Web Editor's Note: Starting with the
next paragraph below, the complete article is shown as it appeared
in the Newsletter. We have added a photo of Collins in 1945 (at
right) that was not included with the article. It should be noted
that, from 1949 to 1953, including the entire Korean War, Collins
was Army Chief of Staff.
On Sept 16th, 1987, at his home in Washington, D.C.,
General Joseph Lawton Collins passed away at the age of 90. All
of you will remember him as commander of the VII Corps, which
the 3rd Armored was part of in most of its combat time. Through
the efforts of Haynes Dugan and Ned Arceneaux, permission was
granted us to reprint pages 310-317 of "Lightning Joe: an
autobiography by Lt. General J. Lawton Collins." This permission
was granted by Louisiana State University Press. Collins was
born and raised in New Orleans in the Algiers section. These
pages have to do with our 3rd Armored.
Start of excerpt:
The First Army Attacks March 25, 1945
The attack of the First Army went off on March 25 against
only light resistance except along the Seig, where the 1st Infantry
Division repulsed a series of counterattacks. By the twenty-eighth
the 3rd Armored had blazed ahead to Marburg, capturing that medical
and cultural center of 25,000 people with virtually no damage
to the thirteenth-century cathedral or the famed university,
founded in 1527. As an indication of how surprised the Germans
were at the arrival of our troops, a train load of civilians
and convalescent soldiers being brought to Marburg for rest and
rehabilitation was halted just outside the city by our tanks.
With the fall of Marburg, General Bradley decided the time
had come to turn the First Army to the north to link up with
the Ninth Army in the Kassel-Paderborn area, completing the encirclement
of the Ruhr, after which the Ninth Army would revert to Bradley's
command. Again the VII was to make the First Army's main effort.
Our east flank would be protected by the III and V Corps, but
we would be responsible for our inside (left) flank, which included
our sector along the west bank of the Rhine south of Cologne
and extended almost two hundred miles as we neared Paderborn.
VII Corps Turns North on Paderborn
The 3rd Armored Division led off the VII Corps drive on Paderborn
with Combat Commands Boudinot and Howze abreast, Boudinot on
the right, each CC in two columns, separated by from three to
five miles, preceded by the division Reconnaissance Battalion.
CC Hickey followed in the center, prepared to assist either flank.
General Rose, accompanied by his aide, Major Robert Bellinger,
rode in a jeep close behind the leading elements. The artillery
commander, Colonel Frederic Brown, and Lieutenant Colonel Wesley
A. Sweat, the G-3, in another jeep, and an armored car with radio
communications, completed Rose's party.
CC Howze, normally the reserve command, did not often get
an opportunity to lead a major attack. Its commander, Bobby Howze,
was bent on making the most of it. His orders to his two task
forces, Hogan and Richardson, were "Just go like hell!"
Hogan on the left flank ran into some stiff roadblocks, but Richardson
drove headlong until his force reportedly discovered in Brilon
a warehouse full of champagne, which naturally slowed it down.
Richardson pushed on until near midnight when, concerned about
reports of tanks moving south from an SS training center near
Paderborn, he halted for the night short of Paderborn. Task Force
Hogan, like the turtle in Aesop's fable, had fought through the
night, passing Richardson, to within five miles of the town,
after covering almost ninety miles over twisting country roads,
the longest day's advance of the war. Comparable advances were
made by CC Boudinot. To protect our west flank, I inserted the
8th Division between the 4th Cavalry group and the 1st Infantry
Division. I kept shifting the 1st Infantry Division northward
because I wanted it immediately available to turn east after
we reached Paderborn.
During the drive east from the Remagen bridgehead and north
to Paderborn, the only way I could keep in touch with our widely
separated units was by cub airplane. I spent a large part of
my time flying from one CP to the next, consulting division commanders
and giving them direct oral instructions, while Dick Partridge
"kept store" at he Corps CP, with which I was in constant
touch by radio.
The second day of the move north from Marburg, all columns
began to run into small groups of emeny tanks and foot soldiers
armed with panzerfausts in advance of a hastily organized defensive
line manned by students from the training center in Paderborn
and an SS tank replacement battalion of some sixty Tiger and
Panther tanks. Some of these tanks apparently were manned by
instructors from the training center. They and their students
fought with skill and fanatic fervor, slowing the advance of
Late on the afternoon of the thirtieth, I had landed in a
pasture alongside one of Boudinot's columns south of Korbach.
