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Training in the States
April 15, 1941 - September 4, 1943



Chapter Index


The Birth of a Great Division

"SPEARHEAD!" The very name is magic to those who recall the beach at Isigny and the jungle-like hedgerows of St. Jean de Daye; the crackling hell of Argentan-Falatse; the long drives and the bitter marches, the death and the flame and the watch in the night. Liege and the Siegfried Line! The terrible Ardennes, and Cologne; Altenkirchen, Marburg to Paderborn for victory, and the final drive to Dessau.

You wouldn't call it romance. Your combat tanker curses the word, romance; and yet he has a heart lifting memory of flaunted power when the great armored division ground relentlessly forward in those grim days, devouring the miles and destroying the enemy.

"We seemed to be stunned by the ferocity of the German small arms and mortar fire, but - pushed on to our objective. I am sure that these men will give great accounts of themselves in future battles." Colonel Nathaniel 0. Whitlaw, describing the baptism of fire at Villiers Fossard, Normandy.

"Made contact with British armor on road to Putanges." Sgt. Donald Ekdahl, laconically reporting the momentous closing of the Argentan-Falaise gap, the action which was later described as the end of the battle for France.

"Reconnaissance on objective - where's division?" Colonel Prentice E. Yeomans, heckling his commanding general at Paderborn in the culmination of the greatest armored drive in history.

Men of the "Spearhead!" The brave, hardhitting people you'll never forget. The officers and GI's who didn't look like heroes, but who were heroes all the same. They were lean and tired, hard as spring steel, red-eyed from the swirling dust, their faces lined and stubbled with whiskers. No time to clean up - no time to do anything but fight and go forward. The men of the "Spearhead" had a job to do and they did that job well. The bitter, dusty road from Normandy to Dessau was littered with the flame gutted wrecks of a once arrogant Nazi war machine. German soldiers fought to the end, but the "Spearhead" ground them into the very dust that they had stolen; routed them, captured them in thousands. And, because battle is a give and take proposition, the 3rd suffered too. There were constantly changing faces in the gun crews, new officers to replace those who had been killed or wounded. The division rumbled ahead and, from the old men of the outfit, the new replacements drew a necessary know-how, a pride of organization, a knowledge of the background which made such teamwork possible.

The old men knew, of course. The majority of them recalled Camp Polk, Louisiana, which was the division's first permanent station. Many recalled Fort Benning, Georgia, and that day in mid-April, 1941, when 600 officers and 3,000 enlisted men of the 2nd Armored Division entrained for Camp Beauregard, Louisiana, to activate the yet unborn 3rd. They were the genuine old timers, and yet - it wasn't so long ago.

The 3rd Armored Division traces its immediate history back to those men who left General George S. Patton's 2nd Armored Division on April 14, 1941. Through them the "Spearhead" may further trace its lineage back to the old GHQ tank regiments of World War I, and to some of the toniest of early American cavalry regiments. The armored force was an extremely new branch of service in 1941, but its background was good and its very youth promised a strength unsapped by outmoded theory and prejudice.

Those men of the division, selectees included, who were part of the 2nd Armored Division, are actually the charter members of the "Spearhead." So are the reserve officers who arc graduates of Major J. L. Billo's "Academy," more officially termed the Officer's Training Center. It was these men, developed around a core of trained regular officers, who went on to command units of the 3rd Armored Division in the baptism of fire at Villiers Fossard, Normandy, and in the long drives which culminated in the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany.

Centering the core of regular officers, and designated commanding general of the new division, was Brigadier General Alvan C. Gillem, Jr., non West Point, but a Sewanee graduate who had come up through the ranks. A notable quarterback of his day, he was a former commander of the 2nd Armored Brigade, a tanker of old, and known to be a shrewd tactician. Later, on the western front, General Gillem led the XIII Corps of the 9th Army.

As Chief of Staff to General Gillem, went Lt. Colonel Roland P. Shugg, former CO of the 14th Field Artillery, who was recognized as a "motor man." For the various G's were Major A. C. Blain, G-1; Lt. Colonel John A. Smith, Jr., G-2; Lt. Colonel W. S. Jones, Jr., G-3; and Lt. Colonel John L. Pierce, G-4.

Activation meant but one thing to the officers and men of the new 3rd Armored Division; rigid training of the cadre to act as instructors for the schooling of selectees to come. There was a signal communications class under Major F. G. Trew, CWS under Captain J. C. Lowery, and tank maintenance supervised by Captain Joseph L. Cowhey and Captain Noel M. Cox.

Colonel G. H. Harvey, of the 15th Quartermaster Battalion, conducted a clerical and administrative course, and Major Fremont S. Tandy, of the 23rd Armored Engineer Battalion, started a motorcycle driver and repair school. There were various courses of instruction, all designed to provide the necessary background for the success of a great armored division.

An important part of the training program was an athletic set-up under the direction of Major A. G. Cameron, Jr., Division Morale Officer, and Lt. L. C. Mclntyre, Athletic Officer. The general desired that his men be fit in body as well as mind. That combination of virtues was a constant aim of the 3rd Armored Division.

Chapter Index


Camp Beauregard, where the division first set into motion the machinery of organization, was a Louisiana National Guard station. It was hot and dusty, well populated by insects, and subject to a quickly changing climate of sunshine and showers. The old 3rd Armored Brigade set up headquarters in the dust bowl where Esler Field was later laid out, and the separate units were quartered in pyramidal tents on the post proper. There, all personnel cursed the dust, the mud, and the soft ground. On a perfectly dry day vehicles were known to sink hub-deep in the spongy soil of unit motor parks. Truly, Beauregard was the original of that spot where a man could walk in the mud and have dust blowing in his eyes!

The American armored force of May, 1941, was a far cry from that powerful steel striking force which went charging across the plains of Germany in 1945. The United States was still at peace, although Europe was blazing after the first great application of motorized blitz warfare. Back in the states, a few M-1 rifles were being issued to the doughboys, while armored troopers learned the fine points of a pitifully few light "Mac West" tanks. At Beauregard, Captain Noel Cox, Motor Officer, farmed out 20 of these early models to the various units.

