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Central Germany
March 22, 1945 - May 8, 1945




Chapter Index

Objective: The Ruhr

Up ahead, the BIG RED ONE, America's justly famous 1st Infantry Division, and the 104th Infantry, were engaged in widening the bridgehead. Close to the Rhine, the "Spearhead" coiled and waited. GI's fished in the "sacred" river, paddled kayaks and even, like Pfc. John Rooney, of Detroit, went swimming.

On March 24 the orders came down through combat command channels. The 3rd was moving out at dawn in full scale attack! This was the beginning of the big push. There was victory in the air and it was contagious. The American First, Third and Ninth Armies were already across the Rhine. So were Field Marshal Montgomery's forces. Now General Courtney Hodges was preparing a haymaker to the heart of Germany, a drive to isolate the Ruhr. The battering ram he chose for this stupendous task was Major General J. Lawton Collins' VII Corps and again, as so often in the past, the 3rd Armored Division was scheduled to lead the attack.

At 0400 hours on March 25 the combat commands were rumbling out of bivouac. They went out along the dawn-dim roads in multiple columns of spearheads, 32nd and 33rd Armored Regiment tanks leading, squat and black in the gloom, with blue flame spitting from their exhausts. Tank-destroyers of the 703rd TD Battalion followed, clacking rapidly over the cobbles, their long 90mm guns perfectly balanced in heavy steel turrets. Armored infantrymen of the 36th, the "Blitz Doughs," rode in personnel half-tracks. Later they'd hit the ground and take to shank's mare in combat.

There were the combat engineers of the 23rd, light reconnaissance units of the 83rd, mobile artillery, signal men, medics, maintenance, supply - all the complex and highly maneuverable elements that make up a modern armored division. Upon this morning there was no waiting, no wondering, and no rumors. There was plenty of hard work, though.

The dawn of March 25 was clamorous with motor sound. On a wide front the steel fingers reached tentatively forward, two columns to the right, under Brigadier General Doyle O. Hickey; two to the left, under Brigadier General Truman E. Boudinot. It was an almost overpowering spectacle to watch and, although you knew that there is no glamor in war, somehow the thunder of powerful engines and the clatter of tracks, the wide grins and genial curses, the guns weaving gently on their balanced mounts, brought a decided thrill. You could loath war and its by-products, but you knew that so long as you lived you'd always remember, with a little shiver of pride, the morning when the "Spearhead" moved out to make history in a drive that isolated Germany's great industrial Ruhr.

There was a bright half moon on the horizon as the initial attack got under way. Grimy infantrymen of the 1st and 104th Infantry Divisions gazed at the armor passing through their positions. These doughs had paved the way. They were dark faced with fatigue, sweat stained, and their eyes showed white in the gloom.

Task forces commanded by Colonel L. L. Doan and Lt. Colonel Matthew W. Kane rolled to the right of the attack zone. To the left, General Boudinot's elements, one commanded by Colonel John C. Welborn, and the other by Lt. Colonel William B. Lovelady, forged rapidly ahead. The 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion tailed the left column of CC "B", acting as a flank guard.

Almost immediately the "Spearhead" battle groups ran into heavy opposition. "B" Company of the 33rd Armored Regiment lost three tanks to a cleverly concealed mine field and then sweated out a heavy artillery barrage. Sgt. Nick Mashlonic, commanding one of the new M-26 Pershings, proved its worth by knocking out a German Tiger and a self-propelled gun. The fighting became a vicious give and take slug-fest.

Meanwhile, legendary Task Force "X" cracked through the German main line of resistance. The route of advance was strewn with glass mines, which might not be detected by ordinary methods, and defensive positions were well dug in. Nevertheless, Doan and his troops penetrated the first hard crust of enemy frontline elements and seized the town of Asbach. Continuing through a constant hail of shellfire, small arms and anti-tank defenses, the CC "A" task force took Schonesberg and crossed the Mehr River. One German airfield, bypassed in the push, was littered with the hulks of destroyed aircraft and parts.

There wasn't much spectacular action on the first day of the new offensive, but the 3rd Armored Division gained 12 miles of ground. It was a slugging march all the way, with each side throwing haymakers. To the left of Doan, Task Force Kane battered ahead to take Krumscheid and Puscheid. Further to the left, Combat Command "B" met heaviest resistance. In a grinding offensive, General Boudinot's men took Wallroth, Oberscheid, and Fuscheid. By the end of the day Fiersbach had fallen. Armor was still moving ahead stubbornly into the thick of the fight and there was no letup of action.

Chapter Index

The Fifth Panzer Army

The first day of combat had been a war of attrition. The 3rd was facing elite elements in Nazi General von Manteuffel's Fifth Panzer Army. The 3rd Panzer Grenadier Division, the 9th and 11th Panzer Divisions, and parts of the 130th Panzer LEHR Division, the 340th and 363rd Volksgrenadier Divisions had all been thoroughly identified during the initial attack. Still, the "Spearhead" had advanced.

South of Germany's Sieg River line, von Manteuffel's Fifth Panzer Army continued to take a fearsome mauling on March 26. In a ceaseless round-the-clock attack, the tankers of Major General Maurice Rose's crack command drove forward. At 1700 hours, elements of the division had swept past Altenkirchen (later taken by Task Force Richardson, of Combat Command "Reserve"). The task forces overran supply dumps, took hundreds of German prisoners, and smashed German armor to smoking junk.

On this sector, the German defenders were fighting a hard delaying action, but there was no sign of disintegration. The enemy withdrew town by town, using a vicious barrage of artillery, mortars, rockets and anti-tank projectiles to screen the movement. The only indication of a possible weakening was seen in the fact that most of the mines were set in hasty fields rather than in deliberate concentrations. More of the wicked little glass personnel explosives and the dreaded Riegel mines claimed victims.

Elements of Combat Command "A" made substantial gains in spite of these defenses. On the left flank, Combat Command "B" still inched ahead as the enemy fought vigorously to repel any threat to his Sieg River line, which ran roughly parallel to the 3rd Armored Division flank. Colonel Lovelady's men received heavy tank and anti-tank fire from high wooded ground on either side of the route, and all over the front German defenders began to expend artillery on the vast scale of Normandy actions in 1944. Task Force Welborn, also receiving direct fire from both flanks, was the most desperately beset of all division spearheads. Welborn accepted his losses and ground forward. Thunderbolt air support worked over the blazing front line and the fighting was extremely hard.

