By Colonel John A. Smith, Jr.,
Chief of Staff, 3rd Armored Division, 1942-45
story of SPEARHEAD IN THE WEST recounts the early history of
the 3rd Armored Division, its training in various locations,
both in the United States and in England, and its combat record
from Normandy to the banks of the River Elbe, in Germany. It
is a narrative of hard training and bitter combat, of local reverses
and the stunning victory that befits a great armored division.
Realizing that it would take volumes to relate the day by day
stories of each individual unit, this book intends to cover,
in three distinct sections, the combined history and battle lore
of the entire division. The first section is given over to an
introduction of "Spearhead" units and organization,
the second to a popular narrative account, together with sketches
and photographs of important scenes, persons and events. The
third section retells the accurate battle history of the division
as compiled from the mass of official documents, journals and
The 3rd Armored Division was activated and trained in Louisiana;
maneuvered widely over California's Mojave Desert, the hills
of Virginia, and the mountainous terrain of Pennsylvania, before
sailing for England in the autumn of 1943. The men of the command
were a cross section of America: no picked troops. They entered
the maelstrom of combat as green but determined soldiers. They
emerged from the conflict as the supreme commander's conquerors.
The 3rd came of age in the bloody hedgerow fighting of Normandy,
in June, 1944. Through northern France, leading the whirlwind
summer offensive of the American First Army's crack VII Corps,
the division was first into Belgium, first into and subsequently
through the Siegfried line, first to take a German town.
The men of the 3rd Armored Division fought in five western European
campaigns in Normandy, northern France, the Rhineland, the Ardennes,
and in central Germany. They made a sensational 18-day dash from
the Seine to the Siegfried. They led the might of America to
Cologne. They spearheaded the magnificent Ruhr encirclement and
they lost a great general in that clash of desperate steel which
precipitated Germany's unconditional surrender. From the last
battle, the last dusty, hell-clamorous storm of mortal conflict,
these men emerged as hardened veterans and champions of armored
force. They had gained renown as the battering ram of the first
team, the cutting edge, the spearhead of the first Americans
in the west.
The men of the 3rd were good, and they knew it. They also knew
the cost of the laurels. Back along the old, torn roads of conquest
nearly 3,000 comrades lay beneath the white crosses of military
cemeteries. Battle is never one-sided. By that token, the most
famous of fighting divisions are store-houses of sorrow. The
"Spearhead" was no exception.
DEDICATION OF THIS BOOK
This book Is dedicated to the American soldiers who were killed
in action with the 3rd Armored Division in Europe. They did not
want to die, and yet they gave their lives so that we might come
to final victory and peace.
Words are a difficult medium in which to express our reverence,
and the words of a soldier, especially, may be strange to the
mind of man untouched by the awful miracle of combat. We only
know that these dead were with us shoulder to shoulder in great
drives, in the mud and the fear and the flame in the night. When
the hot steel found them, and they fell, we cursed a little,
dry eyed; shrugged our shoulders wearily, and went on. Yet, be
sure of this: each individual death left a raw scar on our immortal
For that reason, this book is dedicated to those who were
more than brothers and who lie now in the soil they freed. Encompassed
by the 3rd Armored Division, they were our blood, and our sinew,
and our soul. We shall never forget.
MAJOR GENERAL MAURICE ROSE
Major General Maurice Rose, 1899 - 1945, was a soldier's soldier.
Immaculate, ruthless in his calculated destruction of the enemy,
he was qualified by his experience, achievement and character
to lead the spearhead of the first Americans. General Rose came
up from the ranks. He joined the United States Army in 1916 as
a buck private and served on the Mexican border. Upon graduating
from the first officer's training course at Fort Riley, Kansas,
in 1917, he was commissioned in the infantry and sent overseas
with the 89th Division. In France, he was wounded at St. Mihiel,
but went back to fight through the entire Meuse-Argonne offensive.
During World War II, General Rose served with the three greatest
of American armored divisions; in Africa and Italy with the 1st,
"Old Ironsides", and the 2nd, "Hell on Wheels";
finally throughout the climactic western European campaigns at
the head of his own 3rd Armored Division the organization he
claimed to be the greatest tank force in the world and one worthy
of the soubriquet: "Spearhead."
