From Jim MacClay, Web Staff  Memoirs Index      NEXT

Colonel John A. Smith, Jr.
Chief of Staff, 3rd Armored Division, 1941-45
Letter distributed in 1948 by the 3AD Association


I have recently returned from Europe and am now stationed at Hq. Army Ground Forces in Washington. If you don't think the good ol' USA is pleasant to the eye, you had better turn in to the nearest Doc for a head examination.

Prior to my departure from Germany, I had planned a trip back along the Spearhead route. However, due to the difficulty of transportation outside the Occupied Zone, I couldn't make the whole trip. I did, however, go back as far as Liege, Belgium. My purpose was to bring back some word about the areas we fought over, and to see the cemeteries in which so many Spearheaders are buried. Previously I had been to Frankenburg and Korbach, which were along the route to Paderborn when Mike Yeomans used to radio back "The first team is on the objective. Where is the rest of the Division?!"

Leaving Heisbaden I traveled generally north to Marburg, and then west to Altenkirchen. The former is where we started the race that enveloped the Ruhr after crossing the Dill, and the latter is where Sammy Hogan took the wrong road for a while and we had our Division CP. From there I went back to another CP at Honnef, where we crossed the Rhine and then on up to Köln.

It was at Honnef that we occupied the Mauser estate and some of our headquarters personnel did a little fishing in the Rhine with hand grenades. From Köln I continued on west thru Duren, Stolborg, Aachen and on to Liege. On the road from Köln to Duren there are still some of our knocked-out tanks. I saw two from "G" Co of the 32nd from Rich's outfit, and took some pictures of them.

Köln has done a lot of work in cleaning up the rubble, but very little reconstruction has started. The Cathedral shows little change, and the Ludendorff bridge that blew up in the face of CCA is still in the Rhine. However, another vehicular bridge has been constructed and is called the Patton Bridge.

Duren shows little improvement since I saw it in March of 1945. It is still little more than a heap of bricks and mortar. Stolberg and Aachen have cleaned up most of the debris but still little rehabilitation. At the Prym Estate, where we had our Division CP for so long, I was pleased to be recognized by our former caretaker. The daughter, by the way, has married an American and is now in the USA.

At Liege I nosed around a little to find out if anyone remembered the 3rd Armored. From the barber, who did a poor job of a haircut to the Bourgermeister, I found they all remember the day of their liberation when CCA hit the place frontally and put over a bridge, and CCB came in around the southern flank. The Bourgermeister called a meeting of his city council and presented me with a small plaque of the city. Previously there had been some articles in the "B" Bag about the liberation of Liege by the 1st Infantry Division, but the citizens of Liege have no doubts about who did the job.

Near Liege there are three of our large cemeteries, namely Margraten, Henri Chapelle and Keuville en Condroz. Many of our men are buried in those cemeteries. However, due to the large numbers in each, I was unable to visit all of the graves or find as many of our men as I had wished. In all I saw almost fifty thousand graves. The ones I was able to locate included General Rose, Lt. Quayle, Lt. Col. Mills, and Capt. Farrell.

The appearance of these cemeteries and the manner in which they are kept was the most satisfying sight I experienced. Each cemetery has been laid out and landscaped to suit the terrain. All have planted flowers and shrubbery. The white crosses stretch out in almost unending rows and the general care is wonderful. At each cemetery is a small chapel and, continually watching over our fallen comrades, is our national flag. The citizens of the area have adopted certain graves and periodically visit then and place flowers on them. As I walked thru some of the rows, countless flower displays could be seen all over the cemeteries.

There are numerous other cemeteries in the allied and neutral countries of Europe. All of our dead have been removed from German soil. From the ones I saw, and from the fine performance by the personnel and employees of the Graves Registration Service, I can truthfully report our dead have acquired the answer to the request "Requiescat in pace".

Return to Top

Memoirs Index      NEXT