Still, there was progress. On May 12, 1941, several of the units which made up the 3rd Armored Division changed their number designations and adopted new T/O's. The 2nd Armored Regiment (Light) became the 32nd Armored Regiment (Light); the 3rd Armored Regiment (Light) became the 33rd Armored Regiment (Light); the 4th Armored Regiment (Medium) became the 40th Armored Regiment (Medium); and the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion had its name changed to the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. Later, the 46th Signal Company was redesignated the 143rd Armored Signal Company.

The entire American army was in a state of flux. New designs were coming off the drafting boards. New regulations were going into effect. There was the usual "chicken" and the usual mistakes. The color of piping on a tanker's cap was announced to be henceforth infantry blue, a recommendation for a distinctive green and white piping having been turned down by the war department. (And later adopted.) Lieutenant, later Major, Haynes W. Dugan, Public Relations Officer, picked a nickname for the new division. It was: the "Bayou Blitz."

Army life during early 1941, wasn't especially rigorous. Off duty, troops were allowed to wear civilian clothing. Passes were frequent, and rationing was not yet in effect. The social aspect of the service was not forgotten. Enlisted men attended dances in nearby Alexandria, and the 40th Armored Regiment fostered the first officer's club in the division. Governor Sam Jones, of Louisiana; Thomas E. Dewey, then of the United Service Organization; Walter Hoving, USO president; and Marshall Field III, of Chicago, were some of the distinguished visitors who inspected the camp.

There was drama in the ranks of the new division too. Pvt. James M. King, of the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, leaped into the turbulent waters of the Red River at Alexandria to rescue a struggling national guardsman. Pvt. A. G. Short, of Americus, Georgia, died at Charity Hospital, Alexandria, after a motorcycle accident. His was the first death within the division.

Chapter Index


On June 2, 1941, an advance detachment proceeded to Camp Polk, which was rapidly nearing completion and, on the 11th, the mass movement of troops began, to be completed by June 14. The light tanks proceeded to the new area under their own power, a miraculous achievement!

At Camp Polk, the division was joined by the 36th Infantry Band, led by Warrant Officer Frank A. Reed. The band came from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and was formerly a part of the 20th Infantry. Later, a second band was to be organized and activated, this one for the 32nd Armored Regiment, and led by Lt. Edwin Hickson, composer of the "General Gillem March."

Just before the move to Camp Polk, the general was notified that 28 applications had been made for Armored Force Officer's Candidate School, at Fort Knox, Kentucky. With his approval, it became increasingly clear that, in the 3rd Armored Division, ambition would not go unheeded. Among those who were offered the opportunities of a growing armored force, were the 7,000 selectees who arrived in June. The first man off the train on June 18, was Pvt. John J. Tartol, of Chicago, a former stock clerk. Tartol was the first of many to come from the windy city.

The procedure on selectee reception was standard; they were met at the train, usually with a band, relieved of their luggage, given a hot meal and a bath and assigned to bunks. Then came a hasty medical inspection and the remainder of the day to rest. On the second day in camp, these men visited the classification center and were assigned to units. Captain John N. Scoville, who ran the classification and tried to fit square pegs in square holes, was an extremely busy officer.

Basic training, 13 weeks of it, was the order of the day. New recruits to the armored force found that hitting a target was no miracle and that road marches became easier with practice. There was plenty of the latter. The song was " I'll Be Back In A Year, Little Darlin'," and OHIO was a watchword which meant Over the Hill In October!

Polk was 97 percent complete on June 30. The 3rd was growing up. New selectees were pouring in; new items of equipment, including half-tracks were issued. The firing ranges were completed and used for the first time under the jurisdiction of a special staff section which later became Division Trains. Truck convoys carried off-duty troops to neighboring cities. Beaumont, Texas, and Lake Charles, Louisiana, were favorite playgrounds.

Closer to camp were the boom towns: Sandy Hill, and Leesville. They were raw and loud but as much a part of "Spearhead" history as the army itself. The old soldiers of Camp Polk will never forget the Red Dog Saloon, Tip Top Inn, and the Roof Garden. Here, a sufficiency of liquor and an over abundance of esprit de corps led to a number of wild, free-for-all fights which, in the Roof Garden especially, were wont to reach a climax in a flurry of slats jerked out of the railing which enclosed the dance floor of that venerable institution. New Iberia, Alexandria, DeRidder, and Shreveport, Louisiana, as well as the nearby Texas cities, also became favorite 3rd Armored Division haunts as the influx of selectees continued.

Selectees from Texas began arriving during the first week in July. At that time Major Fremont S. Tandy's engineers were engaged in whittling down a hill in front of division headquarters. The flag staff was raised here, and work begun on five chapels. Organization Day, July 10, first anniversary of the Armored Force, was celebrated at Polk with a mass gathering of troops and an intent General Gillem saying: "The same cause that made necessary an Armored Force, made necessary your being called into service."

Soldiers of the command listened thoughtfully, but America was still at peace, and most of the men were counting each month toward eventual discharge.

On July 18, General Gillem received his second star, and Colonel Walton H. Walker, who had commanded the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment, became a brigadier general. Present for the ceremony of pinning on the stars, were Major General Irving Fish, commander of the 32nd Infantry Division, then at Camp Livingston, Louisiana, and Senator Allen J. Ellender, of Louisiana. General Walker, who later assumed command of the 3rd Armored Division when General Gillem left to command the II Armored Corps, himself stepped up to lead Patton's famous XX "Ghost Corps" in the 1944-45 dash across Europe.

By July 25, the 3rd had received the bulk of its selectees. G-1 announced that the best represented states were: Illinois, with 2,675 men; Michigan, with 1,053; and Texas, with 924. Other figures were: Wisconsin, 777 men; Missouri, 451; Georgia, 432; Minnesota, 419; Iowa, 407; Louisiana, 404; New York, 373; Alabama, 283; Kansas, 234; and Florida, 218. Every state had at least one representative, and division GI's came from outside the continental limits of the republic. Later, in February and March, 1942, recruits arrived in numbers from the New England states, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.