All day long the advance was maintained against heavy resistance. Tankers gazed at the lofty, rolling and wooded hills of the Hohe Venn and shook their heads in wonder. If this area had been made the location of a defensive belt approaching the magnitude of the Siegfried Line, it would have been close to impenetrable. Instead, the enemy seemed to have no fixed line. He fought with the same fanatic ability, but it was a rear guard action and nothing else. The weather was warm and sunny; it was reminiscent of France in early August, 1944.

At Division Forward Echelon, in the late afternoon of March 26, a group of war correspondents clustered about the situation maps. The 3rd was making history. The place was Maulsbach and the town ahead was yet to be taken. To the north, perhaps one kilometer away, two ammunition trucks were hit which high explosive shells and burned with periodic spouts of pyrotechnics. At dusk an enemy gun, which was probably self-propelled, threw six shells which landed close to, or on, the CP building. One corner of the house was chipped and shell fragments pierced the general's caravan. One man was lightly wounded and everyone " played the walls" while the projectiles screamed in. War correspondents "Bunny" Austin of Australia, Tom Henry of the Washington Star, and Iris Carpenter who represented both British and American newspapers, sweated it out with the rest.

Chapter Index

Task Force "X" Plows Ahead

On March 27 electrifying news came back over the battle nets. Task Force "X" had broken into the clear and was smashing through town after town! Kane and his dusty, triumphant tankers were advancing as swiftly. Across the hills of Germany there was acrid dust in the air and the multiple sound of many motors. Along the churned dirt roads of this fluid battleground the Wehrmacht's last reserves were strewn like a child's pile of jack-straws. Mobile 88's and their prime movers burned sullenly where the "Spearhead" had passed. French, Belgian, and Russian slave laborers, freed of bondage by this swift wave of allied power, trudged happily to the rear, shouting and waving to their Yankee liberators. For the first time since the end of the great 1944 summer offensive, this show looked like the beginning of the last rat race in Europe.

For the 3rd Armored Division, this launching out into the blue after two days and nights of hard battle with the bulk of Germany's western panzer forces, it was an occasion to warrant celebration. The tankers and the infantry hadn't time for that, of course, but their spirits soared with the old sensation of relentless pursuit. You don't move fast when you're getting shot to pieces!

All around, it was the sort of day for which the "Spearhead" was designed. It was movement and fire, broken communications and pockets of resistance to be mopped up. It was the longed for all out action which left liaison officers in a rough spot trying to maintain those vital lines of communication. There was expectancy in the air, and victory too. It was something like the breakthrough in Normandy, the same dust in the air-billowing clouds of it, pungent and stinging, laced with the stink of burning Nazi vehicles. There was wreckage and there was death, but the men of this big steel striking force were riding a wave of enthusiasm. There were the proud questions: "We're away out in front now, aren't we?" And there were the wrecked German Panther tanks beside the road, the forever stilled Kraut artillery pieces, and the SP guns, one of which was labeled: "This don't work. Spearhead caught it. Too bad!"

Talk about pride of organization! These men, from their general down to the guy who loaded K-rations on a supply truck, were all of the same opinion - they belonged to the first team. This was the big bowl game and there wasn't a shadow of a doubt as to who'd take home the goal posts.

As usual in "Spearhead" campaigning, there were no non-combatants. General Rose himself engaged the enemy with his pistol on a lonely stretch of road near Rehe. The Jerries had flushed from the roadside into a nearby cemetery when the general, with his driver, T/5 Glen Shaunce, and his aide, Major Robert Bellinger, happened along.

A second peep, carrying Colonel Frederic J. Brown, and his driver, Pfc. A. C. Brazeal, zoomed into the engagement. With tommy-guns and pistols, the five men attacked an estimated 15 German troops. By the time an armored car and two motorcycles arrived, 12 of the enemy had surrendered. One of the cyclists, Cpl. James Omand, said that the sight of General Rose herding prisoners with his .45 was something to talk about. The general was noted for his immaculate clothing, mirror-shined boots and precise military manner in any situation.

Task Force "X", striking boldly, took Herborn on the Dill River, then secured a bridgehead on the far side. Colonel Doan's men had been driving steadily for 72 hours without rest or maintenance. Now the task force halted for a few hours.

The people of Herborn were amazed. They had been told that the Americans were meeting defeat on the Rhine and here, many miles from the "sacred" river, they woke to find the streets crowded with those cocktail drinking, night-clubbing, jitter-bugging, degenerate Yankees whom their beloved führer had so scornfully dismissed as incapable of waging total war.

Three German soldiers who had been caught by the rapid sweep of armor, tried manfully to surrender. The townspeople watched these three go up to a busy Sergeant of Engineers, snap to attention and raise their hands.

" Kamerad!" they said.

"Beat it, you lousy bastards," snarled the busy Sergeant of Engineers.

Dejected, the trio wandered over to a tank, the crew of which was resting on the green grass, eating K-rations. Again they snapped to attention, raised their hands and chorused: "Kamerad!"

"Get the hell out of here, you Krauts," growled the tank commander, a lean rebel from Virginia. "We ain't about to feed you!"

Slowly, the confused "supermen" walked about the streets of Herborn trying to surrender to small groups of soldiers who were busy making minor repairs on their spearhead vehicles. Finally, T/5 Charles "Sandy" Sanders, a trumpet player of the 32nd Armored Regiment band, directed the reluctant warriors to a 3rd Armored Division MP who kept them sitting on a sidewalk curbing while he directed traffic and waited for a POW collecting point to be established.

Meanwhile, Combat Command "B", which had met greatest resistance in the drive thus far, went into reserve. Colonel Robert L. Howze's Combat Command "Reserve" pushed on to Dillenburg and secured crossings over the river there.

Chapter Index

Too Many Prisoners

Somewhat rested, men of General Boudinot's command passed through CC "A" elements on March 28 and resumed the attack. Striking deep into German territory now, the armor was supported by doughboys of the 104th Infantry Division.

