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An excerpt from the autobiography
General J. Lawton Collins
Published in the 3AD Association Newsletter of the December, 1987


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 our tankers.

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 control.

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.

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