On August 5, it was announced that the 54th Armored Field Artillery Battalion and the 67th Armored Field Artillery Regiment would go to Camp Shelby, Mississippi, to conduct firing problems, an activity prohibited at Polk because of the Louisiana maneuvers then going on. The trip was the first of many such training expeditions made by 3rd Armored Division units during their long battle preparation in the states and later in England.

Major General Jacob L. Devers, new Chief of the Armored Force, visited Polk on August 20. Addressing division officers, he said: "You are going to have to be top-flight to play in the major league - the 3rd Armored Division is well conceived, and the spirit is here."

Meanwhile, new light and medium tanks were delivered to unit motor parks. To early tankers of the then "Bayou Blitz," General Lee and General Grant battlewagons represented the last word in armored might. It was unthinkable to these men that Germany, winding up a whirlwind campaign in France and the low countries, actually possessed more advanced machines for the waging of total war. This, however, was the case. American medium tanks of 1941 were already obsolete when they rumbled off the production line at Detroit. It was a failing which lost lives in the western desert of Libia and which was never fully remedied in the European campaigns. The later Sherman and Pershing tanks were a vast improvement over earlier models but, aside from greater maneuverability and mechanical endurance, never approached the excellent armor and ordnance of the German Panther and Tiger tanks.

Early in September, 900 men left Polk to form part of a cadre for the 5th Armored Division at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Later, the 3rd was to provide nuclei of trained tankers for the 5th, the 8th, and the 11th Armored Divisions, as well as numerous smaller cadres to Armored Center, Tank Destroyer Command, and the various artillery headquarters.

On September 18, nearly 2,000 men were lost to the division when the first selectees over 28 years of age were released. With the attack on Pearl Harbor shortly afterward, many of these men returned to their units after requesting such assignment. Thanks to General Gillem, esprit de corps was already molding the 3rd into a crack organization.

Forward Echelon of Division Headquarters took to the field during the third week of September, and on October 3, all elements engaged in an exercise which was intended to acquaint the various units with their relation to each other and to the division. Hollywood photographers filmed the first bridge-building attempt of the 23rd Armored Engineer Battalion, a highly successful pontoon structure across the Sabine River. Earlier, Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer had filmed background material at Camp Polk, for a "Wallace Berry picture, "The Bugle Sounds." There was no lack of publicity for the 3rd.

Six months after activation, the "Bayou Blitz" had become a power in American Armored Force history. Competing with the older 1st Armored Division on a field problem late in October, the 3rd flashed ahead to secure objectives on the Calcascau River in Louisiana. From the very beginning of its recorded history, the 3rd has been bucking for first place. That was the spirit on the Calcaseau, and it was the same ride-to-win attitude which gave the old " Bayou Blitz" a new soubriquet in the great 1944 drive across France. It became, simply, the "Spearhead."

While field problems were a major part of the gradually accelerated schedule at Camp Polk, schooling was not forgotten. A spot check on October 14 showed that 274 enlisted men and 40 officers were attending army instruction courses, studying subjects which ranged from gunnery and tank mechanics to medical laboratory techniques. A great percentage of the enlisted men later attended officer's candidate school and finally led the might of America's armor in 1944-45.

On November 1, Company "I" of the 32nd Armored Regiment was sent to MacDill Field, Florida, to take part in the training of a provisional air base defense, and on that day the division gave yet another general officer to the nation when Colonel Vincent Meyer received his star. Brigadier General Meyer was subsequently given command of the 18th Field Artillery Brigade at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Armistice Day found the 3rd parading in Port Arthur, Texas, and at New Iberia and Lake Charles, Louisiana. General Gillem and Governor Jones of Louisiana, were at the head of the Lake Charles spectacle. For the troops who swung down that wide thoroughfare, to the brass and drums of their regimental bands, little guessed that they were observing the last peacetime armistice day for many bitter years.

Back at Polk, the army wives banded together to form the " Service League," an organization which operated and maintained thrift shops in Leesville and DeRidder for the benefit of post GI's. Five new chapels had been dedicated by Chaplain, Lt. Colonel Oscar Reynolds. Major Harvie Matthews had assumed the duties of G-3, after Colonel John J. Bohn was designated chief umpire to the 2nd Armored Division in the Carolina maneuvers.

Fall weather at Polk was delightfully like Indian summer. There was plenty of cold beer and coca-cola at the PX. Gas rationing was somewhere in the dim future. Juke boxes were hammering out various arrangements of "Give Me One Dozen Roses," and GI's of the command still counted each day toward the required 18-month duration of selective service. Half a world away the grim air fleets of Nippon were bombing up for an attack that would alter the world's history.

Sunday, December 7, 1941. Camp Polk, Louisiana.

It was a crisp, cool day. Men of the command slept late after their Saturday night dates in town. Artillery units were in the field on a gunnery problem. Brigadier General Brehon Somervell, War Department G-4, was at Camp Polk to check on maintenance and supply. The first announcement came in the early afternoon: "Unidentified aircraft are attacking Pearl Harbor!"

That was all; the slightly excited, suave voice of the radio announcer, the nervous interlude of chamber music, and then a hurriedly prepared statement by a famous news analyst. Japan was attacking America.

War came to the U. S. on a crisp Sabbath, and its coming was an unreal thing. The attitude of America was - it can't happen here. But it could, and had happened. The United States of America was at war! Men and officers began coming back to the post. There was a feeling of supercharged suspense in the air. The fact of the attack was so enormous that personnel found it hard to digest. Acting almost simultaneously, Brigade and Division G-2 staffs raced for the post library to corner data on the Pacific theater. Lt. Colonel John A. Smith's division staff got there moments ahead of Major Andrew Barr's Brigade 2-section.