Light opposition faced the rampaging tanks and the battle seemed to have developed into a race to the east with German forces retreating roughly parallel to the 3rd Armored Division's swift advance. Task Force Lovelady, with Task Force Welborn echeloned to the rear, seized the important town of Marburg, a one time rabid center of Nazi-dom. As the course of the attack suddenly veered northeast, the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion surged to the front and began to drive hard. By nightfall, Colonel Yeomans' forces had secured Bottenhorn and Holyhausen.

The prisoner toll on this fourth day of breathtaking action, was high. Colonel Yeomans, calling Division Forward Echelon by radio, said: "We have so many prisoners we don't know what to do with them all!" Everyone was taking Krauts again. Lt. Robert W. Knollenberger, an infantry liaison officer, captured four German towns and 25 prisoners of war, single handed. In one town, the lieutenant found civilians lining the streets as he approached - holding out P-38 and Luger pistols, butt first.

Although a rapid and continuous flow of Germans into POW pens, and a high loss of equipment suffered by the retreating enemy indicated disintegration, frontline officers found the Nazi delaying actions well organized and without sign of chaos. Small pockets of resistance were still taking pot shots at liaison men who were forced to trade back and forth between Forward Echelon and Rear, and once again supply men were finding it difficult to keep up with and supply the spearheading elements. Several were killed or wounded while engaged in this perilous occupation. Lt. Colonel Jack A. Boulger, Division G-1, travelling from the general's forward CP to the main CP, was captured on the 27th and was not liberated for several weeks.

Prisoners kept pouring into division cages all day long. Spot estimates soared to the 3,000 mark and many more could not be processed due to the rapidity of the advance and the lack of transportation to the rear. Major Charles H. Kapes and his MP detachment sweated out the prisoners and wondered how on earth they'd ever managed to corral the befuddled "supermen."

The enemy was still withdrawing parallel to the 3rd Armored Division either to shun the inevitable pocket or - and it was a thought in everybody's mind - to head off attacking units before the encirclement was complete. The Nazi could see the handwriting on the wall now. There was no doubt that the First and Ninth Armies were to attempt a linkup which would slip a steel wall around the great industrial Ruhr. GI's of the command, who remembered Argentan-Falaise, were grim-visaged when the new orders came down from headquarters. The "Spearhead" was swinging north to cross the "T" at Paderborn. It was a large order.

The 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion was already rocketing out to lead the way. In this rapid advance the route lay almost entirely overland. Towns which were thought to contain roadblocks were bypassed. The orders were to get through and around enemy resistance and to reach the objective - fast.

Chapter Index

Record One-Day Advance

March 29 was a day for the historians to remember, and it all belonged to the 3rd Armored Division. Mengeringhausen, Obermarsburg, and Drilon were taken in quick succession. Few if any of the small towns were damaged by the armed fist of total war. This indeed was a different circumstance from the Remagen bridgehead area where nearly every village had either been bombed or shelled, and often both.

The day was overcast and air support was noticeable missing. However, there was no need for it. The enemy flank had been turned and there was nothing he could do about the slashing attack. Thousands of slave laborers limped back along the dusty road to freedom and everywhere along the routes of advance were grey-green columns of Jerry soldiers marching in bitter defeat.

For Major General Maurice Rose, this was a proud, triumphant achievement. His 3rd Armored "Spearhead" Division was accomplishing the greatest one-day advance in the history of mobile warfare, more than 90 miles, cross country from Marburg to the vicinity of Niedermarsburg. For all practical purposes, the startling sweep had sealed the doom of the entire industrial Ruhr, plus German Army Group "B" under Field Marshal Model.

On March 30, however, resistance stiffened. Crack elements of the SS Panzer Replacement and Training Center and the SS Reconnaissance Training Regiment stationed at the Sennelager camp north of Paderborn, came out to put their Nazi Blitzkrieg theory into practice against the powerful spearhead of the first Americans. Armed with small arms, bazookas, Tiger tanks, and a new tank-destroyer which mounted a 128mm gun, this group was no mean opposition.

Tankers of the combat commands immediately began to face heavy concentrations of bazooka men armed with Germany's deadly, but unwieldy Panzerfaust or tank killer. The Panzerfaust was considered, even by the enemy, to be a suicide weapon. Using them, however, were the Reich's nearest thing to a do-or-die fighting outfit, the SS Totenkopf, or Death's-Head SS. These black uniformed elite fought well, but 3rd Armored Division assault elements continued a steady advance, strong points along the way.

Although the push never slackened, March 30 was a black day for the 3rd Armored Division. It was a day that would be remembered as long as the men of the old "Spearhead" lived to tell the tale.

Chapter Index

Battles in Bazooka-town

First there was Kirchborchen - the troops called it "Bazooka-town," and for a very good reason. Kirchborchen lay only six miles from Paderborn, on the right flank of the division's advance. In order to protect the flank this town had to be secured, Task Force Richardson went in to do the job. Richardson's assault forces reached the outskirts of Kirchborchen at approximately 1400 hours after fighting scattered enemy resistance all the way. "G" Company, of the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment, supported by tanks of the 32nd Armored Regiment, crossed a small stream and gained access to the first few houses in the town. From that moment on, German defenders began to use the big Panzerfaust bazookas on a scale never before encountered by members of the "Spearhead" Division.

The town was fortified and defended by more than 200 Hitler Jugend and SS men who sent the heavy rocket explosives from every conceivable angle - from attic windows, cellar hideouts and piles of rubble. They used the weapon for direct fire on tanks and as indirect artillery after being driven back by the dogged attack of Richardson's men. Along with the panzerfausts, defending Germans were well equipped with automatic weapons and 20mm flak pieces.

After reaching the first three houses which were held by "Blitz Doughs" of "G" Company, Captain Jack P. Libby led Company "I" in a bid to clear the rest of the town. Moving out in a hail of automatic fire and shrapnel, the men took refuge in a stone quarry. After holding this position for a short period, Captain Libby decided to rush the company across open ground to a spot which afforded better cover. The doughs attacked without a moment of hesitation, but a withering blaze of fire met them. Men fell along the whole front and finally remnants of the company were forced to pull back to their original jump-off positions. Parts of two squads, consisting of fifteen men under S/Sgt. Glenn E. King, and S/Sgt. William C. Miller, reached the first house beyond the open ground. Beating off fanatic SS bazooka teams, the men waited for darkness and help.

