It is generally conceded that thunderbolts travel pretty fast, but nobody ever suspected that a whole armored division of “Thunderbolts” could strike as quickly as the 11th Armored Division did in the winter of 1944-45.
The Thunderbolt Division ( it shares the nickname with the 83d Infantry Division) was crossing the English Channel in mid-December, when Rundstedt launched his counteroffensive. The Allies were in desperate need of all the reinforcements they could get, and a brand-new armored division could mean a lot.
The 11th Armored hit the beaches of Normandy one morn-ing and instantly set off on a forced march, skidding into Neufchâteau, Belgium, at midnight of the same night.
The next day—just 24 hours after hitting European soil for the first time—the Thunderbolts roared into action. They had a very definite mission: to get astride the vital Neufchâteau- Bastogne highway and prevent the Germans from gaining con-trol of it. The 11th Armored jumped off in an attack, and the Germans had to revise any supply plans they had involving that critical highway.
Rarely in military history had an armored division gone into action so quickly from so far behind the lines.
Once started, the Thunderbolts kept on rumbling toward the heart of Europe. In January, they continued to fight in Belgium, and the next month, with the 6th Armored, they took Trois, Vierges and Goedange. They spearheaded the Allied drive across the Kyll River, fought through northern Luxembourg, and drove on to the Rhine, over-running Kirschweiler, Dochweiler and Winnweiler.
Swerving to the south, the Thunderbolts earned themselves new honors by becoming the first American unit to enter Austria. On their way, they paused long enough, west of Kaiserslautern, to help capture two German armies—the First and Seventh. In March, the Thunderbolts crossed the Rhine, drove toward Nürnberg, and sent two columns racing into Bavaria and finally joining up at Cham, 28 miles northeast of Regensburg and 1,200 feet high in the Alps. They captured Linz, on the Danube, and on V-E Day, were assembled at Friidenthal.
A few weeks later, while on occupation duty near Ober- donau, the Thunderbolts started reckoning up their combat achievements. In only a few months of action, they discovered, the 11th Armored had taken a total of 76,229 prisoners—an average of 600 a day and twice as many as were taken by the entire American Army during the last war.
From Fighting Divisions, Kahn & McLemore, Infantry Journal Press, 1945-1946.
Activated 15 August 1942
Arrived ETO 5 October 1944
Arrived Continent (D+194) 17 December 1944
Entered Combat 23 December 1944
Days in Combat 96
Combat Command A
Combat Command B
22d Tank Battalion
41st Tank Battalion
42d Tank Battalion
21st Armored Infantry Battalion
55th Armored Infantry Battalion
63d Armored Infantry Battalion
41st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mechanized)
56th Armored Engineer Battalion
151st Armored Signal Company
11th Armored Division Artillery
490th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
491st Armored Field Artillery Battalion
492d Armored Field Artillery Battalion
11th Armored Division Trains
133d Ordnance Maintenance Battalion
81st Armored Medical Battalion
Military Police Platoon
5 Oct 44 Brig. Gen. Charles S. Kilburn
21 Mar 45 Brig. Gen. Holmes E. Dager
3 May 45 Maj. Gen. Holmes E. Dager
5 Oct 44 Col. John G. Howard
5 Oct 44 Col. J. J. B. Williams
17 Mar 45 Col. Edgar T. Conley, Jr.
5 Oct 44 Lt. Col. Ralph J. Olson
5 Oct 44 Lt. Col. William R. Prince
7 Jan 45 Lt. Col. William M. Slayden
5 Oct 44 Lt. Col. Paul A. Chalmers
7 Dec 44 Lt. Col. George S. Downer, Jr.
5 Oct 44 Maj. Johnnie B. Poole
16 Nov 44 Lt. Col. Johnnie B. Poole
19 Dec 44 Maj. Howard W. Decker
16 Feb 45 Lt. Col. Howard W. Decker
5 Oct 44 Lt. Col. Lillar P. Miller
5 Oct 44 Brig. Gen. Willard A. Holbrook, Jr.
5 Oct 44 Col. Wesley W. Yale
5 Oct 44 Col. Virgil Bell
575th AAA AW Bn (SP) 23 Dec 44-24 May 45
991st Engr Treadway Br Co (- 1 section) 4 Mar 45-14 Mar 45
996th Engr Treadway Br Co 28 Mar 45-1 Jun 45
Btry C, 174th FA Bn (155mm Gun) 15 Feb 45-4 Mar 45
355th CT (89th Div) 16 Mar 45-21 Mar 45
914th FA Bn (89th Div) (105mm How) 16 Mar 45-21 Mar 45
Co C, 314th Engr C Bn (89th Div) 16 Mar 45-21 Mar 45
261st CT (65th Div) 28 Mar 45-29 Mar 45
328th CT (26th Div) 3 May 45-6 May 45
602d TD Bn (SP) 29 Dec 44-27 Jan 45
811th TD Bn (SP) 27 Jan 45-4 Feb 45
602d TD Bn (SP) 4 Feb 45-24 Feb 45
705th TD Bn (SP) 24 Feb 45-5 Jul 45
There are 5 soldiers of the 11th Armored Division World War II still listed as missing in action.
|Private First Class Stanley K. Chadwick 41st Tank Battalion 01/14/1945|
|Sergeant Edward J. Hallman 42nd Tank Battalion 01/15/1945|
|Corporal Herman H. Lendl 42nd Tank Battalion 01/02/1945|
|Private First Class John Spero 41st Tank Battalion 12/30/1944|
|Captain Gene E. Sucharda 41st Tank Battalion 01/14/1945|
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