Discipline tightened after war was declared on Japan and Germany. Furloughs and leaves were cut drastically. Civilian clothing was packed in mothballs for the duration. New selectees, to replace those lost under the over-age ruling, poured in from Des Moines, Iowa; Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; and Fort Knox, Kentucky. In a shakeup of officer personnel, Colonel Roland P. Shugg went to the general staff at Washington, D. C., and subsequently became head of the automotive center at Detroit. The army's modern mechanization owes much of its rapid growth to Colonel, later General Shugg. At Division, Colonel John J. Bohn became Chief of Staff.

One week after Pearl Harbor, the 703rd Tank Destroyer Battalion was activated at Camp Polk. Although a GHQ outfit, the TD's drew cadres from practically every integral unit of the 3rd, and remained under division control. Regarded as" 8-balls," a common appellation applied to new branches of service, the tank-busters were led by Major John Meade, a far-sighted professional soldier. His faith in the worth of TD elements in armored command was amply demonstrated in Africa, and on the shell wracked roads of Europe in 1944-45.

The new year of 1942 brought a real change to the 3rd Armored Division. Under armored force organization, the brigade command was abolished. Two combat commands were established to replace the more unwieldy brigade set-up. The 40th Armored Regiment (Medium), was deactivated; its tanks going to the 32nd and 33rd Armored Regiments. This was a change which led to greater versatility in tank tactics. The old 40th was disbanded sorrowfully; it had the record of a crack unit and had supplied well trained cadres for many of the new armored elements then springing into being.

The 67th Field Artillery Regiment, was also split up; its component parts emerging as the 6/th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, and the 391st Armored Field Artillery Battalion. The 15th Quartermaster Battalion was redesignated the 3rd Armored Division Supply Battalion and was authorized to drop all motor maintenance duties, these to be taken over by the Maintenance Battalion, formerly called Ordnance.

In addition to these changes, the division headquarters received a service company and the 23rd Armored Engineer Battalion was enlarged. A Train Headquarters, made up of former staff sections, was also added to the division. With these far reaching regroupments came the knock of opportunity for officers and men of the 3rd. There were lots of promotions in the offing.

The first practice blackout of the war was observed at Polk on January 7. No one took the event seriously, although there was no breach of discipline. Theater crowds sang; motorists halted on the road; and for twenty minutes all activity ceased. The blackout was a huge success.

The advent of war placed no restrictions on ambition or ability. More men were sent to officer's candidate schools and there were the usual technical courses for enlisted men and officers who wished to better their position in the division. Neither was athletic competition curbed. Over at DePour Field House, Lt. Glenn Morris was busily working out a string of boxers to represent the organization in golden gloves competition at Chicago. One of his stars was tanker Lafayette Pool, a Texas slugger who declined to make the Chicago trip because his company was due to receive an allotment of the new General Grant tanks! Pool became one of the "Spearhead" Division's legendary heroes when, after leading 21 separate drives in Europe, he was wounded while blasting his way through the Siegfried Line.

One of the disheartening aspects of Camp Polk training was the frequency with which key men were transferred to higher headquarters. The 32nd Armored Regiment lost Colonel Roderick R. Allen, a crack commander who left to become Chief of Staff of the 6th Armored Division and later to command the 12th Armored Division. Colonel W.H. Jones,, former G-3, replaced Colonel Allen.

On January 16, Brigadier General Geoffrey Keyes, former Chief of Staff of the 2nd Armored Division, arrived to take command of the 2nd Combat Group, the forerunner of Combat Command "B". Colonel Leroy H. Watson commanded the 1st.

On the following day, Major General Gillem was named to command the II Corps. He was replaced as division commander by Brigadier General Walton H. Walker, Texas born West Pointer, and former executive to General Marshall. Colonel Bohn moved up to Corps Chief of Staff and was replaced by Colonel John A. Smith, Jr., former G-2. Colonel Craig Alderman, General Gillem's aide, became G-2, and Colonel John L. Pierce was made Corps ,G-4, being replaced at Division by Lt. Colonel Dorrance S. Roysden, formerly of the 2nd Armored Division. Lt. Colonel B. H. Coiner, former Division G-1, became Corps G-1, and was replaced by Lt. Colonel Charles G. Hutchinson. Lt. Colonel John Meade was relieved of command of the 703rd Tank Destroyer Battalion to become Corps G-2, and the old 40th Armored Regiment Headquarters became Corps Headquarters Company. Lt. Colonel Prentice E. Yeomans assumed command of the 703rd Tank Destroyer Battalion.

Probably more than any other branch of service, the history of Armored Force is all interwoven. Just as the 3rd Armored Division sprang from a 2nd "Hell On Wheels" cadre, the 3rd was destined to supply trained personnel to many of the new organizations, some of which were the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 11th, 12th, and 20th Armored Divisions, the II, III, and IV Armored Corps. During the spring of 1942, the 7th Armored Division was brought into existence at Camp Polk, a direct offspring of the 3rd. Major General Lindsay McD. Sylvester commanded the new division, headquarters for which was set up in tents behind the 3rd's quarters. The older 3rd not only provided the cadre for the 7th, but also trained the entire group of selectees, largely through the efforts of the division's G-3, Lt. Colonel Harvie R. Matthews.

Late in the spring of 1942, the 54th Armored Field Artillery Battalion under the command of Lt. Colonel Frederic J. Brown, was sent to the desert wastes of California, to be the first unit of the division and one of the premier units at the Desert Training Center, then commanded by Major General "Old Blood & Guts" Patton.

At this time the division was ablaze with rumors, a condition which was chronic throughout training - and through and beyond the European war. Chief of Staff, Colonel Smith, and General Walker made flying trips to the Mojave desert and brought back elaborate tales of its wonders. The 703rd Tank Destroyer Battalion was suddenly whisked off to Camp Hood, Texas, for a month-long study of TD tactics and commando warfare. Yellow jaundice swept the division - along with the rest of the U. S. Army. Everyone had it, even the general, who was never hospitalized, and Colonel Smith, who was. At Camp Hood the men of the 703rd were also stricken with dysentery. June and early July were dark months for 3rd Armored Division personnel.