As soon as it was dark, the rest of the company moved up and took position in the first houses and in foxholes left by the SS. It was a great relief to find King, Miller, and the other men still holding their ground.

After a brief rest period, the company moved out again, well supported by Shermans of the 32nd. Nearby buildings were burning furiously from shell and mortar bursts and the night was a continuous crash and rattle of combat. Two tanks were knocked out by the bazookas in that night of horror, but the entire town was cleared by dawn. Jerry still held high ground on either side of the contested village, though, and as daylight came on, heavy sniper fire made movement almost impossible. The wounded had been evacuated under cover of darkness.

Several counter-attacks were beaten off during the morning, but during the afternoon a pair of Panther tanks re-entered Kirchborchen and rumbled toward doughboy positions. Captain Libby grinned wryly at his men and commented: "Well boys, maybe we'll be in the same camp together."

The two Panthers, however, were knocked out on the brink of success. Tank-destroyers of the 703rd TD Battalion had them covered and only waited for an opportune moment to touch off their 90 mm guns.

It had been a hard, grinding battle, but now Kirdiborchen was secure. Kirchborchen? Not to the men who took and held it. This village would be forever known to them as " Bazooka-town."

Chapter Index

Death of Major General Rose

Meanwhile, on March 30, the advance had been maintained by other elements of the division, Task Force Welborn battered dug-in infantry and tanks in the area north of Etteln. At approximately 1800 hours, his column was cut by marauding Panther and Tiger tanks. It was not a serious breach but, in the vicious, confused action which followed, the famous commanding general of the "Spearhead" Division was killed in action. It was a hard blow to men of the 3rd and a tragedy which was mourned throughout the allied world.

The general met his death on the evening of a great triumph. After an irresistible drive of more than 100 miles, his tankers were approaching the outskirts of the key city Paderborn and the citadel of German armored force. Task Force Welborn was still moving ahead and the early conclusion of his drive meant that the enemy's industrial Ruhr had been almost completely encircled. The entire course of the war might now balance upon the success of other allied forces driving to a swift junction with the First Army spearhead.

The general's party, which consisted of three peeps, two motorcycles, and an armored car, was following Welborn's group at dusk when the column was cut by intense small arms fire from the woods on either side of the narrow dirt road. General Rose, cradling a tommy-gun in his arms, hit the ditch with his driver T/5 Shaunce and his aide Major Robert Bellinger. Up ahead, one of Welborn's tanks was destroyed by a lance of direct fire, and a peep was also hit and reduced to smoking junk.

To the rear, division officers, unaware of the general's predicament, attempted to contact him by radio. The road-bound column was known to be cut and Colonel John A. Smith, Jr., Chief of Staff, was worried. The Colonel knew that his fears were not unfounded when he received a message from General Rose asking for a second task force, under Colonel Doan, to close the gap and to expedite the action. This was the "Spearhead" leader's last order. Minutes later he and his party observed enemy tanks approaching from the rear. There was no alternative; it had to be a headlong dash, cross country, in an effort to reach the comparative safety of Colonel Welborn's task force.

Under a hail of bright tracer which stitched the gathering darkness in rapid darts of flame, the small group raced forward and cut sharply to the right. In the half-light, German infantry made full use of flares. The vehicles were sharply outlined silhouettes and machine gun bullets seemed to be going through and all around them. One of the motorcyclists was forced to abandon his machine. He climbed aboard the armored car and the procession went on.

Upon reaching the road down which Welborn's force had passed, the general's party knew a moment of relief and then, looming out of the darkness came a huge enemy tank.

There was no turning back. Colonel Brown and Shaunce both clipped the second of the lumbering vehicles but managed to squeeze through. The third Panther swivelled sideways in the road. Colonel Brown shot through a narrowing gap, hit the tank and tore the front fender off his peep. Shaunce, desperately attempting the impossible, came to a jarring halt, pinned by the mass of German armor on one side and a tree on the other. A German tanker shouted a stream of gutteral commands and levelled a machine pistol.

It was impossible to tell exactly what happened next. General Rose, Major Bellinger and T/5 Shaunce stood before the Nazi tank. There was a fog of unreality about the whole situation. The enemy soldier was undoubtedly frightened, and probably trigger-happy. Perhaps he thought that General Rose was attempting to reach for a pistol.

It was dark there in the narrow road. Clouds obscured the moon. Shaunce saw the enemy tank commander as a dim silhouette. He saw the man unaccountably scream a final word, swing the burp gun and fire! There was an agonizing moment when the ripping sound of the weapon, the spout of flame and the sight of General Rose falling forward were all fused together like a nightmare. And then Shaunce yelled and ran. So did Major Bellinger.

In this way the great commander of the " Spearhead" Division came to his death. He fell at the head of his men, away up front where general officers, according to popular belief, are not supposed to be. The world mourned his passing. His troops scowled at the news and drove forward as he would have wished them to do.

For the most part, the rest of the general's party escaped. Major Bellinger spent four nights and days behind enemy lines before he was liberated, and T/5 Shaunce also had a nightmare of narrow escapes topped by final rescue by elements of Task Force "X". Lt. Colonel Wesley A. Sweat, Division G-3, who had commanded the armored car, and several of his men were taken prisoner. A month later, Sweat was liberated by British forces at Stalag XI-B, in Fallingbostel, Germany.

Brigadier General Doyle O. Hickey, pipe smoking, aggressive, long-time leader of Combat Command "A", immediately assumed command of the division. The men had perfect faith in Hickey. They proved their allegiance by driving steadily forward.

Bitterly, men of Task Force "X", now commanded by Lt. Colonel John K. Boles, Jr., a dynamic, boy-faced veteran of tank warfare, cleared the road-block which had cut Welborn's column, and then went on to take Haxtergrund.

Chapter Index

Clearing of Paderborn

At Paderborn, the 3rd Armored Division was striking at the "Fort Knox of Germany." Here the Reich's panzer elements were trained for battle and it was these school troops, many of them officer candidates, who came out to fight the American spearhead with tanks, tank-destroyers, and the big bazookas which seemed to be Germany's last, potent weapon of defense. The school troops of Paderborn fought well, but the grindstone of battle was wearing Germany thin.

