Jump to content

740Th Tank Battalion (Daredevils) Memoir (Harold Bradley)

Recommended Posts

A few years ago, Battlefront released a Flames of War Late War book by the name of "NUTS", which of course obviously refers to the Battle of the Bulge. One of the Armored options available is the 'Scrapyard Tank Platoon" which was based off the 740th's one-night to get their tanks running from an Ordnance Depot story. Over the next couple years, I hunted down Daredevil Tankers by Colonel Rubel, their commander and Into The Breach by Paul Pearson to learn more about these guys--their story is quite interesting between the CDL project and their experience in the Ardennes. More recently, I'd gotten into a discussion over the validity of the one-night story, so I decided to try to track down any living remnants of the 740th.


Luckily, I managed to find Harold Bradley of C Co 740th. Harold (Silver Star awarded) was with the 740th from it's formation through the end of the war and had written up his memoir for a newspaper story back in 2007. It never ended up getting published, but he forwarded it to me this weekend and gave me permission to share it.


So, as follows, here is Harold Bradley's story of being a tanker in WWII.

Everyone knows that war is hell, but a person cannot possibly know how hellish was really is until he or she has been

there. The men of the 740th Tank Battalion, most of us boys at the time, who fought the good fight in World War II, were there.

We are qualified to speak – But you know, most of them don’t. Speak that is. About war, until we get together, then how the

words flow. We can’t seem to get enough of each other’s stories. At least that’s the way it is now when the tankers who are

still alive and kicking get together, which a lot of us do each year when the 740th tank Battalion Association meets, usually

around the Labor Day Holiday.

Of course, there are fewer and fewer every year, something like it was during the war after each clash with the

Germans. Always a few who didn’t make it back, what kind of people were these young men of the 740th in World War II?

Many will never know if they do not tell their stories where their families can remember the brave men that fought to preserve

the freedom we enjoy today. This is my story!

History tells us that in September 1939 began World War II – The bloodiest, most terrifying war in all history. It was a

war that before long would sear the Globe.

In 1941 I was still in high school at Elmore City, OK Tthe Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. I was

only 17-years-old, a farm boy, knowing our country was already close to joining the war, it had only committed to sending war

supplies on loan to the Allied Forces, mainly Great Britain, France and Russia. Within days, Japan’s allies, Germany and Italy,

declared war on the United States, December 7, the “date which will live in infamy,” brought us into World War II.

Many young men in our school started enlisting in the Army, Navy, Marines and army Air Corp. I was fortunate to stay

in school and graduated in May, 1942. In July of that year I turned 18 and registered for the draft, not knowing how long I

would have before I would be called to serve my country.

It was harvesting time on the farm. Broomcorn was the crop that had to be cut, it was a cash crop for my Father and

Mother to help cloth us for winter. I joined the other farmers and started cutting for 15 cents per hour.

Late in the harvest time, Bill Paul was a senior when I was a freshman was working at G. F. Wackers’ Warehouse in

Pauls Valley and he was married to one of my teachers, Carmoleta Vaughn Paul. One Saturday night, my neighbor, had a car

and we decided to go into Pauls Valley to see a movie and I ran into Paul and he asked me if I would like to come to work at

Wacker Warehouse in Pauls Valley, I told him that sure would beat cutting broomcorn. Paul told me that he would find out

Monday morning if the opening was still available and he would have his wife call me if I had the job. Monday morning came

around, Dad and my brother, Overton went to the broomcorn field and I stayed at home. Mother asked me if I was sick or was

I going to the corn field and I told her that I was expecting a call from Mrs. Paul to see if I had a job in Pauls Valley. She told

me that she didn’t think that she would call me. I told mother if she didn’t I would only loose $1.50. About 10 AM, the phone

rang and it was Mrs. Paul and she told me if I could get to Elmore City, which was about four and half miles northwest of

Elmore City I could ride with her into Pauls Valley that evening. Therefore, I put some things together and I walked to town

and I went to work for George F. Wackers Warehouse the next day. At that time I did not have a place to stay but a young man

about the same age as I, worked at the Warehouse, invited me to stay with his parents. I stayed there over a month until I went

to stay with Roy and Baby Mullins. They had three boys and twin daughters but they made room for me. I had no idea how

long I would be working at Wackers, but I didn’t let that worry me, I wasn’t cutting any more broomcorn.

In September while attending the Garvin County Free Fair, I met a couple, George Machtolff and Earleen Cobble.

Earleen had a sister who was riding the swings and she saw me talking to Earleen and wanted to know who I was and Earleen

told her she thought I worked at Wacker’s Warehouse. A couple of days went by and I was on a break at a Drug Store, where I

met Kathleen Cobble.

One Saturday night just before Halloween, Kathleen and I went to the show and I walked her home for the first time.

She lived about half mile from the theater and I lived over a mile from the theater. I got lost the first time I walked her home

and I must have walked two miles before I got on the right street and found my way back to town but before long I knew my

way around because we started going steady.

Cars were hard to come by back then and most of the time we had to walk just about everywhere we went, but one day

Kathleen asked me if I would like to go to church with her and her mother and sister and I told her I would love too. After that

Sunday we attended church ever Sunday from that time until I got a call from Uncle Sam telling me I need you and what was a

young man to do. There were a lot of young men that got out of the draft and they were declared 4-F and there were those that

used this as a way to get out of serving our country, not me or my brothers, Overton and Billy Joe. Our dad might have gotten

one of us and maybe two by using us as farm exemption but he never would do that. Overton and I were in World War II and

Billy Joe was in the Korean conflict.

Just when Kathleen and I were getting to know each other, I was inducted into the United States Army at Oklahoma

City, on February 19, 1943.

This is the story of our tank battalion and the things that happened to it in the war against Germany. It is not the

purpose here to lay down tactical principles for the guidance of those who might fight at a later date, but is a narrative of the

things that happened to us and what we did about them.

A good many battalions were attached to Infantry Divisions and remained with them through most of the war. Our lot

was considerably different. We were nomads, traveling from one hotspot to another, doing maintenance while on railroad

trains, picking up and dropping tanks and all other kinds of vehicles on the fly. We were always in a terrible hurry.

Our training background differed considerably from that of the standard tank battalion directives. We engaged in a

special training project shortly after our activation, which was tied in with a similar British project. As we expected to work

with the British, we got together with them and developed a coordinated system of giving commands and directing fire, which

later on proved very confusing to reinforcements joining the battalion. Although the project was not used by us, the training

was of great value in our combat operations in the Ardennes, the Ruhr Pocket, and both of our penetrations of the Siegfried

Line. Our ability to hit anything we shot at, coupled with our previous extremely aggressive training, made a combination that

accounted for the destruction of fantastic quantities of German equipment, the killing of well over 5,000 of the enemy, and the

capture of over 62,000, with an extremely small loss of ourselves.

Never having trained in the so called conventional tank tactics, we contrived our own tactics as we went along. Our

standard operating policy, was that each tank platoon did what it thought was best at the time. It was instilled in everyone the

idea that it was his job to outsmart the enemy. If we couldn’t hit him from the rear, or from all sides at the same time, hit him

so hard and so fast from the front that captured German reports often referred to the operation of one platoon as that of a

battalion, and we were frequently credited with being a brigade. When Jerry knew we were going to attack and knew the

direction from which we were approaching. We hit him before he thought we possibly could. The more confused and obscure

the enemy situation was – the harder we attacked and the deeper were our penetrations, our belief being that if we didn’t know

what was going on – it was doubly certain that the enemy didn’t. Being surrounded meant only that we had more target area to

fire at, and we were not hampered by indecision, or proximity of other troops.