Chapter Index


In mid-July the orders came down. More than 30 trains were used to transport the "Bayou Blitz" to California. No vehicle went overland because rubber was too precious to waste in the undertaking. After a four-day journey, during which troops were given periods of rest in small towns of west Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, the caravan reached Rice, California, and a whistle-stop called Freda. From the relatively cool interior of day coaches, the men of the 3rd Armored Division stepped out into a brilliant expanse of sun and sand and jagged rock. The thermometer squirmed at 130 degrees, and the wind was furnace-hot!

The Mojave Desert was no vacationland, but men who trained over its sandy expanse, through the dry salt lake beds and around the well-remembered Turtle and Old Woman mountains, grew to have a certain affection for the wasteland they had entered. The climate was healthy, albeit uncomfortable. There were the compensations of frequent passes to Banning, Palm Springs, Riverside, Los Angeles, and Hollywood. One was forced to live rough in the desert, but not miserably as had been the case in some of the more inaccessible army camps.

Doggedly, troops worked through the day and sought the shelter of their tents during a short siesta period at noon. A great deal of water was consumed at first, but later a small amount was found to suffice. Salt tablets were issued and eaten by the dozens. Burlap water bags, which looked rugged, actually yielded a delightfully cool drink. The burning wind tanned soldiers to a saddle leather color and, although lips chapped painfully in the early days of the maneuvers, a cure was soon found for the ailment: it was crimson lipstick, definitely not GI!

Hot! The desert was hot at dawn when a red sun blasted up out of the thin mist, and it was hot at night when a sultry wind went breathing through the pyramidal tents. Mid-day was impossible with heat; and yet, gradually, the men of the division disregarded siesta periods and began to hike the desert for adventure in their off duty hours. Before an official ban outlawed hunting, some of the men shot jackrabbits with their issue pistols or with the new carbine. There was always a strong desire to scale the jagged peaks too; perhaps an unconscious desire to demonstrate that the awe-inspiring desert had been licked. We weren't bothered by sun and sand and jagged rock. Not us. "We were the masters!"

The cockiness was premature. One day the desert showed the men of the 3rd that they had much to learn. At noon the eastern horizon showed a mounting cloud of coffee colored dust. Slowly the wind sprang up. The cloud towered higher, became ominous in its murky billows and poisonous rose tints. The wind lagged, then freshened steadily and suddenly rose to a whistling shriek! The air was immediately full of dust and sand particles. Latrine tents went flapping off through the murk like great, broad winged bats and almost everything that wasn't staked down went cartwheeling before the enormous sweep of the gale.

Slowly the sand storm abated. Presently a yellow sunset emerged to light the wrecked camps of the future "Spearhead." The entire division shook the sand out of its blankets and went to bed with a new respect for the vast powers of the desert.

The 3rd was bivouacked 1.3 miles west of Freda, and Freda was a name on a weathered board. There was no actual camp, just an area of sand and runty greasewood brush. The various units threw up pyramidal tents, dug latrines and erected kitchens. The 23rd Armored Engineer Battalion, direct descendant of the famous old World War I "Road Builders Of The AEF," maintained its tradition by constructing more than 40 miles of roads through the wastelands, a number of firing ranges in the lee of the Granite Mountains, and a showerbath arrangement adjacent to the aqueduct which supplied Los Angeles with water. Here, troops of the division laundered their clothing and bathed each afternoon.

Before the desert maneuvers were fairly launched, General George S. Patton was mysteriously relieved of command and ordered to Washington. Unbeknownst to the world, the North African campaign was then in its final stages of preparation. The 3rd's own beloved General Alvan C. Gillem assumed command of the Desert Training Center. Shortly afterward, all units were alerted, for division and corps problems.

Desert maneuvers of 1942 probably did more to toughen the 3rd and prepare it for ultimate combat than had all previous training. Stripped of essentials, the tankers and supporting arms took to the wide open spaces in mock battle. Pitted against superior forces, the division never failed to turn in a creditable performance even though individual soldiers were often baffled by the exigencies of strategy. Tank Destroyer Corporal Paul Keller provided an example of the humor American selectees found in the most serious of situations. Lost during a night movement, Keller radioed his section leader, Sgt. Manry, for directions. Manry tried to help.

"What is your location in regard to the milky way?"

"Right under it!" Keller snapped, "and I think its's the same one I was under in Texas!"

It was no joke to be lost in the fastness of the great, arid Mojave, but the civilian-soldiers of the new Armored Force were still able to find grim humor in their most trying experiences.

Usually the division was fighting superior numbers of "enemy forces" during the maneuvers. Several times, therefore, supply columns were cut by opposing combat teams. On these occasions water and rations were spread thin. Sardines, of course, were a staff of life. No man of the 3rd will ever forget the constant diet of "goldfish." It was sardines with tomato sauce in camp, sardines right out of the can while moving. Sardines and more sardines ! Along with these despised " desert trout," tomatoes, fruit salad and canned turkey were issued often enough to become tiresome. There was no bread; rusk substituted for that, and the rusk issued on the Mojave was blood-brother to the enamel-chipping "dog-biscuits" of the western front, two years later.

While in base camp, rations were usually good, with plenty of fresh fruit from the nearby Imperial Valley of California.

On the desert, the 3rd Armored Division first became part of the VII Corps, an association which was resumed and continued throughout the European campaigns, and which paid off in wrecked enemy armor from Normandy to the Elbe. Commanded in action by Major General J. Lawton "Lightning Joe" Collins, the VII Corps was then led by Major General Robert C. Richardson.

Newspaper accounts of the California Desert maneuvers gave a great deal of space to "Gage's Gangsters," a group which was never fully identified at the time due to censorship regulations. The "Gangsters" were a company of the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and their job was the reconnoitering of "enemy" lines, sudden raids and will-o-the-whisp disappearances, leaving destruction in their wake.

The leader of this reckless, hell-for-leather outfit, was Captain John Gage. He and his lieutenants, his non-coms and his troopers, stole the show in those realistic sham battles of 1942. Later, on the bloody western front, the recon men lived up to advance billing. Gage was wounded in the St. Lo-Perriers breakthrough. Lt. John Patrick Reilly was killed in action while leading a tank force into Belgium. Lieutenants Dave Evanson, Walter E. Grimme, and Marion J. Stimson, were also evacuated after suffering severe wounds in the early fighting. Less than 100 of the original 202 officers and men of "Gage's Gangsters" were left on VE day, but the men of the company had exacted a terrible toll from the Boche during 10 months of flaming battle. The training John Gage gave to his men on the hot, sandy wasteland of California, paid off magnificently.