German soldiers and civilians alike were stunned by the swift approach of American armor. Under the Nazi imbued of the Death's-Head SS, young Germans who had trained at Paderborn, died on the grounds of their military camp. Hitler may not have known it, but a majority of his troops, taken on the western front at this time, were fully aware of the fact that the jig was up. The POW enclosures were bursting with disillusioned "supermen." In small fields adjacent to almost every small town along the route they were standing, just waiting, looking beat-up and numb after the flame of battle. Small groups continued to ambush liaison men and messengers along the winding roads but frequently the enemy came marching out in company strength, waving white flags and looking for some one to officially put them behind barbed wire.

In clearing the Paderborn area, Lt. Colonel William R. Orr's 1st Battalion of the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment alone captured 136 cannon, ten of which were active. Company "C", commanded by Lt. Robert J. Cook, was first on the city's airfield. The company was immediately pinned down by fire from two 88mm and eight 20mm flak weapons which Jerry had converted to ground use. Division tanks and other heavy weapons were brought up to take care of these defenses.

On April 1, the "Spearhead" Division had accomplished one of the great drives of World War II, but the satisfaction of that victory was soured by the news of General Rose's death. There was no slacking off in the 3rd.

Chapter Index

Sealing Off the Ruhr

Task Force Kane was detached from the rest of the "Spearhead" and sent on a swift drive to the west. Overrunning sharp oppositions, these battle groups met elements of the 2nd Armored "Hell on Wheels" Division at Lippstadt. The 2nd had come across the flat, north German plain while the 3rd was making its two-way thrust, first to Herborn and Marburg from the Remagen bridgehead, and then north in a brilliant crossing of the "T" to seal off the Ruhr. More than 376,000 enemy soldiers were hopelessly enmeshed by that historic drive. Significantly, the First United States Army announced that the mass encirclement would henceforth be known as the "Rose Pocket" in honor of the great general who was killed in action leading the first Americans to a decisive victory over Germany.

There was always one more river. This time it was the Weser, deep in central Germany. The war was winding up in a furious series of hard battles and confused situations.

After mopping up in the Lippstadt-Paderborn area, the two veteran combat commands jumped off on April 5. The opposition still consisted of remnants from the SS training center at Paderborn, plus a conglomeration of various units. Although this type of resistance was not comparable with that received earlier in the war a certain desperation and fanaticism produced bitterly contested local actions. In addition, the enemy still had a number of tanks and the new 128mm tank-destroyers left with which to fight.

By April 7, though, the "Spearhead" Division had reached its new objective to find every bridge blown. The Kraut, still tingling after his stupendous snafu at Remagen, was now blasting each and every span which might aid the invader. It was late in the game for such tactics.

At the Weser, increasing resistance slowed advance elements, but the division prepared to hurdle the stream immediately. On April 9, crossings were made under moderate fire and the combat commands branched out. Twenty-two towns were taken before sunset and the task forces continued to advance.

On April 10 tanks and infantry roared ahead, overrunning rear guard elements and dueling with occasional Panther tanks. A platoon of the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, led by Lt. Duane Doherty, cleared a V-2 assembly plant at Kleinbodungen, and found a number of the huge rockets, complete except for war heads, lying on the jigs where they had been constructed. A nearby railway line had been totally destroyed by aerial bombardment, but the V-2 factory was practically undamaged.

After taking a number of prisoners, one of Doherty's men discovered an underground shaft in the assembly plant. A later examination proved that he had uncovered one of the Nazi's infamous underground installations. Reconnaissance soldiers were amazed to find that the tunnels ran more than 640 meters beneath the surface and then radiated off through several kilometers of sandstone and clay formations. Although no machinery was set up in the tunnels, all available space was crammed with various types of high explosives. There was an efficient elevator in which to descend into the subterranean cavern, a well wired electrical system, and a small gauge railway which reached every part of the installation.

Driving for Nordhausen, Task Force Welborn rolled into a vicious battle for the town of Espchenrode. As the column approached the large valley in which the action took place, a number of enemy infantrymen were noted, but bypassed. However, upon entering the town, heavy small arms fire and bazooka attacks began to halt leading elements. A deadly house to house action developed, with Company "F" of the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment leading the initial attack.

The day was clear and quite warm. Visibility was unlimited, and General Boudinot directed the action from a point on the road approximately 1,000 yards from Espchenrode. Down on the floor of the valley an enemy column made frantic efforts to disperse, take cover, or get beyond the range of Division Artillery, which was now hammering it unmercifully. Piper Cub artillery observation planes hovered over the combat area, and presently the ground-support Thunderbolts began to slant down to strafe and bomb.

In the town, which was now under attack by tanks and infantry, a fierce fire fight raged for approximately three hours. Many of the enemy defenders could not be routed from buildings even though their retreats were riddled with high explosive and armor piercing tank rounds. There was an intense volume of small arms and bazooka fire.

The entire enemy force in the town of Espchenrode was killed, wounded, or captured. It consisted of six companies of first-class troops led by SS officers and supported by a few tanks and artillery pieces. Task Force Welborn mopped up and moved on again at dusk.

Chapter Index

The Horrors of Nordhausen

Although the taking of Nordhausen did not constitute the heaviest fighting of April 11, that city will live forever in the memories of 3rd Armored Division soldiers as a place of horror. The Americans couldn't believe their eyes. It is all very well to read of a Maidenek, but no written word can properly convey the atmosphere of such a charnel house, the unbearable stench of decomposing bodies, the sight of live human beings, starved to pallid skeletons, lying cheek by jowl with the ten-day dead.

Two task forces of Brigadier General Truman E. Boudinot's Combat Command "B" drove into Nordhausen practically together. They were the assault elements of Colonel John C. Welborn and Lt. Colonel William B. Lovelady. General Boudinot himself was among the first to enter the compound of Nordhausen's slave extermination camp, the former Caserne Boelcke. What he saw will go down in history as one of the greatest outrages against humanity in the entire war of German disregard for the rights and dignities of man.

Camp Nordhausen had been bombed by allied airplanes, but it was not bomb damage which so sickened the general and his troops as they viewed the remains of the Nazi institution. Hundreds of corpses lay sprawled over the acres of the big compound. More hundreds filled the great barracks. They lay in contorted heaps, half stripped, mouths gaping in the dirt and straw; or, they were piled naked, like cordwood, in the corners and under the stairways.