Throughout the war we hauled all of our own ammunition, fuel, and supplies, evacuated most of our wounded ,operated

our own hospital which we leap-frogged forward, procured our own clothing when it was available, and place practically no

burden on Divisions, we supported – except that of publishing citation orders for gallantry in action. This fiercely independent

attitude was one of the great contributing factors to our success in battle. We thought that there was no situation that we could

not meet. We felt that no enemy could stand up to us and live. Very few did.

The 740th Tank Battalion (M) was born at Fort Knox, Kentucky on the 1st of March 1943. Its parents were the 7th

Armored Division and 9th Armored Group, and its Godfather was General Scott. The Officers and non-commissioned officers

who formed the cadre of this outfit arrived at Fort Knox on the 27th of February 1943 from Camp Polk, Louisiana. It’s battalion

commander, Major Harry C Anderson of the 9th Armored Group, Camp Campbell, Kentucky. The battalion was quartered in

the wooden buildings located between 1st and 2nd Avenues and between 21st and 24thStreets, Fort Knox. While the cadre was

setting up housekeeping, cleaning up the old dilapidated buildings and policing up the cigarette butts, other things were


At the same time that we were being processed at Fort Sill and a group of young men from Texas was going through

the same thing at Camp Wolters, Texas. When this group of men from Oklahoma and Texas was being processed the

Transportation officers at both camps were making plans to ship us all out of Oklahoma and Texas for a place that we would

soon call home, and that was Fort Knox, KY., There we were met by a group of officers and non-commissioned officers who

formed the cadre of this outfit arrived at Fort Knox earlier. We soon learned that we would be placed in the 740th Tank

Battalion. We arrived on the 7th of March 1943. We wondered what the world was coming too. On the 15th of March basic

training got underway, and we soon learned the terrible penalties for unbuttoned shirts and un-shinned shoes. We also learned

to love the Fort Knox weather. However, those who thought the weather was bad at that time soon found that we had seen

nothing yet, when, on the 3rd of May, we started driving instruction. Two companies at a time bivouacked in Area 19. During

the period of this driving instruction weather reports read, “Cold, rain, with some snow.” The pyramidal tents that we lived in

looked like mounds of mud. The tanks we were learning to drive were: Driving instructions went something like this: Start the

engine at 7:30 AM ; warm the tank up; start driving at 8:00 AM; get stuck in the mud at 8:15 AM, spend the rest of the day

pulling the tank out, spend most of the night washing the mud off. Repeat the process the next day. During this driving period

most men found out what we wanted to do, and all were placed on “Table of Organization” jobs.

On the 12th of May, 1943, the Battalion was relieved from the standard tank battalion and assigned to Special Troops,

Armored Force, and was assigned to the 8th Tank Group, here again we went into basic training where we made ourselves

familiar with all the jobs in the battalion nomenclature and functioning of weapons and the various echelons of maintenance,

was concluded on the 14th of June. Then the battalion entered upon its unit – training program. This training started with a 4-

day period spent in the field where the basic elements of maneuvering were outlined. We had daily instructions in the field by

companies. Small problems in minor tactics were finally worked out. On the 5th of July the battalion underwent simulated gas

attack from the air. From the 12th of July to the 7th of August 1943 the battalion began to find out how hard it was to hit the

“bulls-eye” with a government weapon. Tank crews fired the 75 mm gun, sub-caliber machine gun, as well as the 30 caliber

co-axial machine gun. Everyone fired sub-machine guns and pistols. No one was surprised when nearly every man qualified

with his weapon.

Although the battalion was sublimely unconscious of the fact, great things were cooking in Washington and on the 7th

of August “Manna from Heaven” was dropped on the battalion in the form of furloughs. Fifty percent of the Battalion could be

gone at one time and the furlough period was to be completed with everyone back on the job by the 30th of August. There

handshaking and admonitions to “have a great time and “don’t forget to come back” as we left for our homes.

Kathleen and I kept in touch with each other with our letters from the time I left in February until I came home on a

furlough. That was the longest train ride I every took while I was in the Army, it seems like the train stopped at every cow

track coming from Fort Knox to Oklahoma, but I finally made it and even though the 14-day furlough was short, I bought an

engagement ring and asked Kathleen to marry me and she said yes and that was the beginning of something special.

One Saturday mother and dad came to Pauls Valley to do some shopping and they knew that I had met Kathleen before

I entered the Army but they had not met her. She was working at Willis Variety Store, so dad decided that he would go and

meet her and he walked in and Kathleen didn’t know him from anyone else, he struck up a conversation with her as if he had

known her all his life and while they were talking he just happened to mention that he was my dad and it took Kathleen by

surprise but she was really glad to meet him and from then on they were good buddies.

While I was on leave and our folks learned that we were engaged, mother and dad had a family get together on the farm

so all of the neighbors and relatives could get to know Kathleen so we had one big feast before I had to return to Fort Knox.

After all of the men returned from their furloughs, the Battalion found out that furloughs for everyone had a catch. The

catch was that, unknown to the members of the 740th Tank Battalion, had been selected to participate in one of the Army’s

most closely guarded secret. This had been planned by the high command, that as soon as the unit training was concluded. The

Battalion would be moved out to Area “X” and be confined there. We all knew that some kind of a secret project was being

carried on out there; From then on the project was called a “Special Training Group.” We knew that other armored units had

come to Fort Knox for this training but no one could find out. Like most anything, rumors and speculation was flying and that

was only confusing and those that knew, would not tell.

The guessing came to an abrupt end for the members of our battalion, when on the 7th of September 1943 we moved

lock, stock and barrel to Area “X”. There, in a “hush-hush meeting the battalion learned that our name had been changed to

read “740th Tank Battalion (Medium) Special”. At this time all members of the battalion held up their right hand, took the oath

of secrecy, signed a book, and then heard the details of the project, Instructors outlined the plans in mind and stressed the need

for secrecy, Demonstrations of the use of this special equipment were attended, and technical classes were soon started.

No one was allowed to leave Area “X” for any reason for fear that some how this closely guarded secret might leak out.

This ironclad security came as a shock to many because they had their wives in Louisville, or at least nearby. This meant that

they could not see them. A PX was set up where beer was doled out, and an open-air theater was built.

The interest and speculation in classes, everyone agreed that it held great promise and might revolutionize warfare

wherever tanks could be used. We worked around the clock in training, and were anxious to try it out. The school at Fort Knox

was technical, but a camp was being built in the Arizona Desert where the technical principles involved could be tried out in a

practical manner. In September a place was selected which was a valley about 10 miles wide and 30 miles long, entirely

surrounded by high mountains was chosen. This place turned out to be Butler Valley located about 20 miles east of Bouse,


The camp was finally built and our battalion boarded the train on the 12th of October and left Fort Knox, KY., and a

train ride that took two days, we arrived at Bouse at about midnight and trucks from the camp were waiting at the railroad

station to transport us to our new home. For most of the men, this desert wasn’t one of God’s special places, but it was going to

be where we must live and train in the secret project as long as our high command wanted it for us.

Lieutenant Colonel George Kenneth Rubel was given command of the 740th special Tank Battalion. Colonel Rubel had

commanded a tank battalion in the North Africa campaign and his battalion took a beating and when he came to the 740th, he

told us about the loss and he promised that would never happen again, so he started us on a training program that put us at the

top of all tank battalions that had taken the kind of training that we were going through. He adopted a motto that we would do

everything first and do it better than anyone else.