During periods of maneuver, the army wives of the 3rd Armored Division settled in Palm Springs and Indio. Here they kept the gossip factory running at peak capacity, went " Hollywood " with slacks and sunsuits. The swimming pool at the Desert Inn was a popular playground on occasional weekends, while many visited the film capital itself.

General Walker left the division in mid-August. He assumed command of the new IV Armored Corps. Brigadier General Leroy H. Watson assumed command of the 3rd, which General Gillem had re-christened the "Always Dependable" Division.

General John J. Bohn, former chief of staff, returned to lead Combat Command "B", and General Doyle O. Hickey, then a colonel, arrived to assume command of the fighting force he was to manage so long and successfully. General Hickey's CC "A" became almost a legendary force in " Spearhead" combat.

After a concluding two-week maneuver in late September and early October, the rumor factories began to grind out a story that the 3rd was about to move again. The 6th Armored Division had arrived in the desert and the trains which brought them were waiting.

"This is it!" said the army wives sorrowfully. "Africa, here we come," chuckled the tank drivers.

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And, sure enough, the division was alerted, packed up and boarded trains for the east coast. The destination was Camp Pickett, Virginia.

After the wide, cloudless desert, Camp Pickett presented an almost ominous appearance. The barracks were crowded and damp, splotchy with camouflage war paint, and hard to keep clean. Along with other inconveniences, the area was short on firing ranges. There was an abundance of rain, however, and no shortage of old fashioned doughboy mud.

A strange feeling of hurry-hurry finality pervaded Camp Pickett. The men who went home on furlough or leave decided that "this one" had to be good, because it would be the last before overseas shipment. Army wives, who settled in Blackstone, a sleepy little southern town that not even the army could awaken, were constantly agog with rumors of troop movement. The division was alternately "hot" and "cold". Originally, plans called for embarkation early in January, but the German submarine campaign, then at the height of efficiency, resulted in a postponement of orders.

In spite of inadequate facilities, the men of the 3rd Armored Division shook Mojave sand out of their equipment and began a vigorous schedule of work and instruction. The latest of ordnance items were issued to units; command post exercises, road hikes, and range firing were stressed. Everyone caught cold, for late fall in Virginia was wet and raw. Desert tanned soldiers found themselves constantly shivering in the east coast wind which swept over Pickett.

Meanwhile, radio reports told of alarming new successes by German Admiral Doenitz's submarine wolf packs. America wasn't yet out of the woods. Gas rationing had begun to pinch and blackout regulations didn't bring the chuckles they had engendered in the beginning. There was a nasty little story going the rounds about German tanks. They were, said the wise guys, raising hell with our inferior armor in Tunisia. This observation, in the light of subsequent experience, proved only partially correct. Both sides were committing advanced weapons in the desert campaign.

Back in Virginia, "Take It Off" was the juke box favorite of the season, and railway service to Washington and points north reached a new low in cleanliness and efficiency.

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The move to Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, a former Pennsylvania National Guard camp, surprised all of the armchair strategists. The division arrived at the beautifully laid out reservation in mid-January, and found - to its immense satisfaction, that the barracks were clean and modern.

The Gap proved to be a far colder place than Pickett. It was situated in a rolling hill country 28 miles from Pennsylvania's capitol city of Harrisburg. Here at Indiantown, the firing ranges between Blue and Center Mountains were adequate. The nearby towns of Lebanon, Hershey, and Pottsville, most of them populated by prosperous farmers of Dutch descent, were - along with Harrisburg - immediately "taken over" by the 3rd Armored Division.

There was no slacking off at the new camp. Rather, an accelerated training program was put into effect. In spite of winter weather, deep snow and cold; gunnery, maintenance, and physical conditioning were the touchstones of progress. Road marches and command post exercises went on as usual, while the new infiltration course which necessitated crawling through an area deep in mud and barbed wire, sown with small charges of dynamite, and covered with machine-gun fire, was required of each officer and enlisted man.

Although training at Indiantown Gap was extremely hard and comprehensive, troops of the division found their seven months sojourn in Pennsylvania the happiest of all army periods. This, more than any other station, was civilization. Transportation was better than it had been in Louisiana, California, or Virginia, and personnel were able to spend weekends in New York and Philadelphia, as well as in the hospitable Pennsylvania towns nearby. There was always a concerted dash for seats on the gigantic "40 & 8" busses which plied the roads between the "Gap" and Harrisburg each evening at 6 and at 11 A. M. on Saturdays. In the capitol city, soldiers often lined up for five hundred yards at dawn on Sunday morning, waiting for transportation back to camp. For all of the crowded conditions, bus lines functioned efficiently.

At Indiantown Gap, the artillery, under Colonel Frederic J, Brown, trained seriously for the job ahead. Tanks and tank-destroyers also learned the fine points of indirect fire. The pine-clad slopes of Blue and Center mountains echoed to a continuous crash and rumble of big guns.

Intensive training was no idle phrase at the "Gap". The War Department prescribed a 25 mile road march with full equipment to be taken by all personnel under 40 years of age. The battalions went out, complete to staff officers and cooks, to make the hike over snow banked, icy roads. Command Post Exercises went on, in spite of bitter cold, and division personnel added winter weather know-how to the knowledge which was to stand them in such good stead during the hard Ardennes struggle almost two years later.