Everywhere among the dead were the living - emaciated, ragged shapes whose fever-bright eyes waited passively for the release of death. Over all the area clung the terrible odor of decomposition and, like a dirge of forlorn hope, the combined cries of these unfortunates rose and fell in weak undulations. It was a fabric of moans and whimpers, of delirium and outright madness. Here and there a single shape tottered about, walking slowly, like a man dreaming.

There was no hope for many of the prisoners in this place. Major Martin L. Sherman, a medical officer, estimated that, although the army's medical facilities would be immediately put to use, there was little chance of more than half the patients surviving. They were so far gone in the depths of starvation that death was a matter of hours. A number of those who had not starved had been shot by SS troopers when they attempted to run for cover during the air bombardment. They were, in a way, lucky.

The highly efficient German herrenvolk who caused the situation at Nordhausen and Dora, which was a place several kilometers to the north, were acting out a clearly defined program. These prisoners were political enemies of the Third Reich, German as well as other European nationals. They were men like Peter Hahn, a German communist, who had been a constant inmate of his country's concentration camps for eight years; like Pole Leitner, a Hungarian electrician, who was dying from the ravages of tuberculosis. They were fourteen year old boys and aged men. They were members of the French Intelligence, Belgians, Poles, Russians - a very babel of tongues and nations, all dying together in the filth and dirt of their own dysentery.

Guarded by SS troops who delighted in beating the prisoners, these men had slept in three-decker wooden bunks, three men in each tier. Now every other man was a sunken corpse and, often as not, his neighbor in the same bed still lived and had the strength to move his eyes, slowly and wonderingly.

This was according to plan. The prisoners had worked - had dragged themselves to labor on V-1 and V-2 assembly lines although they were starving on a diet of four ounces of black bread and a small amount of thin soup each day. They worked because the SS had a cure for slackers or alleged saboteurs. At Dora they hanged 32 men one day and forced the entire garrison to watch. The prisoners then hauled their comrades to German cremation ovens.

The ovens were a very important fixture at Dora. The bodies came in by truckloads, stripped of all clothing, and were dumped on the ground. When crematoriums were full, a pyre was constructed outside; first a tier of bodies, then a layer of dry wood; more bodies, and kerosene. They burned well enough for the SS, and it didn't matter to them if a few bones were left. In fact, the SS wasn't at all partial; when one of their own men died, he too was shovelled into the oven.

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V-1 & V-2 Rocket Plant

The camp at Dora was elaborate. While Nordhausen was merely a barracks area from which the men were marched to work each morning at 4 A. M., Dora was a factory in itself. There were two parallel tunnels driven into the side of a hill there for a distance of almost two miles. Numbers of crossing tunnels and two separate levels were packed solidly with precision machinery. Here, the slave labor turned out quantities of V-1 and V-2 weapons, many of which were intact when CC "B" elements arrived to halt production. Robot bombs were an old story to "Spearhead" troops, but the more unfamiliar V-2 was of interest. They found the weapon to be shaped like a huge cigar with fins, 50 feet long. It had a huge, mushroom shaped engine and an electrician's nightmare of wiring. V-3, according to prisoners, was also undergoing experiments at Dora, but few of the political prisoners were assigned to its development. Those who were put on V-3 manufacture, according to eye-witness accounts, were segregated and finally murdered to preserve the secret of that which they had seen.

The arrival of American troops was miraculous to the half-crazed and starved slave laborers. At Dora, hysterically happy men attempted to lift Lt. Herbert Gontard to their shoulders. Although the lieutenant was a slim young man, the weakened laborers couldn't lift him.

Nordhausen and Dora were efficient in a characteristic Nazi way, but to the shocked eyes of American fighting men, the camps were the most complete condemnation of Hitlerism yet exposed. The tankers of the 3rd were in a savage mood as they went on to the final battles.

While Brigadier General Doyle O. Hickey, chewing savagely on his pipe, surveyed the gagging horror of Nordhausen, his old elite Combat Command "A" took Herzburg, reducing a strong road block in the process. Combat Command "Reserve" also battered ahead.

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Spearhead Keeps Rolling

Advance elements crashed through Sangerhausen on April 12, and by the following day had reached the Saale River. Here again all bridges were thoroughly blown. The ground flattened perceptively as the "Spearhead" Division left the choppy, wooded Harz Mountains to the left rear.

Eisleben was declared an open city as the flying spearheads neared it, but on the outskirts, at Polleben, a British prisoner of war camp was overrun and some 430 Englishmen liberated. It had been a long wait for the Britons, some of whom had been prisoners since the debacle of Dunkirk, the Norwegian campaign, Africa and Crete.

To the long confined British, Yank super-abundance of equipment was a dreamed-of miracle. Said one Captain in amazement: "You chaps have enough materiel in this convoy to reach Berlin!"

It was a great day for the erstwhile prisoners. Traditionally reserved English officers and enlisted men broke down and cheered as the battle group formations thundered through town. An airborne infantry major summed it up: "We knew you were coming, but when that first Sherman tank rolled over the hill I was so happy I cried."

Division elements crossed the Saale on two bridges built by Colonel Foster's combat engineers on the night of April 13-14. In spite of increasing opposition, the tanks and infantry of Task Force Welborn lanced straight out into the blue. They reached the Mulde River, south of Dessau on that day, and the last, furious battles began.

Still sensitive on the subject of bridges, German engineers left a demolished span across the Mulde where Welborn's weary troopers halted on April 15. Infantry of the force immediately crossed and established a bridgehead.

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Fierce German Resistance

All along the front, resistance stiffened. Violent fighting broke out as the "Spearhead" met three new battle formations. They were the Scharnhorst, Potsdam, and von Hutten Volksgrenadier Divisions, all of which had been formed about Easter time of officer candidates, naval personnel and veteran frontline soldiers. These were the Reich's last-ditch reserves and they were excellent troops, every one as well versed in battle techniques as the elite SS commandos whom von Rundstedt had gambled away in the Belgian winter campaign.