While we were in the desert training sight, we had an APO number for all our out going mail and all of it was censored

and we were not allowed to let our families know what was going on. Even after we finally got a chance for a weekend pass

we had to go in group of threes’ to make sure that no one would speak to anyone about what was going on out in the desert

About half of each company would be allowed to go into Phoenix for a weekend and then the next week the rest of the

company would have the weekend. This worked out real well and as far as I know, no one ever got out of line because if they

did that would mean that no more weekends off and that would also mean someone got into trouble

Training was resumed about the 5th of November. The morale of the men was very low and Col. Rubel wanted to start a

new kind of training in hopes that he could build up the morale of the troops. Col. Rubel knew the approximate training level

the Battalion had reached and also most of its past history. He knew why the state of unrest and low morale in the battalion

existed. He told the General what he thought part of the trouble was and what he thought the cure would be. General agreed

and the next day details were cut from over 300 men down to around 105 men. After talking to the officers, Col. Rubel called a

meeting of the battalion and told us what he thought the trouble was, how we could cure it, and that he had been ordered by

General Pierce to produce the best Battalion in this special training group in record time. He had a couple of days to decide

whether he wanted to take the battalion and had received a promise from the General that he would stay with it, and would not

be relieved as soon as it got on its feet. This had happened at Camp Campbell where another battalion, which appeared to be

going on the rocks, lost its battalion commander and he had been sent out on the same mission – to stand it on its feet. He

wanted to stay with that battalion but they said “nothing doing” – he had to come back as Executive to the Group.

During the time that he commanded the other battalion he had tried out several different ideas for training and had

come upon one that not only held the interest of the men but had produced good results. He was determined to try it out on the

740th. It was not exactly conventional training and he knew he would have trouble answering questions if it failed. He outlined

this system to the officers and NCOs of the 740th and it sounded to them like a good idea. Over that much of a hurdle safely, he

said “let’s go” – and every man in the battalion jumped into it. The Staff worked day and night to keep ahead of the training,

and within a week heads were high and chests were thrown out. The Battalion had not only regained its pride, but it walked

with the air of a vindicated man. Together, we reviewed the basic principles of driving, and firing, and learned how to live

together. We spent about three day cleaning up vehicles and getting them in shape to run. The tankers became inseparable from

his tank. He drove it everywhere he went. He drove it day and night, with and without lights, and over the roughest terrain.

After this special training, we passed the battalion crew test with an average score of 83.73 percent, the highest record

in the entire Armored Force at that time.

During our stay in the desert the battalion had taken on a feeling of fierce pride in itself. We had hung up new records

in target practice for the rest of the Armored Force to try to beat, but more important than that—we developed confidence in

our selves. We proved to ourselves that we could do anything we made up our minds to do and could hit anything that we shot

at and we had confidence in our ability to meet any situation, the way we carried ourselves, not only in parades but when we

walked down the street. After our first combat we found that our training in the desert had been along the right lines. We knew

that no man could stand up to us and live.

As our time was drawing to a close and the talk was that our next move would be to Europe, but first of all we had been

in the desert for six months. The most important thing about the desert training, we were there on a secret special project where

all our mail was censored in order that they could keep it a secret and we never was able to use this special project. What a

waste of government money, but that is the way the army was and we did not question the way they handled the Governments

business. Today the way things are handled there is no secret to what is going on. Our newspapers, radios and television

reporters are given information that they report everyday and our enemies can see what we have to fight with and they know

just about where and when we will use it, even before our fighting men know where they are going. For instance, the U.S. sent

troops to a starving Nation to try and save that Nation from starvation. The TV cameras and reporters were already waiting for

the troops to land and it ended up hurting the U.S., more than it helped.

As a former newspaperman I understand that the Media wants to get their reports out there but I believe there must be

some restraints in order to protect our Freedom.

Although we had never been issued special equipment, we felt that we would be able to use it. During the end of our

stay at Camp Bouse we did use it. A General from the War Department paid us an unexpected visit. The other battalions that

had trained with this special equipment had left camp or were in the process of leaving. Those that were left didn’t want to risk

trying to put on a demonstration, so our Commander jumped at the chance. Well we got one day and a night to become

familiar with the equipment. The following day we put on a show for the General that no one else would do and again the 740th

proved that we could do anything we set out to do—and do it well.

Before we could close Camp Bouse, the Battalion received word that every man would be given a 14-day furlough.

This was a time for Kathleen and I had been looking forward too so we could make plans for our wedding. On a weekend pass

into Phoenix, Arizona which was about 125 miles from Camp Bouse, I call Kathleen to give her the good news about my leave

and it was around midnight in Pauls Valley and a cold night in Oklahoma and it was like summertime in Arizona. Kathleen

told me she just about froze talking to me but she soon warmed up when I told her I was getting a 14-day leave and for her to

start planning for our wedding. I could not tell her when I would get my leave, so she started the next day making plans. She

had to change them three times before I could give her the date I would be home.

In March 1944 our dreams and plans came true. On March 29, 1944 we were married in the First Christian Church in

Pauls Valley with Rev. Charles H. Nininger officiating. My sister, Ileana Bradley Cagle stood up for Kathleen and Raymond

Johnson stood up for me. We had a very short honeymoon as we traveled by bus to Chickasha, OK.

Not knowing where my next assignment would be, my leave came to an end much too quick and I had to report back to

Camp Bouse, leaving Kathleen not knowing when or where we would be together again. But our faith was strong enough to

see us through.

After all the leaves were finished, our battalion would stay at Camp Bouse, police the area and salvage as much of the

camp as possible and then off to Fort Knox, KY., where we would draw clothing and equipment in preparation for the coming

excursion to Europe.

When we got the word that we would be making a stop at Fort Knox, I got word to Kathleen that we would be at Fort

Knox and so did all the rest of the married men in the battalion, did the same thing.

As we closed our camp at Bouse, Arizona, we bade good-bye to our jackrabbits, rattlesnakes and all those desert

cactus, if any were left standing or survived our time there. When we learned to drive the medium tanks in the mud in

Kentucky, to driving them to perfection in the dusty Arizona Desert we were proud that we knew how to use a tank as our

protector from the Germans.

We boarded the train on April 24th, 1944 and headed for Fort Knox, KY. By the time our wives knew about when we

would be in Fort Knox and they had their plans made to be at Louisville, KY., a day or two after we arrived at Fort Knox, I

made plans to be at the train depot to meet Kathleen and also some of the other married women that were coming in from

Oklahoma with Kathleen and I was there to let them know where they were to meet their husbands and where they would be


It was a good thing that Kathleen came in on the train when she did, because I didn’t have a red cent in my pocket to

buy a bus ticket back to where we would be staying while we were at Fort Knox. I had rented a one-room place in a little town

called West Point, KY.; it was located about 200 yards from the Ohio River. It wasn’t the best in the world, but that was all we

could pay for, you see $78 wouldn’t go to far even back then, you see this little old lady had fixed this utility room with a bed

in it and that was what we called our home while we lived in West Point. It didn’t have a bathroom so we had to do what I had

done when I grew up on the farm, a number 2 wash tub to bath in and we had to use a outdoor toilet but that didn’t make any

different to us because we were together no matter what we had, we were happy even if it wasn’t what we would have liked,

we made the best of what we had.

When we left the desert we only expected to be in Fort Knox not more than two weeks, but shortly after we arrived at

Fort Knox we were informed that our shipment date had been postponed and that instead of leaving within 10 days, for Port we

would have a longer stay than anyone would have guessed.

Therefore, in the meantime we had to have some extra money to live on while we were living there, so Kathleen got a

chance to go to work on base at Fort Knox. She was assigned to work in the quarters where the nurses lived and help fix their

breakfast and lunch each day. There was one nurse that had the rank of a colonel and some of the other nurses told Kathleen

that she was a tough person to satisfy in how she wanted her food cooked. Kathleen went to her and asked her how she would

like her meals fixed. She would make them the way she wanted, and bless your heart, Kathleen did it the way she wanted and

she made a friend with the Colonel until the day Kathleen had to leave to go back to Oklahoma.

With Kathleen working on the base, that helped us out with our meals. We were able to ride a bus that ran between

where we lived and the base free of charge and we would eat our breakfast and lunch on base and then for our evening meal

we would just have an ice cream Sunday and we loved to eat butterscotch Sundays’ and they were only 10 cents each.