He was over six feet tall, erect, dark haired, and had finely
chiseled features. He was firm and prompt of decision, brooking
no interference by man, events or conditions in order to destroy
the enemy. No armchair strategist, General Rose directed operations
from a peep [jeep] at the point of the cutting edge. He travelled
with the forward elements of his command, up with the tankers
and the blitz doughs. General Rose went up front, and that's
where he was on a dark evening in late March, 1945. He was killed
in action at the head of his men. He was mourned as a GI tanker
mourns a dead crewmate, and he was buried at Ittenbach, Germany,
beside the men he led. War correspondent Hal Boyle wrote, at
the time: "Rose lived and died as a professional, as a career
he loved and followed since he was a boy of 17. He would be the
last to regret that he had a soldier's ending."
Fit epitaph for a great fighting man. General Maurice Rose,
who tempered the spearhead of the first Americans, and gave his
life in the culmination of its greatest achievement He was a
REQUIESCAT IN PACE
Combat Command "A"
Brigadier General Doyle O. Hickey, CG of the 3rd Armored Division
and fighting leader of Combat Command "A", was noted
for his air of cool confidence in action. During the vicious
fighting around Villiers Fossard, in Normandy, and throughout
the 1944 summer offensive drive which took American forces through
northern France and Belgium to the Siegfried Line, General Hickey
operated from the forefront of his command. The men who fought
with this unit drew added inspiration from the sight of their
commanding general personally appraising the situation, giving
his orders without the necessity of raising his voice, and calmly
putting on a battered briar pipe while small arms and shell fire
raked the area. General Hickey's combat reputation was such that
veterans of the 3rd Armored Division felt him the only officer
who could acceptably assume command when Major General Maurice
Rose was killed in action on March 30, 1945, in the closing of
the Ruhr pocket.
Contending that the success or failure of a large fighting
unit depends upon the accumulated results of small unit engagements
with the enemy, General Hickey constantly stressed the perfection
of platoon and squad tactics. As commander of CC "A",
his task was to develop into a smoothly operating whole the various
elements of an armored division: tanks, tank-destroyers, artillery
and infantry. Applying the principle of small unit perfection,
General Hickey made Combat Command "A" an extremely
well balanced and powerful striking force.
General Hickey was born in Rector, Arkansas, on July 27, 1892.
He graduated from Hendrix College, Conway, Arkansas, in 1913,
and had embarked on a legal career when the United States became
involved in the first world war.
After graduating from the officer's training course at Leon
Springs, Texas, the general was assigned to the 31st "Old
Dixie" Division, and served in France as an artillery officer
from September, 1918, to February, 1919.
During the peacetime years, General Hickey served as a regular
army officer in various artillery commands. He attended the Field
Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and the Command and
General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He joined the
3rd Armored Division during the 1942 desert maneuvers in southern
California and there assumed command of CC "A". He
was promoted to Brigadier General in September, 1942.
The "Spearhead" general wears the Legion of Merit
for his part in the success of the First Army's drive from Normandy
to the Siegfried Line in the great summer offensive of 1944.
He also wears the Silver Star Medal with two clusters, the original
for reducing the Villiers Fossard salient in Normandy, during
late June, 1944, the first cluster for successful planning and
execution of his part in the Normandy breakthrough, and the second
cluster for the brilliant action at Ranes-Fromentel, France.
He also wears the Distinguished Unit Citation, awarded to Headquarters,
Combat Command "A" for heroic action at Mons, Belgium,
in early September, 1944.
General Hickey also wears the Bronze Star and cluster, and
two French decorations: the Legion of Honor and Croix de Guerre
TRUMAN E. BOUDINOT
Combat Command "B"
Brigadier General Truman Everett Boudinot, leader of Combat
Command "B" in action from Normandy to the River Elbe,
was famed for his firecracker temperament and competitive drive.
He was a commander who knew the capabilities of both armor and
infantry, having studied both throughout a long army career.
General Boudinot joined the 3rd Armored Division in March,
1942, as commanding officer of the 32nd Armored Regiment. He
remained with the regiment from that time until July 15, 1944,
when he assumed command of CC "B" during the pre-breakthrough
phase of the Normandy fighting.