In February of 1943, Americans were beginning to realize that the war had entered a critical stage. German Field Marshal von Paulus had surrendered at Stalingrad after a bloody stand, and the cornered Afrika Korps was lashing out viciously from a narrowing sector in Tunisia. The newspapers screamed KASSERINE PASS, and suddenly, with heavy casualty reports, the stark reality of total war began to pervade the strange, provincial naiveté of America. While civilians labored, or thought they did, under the new rationing of gasoline, foodstuff's, and other necessities, the army cut down too. Placards urging conservation of food appeared on mess hall doors, and supply sergeants began to dole out rations carefully. The various PX branches still sold cigarettes, chocolate and beer, and, although porterhouse steaks had begun to assume the qualities of legend, a soldier could still order and receive one in the Penn Harris Hotel, or at any restaurant in Harrisburg. Peanut Joe's place did a rushing business, and "Spearhead" soldiers spent many pleasant evenings in the K-Bar and English Tavern. "Pennsylvania Polka" and "Take It Off" were juke box favorites, and the 1120 train for New York invariably left at 1320 or later!

Discipline was strictly enforced on Harrisburg streets. Woe to the GI who failed to salute an officer or was observed to be disgracing the uniform in any way; he was promptly packed aboard a bus and sent back to camp.

Along with the battle inoculation course early in the spring of 1943, which was supervised by the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment, the 23rd Armored Engineer Battalion conducted a vehicle camouflage experiment which resulted in some of the most monstrously painted tanks and scout cars ever seen on American roads. At this time, too, the supervision of training was revised in that General Hickey assumed full responsibility for the progress of the 32nd Armored Regiment, the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment, the 54th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, the 143rd Armored Signal Company, Division Headquarters and Service Company, while General Bohn supervised the 33rd Armored Regiment, the 23rd Armored Engineer Battalion, the 391st and the 6/th Armored Field Artillery Battalions. The Division Trains was commanded by Colonel James O. Taylor.

In April, engineer units engaged in a minefield demonstration for the division. The carefully prepared program showed that buried explosives might only be cleared by the most painstaking of methods. During the demonstration, one mine blew the track off an M-4 tank. It was a graphic illustration to support the engineer show.

Various courses of instruction were prescribed in rapid fire order. Lt. Alfred Krebs, of the G-2 office, conducted a class in French. Lt. Colonel Marion E. Whitten began a CWS study of poison gas warfare. All troops were given the opportunity to smell mustard in the open field, and, with masks, to pass through gas chambers in which lethal concentrations of chlorine had been released.

On April 15, 1943, the division was two years old. The following day a review was held at Muir Field. On the stand with General Watson were Governor Martin of Pennsylvania and Brigadier General Howard McC. Snyder, father of Division G-3. In spite of a cold, whipping snowstorm, troops paraded smartly.

Qualification firing for record was announced on April 22. In the ensuing weeks many men of the division who had never before successfully completed a normal course gained badges for putting bullets right where they were supposed to be, in the bullseye. Platoon combat firing and tactical proficiency tests followed. These combined arms problems had been prescribed by Army Ground Forces as spring came to the Pennsylvania hills.

The reinforced tank battalion tests were conducted from May 11 to 16, armored infantry tests from May 19 to 24, and tank-destroyer tests from May 25 to June 1. Reconnaissance elements received a separate examination. During all of these exercises, the division came as close to combat firing as was possible without having the enemy fire back. Lead was thrown freely throughout, and artillery used on call. Overhead firing by both artillery and small arms was frequent and effective. No one was hurt, but enlisted men found glee in the several times repeated sight of high brass leaping desperately for foxholes when rounds landed short.

Following the combined arms problems, division artillery conducted a course in fire control and indirect firing which was intended to increase the effectiveness of combined strength in fire power. Another phase of training, street fighting, was inaugurated with the construction of a "Nazi village" by the reconnaissance battalion. The course consisted of an approach to the village, each man taking advantage of cover and firing at suddenly exposed targets. Small charges of TNT were set off in the . proximity of attacking troops, and men were trained to advance by individual dashes while covered by the guns of those behind.

Physical fitness tests were prescribed for all personnel in the spring of 1943. Officers and men grunted and groaned through 33 push-ups, a 300-yard dash, and a five mile hike with full field equipment, to be completed in 60 minutes. Obstacle courses, complete with scaling walls, rope climbs, and tunnels, were a major point of interest in the program.

During the summer months, the division continued to follow a hard training schedule. The engineers announced a course on booby traps and land mines which proved so successful that half of the division kept the other half on its toes with booby-trapped mess kits, gas masks, and everything else which lent itself to the application of firing devices and thunderflash practice explosives. During one demonstration of technique, the engineers did so well that their commanding officer, Lt. Colonel Robert Erlenkotter, walked into a hidden explosive and received a minor leg wound. To the further delight of GI's mingled with some apprehension, General Hickey also touched off one of the booby traps and left the area with his face scratched by flying gravel.

Undersecretary of War Patterson, wearing a floppy panama hat, inspected the division on July 8. The Undersecretary, who was called "Judge", fired a number of armored force weapons, observed a Red Cross swimming and lifesaving demonstration at the post lake, and was feted at the general's dwelling house before he left.

Another aspect of modern warfare was emphasized in the attack on a fortified position, conducted on July 14. The attack opened with an aerial bombardment, followed by an artillery concentration. Infantry and engineers then advanced, surmounted barbed wire entanglements and tank traps to assault the pillboxes with flame-throwers, dynamite and grenades, all under the heavy fire of small arms. Tanks followed the doughs, blasting at their targets with withering accuracy. It was an awe-inspiring demonstration of the firepower potential of an integrated armored force combat team, and one which was to be repeated nearly act for act on the Siegfried Line of Germany, a year later. One week previous to this demonstration, the division had watched tank destroyers steal the show at another combined arms demonstration. The first team seemed to be shaping up well.

On August 8, Major General Gatehouse, of the Royal Armored Corps, arrived at Indiantown Gap. The general, who had served in the western desert under Wavell, Auchinleck and Montgomery, said that American equipment gave a commander a feeling of confidence. He didn't think much of the German "Desert Fox."

"Rommel," said the general, "time and again did the wrong thing at the right time for us."

General Gillem, returning from action in Sicily, visited his old command on the following day. In his honor a review was held at Muir Field. The general was well pleased with the noticeable progress made by his "Always Dependable" division.