After the Allies pushed Mussolini, Hitler’s puppet to surrender there were a lot of prisoners of war from Italy and lot of

them ended up at Fort Knox. At first they didn’t cause any trouble but the longer they stayed there, they started to believe that

they could do what they wanted to and get by with it. One day they started to brag about how many tanks they knocked out

while fighting in North Africa and how many men they killed and when they started doing that sort of things we had to bit our

tongues to keep from starting another war.

We had troubles of our own. Although far from Utah Beach, three of our young men were killed and 19 wounded when

contrary to all regulations, one man brought a dud from the firing range. While we were taking instructions on the firing range

we would take a truck and go out and mark our targets that we had fired on, this was when a member of Company C picked up

this 37 MM high explosive projectile and he carried it back across the rough road with several men including me on the same

truck and it was a thousand wonders that it hadn’t exploded en-rout back to the instruction site, but we made it safe but that

didn’t last very long when he started pecking it in the dirt and rocks where we were taking instructions and all of a sudden the

darn thing exploded, killing Sgt. Richard Fomby Wimberly a close friend of mine from Pauls Valley. His wife was the former

Lucille Coffman and one of the women that came to Fort Knox with Kathleen. The young man that had the dud had both legs

and both arms blown off and his insides filled with small pieces of lead that was broken into pieces. He lived long enough to

get to the hospital before he died also another man died in that same accident. I was among the 19 that had to be transported to

the hospital for treatment.

I was sitting within arm length behind him. I had my mess kit buttoned to my Army Uniform and the explosion blew it

in all directions from me. In addition, I was wounded on the thumb. The wounded was taken to the same hospital that Kathleen

was working. By the time the wounded began to arrive at the hospital word had been received about the explosion at Company

C and Kathleen was wondering if I was among the wounded. She was on her way to the emergency room when a Lieutenant

stopped her. She told him that her husband might be one of the wounded and after a short time; the nurse that Kathleen was

taking care off came by and told the Lieutenant to step aside and let Kathleen see if her husband was one of the wounded. Sure

enough I was. After receiving a tetanus shot, which this Colonel Nurse gave it to me in between my ribs and boy did it hurt.

She told me it would take effect quicker. They dress my thumb and released me to go back to the company.

How ironic was that day at Fort Knox. It was the day that the Allies made the invasion of Normandy, June 6, 1944. As

we soon learned the reason that we stayed this long at Fort Knox was due to the planning for the invasion of Normandy and

they needed all the available shipping to make the landing, so we got to stay in Fort Knox a little longer.

This was good news for all of the married men in the battalion and their wives this gave us more time together we all

knew that the time was coming that we would be called on soon to take part in the fighting in Europe.

It was July, 1944 we received word the time had come when we had to start making plans for Kathleen and other

Oklahoma wives to return to Oklahoma before we had to pull out and head for Port of Embarkation.

J. D. Keen’s wife lived in Oklahoma City and they had an old car so they invited Kathleen and two other women to

make the trip back to Oklahoma. The nurses where Kathleen worked, tried to get Kathleen to stay and continue to work for

them, but Kathleen had not been away from home without me so she chose to go home and work and wait for the time that I

would come home.

As the time came for us to leave Fort Knox, we were restricted to our quarters the night before we left, some of the men

slipped out to say good bye to their wives, as for myself I chose to stay in my quarters and avoid any punishment by not

obeying the orders.

On the 19th of July we boarded the train for Camp Kilmer New Jersey. While we were getting settled on the train, our

wives had gathered at the station to wave good bye.

We had some great times while at Fort Knox, the best one was planned for me, when Kathleen planned a birthday party

for me, things didn’t work out the way she had planned. I didn’t make it because I had to stand guard on a soldier that was

absent without leave after he had been given a weekend pass. It all worked out in the long run, because he was credited with

saving my tank and about 20 men during an ambush by the Germans—you see he was my radio operator and I had an extra 30-

caliber machine gun mounted on top of our tank for him to use and it came in handy that day and we only lost one man and a


Kathleen told the story that as they headed back to Oklahoma the old car they were riding in had a lot of trouble when

they were traveling up the mountain highway coming out of Kentucky. She said more than once the car would quit before they

got to the top and Dorothy Keen would let it roll back down the road and then they would try again. Finally they made it back

to Oklahoma.

Kathleen found work back in Pauls Valley and she lived with her mother and father and saved our money so if and

when I return home we would have a start as a civilian.

We boarded the USS General Mitchell on the 24th of July and then on the 26th, 5,000 additional troops came aboard and

we moved out. A few miles out of New York Harbor we joined a convoy of 15 troop ships and 16 fast tankers and one

destroyer and eight destroyer escorts. Then we pushed out to sea on our way to England.

Over the next 16 months I will attempt to trace my footsteps that I played in the War and what a war it was. By this

time my brother Overton was already in the Armed Forces. He went into the paratroopers. He joined the 101st Airborne

Division. So this left mother and dad short to work the farm.

On the morning of Aug. 4, 1944, we were running in the Irish Sea and if it hadn’t been for the thick fog, we would have

been able to see Ireland on our right and Scotland on the left. As we came near a port in England we dropped anchor in the

river just before Liverpool on the night of August 5th.

Arrangements had been made for us when we docked at 11:00 AM the next day with plenty of trucks to take us to our

camp in England. After we had loaded our trucks with equipment and the men we were in a truck convoy headed for

Glynderwyn, Wales. We arrived at our new camp at Rosebush where we were attached to the 9th Armored Group. There

wasn’t much training that we could do while we were at this camp, due to the hills, rocks and the nature of the terrain. So we

got permission to move to Castle Martin, this was a British tank training center that was located right on the Sea. At this time

we had a chance to visit several nearby towns. During this time I found out that my brother was also in England at the same

time and we were able to get together for a day and that was the last time we saw each other until after the war.

While we were training, rumors came down that we might never use our Special Project and that we might be

converted back to a Standard Tank Battalion in the very near future. Well the rumors came true and we were converted back to

what we were best in, that we hit what we were shooting at.

On October 29, 1944, our Battalion was loaded on LST’s, crossed the English Channel on 30th of October and boy was

it a rough crossing. We arrived at Utah Beach but could not land because the Sea was running so high so we had to wait until

the next morning, November 1st

Utah Beach liked a lot to be desired in the way of comfort, cleanliness and facilities. We left Utah Beach on the

morning of Nov. 2nd without any orders and by the time we got near Paris, France we received our orders. We would be

assigned to the First United States Army and indicating our destination as Aubel, Belgium. We traveled through several towns

in Belgium on our way to the village of Neufchateau; we had a pretty good idea of the problems that confronted the wartime

soldier in World War II.

Up to the time of our arrival in Belgium, our conception of war had been entirely theoretical. We had expected to fight

but it was a far away proposition. Now we were on the fringe of war and it was hard to tell whether our spirits were high or


Our Battalion arrived at Aubel, Belgium on November 6 and set up camp for the night in an apple orchard, near

Neufchateau, just as we were getting settled in a German V-1 flying bomb, trailing orange flames, roared a few hundred feet

over our heads. Awe struck, we watched in horror as the motor cut out, and a nerve-wracking wait began for the pilot-less craft

to dive for the ground. Fortunately, the explosion came some minutes later, well past the encampment.

During a jittery night, we counted at least 50 more of the monsters as they roared overhead. The best guess was that the

rockets were headed for Leige or Antwerp and that our bivouac was directly in the fly path. ‘Devilish things’ we never knew

when one of them would go wrong, turn, and dive right into our midst. It was something that we never really got used to. And

that was our welcome to the war in Europe.

