From Rooney's book My War, the excerpt below deals
with the 3rd Armored and includes some interesting comments about
Gen. Rose. The book, published in 1995, describes his reporting
during WWII for The Stars & Stripes as an enlisted
soldier in his mid-20's.
On March 28th, 1945, I made a long drive from Bad Wildungen
up to where the Third Armored Division was approaching Paderborn.
The name Paderborn had a special mystique about it because it's
where Werner von Braun and his team of scientists and engineers
had made the V-1 and V-2 self-propelled bombs that hit London.
I was familiar with the Third Armored Division because of my
experience with them at Cologne and I decided to go out there
alone. It was good to have another reporter along sometimes,
but there were journalistic advantages to being alone. If I felt
like stopping and starting, I could stop and start. I found out
where the Third Armored was and caught up with them on their
move north, near the Netherlands. It was a long drive under difficult
conditions. The roads were an obstacle course with the walls
of stone homes falling into the streets of the small towns where
they'd been hit by shells, overturned trucks, burned out tanks,
and the dead bodies of men and animals everywhere.
By the time I had a story, it was late afternoon. The tank columns
had moved so fast through the countryside and gone through so
many tiny villages that they couldn't afford to leave behind
detachments in all of them to secure the areas. I started back
for the press camp and I knew it was going to be a rough, lonesome
ride. I was careening along a narrow, unpaved road vaguely nervous
about the lowering sky and concerned about whether I was going
to make it back before dark. I knew there had to be small groups
of German soldiers still roaming the countryside.
Suddenly I saw a uniformed figure a few hundred yards ahead of
me running across the field toward the road. He had both hands
over his head as he ran but he clutched a rifle in one of them.
It was apparent that he was going to intercept me on the road
but there was nothing for me to do but keep going. There was
no place to turn, and by this time I was so close that my back
and would have been an easy target for him if I'd tried to head
in the other direction.
With my heart in my throat, I screeched to a stop in a cloud
of dirt that covered the road. It was instantly apparent to me
that he didn't want to kill me. He was as scared as I was and
only wanted to surrender. I don't know why he hadn't dropped
the rifle. With no German at all at my command, I indicated,
in as stern and authoritative way as I could with nothing but
gestures, that he should drop his rifle into the ditch. He did.
I told him to climb into the jeep next to me. He did. As I shifted
into low, I looked over at him and noticed he still had a pistol
strapped to his side. This was going to be the final test of
whether he wanted peace or war with me. Again, with all the authority
I could fake, I indicated that he should hand me the pistol.
All he had to do to have a jeep of his own and an American uniform
to wear - with a bullet hole in it - would have been to shoot
me. My mother told me never to pick up hitchhikers.
He didn't shoot me. Without a pause he reached down, took the
gun out of its holster, and handed it to me muzzle first. It
was obvious and he'd never had much training on how to handle
a gun safely. He could have hurt me. It was the first time I'd
felt any sympathy for a German soldier. I thought of how many
like him had been shot and left to turn green in the ditch. He
seemed like a decent man and I knew that, while he might escape
with his life now, he faced some unpleasant times ahead as a
I took him to the nearest prison compound more than 10 miles
from where I picked him up. He put his hands up and clasped them
behind his head and then turned to me. He took one hand down,
reached across the jeep, and extended it for a handshake. It
seems unkind now that I didn't shake it.
The pistol, a handsome Walthour, had - still has, if you want
honesty here - a beautiful, nut-brown walnut handle. My son Brian
and I took it up in the woods behind the house years ago. We
each fired it once. The German soldier I "captured"
may never have fired it, so the gun hasn't had an active life.
I know I ought to throw it out or turn it in before someone gets
hurt with it, but how many pistols do have that were handed over
in person by a German soldier surrendering to you?
Maj. Gen. Maurice Rose, who had been with the Second Armored
Division at Saint-Lô, was now the commander of the Third
Armored and he may have been the best tank commander of the war.
He was a leader down where they fight.
Not all great generals were recognized. Maurice Rose was a great
one and had a good reputation among the people who knew what
was going on, but his name was not in the headlines as Patton's
so often was. Rose led from the front of his armored division.
I was still alone when I joined Rose's Third Armored near Paderborn
on March 29. My intention was to stay with the division until
I had a story and then decide whether to go back or stay overnight.
In view of the harrowing experience I'd had the day before, I
was inclined to stay, the so I brought along a bedroll.
There were tanks in front of me and tanks behind me as we traveled
at 10 to 15 miles an hour along a two-lane road through a heavily
wooded area. In daylight it didn't seem dangerous. Occasionally
the column would stop and I'd hear gunfire from up front, but
it was never long before we started to move again. Nowhere all
along the route of the war from the beaches to Berlin did German
soldiers who had been overrun hide and continue firing on stragglers
in the rear elements of our divisions. I never understood why.
