the Third Armored entered the foray at Villiers Fossard on June 29, 1944. In May, 1994, I stood on Omaha Beach in awe as I examined the beautiful monument with nearly 2,000 names of the First Infantry Division, those brave men who lost their lives during the Normandy invasion. Yes, they need to be memorialized in a documentary so that present and future generations may learn about them.

This leads to a plea for help. If you are unable to help us, perhaps you can steer us in the right direction. Our Third Armored Division Association has been searching for a way to develop a documentary while some of us are still around. We are all in our 70's and 80's and, unfortunately, we lose nearly 100 of our members each year. It has occurred to us that a significant part of our history may be lost if we do not document these experiences on film.

There have been many books written by our members, the latest by Belton Cooper, Death Traps. Our Historian, Haynes Dugan, along with Andy Barr, had the foresight to write our history, Spearhead in the West, 1944-45. They were members of G-2. In 1991 Spearhead in the West was updated and included many of our biographies as well as the younger Third Armored members who served in Germany and Desert Storm.

Our archives, which contain a great deal of printed material, is located at the University of Illinois. Other institutions which also have records and pictures of the Third Armored Division include the Center of Military History; U.S. Army Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania; the National Archives; and the West Point Military Academy. Additionally a movie was produced in 1951, The Tanks are Coming. This movie is about the Third Armored Division exploits in Europe and starred Harry Bellaver, Steve Cochran, and James Dobson. Some of the action shots were from the National Archives.

While our Association has a great deal of material, we no longer have the stamina to research, edit, and put together a project of this size. This is a task for people who are younger and have the know how and expertise, such as the staff of The History Channel.

We would welcome any comments or suggestions. We would also like to know what a project of this type costs so we may plan our budget.

I look forward to hearing from you soon. Thank you for your attention to this matter.


William B. Ruth

cc: Haynes W. Dugan, Belton Cooper, Walter Stitt, James Quinn

Roger Mudd to Bill Ruth:


June 23, 1999
McClean, VA

Mr. William B. Ruth
306 Pinney Drive
Worthington, Ohio 43085

Dear Mr. Ruth:

Forgive the delay in answering your letter. Semi-retirement is not as easy as I had thought.

I will try my best to put you in touch with a tv producer who might interested in a documentary on the 3rd Armored Division. I promise nothing but The History Channel would be the right place for such a show, all right.

Your letter prompts me to tell you about my brief and undistinguished experience with the US Army:

I enlisted in June, 1945 as soon as I got out of high school. They sent me to Fort McClellan, Alabama, for infantry basic and then to Georgia for engineering. Sometime in 1946, I got orders to Camp Hood, Texas, as a replacement in none other than the 2nd Armored Division which was just coming back from Europe! I couldn't have been at Hood for more than a week when they sent us sent down to Fort Davy Crockett near Galveston for ''rest camp." Nobody ever explained exactly why we fuzzy-cheeks needed a rest but, of course, nobody ever asked either.

I wound up with the 258th Ordnance Evacuation Company, driving a big 45-ton tractor-trailer, hauling tanks and busses and etc., around the country as the Army de-mobilized. We wound up at Fort Knox, where I was discharged in August, '47. Nobody shot at me, except once on the McClellan rifle range. But I still have my "Hell on Wheels" shoulder patch somewhere in the attic.

I'll keep your number and will be in touch.


Roger Mudd

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