We pulled up stakes from the miserable conditions of the countryside and moved to billets in Neufchateau itself and in

the neighboring village of Montroux. We were about halfway between Liege, Belgium and Maastrich, Holland—a mile or so

east of the Meuse River and just north of the Ardennes. The Ardennes—a some what mountainous and heavy forested area,

that was shortly to become the site of the fiercest battle of the war and our baptism of fire.

Written orders came shortly, relieving our battalion from our general assignment of the European Theater of Operations

and assigning the 740th to Lt. Gen. Omar Bradley’s 12th Army Group, specifically to Lt. Gen Courtney Hodges First U.S.

Army. We were placed in Army reserve and our first combat was expected sometime after the first of the year.

Not being involved in the fighting set George Rubel’s teeth on edge. Finally, on December 14. He decided to pay the

99th a visit to find out first hand what was going on. En-route, he got side tracked and ended up back in camp, suddenly, things

began to pop. Instructions awaited the Commander to report to the First U.S. Army Headquarters at Spa, Belgium

immediately, if not sooner.

Enemy patrols and activity in general were escalating. But First U.S. Army Intelligence was not overly concerned, just

taking precautions. Could it be a spoiling attack? The Germans were certainly in no shape to launch a major offensive, least of

all through the Ardennes. They had taken quite a beating during the fall Campaign; and the Allies were hoping for a winter

slowdown, so that supplies could catch up.

The Fall Campaign had been costly to our troops as well. November turned into December and the winter snow and

sleet descended on the action at the front. The First and Ninth U.S. Armies, fighting side by side, had lost 57,000 killed or

wounded and another 70,000 to battle fatigue and exposed to the wretched weather. Five hundred fifty tanks were lost in the

First Army alone.

With the British, Canadian Armies, the U.S. First Army and the U.S. Ninth, all in all, the Allied High Command was

feeling pretty good about the situation. All was quiet on the Western Front.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's the second part:


Then all hell broke loose! Although Hitler found himself with astounding loses in both men and equipment and backed up to his

own border on all sides, he still had some ten million troops in uniform. The draft was soon extended to 16 to 60-year-olds.

In total secrecy, the German Fuhrer had amassed his powerful forces for the breakthrough. Two Panzer Armies of 24 divisions

poised and ready to strike out of the mist and fog of the Schnee Eifel, a heavily forested and protected area adjoining the Ardennes, with

additional army on each flank, to take up the slack.

At 5:30 AM, December 16, 1944, a dark Saturday morning broke bitterly cold in the Ardennes. A six-inch blanket of white snow

covered the forest floor. All up and down our 60-mile “Ghost Front,” from the quaint little community of Monschau on the German side

of the Belgian border in the north to the antiquated Luxembourg town of Echternach in the south, the Ardennes came alive.

At first whistles in the distance alerted the American outpost that something unusual was happening. However, suddenly, after

the alert, pinpoints of fire flickered from afar; and the German artillery opened up and came whistling in at the main points of attack. In

the distance, the sky lit up like the fourth of July, from the explosions of the German big guns and the breakthrough of our lines was in


My battalion was in reserve north of where the break came. We knew that our time had come but we didn’t have any tanks to

fight with. We had nine tanks that we were using to train with. We were ordered to deliver them to the 745th Tank Battalion that left our

battalion with 2, 105 assault gun, 3-M5A1 light tanks, with that kind of equipment we couldn’t fight our way out of the mud if we had

The breakthrough of the German Sixth SS Panzer Army, Kampfgruppe Peiper was created to spearhead the attack. Joachim

Peiper was personally chosen by Hitler to lead the Sixth SS Panzer army’s main attack. We learned that Peiper had significant combat

experience in Russia and a reputation for both ruthlessness and heroism in battle.

Breaking out on the second day of the Blitz, Peiper overran one small town after another, by passing strong points and heading

hell-bent for the Meuse River. His tanks and troops took no prisoners, shooting even civilians who got in the way. We were told as the

column clawed its way toward Malmedy, Peiper’s troops ran headlong into a passing convoy of American field artillery observers at a

little road junction at Baugnez. The atrocity that followed came to be known as the “Malmedy Massacre.”

After he shot-up the convoy, he took over the vehicles that were not destroyed, then disarmed some 130 survivors and crowded

them together in a nearby field. In short order, shots rang out; and a number of Americans fell. No more than 46 were able to scramble to

safety. The chilling news of the German rampage through the Ardennes began echo through the rear echelons the next day.

We were still billeted in the homes and with the people of Neufchateau and Mortroux in the vicinity of the Meuse – and getting

along famously! The Belgian citizens very much appreciated their newly won freedom and the safety provided by the present of our

troops and the GIs recognized the heartache and suffering our new found friends had been through and valued the warmth and

acceptance of the citizenry.

But life for my Tank Battalion was about to change, drastically. On December 18, orders flashed through from the First U..S.

Army Headquarters which turned our citizen—soldiers world upside down. We were to field a reinforced company immediately. We

were ordered to move to the Ordnance vehicle depot at Sprimont, Belgium, equip ourselves with whatever combat vehicles were

available; and advance to Aywaille. There on the Ambleve River, just a few miles southwest of Spa, we were to take up defensive

positions and slow the deadly German thrust. Company “C” which I was a member, and commanded by Capt. James D. Berry. As we

prepared to move out we climbed into GI trucks, we couldn’t help wonder at the turn of events. We left body-and-soul and afraid where

was the armor with which we had trained? Where were those prized Sherman Tanks that fit us like a glove that we knew like the back of

our hand? The 75mm Cannons that could tear out the side of a building, hiding the enemy? The 30 caliber machine guns that would chop

to splinters any place a sniper could secret himself? The 50s that could, ravage all but the thickest German steel? This kind of equipment

was nowhere to be found.

We were tankers! This was no way to go into battle. Life and death against an enemy force so powerful that it was spreading

panic up and down the front and literally crushing everything that stood tall enough to get in its way. How could we be expected to fight,

the enemy without tanks.

We arrived at the Ordnance depot to grab what armor we could find. In the meantime Col. Rubel took off with his liaison officer

for Aywaille on the Ambleve to report in, then scout out the area to be defended. He quickly learned that an armored task force was

coming our way and was in fact no more than a dozen miles away and we still did not have any fighting machines.

The Ordnance Depot at Sprimont was sheer bedlam as we worked desperately to make something to fight in from leftover tanks

we found there. There were perhaps 25 tanks of different types in the depot. But only three were in any shape to fight. Fortunately these

three were M4 Sherman’s Medium tanks in which we had trained. Unfortunately, even these were without essential equipment.

What was left in the pile ranged from M5 and M24 light tanks to the old M7 and the open-topped M10 assault gun motor carriage

and even an M36 tank destroyer with the high-velocity 90mm gun (which strangely enough, turned out to be a blessing in disguise).

They all had parts destroyed or missing.

We worked throughout the night taking parts from one vehicle and putting it on another. It was demoralizing, backbreaking, heart

wrenching work and for a while it looked like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. By the next morning we had put together

anything that looked like a tank company and Capt. Berry shouted, “All right let’s move ‘em out!” and our untested young tankers

headed for Remouchamps and thence the destiny in the Ambleve Valley.

Our ragtag column of tanks clattered up to the command post. We were briefed and ordered into the attack, and the ground

steadied under our feet. We had been assigned to the 119th Infantry Regiment of the 30th Infantry Division on December 19 and they

needing help now – before the infantry was completely overrun.

The Third Platoon (my platoon), Commanded by Lt. Charles B. Powers was to spearhead the attack, with the first and second

platoons to follow. The Commander of the 119th was notified that our battalion was coming in to help. We were equipped with anything

that looked like a tank company. As we rolled past the Regimental Command Post where the staff was grinning out loud but shouting

encouragement, Capt. Berry was heard to say, “They’re bastard tanks, but we’re shooting fools.”