On August 10, Lt. General Leslie McNair, commanding general of the Army Ground Forces, spoke to officers and non-coms after a tour of ranges and training areas. "This division," he said, "is ready to fight as soon as it gets off the boat."

At this time the 3rd was alerted for overseas service.

The division's advance party, led by Brigadier General John J. Bohn, left Indiantown Gap on August 9, and proceeded to Fort Hamilton, New York, enroute overseas. Their destination was a closely guarded secret.

Activity pending movement to the staging area at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, was feverish. Showdown inspections were a daily occurrence; hardening exercises and physical conditioning intensified. Hikes were made under full field equipment and various methods of packing and carrying the blanket roll were investigated, mulled over, and finally decided. There was a great deal of last minute policing of the "Gap," and, although the move was supposed to be top-secret, Harrisburg hummed with rumors. Wives and sweethearts mysteriously turned up to spend the last few days in Pennsylvania with their soldiers. In camp, guards redoubled their vigilance and were warned to be on the lookout for saboteurs, fire, and victory girls!

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Sadly, but with shrugs of resignation, the beautifully laid out green and white barracks of Indiantown Gap were left behind. Soldiers of the 3rd Armored Division left the keystone state on August 26 and 27 - their destination, Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, and the. overseas port of embarkation at New York.
Kilmer was an efficiently organized camp headed by ASF officers and men who were able and willing to provide needed assistance to outgoing units. Messing was at huge central halls within each area, and the post cooks were experts at their trade.

Processing included the usual injections, talks on censorship and security, battle indoctrination films, and final physical examinations of the type: "He's warm - He's in!"

Quartermaster and ordnance inspections were routine affairs; the division had checked its weapons and equipment so often that the process was automatic.

The 3rd Armored Division remained at Kilmer for eight days, during which time the men were given 12 hour passes for a last whack at the night spots of New York. At 8 P.M. on September 1 the "blackout" went into effect. This was the alert which preceded movement to the port, usually coming within 48 hours of the actual move. During the interim, no one was allowed off the post proper, visitors were forbidden, and no wire or telephone calls might be made. Mail went out as usual, but for the first time each address bore the censor's stamp and was made out "In Care Of Postmaster."

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Early on September 4, the units moved out of Kilmer and boarded trains for New York harbor. On the pier, a few hours later, the long lines of soldiers waited patiently. Each man carried the bulk of his equipment in a barracks bag and each had his helmet numbered with white chalk.

The line moved slowly, each GI waiting until his last name was called, answered with his first, and then struggled up the gangplank into the ship.

By September 5, 1943, the division was on the high seas. Over the stern the Statue of Liberty grew indistinct in blue mist. GI's of the future first American "Spearhead" were, for once, speechless. They tried to make conversation, failed and just stood there by the railing and watched Liberty until she was a. shadow - until she was a dream in the distance.

The Atlantic crossing was the end of one epoch and the beginning of another. Behind the great, zigzagging convoy, peaceful, complacent America faded into blue distance. Ahead was the wide, contested no-man's-land of the sea. Hitler's wolf packs were there, and his Luftwaffe raiders. Neither had been beaten into submission. The war was far from won. Fortresses and Liberators, flying out of Britain, hit their targets deep in Germany, but at a terrible cost. The Red Army ground ahead slowly after the pyrrhic victory at Stalingrad. Allied forces in Italy hammered steadily forward, but reported that progress was hindered by "extensive demolitions." Beyond the far horizon Europe was flaming. To 3rd Armored Division troops aboard three ships, the John Errickson, the Capetown Castle, and the Shawnee, it was still "destination unknown." Later, they were to be issued booklets on behavior in Great Britain. Part of the riddle was then solved.

The convoy consisted of some two dozen ships. There were former luxury liners, and specimens from Henry Kaiser's assembly line. There were nimble little destroyers whipping back and forth, a battleship plowing steadily through the swells and, at intervals, the sight of an escorting Liberator overhead. The transports were painted grey and looked old and toil worn as they heeled periodically to change direction.

Troops aboard were fed twice daily, the long chow lines winding for hundreds of yards through ships' passageways. At first the GI's suffered from motion sickness, but gradually they found sea legs and even began to enjoy the trip. On the second day out, the convoy ran into rough weather, but thereafter the ocean was gentle. Boat drills were a daily occurrence, and poker became the premier occupation of all hands aboard.

The crossing was uneventful. That is to say, no submarine or surface raider put in an appearance. Twice during the trip, subs were "contacted" at night, and depth charges dropped. Soldiers, hearing the far-off detonations, drew their life belts close and shivered a little as they lay in triple decked bunks down in "torpedo junction", the hold.

On September 8, the ships radio announced that Italy had surrendered unconditionally to allied forces. There was a short lived celebration until GI's recalled that Nazi armies still held most of the continent and that this first victory was only another stepping stone on the long, hard road toward peace.

Although the eleven day trip was uneventful insofar as enemy action was concerned, off duty Joes found a great deal to occupy their attention. The sea itself, constantly changing in color, was an attraction. Men counted the ships of the convoy and suddenly discovered that there was one more - or
less - than had been visible the day before! There were countless discussions on the science of navigation, the seabirds that followed in mid-ocean, and open amazement to find that a number of sparrows were stowaways. At night, soldiers on guard looked into the pregnant darkness of the Atlantic and wondered at the blue-green phosphorescence which boiled out from under the bow and marked the ships passage for hundreds of yards astern.

There was the constant reminder of peril. At dusk there would be the usual admonition over a hoarse-voiced amplifier: "Blackout is now in effect. There will be no smoking on deck. All garbage will be thrown overboard. These orders will be strictly enforced." Long afterward, in the great river crossings of the 1944 summer offensive through France, some gagster was always on hand to croak sorrowfully: "Blackout is now in effect. There will be no smoking," etc., while bullets and shells whined nearby.

All was not sweetness and light on the boats. General opinion was that the officers messed better than enlisted men. Latrines were limited and shower baths yielded salt water. Shaving in brine was agony, but everyone managed to present a neat appearance.

Next Chapter: Training in England

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