At this time General Hickey's task forces were holding down a struggling 40 mile front with many bypassed towns to the rear of the armored spearheads. It was very nearly an impossible task. Each small village had become a fortress of resistance which fanatic enemy groups defended to the death. Supply lines were constantly cut and liaison men were forced to travel in armored columns or chance a dangerous route through country which was still teeming with Kraut pockets of platoon or company strength. Close to Quellendorf, a CC "A" wire crew was ambushed while attending lines of communication. Two of the men were killed and another wounded. In the same general vicinity, Major William J. Derner, Division Ordnance Officer, was captured by German troops. He was later liberated as the war came to an end.

Thousands of slave laborers, displaced persons, and allied prisoners of war were liberated in the region. They cluttered the roads and, in many cases, pillaged the countryside. At Hinsdorf, Lt. Herbert Gontard and T/Sgt. Robert Cresswell, attempted to restore order when some 1,000 of the DP's were observed to be on the verge of riot. Serious dissension had not yet broken out, but certain of the slave laborers were raiding civilian homes and shops in search of food. Gontard and Cresswell, although they were the only American soldiers in the town, pressed two German bakeries into service and managed to provide bread for the hungry DP's. Later, Lt. Gontard attempted to drive into a nearby town in order to requisition more foodstuffs. He was wounded and captured by Nazi elements and was not liberated until the war was over.

The same situation prevailed everywhere on the thin 3rd Armored Division front. Without infantry support, the spearhead elements were forced to shuttle back and forth over the flat countryside, jabbing and parrying enemy attacks. Fortunately the division had sufficient mobility to strike at each German effort before it could build up into a serious threat.

On the Mulde bridgehead, Welborn's infantry and engineers sweated out heavy mortar and shellfire. Tree bursts riddled the pontoons and, although several attempts were made to span the river, none were successful. Each time there was a lull in the artillery, the weary, sweat stained engineers came out of their foxholes and tried again. Without a doubt they would have ultimately bridged the Mulde, but an army order cancelled the operation on April 17. It was a new lease on life to the men who had engaged in that bitter, last minute action. In their minds was always the horrible fear of death during the last days of the war.

Meanwhile, Task Force Lovelady cleared out the last enemy resistance in Raguhn, west of the stream which bisected the town, and Richardson's men entered Bernberg, thus closing an escape gap for the more than 80,000 enemy troops still bottled up in the Harz Mountains.

During the early morning hours of April 17, the enemy staged one of those fanatic commando attacks which had become SOP in the last convulsive days of the Third Reich. An estimated force of 150 enemy infantrymen, in an exceptionally well planned and coordinated operation, attacked and overran Colonel Lovelady's command post at Thurland. The Kraut commandos arrived on their objective just prior to dawn and, evidently guided by civilian information, turned their big panzerfaust bazookas on every house which was used to billet American troops.

A day of heavy and confused fighting developed. Elements of Lt. Colonel Prentice E. Yeomans' 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion were ordered to retake the town. "D" Company, commanded by Captain Herbert Zimmerman, moved out at 0800 hours, well supported by tanks and Division Artillery. The approach was without incident.

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Fanatics at Thurland

Thurland lay in a small natural hollow on the flat plain. The little German village looked peaceful and picturesque in the early morning sunlight, its red tiled roofs contrasting against surrounding green countryside. There was no smoke in the sky, nothing to indicate that a pitched battle was about to begin.

As "D" Company reached the outskirts, it was met by a withering hail of small arms and panzerfaust fire. There was no doubt that the defenders planned to hold their ground. "D" Company moved back and called for artillery.

Colonel Fredric J. Brown's elements immediately threw concentrations of high explosive into the town. Billowing clouds of dust and smoke rolled up into the blue sky and presently the village was burning in a number of places.

Reconnaissance soldiers moved in again late in the afternoon. Few buildings remained standing and the defenders were undoubtedly shaken. Still, they were determined to hold. American equipment had been taken by the Kraut in the night attack, and now it was used against the men of the 83rd. Targets were therefore confusing and positive identification almost impossible. A long and difficult battle developed, with the recon troopers fighting one captured Sherman tank, M-20 armored cars, and other U. S. ordnance, as well as the Jerry weapons.

Finally, Thurland was again in American hands. There were many "Spearhead" soldiers who would never forget the action. It would be remembered for the fanatical determination of those foolhardy young Germans who remained dead and dying at the end of the bitter day, and for the effectiveness of American equipment seen from a new angle by the men of "D" Company. For some reason this was one of the towns Jerry wanted and was willing to defend to the death.

Bobbau-Steinfurth, which was called "Bobby-Sox" by the attacking elements of Task Force Richardson, was another of the far-flung villages which saw heavy action. Richardson's tankers met a determined counter-blow as they moved into the town. The attack was crushed with an artillery concentration and Thunderbolt air support. Eight enemy tanks were destroyed. Later, Task Force Richardson beat off another counter-attack and did not succeed in completely mopping up the town until April 19.

The preliminaries were winding up now, and the assault on Dessau began to take shape in operations offices at Division Forward. There was still bitter fighting everywhere on the far-flung front. At Zdiepkau on April 18, famed Lt. Colonel Prentice E. Yeomans was killed in action while leading his battle group into the attack. Wolfen, Greppin and Bitterfeld were also towns to remember. They were the scenes of intense fighting and were not entirely cleared of resistance until the 20th. At Wolfen, Pvt. A. R. Crutcher and a number of his platoon members carried German panzerfaust bazookas into the attack. Although the enemy weapon had its certain drawbacks, it was deadly in close quarter fighting.

In the vicinity of the Agfa photographic film factory in Wolfen, Crutcher's unit, "D" Company, of the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, was ordered to clear a strip of field and woodland which was stubbornly defended by SS and Hitler Jugend troops.

A small house among the trees seemed to be a center of the enemy defense line, so Crutcher carefully aimed his panzerfaust and fired. The near wall of the building collapsed in a heap of dust and rubble. There was no further resistance.

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Assault on Dessau

To the Texans of the 3rd Armored Division, April 21 was a significant date for the opening assault on Dessau. It was San Jacinto day. Moving up for the final drive, troops of the "Spearhead" Division were high strung and nervous. They had been fighting almost continuously for the past two months, and this entry into Dessau was almost certain to mean the end of 3rd Armored Division campaigning. Already Russian shells were falling beyond the Elbe, and thousands of German troops were surrendering all along the line. The last days of the war in the west were not pleasant.