A chilling rain-drenched fog and long lines of battle-scarred troops working their way wearily to the rear slowed our column of

tanks to a crawl as we moved toward the front. All up and down the line we were told we were crazy to go up there. “It was a slaughter,

a bloodbath, and the German tanks still come.”

Even as we rolled forward another American tank company was falling back, withdrawing from the fight. “We’re low on ammo

and fuel. One tanker shouted.” “Its holy hell up there, guys,” called out another. “Good Luck.” The first tank we encountered was

abandoned in the field. Meanwhile my platoon, led by Lt. Powers led our platoon around the stalled tank.

When our column reached the front, the 119th began to filter into the forest abreast of our tanks. Dusk came early in the winter in

the Ardennes, and the gloom and fog of late afternoon played tricks with our eyes. Just short of Stoumont Station. Powers and his loader

were standing with their heads out of their turret hatches when a German tank was spotted. Jack Ashby, Lt. Power’s gunner fired a

round that hit and ricocheted downward –a lucky strike considering the Panzer’s thick armor – and the German tank exploded and burst

into flames.

Minutes later, Powers spotted another tank, again Ashby got off the first shot, this time the shot ricocheted up and spun away.

Then Ashby’s gun jammed. Powers signed his No. 2 tank Command by Staff Sergeant Charlie W. Loopey to move up. Loopey and his

crew were in an M36 tank destroyer with the big 90 MM gun. As the German tank was moving forward trying to get into position to

shoot, Loopey told his gunner to fire, the first round hit in the gun shield that kept him from getting down on Loopey’s tank destroyer.

They threw several more rounds and blew up the tank.

With all of the trouble that Power’s crew had, they finally got everything cleared up and he resumed the lead only to face a third

Panzer Tank on the opposite side of the road. Ashby’s first shot miraculously blasted the muzzle brake of the German’s cannon; and he

kept firing as the tank tried to back away, finally setting it on fire.

Our Tank Battalion was right smack dab in the middle of the war. Together with the 119th Infantry’s First Battalion, we continued

the attack into the darkness and blunted the main thrust of Hitler’s First SS Panzer Division’s Kampfgruppe Peiper, gaining back over

1,000 yards of bitterly contested front given up earlier that day. We held the line that night at Stoumont Station, most of us sleeping as

best we could in our tanks.

With our beat-up tanks we stopped the best Hitler had and from our stand point we felt like we had prevented the Germans from

retaking Belgium. We soon learned that our rag-tag tank company was no match for the firepower of the German tanks so we had to out

smart them and when we did, we were able to knock out our share of the German Tanks. From our first battle in combat and won this

one we never backed away from a fight the rest of the War.

One of the first captured German Mark VI Tiger Royal Tank at Spa, Belgium. It was quite a monster of a fighting machine. This

machine we knew we couldn’t knock it out by firing straight on, so I used a lot of smoke screen shells and so we could out-flank the

monster and then hit it from the side and rear.

Life Magazine was on the spot taking pictures and reporting on the battle of the Bulge. One such picture appeared on the

newsreel in the movie house back in the States. One of my cousins saw it and she thought it was me standing on the tank and she was so

sure that it was me that she had them repeat it to make sure and sure enough it was someone else.

The battle for the town of spa and Stoumont, Belgium was one of the fierce battles that we had encountered so far in the break-

through in Belgium. On December 21st our attack had bogged down and we lost three tanks that day and the casualties were running high

on both sides, we lost two more tanks and the Infantry Battalion had lost nearly 200 men.

We had been trying to call in air strikes, but the same old story was given poor visibility so the strike was cancelled. On the night

of December 22nd Jerry sent over a good many transport planes and we feared that they were dropping paratroopers, but it turned out they

were dropping ammunition, fuel and rations for Colonel Von Peiper’s German task force, to whom we had given a beating. Some of the

fuel and ammo fell in our laps so the German task Force came up a little short.

One of the best fighting Infantry Division we were attached to was the 82nd Airborne, they worked well with us and the same for

us and our relations continued where ever we were fighting together. During our fighting for spa, Stoumont and La Gleize, Belgium we

counted over 175 vehicles that had been knocked out during the Battle for the town, we lost six tanks, ten men were wounded, but no one

On December 27th we had accomplished our mission. We destroyed Task Force Von Peiper and by doing this we stopped the

threat of a German Penetration to Liege and the encirclement of Spa. During this fighting Company C, was awarded the Presidential

Citation for a job well done.

Boy was it getting cold in Belgium. It was still snowing and the temperatures hovered between zero and 10 below and the snow

was about a foot deep and our tanks was having trouble staying on the roadway, steel tracks on the tanks just couldn’t cut the mustard, so

we set out to fit all our tanks with rubber tracks, our maintenance officer had trouble finding the tracks but somehow he came up with

enough to outfit our Battalion but to find Grousers was little harder to get, so we sat out looking for knocked out tank destroyers, they

had thought more about the future. By the first of January we were equipped with Rubber tracks and grousers and we were ready for our

next assignment

On January 3rd my Company received 12 new Tanks and we had trouble getting these new tanks back to our staging area. The

reason was the cold weather and the snow just kept falling and each tank was equipped with steel tracks and it took two days to get the

tanks to us.

Our next mission jumped off with A and B companies attached to the 325th glider Infantry Battalion of the 82nd airborne Division.

Company C remained in reserve, boy was it noisy on January 4th as the 504the Parachute Infantry had a mission to take the high ground

Southeast of the village of Mont de Fosse by doing this it would permit the 82nd Division to dominate all crossings of the Salm river in

the vicinity of Grand Halleux. It took until midnight but they did it. The quality of the enemy forces opposing us was rapidly

deteriorating. The German SS troops were busy pulling out by Von Rundstedt, and less important people were being put in and by this

time the German air attacks had practically stopped.

Our next mission came on January 7th south of the town of Arbrefontaine. My company was given the job of supporting the 508th

Parachute Infantry when my Platoon joined the Third Battalion of the 508th during the attack, my tank crew destroyed an A.T. Gun

(antitank gun) after a severe fight, the objective, Their du Mont, was taken and we set up defensive positions. The next operation for us

was on a line extending from the town of Malmedy, south to St. Vith and we were to drive to the northeast, pierce the Siegfried Line, and

hold the position until relieved. Word came down that the Germans were beginning a counter attack north along the line on the road that

was leading from Herresback. With our tanks and the continued force of the 82nd, we caught the German column by surprise, we opened

fire with all guns and within a few minutes, we killed 65 Germans and captured 201, and no Americans were scratched in this battle.

We were still fighting the weather as well as the Germans with snow and sleet about three to four feet deep, we ran into some

small German fighting units but the fight in the German soldiers was almost gone and they had orders to use all of their ammo and then

give up if they didn’t get killed in the process as we moved through the small towns in Belgium and we got our orders that we were to

drive to the Siegfried Line before the spring thaw.

On January 31st the temperatures rose several degrees. This meant double trouble for our tanks. It would mean that we were again

road-bound if we could get out of that forest to a point where there were available roads. By night fall the snow had stopped and all of a

sudden the snow had changed to knee deep in slush by the time we were getting used to moving our tanks on the frozen snow we had to

learn to drive our tanks in the mud. This was the way that we learned to drive these Sherman tanks back in Kentucky.

Once the thaw had set in, from our map study of the defense of Udenbreth and Neuhof, there appeared to be one road leading

from the main highway near the railroad to the gate through the Siegfried Line, had the ground remained frozen we could have fanned

out on a front of about 3000 yards but now we had to attack in a column down the road and we knew that the losses was going to be

heavy, both vehicles and men.

In the battle of the Ardennes was declared by Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces which commenced on the 16th

of December 1944 and to have ended, for the purpose of the record, on the 28th of January 1945. It was officially declared a campaign

and the participants were entitled to a Bronze Battle star.