At the head of CC "B", General Boudinot planned
and helped to accomplish the great breakthrough, the pursuit
across France, and the storming of the Siegfried Line. He commanded
the first allied units to cross Germany's border in force, on
September 12, 1944, and the first to take a German town, Roetgen,
since the days of Napoleon. Later, in the furious Ardennes struggle,
his Combat Command "B" inflicted one of the first serious
setbacks to von Rundstedf's winter offensive when, at La Gleize,
Belgium, it teamed with elements of the 30th Infantry Division
to cut up much of the 1st SS LEIBSTANDARDE ADOLF HITLER Panzer
Division. In the subsequent return to the Rhineland area, General
Boudinot entered Cologne with forward elements of the division.
And, during the final drive, it was CC "B" which liberated
the death camp slaves at Nordhausen after sharing in the magnificent
Ruhr encirclement. His troops went on without rest to Dessau,
Germany, and had thrown a bridgehead across the Mulde River when
army orders halted forward action at that point.
General Boudinot was studying civil engineering at the University
of California when America became involved in the first World
War. He was given a direct commission and saw action with the
8th Cavalry in Mexico.
Although the general has always been a horseman, he early
realized the capabilities of armored force and the value of an
integrated command. In 1928 he was graduated from the Advance
Infantry Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. He served with the
air forces and is noted as an army free balloon racer. At Fort
Sam Houston, Texas, while with the Signal Corps, he built the
first meteorological station at Kelley Field.
After tours of duty at various American and territorial posts,
the general went to Fort Knox, Kentucky, with the 13th Cavalry
in 1937. Here he grew up with the armored force and had much
to do with the development of this new and potent arm of service.
Because of his intimate knowledge of' tanks, the general was
made plans and training officer of the AFRTC, at Fort Knox, on
December 20, 1940. His know-how preceded tank victories on the
western front of 1944-45.
The general led his old 32nd Armored Regiment at Villiers
Fossard, Normandy, in June, 1944, but was soon given command
of the powerful assault force which he led to many victories
throughout the five campaigns in western Europe.
General Boudinot's decorations include the Mexican Service
Medal, the Legion of Merit, Silver Star with three clusters,
Bronze Star, Air Medal, the French Legion of Honor and Croix
de Guerre with palm. He also wears the Distinguished Unit Citation.
The General Staff of a fighting division corresponds roughly
to a brains trust in big business. Its job is the principle services,
the personnel placement, intelligence, plans and operations,
supply, and military government, which have so much to do with
the winning of a war. The success or failure of any combat operation
depends initially upon the workings of this divisional nerve
The 3rd Armored Division's Chief of Staff, Colonel John A.
Smith, Jr., with the officers and men of his various staff sections,
therefore deserves much of the credit for "Spearhead"
successes in action. As a veritable division "assistant
commander", Colonel Smith carried out the policies of Major
General Maurice Rose and Brigadier General Doyle 0. Hickey. The
logistics of armored warfare were the concerns of his entire
expertly trained staff.
G-l, which encompassed the problems of personnel administration,
came under the jurisdiction of Lt. Colonel Jack A. Boulger and
his section. Lt. Colonel Andrew Barr, G-2, was the intelligence
chief. His decisions on enemy capabilities and on our own security
measures hastened the end of hostilities. Lt. Colonel Wesley
A. Sweat, G-3, and his section, handled all plans and operations.
Supply, in all of its various and important aspects, was the
problem of Lt. Colonel Eugene C. Orth, Jr., G-4.
Originally there were only four general staff sections in
the division headquarters. However, a fifth was added during
the last phases of the western campaign: it was G-5, or Military
Government. G-5, presided over by Lt. Colonel George F. Cake,
solved those problems which were posed by occupation of the German
CHIEF OF STAFF: Colonel John A. Smith, Jr., tall, distinguished
professional soldier, has been with the 3rd Armored Division
since its activation. As Chief of Staff under four generals:
Walton H. Walker, Leroy H. Watson, Maurice Rose, and Doyle O.
Hickey, the slightly greying Texan played a vital role in "Spearhead"
history. His story is the very saga of the 3rd from final training
to furious combat on the western front of Europe.
Born in San Antonio, Texas, Colonel Smith finished high school
there and attended the University of Texas for two years before
entering the army in 1917. He was commissioned at Leon Springs,
Texas, as an artillery officer at that time. A veteran tactician,
Colonel Smith has more than a passing knowledge of cavalry, artillery
and armored force strategy. He is a crack polo player, a graduate
of the Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and the
Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
As General Maurice Rose's right-hand man during the 3rd Armored
Division's successful European actions, Colonel Smith and his
staff engaged the enemy so frequently that they earned the nickname:
"Combat Command Smith"!