On April 21, Task Force Welborn attacked Dessau from the south. Colonel Boles, leading Task Force " X" spearheaded through Alten to enter the city. The men of Colonel Richardson's command battled heavy resistance in Jessnitz, while Task Force Hogan took Kleinkuhnau and Grosskuhnau, encountering road blocks, small arms fire, artillery and mortar concentrations.

The battle for Dessau developed into a furious house to house melee. Crack German officer candidates and non-commissioned officers from the Rosslau-Dessau army school of combat engineering, were thrown into the battle. The elaborate "Panzersperre" road blocks and other obstacles constructed by these men indicated that they were of the highest quality. In addition to being well trained engineers, these school troops were expert riflemen. Colonel Orr, attacking from the southwest, found that his "Blitz Doughs" were facing an enemy whose every soldier might be considered a sharpshooter.

In spite of a resistance born of desperation, much of Dessau was cleared by 1800 hours on April 21. However, there was still heavy fighting ahead. "D" Company of the 32nd Armored Regiment, working with attached infantry, encountered a well defended position on the north outskirts of the city on April 22. The enemy was well dug in and protected by wire barricades and other obstacles. Mine fields were expertly covered with small arms fire, mortars, and by panzerfaust teams. Bitter fighting went on until 2400 hours that day, but tanks and supporting infantry were unable to advance.

At 0600 hours on April 23rd, the 2nd Platoon of "D" Company, led by Lt. Lewis Lively, and one platoon of the attached infantry, reconnoitered to the east in preparation for an encircling movement. The enemy wasn't fooled; he was ready with small arms, artillery, and a smoke screen.
Lively changed his tactics. Deploying his platoon in line, he ordered tank commanders to open up with all guns and move forward! It was a simple frontal attack, and yet the American fire power was so great that German defenders were thrown into a panic. Twenty-five yards from the first Nazi fire trenches, Kraut soldiers began to surrender. They came limping through the mist and smoke of battle, waving handkerchiefs and other bits of white material. The attack went on through the second line of resistance and reached the Mulde River, one of the "Spearhead" Division's final objectives.

Dessau provided a last flurry of resistance on April 22 and 23. On the following day all of the city was cleared and Combat Command "A" went on to mop up the last of the Rosslau-Dessau engineer school troop garrison. At Division Forward Echelon in Lingenau, a barrage of high explosive shells hit the CP area. A barn which housed the engineer kitchen was hit and set afire and several men were seriously burned. It was a grim farewell to combat.

By April 25 the 9th Infantry Division had relieved all "Spearhead" elements on the now stable front. It was like a dream come true to those men of the old 3rd who still remained unscathed.

Weary tankers, red eyed and grimy, tooled their big Shermans back over the roads of conquest. The "Blitz Doughs," sprawling in personnel half-tracks, still had weariness steeped in their bones and the frontline look in tired, red-rimmed eyes; but they were happy. It was a wonderful feeling, for, no matter how the words are twisted, a combat soldier has only three things to look forward to: a wound, death, or cessation of hostilities. There had been times when the first two were alternatives, and the last - a dream in the dim future.

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End of War in Europe

At long last Germany was broken. There could be no mistake; this was the end. Thirteen days later, VE was officially proclaimed, but by that time the news was anti-climax.

The "Spearhead" went back on April 25, 1945 - back until the artillery was just a whisper in the distance, and then there was no artillery at all. There was just the warm sun, the green meadows of springtime, and peace. South of the Harz Mountains in Sangerhausen, the men of the division were billeted in civilian dwelling houses. Here they rested and tried to forget the sound of "incoming mail," and the necessity for digging foxholes. There were still a few isolated incidents - wire cutting, and the like, but for the most part German ex-soldiers and civilians were quiet and well behaved. Up in the Harz Mountains, bypassed pockets of enemy resistance were laying down their arms and surrendering en masse. Sgt. Glen Davison, on a deer hunting trip in the foothills, came back with seven of the erstwhile "supermen" sitting on his peep. His were among the last prisoners taken by the 3rd Armored Division in World War II. The total came to something over 76,000, and did not include the thousands which the "Spearhead" had helped to encircle in the Rose Pocket and the Harz Mountains.

Immediately after VE Day, which did not call for any spectacular celebration at Sangerhausen, high point veterans of the 3rd began to leave the division for America and eventual discharge. It was the beginning of an exodus which reached its peak after the Japanese surrender in August. In four short months the old outfit, the original 3rd Armored Division which had come up the long, dusty road from Omaha Beach and St. Jean de Daye, through France and Belgium and Germany, through the flaming towns and the best defenses of a fanatic enemy, was gone. And yet, in a way it still remained - for the record of a great fighting force never dims with time or the circumstance of change.

That record will always remain a bright thread of valor and service woven into the history of America's First Army in World War II. The "Spearhead" Division was a part of that great machine from beginning to end, from Normandy to central Germany, and in all the well remembered spots of swaying, death-locked combat in between. Proudly it led Lt. General J. Lawton Collins' crack VII Corps in most of the First Army offensives across Europe. The 3rd Armored Division remembered St. Lo-Perriers, and the Normandy breakthrough. Its tanks bolstered the line at Mortain, and then went on to help close the Argentan-Falaise gap. Mons, that ancient city of battle, knew the "Spearhead" well. Namur, Liege, and the Siegfried Line became symbols of sacrifice and victory. The terrible Ardennes, Cologne, Altenkirchen, Paderborn, Nordhausen, and Dessau! They were flaming memories of total war and every one was shadowed by deep-hearted sorrow for those who fell along the way. That was the "Spearhead."

The men of the old division were veterans, and therefore they were quickly redeployed, sent back to the United States and, except for those who chose the regular army for a career, immediately discharged. They packed their uniforms in moth-balls, shrugged off the war-necessary slough of regimentation, and slipped into the longed-for status of everyday American citizens. They hadn't ever wanted to go to war, and yet - in the crackling hell of armored battle - they had become the spearhead of General Courtney Hodges' famous First Army. It wasn't rhetoric that made "Spearhead In The West"; it was leadership and ability and cold steel - with GI-Joe away out front and riding to win.

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