I flagged down a jeep to drive me into Korbach, where I joined
Boudinot. He had just had a brush with one of the delaying enemy
groups and his aide had been badly wounded in the jeep seat next
to him. Unperturbed as always, this quiet, highly competent leader
invited me to ride with him. By the time Korbach was cleared
it was getting dark and Boudinot wisely decided to coil his columns
for the night. I radioed back to my CP, which had moved up to
Marburg, that I would remain overnight on the road with Boudinot.
We had halted in a sunken part of the road, above which, one
of the young enemy soldiers who had manned a panzerfaust and
had been shot through the head, was slowly dying. One of our
medics had examined him and said there was nothing that could
be done to save him. Our minds were temporarily diverted from
the wayside tragedy by the unexpected crunch of artillery fire
off to our left. We crawled up the bank and were relieved to
find that the explosions were coming from a German ammunition
train, which our next column to the west had set afire. The ruddy
glow from the burning train lit up the lowering clouds, brightened
from time to time as an exploding shell rocketed skyward, so
that as we came back down the embankment we could see that death
had come mercifully to the wounded German, whose crumpled body
lay at the foot of the opposite bank.
Death of General Rose
At the same time, unknown to us, tragedy was striking again
not far from us to the northwest, this time at the very heart
of the 3rd Armored Division. Boudinot's left task force, commanded
by Colonel John C. Welborn, followed closely by General Rose's
party, had tried to bypass Paderborn on a secondary road. Dusk
was falling when enemy small arms and tank fire cut off Rose's
party from Welborn's task force. Rose radioed to CC Hickey, which
was following Welborn, to have Task Force Doan come up and clean
out this opposition, but before Doan could arrive, four enemy
tanks appeared, coming up the road from the south. Rose had General
Brown call for artillery fire on them, then led his party in
a dash to get by the tanks. Brown succeeded in getting by in
his jeep, but one of the tanks suddenly swerved, pinning Rose's
jeep against a tree. The German commander motioned with a "Burp"
gun to the occupants to dismount with their arms up. They had
no alternative. Then he shouted something about "Pistolen."
Major Bellinger and the jeep driver, Tech. 5 Glen H. Shaunce,
who like most officers carried their weapons in shoulder holsters,
dropped their holsters without lowering their arms. Rose, who
habitually wore a pistol belt, dropped his arms, presumably to
remove his belt But the tank commander, evidently thinking that
Maurice was reaching for his revolver, fired a stream of bullets
at point-blank range. Rose, killed instantly, pitched forward
in the dusty road. Bellinger and Shaunce dived for the ditches
and in the confusion managed to escape. Colonel Sweat and the
crew of the armored car were taken prisoner. The following morning
Rose's body was found where he fell, his pistol still in its
belt, and the abandoned jeep untouched. The German force had
withdrawn without knowing that it had killed a division commander.
Maurice Rose was the top armored commander in the Army when
he was killed. Tall, handsome, always dressed immaculately, even
in combat, he was a commanding figure who claimed instant respect
from officers and men alike. Somewhat stem, and wholly dedicated
to defeating the Nazis, perhaps because of his Jewish origin,
which I learned about only after his death, he was not given
to easy comradeship. Yet I came to have great respect and affection
for him. I will always remember him as he met me one day on the
Cologne plain, outside his CP located in an exposed house at
the very end of a small town.
"Maurice," I said, "do you always have
to have your CP in the last house in town?"
He drew himself up as he replied: "General, there is
only one way I know to lead this division, and that's at the
head of if"
A few days later Bellinger made his way to our CP and gave
me a detailed account of what happened. And that is how he died,
at the head of his Spearhead Division. God rest his soul.
Ruhr Encirclement Completed
As the 3rd Armored neared Paderborn, Field Marshal Model realized
that his entire army group would soon be trapped in the Ruhr
industrial complex unless he was permitted to withdraw or could
receive help from outside. The reserves necessary for counterattack
from outside were nonexistent, and Hitler's edicts precluded
withdrawal. Model decided to attempt to break out of the Ruhr
by having Bayerlein's LIII Corps, his only reserve, attack from
Winterberg, south of Paderborn, against the west flank of the
First Army. We began to get reports from prisoners of preparations
for a counterattack from that area.