While I was doing Battle with the 740th Tank Battalion in Belgium, my brother, Overton was also fighting the Germans in and

around Bastone with the 101st Airborne Division. Lady luck ran out on him while his patrol was moving into position, he was hit by a

German sniper under his left shoulder while he was falling to get into position to fire his rifle and he had to have medical attention, the

action was in the area where Bastone was encircled. That is where a German General wanted the 101st to surrender, but General Anthony

McAuliffe, at the Bastone Garrison, responded to his request by simply “NUTS” and they stayed and fought until help came and the

German attack was repulsed and all of the injured was evacuated and my brother was sent back to the States.

On February 1st my Company was committed with the Third Battalion of the 325th Glider Infantry of the 82nd Airborne. My

platoon led the attack and we moved in to Udenbreth, we shot up the town for 30 minutes, during the battle a good combat friend of

mine, Corporal Jack Ashley, was killed when a German 88-mm round struck his tank

In that attack, our battalion was badly battered and we hoped that we would have a few days to reorganize and draw more tanks.

We were told to spend the 6th of February on maintenance and that night and until noon the next day, no sleep and regardless of how tired

we were we always serviced our tanks before we went to bed. The reason for this was, if the tanks ran and our guns would fire we felt

like that was our protection and maybe they could save our lives.

Our Battalion maintenance platoon rounded up several fairly good tanks while this last battle was going on, we were trying to

scrape enough crews to replace the ones that we lost. While we were getting a break from the fighting, a messenger ran into our

headquarters and delivered a message that our Tank Battalion had been transferred to the VII Corp and attached to the Eight Infantry

division Immediately and we were to move to the vicinity of Gressenich, this was to be a secret move and all markings on our tanks were

to be removed and covered up and we were not to reveal our Battalion’s name to no one.

Once more any thought of rest flew out the window and we were saying good bye to the 82nd airborne Division in hopes that we

might fight with each other again. General Gavin, Commander of the 82nd presented a letter of appreciation for our splendid performance

while we were attached to his division during the attack to pinch off the Ardennes, salient, destroying the 62nd Volka Grenadier Division.

Following that, we had advance into Germany to the east, penetrating the Siegfried Line and seizing the key defenses at Undenbreth.

On February 8th we moved to Schlich, Germany, a small village about a mile from Duren, Germany. It would be indeed difficult

to anyone to describe the area around Duren. Nearly every building in most of the town had either been smashed flat by bombs or was

shot up by Artillery. The surrounding fields had been churned by artillery and mortar fire and there were hardly a square foot of ground

that had not been hit. The usual dead horses and cows dotted the countryside. Many of them had been killed by artillery or mortar fire,

some had stepped on mines, most of the horses remained hitched to the wagon or other machines they were pulling when hit. They were

bloated and smelled to the high heavens.

While we waited for our next assignment, we were near a railway station so we decided that we would cut some railroad tracks in

about two foot pieces and spot weld to our tanks for extra protection in hopes that the German AT guns wouldn’t penetrate our armor.

The crossing of the Roer River was postponed for 24 hours due to heavy rains that flooded the entire Rhineland and also the

Germans was still in control of the large dam and they could open the flood gates and flood the river and wash out any bridge that we

could make and if we got anyone across the river we would be cut off from the rest of the Division without a paddle.

While waiting, we got surprised again on the evening of the 11th that the attack had been postponed indefinitely. On this day we

had some replacements sent up to us but these men were not combat ready troops and our only hope that we could teach them something

about combat. The training of the new troops would have to wait for now and all of them would have to learn on the job so to speak, so

the men were assigned to the tanks that needed to make a full crew.

On the 23rd of February the attack started to cross the Roer River and it sounded like the world had suddenly begun to explode

and it stopped about one hour later and during the 24th most of the elements of the attacking force had crossed the river and the town was

cleared by night fall and we left the town of Duren behind and it was said that before the war the town of Duren had 14 residents of

Duren were worth a million dollars each, but you could not tell by the look of the city not one building escaped the fire power of our

troops. One exception, the large Cathedral was left standing.

The attack across the Roer River was costly to Company C, we lost three tanks, three men were killed and eight other men were

wounded. The Company moved into the town of Modrath and on March 2nd and we set up defensive position and hoped to repel any

counter-attack Jerry might dream up. We arrived in the town just in time to come under heavy enemy artillery fire. As dawn broke, on

the morning of March 3rd, we were ready to attack the town of Frechen that was the last strong point before the drive to Cologne. Things

were generally brighter all up and down the line. We could see the tower of the Cathedral in Cologne, and we knew that our objective

was just about reached. We had rough going all across the Rhine Valley and we wanted to get the job done and close up along the Rhine

River as soon as possible and we hoped that once this happened we would get a few days rest.

Somehow or other the 9th of March seemed like Sunday. There had been no rest for anyone since we had jumped off from Duren

on February 23rd. We had been going day and night and we were all bordering on exhaustion, the rest and time to try to get our tanks in

shape for another run at the Germans, all came to a quick stop when we received orders that we were being temporarily attached to the

Seventh United States Army for operations in the vicinity of Morhange, France, no later than the 15th of March.

This job that we were to do for the Seventh Army involved breaching the Siegfried Line for the second time. The only thing that

we knew for sure about temporary assignment was that we were to be there no later than the 15th of March. After a meeting at First Army

Headquarters it was decided that our tanks would be loaded on flat cars at Aachen, Germany and the crew member would ride in the

boxcars which would be placed ahead of the flatcars and all the other wheeled vehicles would march over land, The overall distant from

where we were to our new location was about 350 miles.

Our Battalion arrived at Morhange, France on the 15th of March. We were attached to the 70th Infantry Division and plans were

made for us to support the Division’s proposed attack through the Siegfried Line to capture Saarbruken, but before any fighting could

start we were detached from the 70th and attached to the 68th Division who was set up at Auersmacher, Germany some 20 miles south of

our present location, but about 40 miles away by the road.

On the second day after we arrived at our new assignment we moved to Aursmacher and we found out that our job was to drive a

hole through the Siegfried Line defenses through which the 6th Armored Division could pass through and exploit a breakthrough. The

Siegfried Line at this point consisted of large dragons teeth in front of which Anti-tank ditches had been dug, roads going through the

line had been blasted forming huge craters, standing guard over these road passages were several pair of enormous concrete bunkers with

walls five to six feet thick. Some equipped with 75 MM high velocity Anti-Tank guns. Our job was to pulverize these and some 30 or 40

other pill boxes that formed the defense of the Siegfried Line, Jerry had perfect observation and on Emsheim, where our command post

was located. Ormeshiem and Ommersheim is where my company had settled in for the time being.

A part of B Company crossed the Siegfried Line and this advanced our front line and enabled us to bring fire on two larger pill

boxes, Enemy artillery and mortar fire was extremely heavy through this area. We used a lot of Smoke Screen to protect our tanks as we

made our advance. My company was able to move to Ommersheim.

On the 20th of March we made an attack of the higher ground by this time two holes had been cut through the Siegfried Line the

day before, one of these holes north of Ensheim on the Ensheim-St. Ingbert road. The other was north of Omnersheim on the

Ommersheim---Ober-Wurzbach road. This would allow us to go through in two columns and would make the capture of the high ground


Over at Ommersheim, where my company had been operating, the Infantry took their objectives without receiving a shot for

some reason---no one had remained to do any shooting---the enemy had gone. Company C and its tanks returned to Ommersheim and

were alerted for possible move.