Once German soldiers were overrun, it was as if they considered
that we had won and the game was over. They put down their guns,
lifted their hands over their heads, and looked for someone they
could surrender to. Snipers were rare so I felt relatively safe
in the tank column during the day as we went through the narrow
streets and small villages. I hadn't considered the night.
It got dark early in Germany in the last 10 days of March, and
in the afternoon that day it became apparent to me that, with
tanks occupying one lane of the two-lane road and supply trucks
occupying the other, there was no way I was going to be able
to return to the press camp against an ongoing tide. Toward the
evening the tank column stopped and we got the order that we
were not going any farther. When you're with the army, no one
you're in touch with ever knows why you're moving or why you're
The most felicitous event of the Third Armored's advance that
day was the two hours we stopped near the battered factory that
had been the major producer of blowtorches in Germany. There
were still thousands of torches in storage areas near the recently
vacated production line, and every tank crew helped itself to
several. For the rest of the war, they hopped out of their tanks
every time there was a stop of more than 10 minutes and made
coffee or heated food from their rations in their mess kits.
Some crews even used them inside on the steel floors of their
tanks. I laugh now when I think of air bags in relation to the
danger those crews exposed themselves to.
To the crew, a tank was like a small apartment. They stuffed
personal items in every empty corner of it. The interior of each
tank reflected the personality of its crew. The housekeeping
in some was better than in others. For me, being in one was more
claustrophobic and then being fifty phantoms deep in a submarine.
The tank crews felt sorry for the infantry and the infantry felt
sorry for the tankers. Inside the tank, the crew was immune to
small-arms fire. Their worst enemy was the modified 88mm rifle
mounted on the German Tiger tank. The Tiger was lumbering giant,
well built, heavily armored, and armed with a great 88mm gun,
but for all its virtues it often lost the tank-to-tank battles
with the Shermans. The gun protruding from its turret had to
be hand-cranked, on well-made gears, into position to fire, so
aiming at anything took a minute. That was almost a minute longer
than it took the U.S. gunner to aim with the 75mm gun with its
push-button controls. The Sherman was quicker on its feet. The
difference was the difference between a car with automatic steering,
hydraulic shift, and push button window controls on one hand
and a car with none of the modern conveniences on the other.
The one thing the Tiger had where is that high-velocity, armor-piercing
gun. When a Tiger and a Sherman came on each other unexpectedly,
the U.S. tank could often zero in on the Tiger with its electronic
controls and fire off five shots before the manually operated
Tiger could bring its gun into position to aim and shoot. In
those encounters, the Sherman won. If shots were exchanged at
the same time, the German gun could do more damage.
In the evening of the second day I was hanging around with a
tank crew along the side of the road near Paderborn when a major
came up in a jeep and said General Rose would like to see me
in his headquarters, a German house that he'd taken over for
The general had a fine taste for command posts. He always chose
a comfortable castle or mansion, and somewhere in it there was
a good-sized room he used as an office. He put his desk in the
center of the room, always facing the door, and laid out his
maps on another desk. His situation map was mounted on the wall
opposite his desk so all he had to do to review his situation
was look up. It all looked that way the night I talked to him.
Here I was a sergeant reporting for the army newspaper and this
tall, handsome, 45 year-old general was inviting me into his
command post for an interview.
"When do you hope to reach your objective?" I ask General
Rose, a little stiffly. We didn't talk about specific objectives
because of censorship and I wouldn't have been allowed to name
them in my story anyway.
"Tomorrow," he said.
"Wow," I said. "You think you'll be there tomorrow?"
"You said 'hope'" he said. I was amused by the play
on words by the general. When a general is even a little funny
it's an event.
"I sent Yeomans a message today," he said referring
to another general, a friend of his. "I sent it in the clear
so the Germans must have picked it up. I told him I'd give him
a case of Scotch if he captured Rundstedt, Kesselring, or Guderian
and one bottle of Scotch for Hitler, dead or alive. The message
got garbled and someone put Goering in for Guderian. Now I suppose
if he brings Goering in here I'll have to give him a case of
Scotch." We both laughed.
"I take orders from the corps commander," he told me.
"He just tells me where he wants the Third Armored to go.
He doesn't tell me how to get there."
Maurice Rose was killed by machine-gun fire the next day and
I felt as if I'd lost a friend. He wasn't a friend but he made
me feel that way in our conversation. Niceness is not an attribute
they instill in generals at West Point, but he and Leon W. Johnson,
the Ploesti leader, were very nice generals. [Note from the webmaster:
Rose did not attend West Point, if Rooney is implying that he
The U.S. Third Armored Division, without General Rose now, and
the 104th Infantry Division went into Paderborn with the British
on our left flank. At some point the British crossed a bridge
over the Rhine and, having heard that the Third Armored had already
crossed at Cologne, fell into the Patton public-relations trap
and named it "The George S. Patton Memorial Bridge."
They made the mistake of thinking the Third Armored Division,
which belonged to the First Army, was Patton's Third Army. He
was more than a hundred miles to the south.
[END of excerpt]