Letters on file at the University
of Illinois 3AD Archives
Feature Index      NEXT

from VII Corps Commander, Lt. General J. Lawton Collins

One to Gen. Rose just before The Bulge.
One to Gen. Hickey after war's end.


The occasion of the first letter below, dated May 21, 1945, was the release of the 3rd Armored from VII Corps two weeks after the formal surrender of the German armed forces. That is followed below by an earlier letter from Collins, dated December 16, 1944, probably only hours before he was aware of a massive German counter-offensive through the Ardennes. On December 18, Collins would order the 3rd Armored into the Battle of the Bulge.

Collins first gained combat experience and the nickname of "Lightning Joe" in 1943 as commander of the 25th Infantry Division in the Pacific, including the bloody assault on Guadalcanal. He was transferred to the European Theater in 1944 and led VII Corps from its first landing in Normandy to war's end. Collins would later serve as Army Chief of Staff from 1949 to 1953, including the entire Korean War, and helped develop the Army's role in the newly-created North Atlantic Treaty Organization.


[After War's end]


TO: Brigadier General Doyle 0. Hickey
3rd Armored, Division, APO 253

Dear General Hickey:

With the relief of the 3rd Armored Division from the VII Corps, I wish to express again, in writing, to you and to the officers and men of your splendid division, my appreciation for the great contribution made by the 3rd Armored Division to the success of the VII Corps in its operations in Germany, particularly during the closing phases of the war.

Following the severe fighting in the Ardennes, in which the 3rd Armored had played a great part first in checking and then expelling von Rundstedt's forces from the "Bulge," the division was shifted back to its old battle ground, Stolberg, and prepared for the crossing of the Roer River. As soon as the 8th and 104th Infantry Divisions had established a bridgehead over the Roer, the 3rd Armored was placed in action on the morning of 26 February to spearhead the attack of the corps on Cologne.

With characteristic dash and vigor, the division broke through the initial resistance and raced eastward. In two days it had forced the difficult crossing of the Erft River and swung across the northern end of the formidable Vorgebirge, whose hill masses, pitted with a succession of open lignite mines and studded, with slag, heaps, made maneuver very difficult. The key road and communications center of Stommein was seized to sever the enemy forces in the northern part of the Cologne plain between the Erft and the Rhine. Pressing the attack to the northeast, elements of the division reached the Rhine River in the vicinity of Worringen on 4 March, and in an irresistible drive were the first troops to enter Cologne on 5 March. Within two days all enemy resistance within the division sector, both in the city and on the plain to the north, had been eliminated.

After a brief interlude along the west bank of the Rhine, the division moved across the river into the expanding Remagen Bridgehead, prepared to launch the last great offensive in the west. On 25 March, the division attacked east again through the 1st and 104th Infantry Divisions, brushing aside the initial resistance and pressing forward through the hilly and wooded area of the watershed between the Sieg and Wied Rivers. Although enemy resistance was sharp and unrelenting and the terrain continued to be difficult, the division seized Altenkirchen and quickly forced a crossing of the Dill River in the vicinity of Herborn, and then captured Marburg, cutting enemy communications in the Lahn River valley.

Then began one of the most important and dramatic maneuvers of the entire campaign in Europe, the envelopment of the vital Ruhr industrial area. Commencing on 29 March, the "Spearhead" Division in an unprecedented drive advanced ninety road miles to the north in one 24-hour period, the greatest advance by any division against opposition in the entire war. As it neared its objective, Paderborn, the division became heavily engaged and fought its way through fanatic resistance of enemy troops from the SS Panzer Replacement Training Center. Continuing onward, while repelling counter-attacks from all sides, the division captured Paderbom on 1 April.

On this same day, Task Force Kane advanced to the west and made contact with elements of the 2nd Armored Division at Lippstadt, thereby cutting off the enemy troops in the Ruhr. In eight days the division had made a spectacular advance of almost two hundred miles and had swung the hammer that forged more than half of the ring around the 300,000 enemy troops encircled in the Ruhr Pocket. The speed, dash, and daring of the commanders and men of all ranks made this operation a model military classic.

Unfortunately, we had a terrible price to pay for this victory in the death of one the greatest of all division commanders, your gallant leader, Major General Maurice Rose, who was killed in action 30 March at the head of one of his task forces near Paderborn.

The envelopment of the Ruhr spelled the doom of Germany, but some stiff fighting had to be done before a link-up could be made with the Russian forces advancing from the east. Crossing the Weser River in the vicinity of Odelsheim, on 5 April, the 3rd Armored Division resumed its relentless pursuit of the disintegrating German forces with another stirring enveloping maneuver, this time around the Harz Mountains. The key towns of Duderstadt, Nordhausen and Sangerhausen fell in rapid succession as the division drove to the northeast on Dessau. Despite stiffening resistance and enemy counter-attacks with fresh troops, Kothen was captured, and on 23 April the city of Dessau on the Elbe was cleared of the last German resistance west of the Mulde River.

