THE BILL RUTH - ROGER MUDD LETTERS
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
Scroll further below for larger, readable text.
Bill Ruth to Roger Mudd:
3rd Armored Division Association
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
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
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
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
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
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.