The towering Texan, who made himself so indispensable as "Spearhead"
Chief of Staff, wears the World War I victory medal, the Mexican
Border campaign ribbon, the Bronze Star Medal with cluster, the
Legion of Merit, French Legion of Honor, Croix de Guerre with
Palm, and a Distinguished Unit Citation, which was awarded for
the heroic action participated in by his section at Mons, Belgium,
during early September, 1944.
G-1: Lieutenant Colonel Jack A. Boulger, tall, blonde
North Dakotan, was the 3rd Armored Division G-l throughout most
of the European campaign. His task was the judicious placement
of all "Spearhead" soldiers. No stranger to the front
line, Colonel Boulger often acted as billeting officer. His method
in selecting proper bivouac areas was dangerous, but extremely
effective; he rode at the point of the attack! Wounded and captured
by enemy troops during the great Paderborn drive, the Colonel
was later liberated by friendly forces. He returned immediately
to the division. A graduate of North Dakota Agricultural College,
Colonel Boulger is one of the division's original officer cadremen.
His decorations include the Legion of Merit, Silver Star, Bronze
Star with two clusters, and the Purple Heart.
G-2: Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Barr, canny intelligence
chief of the "Spearhead", slept little and worked incessantly
during the 3rd Armored Division's drive through Nazi Europe.
Under his expert direction, enemy capabilities were constantly
estimated, checked, calculated and finally published for the
benefit of lower echelon combat teams.
A graduate of the University of Illinois, Colonel Barr was a
member of the Chief Accountant's Staff, Securities and Exchange
Commission, Washington, D. C. He entered military service in
1941, and is one of the division's original officer cadremen.
Colonel Barr's decorations include the Legion of Merit and Bronze
Star with cluster. Throughout five western campaigns, he kept
a sensitive finger on the pulse of war.
G-3: Lieutenant Colonel Wesley A. Sweat, operations and
training czar of the division, headed a crack staff of strategists
and draftsmen throughout the long months of battle. His job encompassed
the operational aspects of combat, the training of new replacements,
and the plans for proper deployment of troops. In common with
all of the general staff officers, Colonel Sweat rarely slept
during the long, sweeping drives of the armor. Captured in action
near Paderborn, Germany, at the time of General Maurice Rose's
death, the Colonel was wounded by British Typhoon fighter bombers
attacking enemy installations. Upon liberation a month after
capture, he returned to duty with the division.
Colonel Sweat is a graduate of the University of Florida, entered
military service in 1939, and is one of the division's original
officer cadremen. He holds the Legion of Merit, Silver Star,
Bronze Star with cluster, and the Purple Heart.
G-4: Lieutenant Colonel Eugene C. Orth, Jr., 3rd Armored
Division G-4, supervised the monumental task involved in the
daily delivery of fuel, ammunition, rations and equipment to
those swiftly moving combat elements of the "Spearhead".
Supply, always of primary importance, assumed even greater stature
during the long drives and relentless fighting of the European
campaigns. Invariably the success or failure of an operation
depended upon G-4 activity. Although routes of supply were sometimes
painfully long, unmapped, and cut by fanatic enemy troops who
had been bypassed, the lifegiving essentials of battle got through.
Colonel Orth graduated from West Point in 1935, and joined the
3rd Armored Division in 1941. He is one of the division's original
officer cadremen. His decorations include the Legion of Merit,
Silver Star and the Bronze Star with cluster.
G-5: Lieutenant Colonel George F. Cake, in command of
3rd Armored Division Military Government, helped formulate the
American occupational policy in newly conquered German territory.
His work set a precedent for later MG officials to study. G-5,
as an integral part of the division general staff, was not brought
into being until late in the western fighting. Earlier, it was
known as the Civil Affairs Section. Lt. Colonel William E. Dahl
was the first G-5. He served with the division until April 9,
1945, when he was transferred to the 15th Army. Lt. Colonel Cake
assumed responsibility at that time.
Colonel Cake is a graduate of Polytechnic High School, Los Angeles,
California. He entered service in 1942 and joined the division
In early 1945. He holds the Bronze Star Medal with cluster.
Next Chapter: Division Units