To meet this threat, which was made more serious because the
1st Infantry Division was vacating the area as it moved north
following the left of the 3rd Armored, I had the 104th Division
take responsibility for the Winterberg sector. Then as the 104th
moved north to plug another threatened escape route via Brilon,
General Hodges transferred the 9th Division from the III Corps
to the VII Corps. I inserted Craig's 9th Division into line opposite
Winterberg, behind the 104th. I now had five infantry divisions,
the 78th, 8th, 9th 104th, and 1st, plus our 4th Cavalry Group,
strung out in a 175-mile arc from Remagen to the outskirts of
Paderborn, boxing in Model's Army Group B. We were thinly spread,
even though the 9th and 104th had beaten back Bayerlein's efforts
to break through. But an escape route was still open on the north
side of the Ruhr, west of Paderborn, on the front of the Ninth
Army, which, as far as I then know, was still under Montgomery's
Anxious to close this gap, as well as relieve pressure on
my 9th and 104th Division, I went outside normal command channels
on the evening of March 31 and telephoned, around three sides
of the Ruhr, direct to General Simpson's Ninth Army headquarters.
Thanks to our fine Signal Corps Field communications, I got a
clear connection with Simpson, whom I knew well from our service
together as instructors at the Army War College. I explained
the situation to him and said, "For God's sake, Bill, get
Monty to let you release the 2nd Armored Division for a drive
on Paderborn. I will send a combat command of the 3rd Armored
across to meet the 2nd at Lippstadt. We will then have the Ruhr
wrapped up." Simpson agreed. The 2nd Armored actually had
already started east and had advanced close to Beckum, thirty-five
miles west of Paderborn. The next morning, on Easter Sunday,
to match our previous Christmas Day defeat of the 2nd Panzer
Division in the Bulge, CC "B" of the 2nd Armored and
Task Force Kane of the 3rd Armored met at Lippstadt, completing
the encirclement of the Ruhr, which we in the VII Corps proudly
named the "Rose pocket." Though we did not know it
at the time, we had trapped over 300,000 men of Model's Army
Group B, including its commander, who committed suicide.
Doyle Hickey Takes Over the 3rd Armored Division
When word of General Rose's death reached Courtney Hodges,
he called Bradley at once, and, apparently feeling that only
a man of the caliber of Ernie Harmon could take Rose's place,
asked Brad for Harmon, who was then commanding the XXII Corps
in Gerow's newly formed Fifteenth Army. Bradley approved. I had
not been consulted, unusual in such a case, and was not informed
of Harmon's assignment until two days later. Meanwhile, Doyle
Hickey, the senior Combat Command leader, had assumed command
of the 3rd Armored Division. When I learned that Harmon had reported
to take over the 3rd Armored, I protested to General Hodges.
Hickey had been with the Division for three years and had commanded
CC "A" with distinction in all its campaigns under
the VIIth Corps. Though he did not have the magnetic personality
or drive of Maurice Rose, he was highly esteemed throughout the
3rd Armored, and I had full confidence in his ability to lead
the division. I told Courtney that, much as I admired Ernie Harmon,
I felt that in fairness to Hickey, Doyle was entitled to a shot
at command of the division. Rose had instilled a fierce pride
within all ranks of the 3rd Armored. There had been a subtle
rivalry between the two big divisions, and I knew that placing
a 2nd Armored man in command of the 3rd Division right after
Rose's death, would not sit too well with the men of the 3rd.
Harmon felt as I did, and Hodges, after hearing my argument,
agreed, as did Brad. Harmon returned to his former post without
any loss of prestige, and Hickey continued his command of the
3rd Armored with great success.
Hickey still had a tough fight with the hard-core Nazis of
the SS Panzer training center in Paderborn, hastily organized
as the Ersatzbrigade Westfalen, but Paderborn had fallen by April
1 and all efforts of the Germans to break out of the Ruhr had
been repulsed. By April 5, VII Corps had shifted its front to
the east and was ready for a final drive, leading to a meeting
with the Russians in or near Berlin.