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10th AD Tigers Missed Credit For Valiant Fight at Bastogne

Transcribed from Armor Magazine, July-August 1992

Click here for photos of Tiger Tracks - a 10th AD book published circa 1944 (before the division deployed to Europe)

    This July, the 10th Armored Division celebrates its 50th Anniversary.  The "Tigers" formed part of our rapidly expanding Armored Force in the early days of World War II, and played a crucial role in the defeat of Nazi Germany. 

    On 15 July 1942, the 10th Armored Division activated at Fort Benning, Georgia; the 2nd Armored Division provided equipment and training areas for the new division.  Officers from the 3rd and 11th Cavalry Regiments joined the original division cadre.  Soon, men and equipment from across the United States arrived, and the new unit took shape.  The transition from civilian to soldier went quickly.   MG Paul Newgarden, the 10th's commander explained:  "If we are to be successful, we must work like hell, play like hell, and fight like hell." The 10th did just that.

    Rugged training filled the first year as soldiers went through "Tiger Camp."   After forced marches, endurance tests, night problems, dry runs, and firing problems, the 10th bloomed with "espirit de corps," and maneuvers in Tennessee demonstrated its prowess.  Early in September 1943, the 10th relocated to Camp Gordon, Georgia.  That fall, the 10th reorganized on a battalion basis.  The hard training continued, but at the same time, the "Tiger" Special Service Office organized soldier shows, dances, concerts, and a full range of athletic events.  

    Early on the morning of 15 July 1944, the 10th was saddened by the loss of MG Newgarden in a plane crash.  MG William H.H. Morris, Jr. assumed command and stressed continued excellence in battle training.  Then on 31 August 1944, the 10th entrained for Camp Shanks, New York, a port of embarkation just up the Hudson River from New York City.   For two weeks, the "Tigers" made final preparation for overseas deployments.

    On 13 September 1944, the division sailed from New York Harbor to an unknown destination.  Unfortunately, the U.S.S. Alexander, with most of the men, ran aground in the Brooklyn Narrows, within sight of the city's skyline.  A squadron of hastily-assembled ferryboats spent a day transferring the soldiers to the S.S. Brazil, a converted luxury liner.  With a destroyer escort, Brazil set out to catch up to the convoy.  After avoiding a fall hurricane, the Brazil joined the other ships on 16 September.  Two days later, U-boats attacked and torpedoed a tanker in the convoy.   Despite this, the 10th arrived at Cherborg, France, on 23 September 1944, and was the first American armored division to disembark on French soil directly from America.

    Immediately, the 10th was assigned to MG Walton Walker's XX Corps, part of LTG George Patton's Third Army.  The "Tigers" spent a month receiving new equipment and training in the Normandy countryside.  On 2 November 1944, the division received its baptism under fire at Mars La Tours, France.  Later that month, the "Tigers" participated in the XX Corps capture of Metz.  This action saw the construction of a 190-foot Bailey Bridge, the largest in the European Theatre of Operations.  It was the first time in 1500 years that the ancient fortress at Metz fell.  After fierce fighting, the 10th pierced the vaunted "Siegfried Line" and led the Third Army into Germany on 19 November 1944.

    On 17 December 1944, the attack east came to an abrupt halt.  In the north, the Germans had launched their Ardennes Offensive.   The 10th was the first division to rush north against "the Bulge."   Combat Command A moved 75 miles in a single day, directly into the attack.   The 10th assumed responsibility to protect Luxembourg and the Third Army's right flank.  Combat Command B was called to Bastogne by General George S. Patton on 17 December 1944.  At that time, the 101st Airborne Division was resting and refitting in France; Combat Command B of the 10th Armored Division was the only combat unit defending Bastogne at the time.  The Tigers held Bastogne against eight German Divisions until the 101st hurriedly returned, and then provided the infantry essential time to dig in before the city was completely encircled.  Combat Command B remained with the airborne the entire fight at Bastogne.  

(Click here to continue reading at top of page)

General Anthony McAuliffe praised the men of the Tiger Division, noting that, "In my opinion, Combat Command B of the 10th Armored Division never properly was credited with their important role in the Bastogne battle."

For the first time, combat commands of an armored division fought as part of two separate corps.  The "Tigers" distinguished themselves with heroic efforts, both on the southern flank of "the Bulge" and at Bastogne.

    In early February 1944, the 10th reassembled at Metz and rejoined the XX Corps.  For security reasons, the "Tigers" stripped all identification from their vehicles and removed their shoulder patches.  The division had a brief rest.   A large number of "Tigers" were even able to visit Paris.   Meanwhile, the division received needed, experienced replacements.  Most of these new men came from the airborne and had recovered from combat wounds.  They soon proved to be superb fighters.

    The 94th Infantry Division had battered a hole in the Saar-Moselle Triangle.  During the evening of 19 February 1945, the 10th raced 75 miles and passed through the infantry.  At 0700 on the 20th, the "Tigers" attacked.  In one day, they smashed the vaunted German defenses, and after 48 hours, the division blitzed 85 miles, overrun the triangle, and reached the Saar River.  Once the 94th had secured a bridgehead, the "Tigers" crossed the Saar and pressed on to capture Trier and a bridge across the Moselle River.  The shocking loss of this heavily defended city caused German defenses to collapse.  Generals Eisenhower and Patton personally visited the "Tigers" to congratulate them on this remarkable achievement.

    Next, the 10th drove across the Palatinate.  The hard-driving "Tigers" never allowed the enemy to reorganize his defenses.  Skillful maneuver and exploitation into his rear forced repeated defeats on the enemy.  In one week, the 10th advanced 100 miles and captured 8,000 prisoners from 26 different enemy divisions.  This advance cut off the escape route of 50,000 Germans.

    After a four-day respite, the 10th spearheaded General Alexander Patch's Seventh Army drive to Bavaria.  The division raced through Kaiserslautern, crossed the Rhine River on 28 March 1945, and continued east.  With rapid night movements, the "Tigers" continually surprised the Germans by appearing in different sectors.  German dispatches referred to the 10th as the "Ghost Division."  The division helped to seize Heilbronn, defended the Crailsheim Salient, and moved south to isolate Stuttgart.  On 23 April 1945, the 10th crossed the Danube River.  Then on 27 April 1945, it lead the Seventh Army into Austria. By the conclusion of hostilities on 9 May 1945, the "Tigers" had reached Mittenwald, Bavaria, where they halted, their mission accomplished.

    The 10th occupied southern Bavaria until September 1945.  On 3 October 1945, the division sailed from Marseilles, France.  It arrived at New Port News, Virginia, on 13 October 1945 and was deactivated at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia on 15 October 1945.  The "Tigers" had captured 650 towns and cities along with 56,000 German prisoners.  Above all, the 10th played key roles in several of the war's greatest battles, including Combat Command B's gallant defense of Bastogne.   Years after the war, General Anthony McAuliffe praised the men of the Tiger Division, noting that, "In my opinion, Combat Command B of the 10th Armored Division never properly was credited with their important role in the Bastogne battle."

The oversight has been righted.  The division's proud history remains alive today with the 10th Armored Division Veterans Association.

This unit history was researched and prepared by Captain John Buckheit during his temporary assignment to Armor Magazine in the summer of 1990 from unit histories, including COL Lester Nichols' Impact.

 

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