It is with great regret that VII Corps bids adieu to its spearhead division. Since the days of the St. Lo-Marigny breakthrough, your division has led most of the great offensives of this corps in the pursuit across France and Belgium; at Mons, Namur, Liege, and through the Siegfried Line and into Germany; in the Ardennes Counteroffensive; in the drive from the Roer to the Rhine; and in the last great envelopments of the Ruhr and the Harz Mountains. The division's splendid performance in each operation is a lasting tribute to the leadership and devotion to duty of the officers and men of your command. The wonderful fighting spirit, the dash and daring of the "Spearhead" Division has carried all before it. The VII Corps is proud of the 3rd Armored Division and its great accomplishments. The entire staff and corps troops join me in wishing you all the very best of luck.

Sincerely yours,

Lieutenant General, U. S. Army

[Unknowingly, the 3rd Armored Division was within two days of being ordered by Collins into the Battle of the Bulge.]


TO: Major General Maurice Rose, Commanding
3rd Armored, Division, APO 253
[Div. Command Post then outside of Stolberg, Germany]

Dear General Rose:

The clearing of enemy from the VII Corps zone west of the Roer River marks the end of another phase of our operations, and affords me an opportunity to express to you and the officers and men of the 3d Armored Division my profound appreciation for the magnificent work done by the division since it joined the VII Corps on July 15, 1944.

Following the aerial bombardment of July 25, 1944, the 3d Armored Division played a major part in the decisive breakthrough of the German positions northwest of St. Lo which changed the slow and costly "hedgerow" fighting of Normandy into a rapid war of maneuver. Combat Command Boudinot, attached to the 1st Infantry Division, led the attack from the vicinity of Marigny to cut the enemy's communications at Coutances. Farther to the south, the bulk of the 3rd Armored Division, advancing by way of Cerisy la Salle, protected the south flank of the 1st Division and drove the enemy from his positions southeast of Coutances. Turning quickly to the south the division assisted in crushing the German forces caught between itself and the 3rd Armored Division in the vicinity of St. Denis Ie Gast, which resulted in one of the most disastrous defeats the Germans suffered in France.

During the pursuit phase that followed, the 3d Armored Division greatly assisted the 1st and 4th Infantry Divisions in their crossing of the Sienne River and in their drive to the south to capture the key communication centers of Villedieu les Poeles, Brecey and Mortain, east of Avranches, thus blocking off the corridor through which the Third Army was fanning into Brittany. An official journal of the German Seventh Army emphasizes the vital character of these operations.

During the critical battle in the vicinity of Mortain in which the German Seventh Army endeavored to cut the communications of the First and Third American Armies in the direction of Avranches, elements of the 3d Armored Division played a decisive part. The single enemy penetration north of Mortain was finally checked by Combat Command Boudinot which then proceeded to assist elements of the 4th and 30th Infantry Divisions in annihilating this German force.

Following the Mortain battle, the 3d Armored Division carried the whip-end of the VII Corps' attack toward Falaise from the south. In vicious fighting at Ranes and Fromentel, the division crumbled part of the southern anchor of the Falaise Gap through which the German forces were retreating to the east.

After the VII Corps had been shifted to the east across the Seine River, the 3d Armored Division spearheaded its advance across the Marne and Aisne Rivers, recapturing the historic World War I battle fields of Soissons and Chemin des Dames and was well on the way to Mezieres when the VII Corps was directed to the north to cut off the retreat of the German forces endeavoring to escape through Belgium. The 3d Armored Division wheeled to the left, crossed into Belgium at Maubeuge and quickly seized the important road center of Mons. This was done in the nick of time, for the next day an entire German corps struck the positions of the 3d Armored Division and the 1st Infantry Division on its left. There followed one of the decisive battles of the Western Front in which over 23,000 Germans were taken prisoner and other thousands killed or wounded. This disastrous defeat sealed the fate of Namur and Liege and made possible the rupture of the Siegfried defenses south of Aachen.

Even before the conclusion of the Mons battle, the 3d Armored Division was again spearheading the advance of the VII Corps reversing the route of the 1940 German invasion of Belgium via Charleroi, Namur and Liege. On September 11th elements of the division crossed into Germany and the next day began breaching the Siegfried wall. With great skill and determination the division over-ran the first line of defenses and then crashed through the even more formidable second line in the Munsterbusch-Stolberg area. The rapid breaking of this second line unquestionably saved thousands of American lives which would have been lost in our recent operations if this position had had to be attacked fully manned by the Germans.

In the operations just brought to a close, each of the combat commands of the division was called upon in turn for quick powerful thrusts to secure decisive objectives. These were taken with the cool daring and minimum loss of life which has characterized all of the operations of the division during these past six months.

Please convey to each officer and man of your great fighting organization my personal appreciation and admiration for these great achievements. We look forward with confidence to our coming advance to the Rhine, knowing that leading the way over all opposition will be the 3d Armored - the Spearhead Division.

Major General
U. S. Army, Commanding.

Return to Top

Feature Index      NEXT