On the morning of the 28th of March we received orders from the 12th Army Group, ordering us to return at once to the First

United States Army and the 8th Infantry Division who were at the time attempting to capture the town of Siegen on the southern edge of

the Ruhr Pocket. We were not too eager to go back---fighting was not so rough down here. Well on March the 31st we loaded our tanks

on the flatcars again and headed back North and April 1st we were due to unload our tanks at Aachen, Germany but our destination was

changed and we unloaded at Odendrof.

By this time we were near the Rhine River before we got orders that we were being moved to Southern France. We had been

going day and night from the Ruhr River and during this time we had received several replacement troops and my tank was no exception.

I had received a gunner on the tank with no experience.

One day we were chasing the Germans and they were on the run all through the Rhine Valley, as we approached a small Village

a horse drawn vehicle came up from a side road and he turned away from us. I told my gunner to fire his 30-caliber machine gun at him.

What you don’t know is the 75-mm gun and the 30-caliber gun switches set side by side and operated by the gunners left foot and the

inexperienced gunner stepped on the wrong switch. He got a direct hit and he blew that horse and man sky high and in the process I was

wounded, nothing too serious, but had to have medical attention. I pulled my tank over to the side of the road and got out to wait for the

medical team. While waiting, five German SS troops came out of a bunker with their hands over their head and surrendered. They had all

the fighting they wanted and I was sure glad they did. I received my medical attention and we were back on the road again. I received the

Purple Heart from this action.

We were told that there was only one bridge still operational across the Rhine River. As I told you earlier in My Army life that

we were a Special Tank Battalion. We used it only one time while in training and that was a demonstration for a General while we were

at Bouse, Arizona, well we still never got to use it ourselves, because the terrain had to be level and smooth for it to be effective and the

battle fields over there was no place to use it. I believe it was used one time by another tank Battalion on the Rhine River to protect the

bridge from getting blown-up with mines

In our push to the Rhine our Battalion was the tank battalion due to spearhead across the Bridge, but we finally got the needed

rest and we were pulled back and let someone else do the crossing. The battle for the Rhur Pocket was over and in many ways it was a

steeplechase from our standpoint it was hundred miles of spearheading and a grueling, exhausting battle. We had lost as many tanks here

as we lost in the battle of the Ardennes.

After we cross the Rhine River the fighting began to taper off and most of us could feel like the end of the war was nearing the

end, but there were a few hot pockets that popped up now and then and we still had to keep our guard up and be ready to defend the areas

that we had captured.

April 18th the 13th Infantry Regiment in which we were attached too had been ordered to assume the responsibility for the

Province of Dusselforf, Germany and our main job here at Dusselforf was to establish law and order. Gather up prisoners of war as well

as enemy weapons and ammo. Then on the 19th of April my company moved to the city of Cologne, Germany where the POWs

continued to give up and also many displaced persons, There were 58 displaced camps in the area, which held from 10,000 down to 500

or so. Then on the 25th of April we received orders that we would be moving from our present location and we would be assigned to the

second British Army for operations. This involved about 350 miles. After the overland march to Bohlenn, Germany our Battalion was

again attached to our favorite fighting machine, the 82nd Airborne Division the way things started out was the 82nd was to forge a crossing

of the Elbe River at Bleckede. Another one five miles south to Barskamp, having secured the bridgehead this permitted us to attack

toward Schwerin and veer to the left and go to the Baltic sea at Wismar and thing were moving real fast and it looked more and more

that we could see a light at the end of the tunnel and the war was about to come to an end.

As the month of April came to a close, we had moved a total of 760 miles and had fought under three armies the First and Ninth

U.S. Armies and the 2nd British Army. On May 1st we started our final assault against the Germans and in most cases resistances were

with a little artillery fire fell in the area with a little small arms was also met. On that same afternoon with my tank and Lt. Tompkins

tank loaded with Infantry troops on the back of our tanks. We headed for a little town of Zeetze and we took the village without

resistance. We moved about 500 yards further and met very heavy resistance, Lt. Tompkins tanks was knocked out. One of his crew was

killed, the rest of the crew scrambled for cover. The battle lasted about one hour and half, after Lt. Tompkins tank knocked out I pulled

my tank around his and ordered my crew to start firing everything we had to protect the rest of us.

That day we were in a wooded area and I was concerned about using my 75 that some of the shells would explode and injury

some of the other men on the ground. A few days before this, my radio operator had asked if I could get him a 30-caliber machine gun

and have it mounted on top of the tank. We did and boy it came in handy. The other machine guns jammed and it was up to him to keep

the Germans pinned down so we could get everyone back safe and sound and he did. As it turned out, we only lost one man and no other

was wounded.

This was the same soldier that cost me a birthday party while we were still at Fort Knox, Ky. For our action, he and I were

awarded the Silver Star, the third highest Medal the Military presents for heroism. People call us heroes, well at that time I guess we

were but when thing happen that fast you do what you can do to survive and save as many of your buddies as possible

After all this fighting and moving from one end of the combat zone to the other German prisoners started giving up and began to

march forward to us, the roads became so jammed packed we couldn’t get our vehicles down the road. Pvt. T. J. Woodress the soldier,

that was my radio operator and loader of the 75-MM gun that saved our lives on May 1, went out one day and came back with a

company of German soldiers and they all still had their weapons, so he had them come to attention and open their lines and he took a

sack and had them put their weapons in the sack. Then he sent them on their way to a POW camp.

Therefore, on May 8th the day that we had been looking forward to every since we arrived here had come to an end. During our

battles through Belgium, France and Germany we had a large number of vehicles, guns and equipment destroyed or captured. We

destroyed a total of 69 tanks, 178 other enemy weapons, 550 miscellaneous vehicles, 246 airplanes and 77 miscellaneous items, such as

Pillboxes, Machine gun nests, river barges. Machine gun positions on the Siegfried Lines were not counted.

While we were over-seas and doing battle against the Germans, our tank Battalion was what many considered a separate tank

Battalion. We were never attached to any division very long at any one time, when the call came out that a division needed armored

support we were ready to go.

All in all during the time in Europe, our Tank Battalion was attached to 24 different divisions, Armies, Army Groups and Corps

while fighting for the freedom we enjoy today, if I had to pick only one group that we fought with, I would have to go with the 82nd

Airborne Division.

On the 27th of May, the Battalion was sent back to Schwerin, Germany where a memorial service was held for all the tankers who

had fallen in battle. During the battles we were in we had 40 soldiers killed in action, many more wounded some was serious enough to

them they were sent to the states while others like myself stayed to fight another day.

A few days later we held a formal parade in the ETO where General Moore of the 8th Infantry division presented Distinguished

Unit Badges to the members of Company C. I was a Tank Commander of a tank crew and several other men who was attached to C

Company when we stopped Von Rundstedt’s drive in the Ardennes. I believe that every man deserved a medal for valor for his part in

the defeat of Germany. There are innumerable deeds of heroism that was not recognized.

Orders were flying around about what units would move and what units would stay where they were. We had hoped to stay at

Schwerin, but we knew that we would be moving somewhere else because according to the occupational zones being drawn up the

Russians would be moving into Schwerin for army occupation.

Our future was very vague we didn’t know whether we were going to be shipped immediately to the Pacific War or whether we

would remain in the ETO as an Army of Occupation force. We soon learned that we were to become an Army of occupation and we

were order to move to Witzenhausen which was a nice size City about 30 miles East of Kassel and the border of the U.S. occupation

We had an education program as well as athletic and special service programs set up for most of us to take part in, we had a

chance to play some baseball and several other games while serving as the occupational forces. When the month of August rolled

around we saw the beginning of the point system for discharge. If we had so many points we could get a trip to the states and be

promoted to civilian status. Therefore, I was one of those who had enough points to be able to start packing for a trip home. If I

remember correctly 12 points were given for each child under 18-years- age not to exceed three. One point was given for each month of

service since Sept. 1940. One additional point was given for each month service overseas. Then we were given five points for each battle

star and for each combat decoration, when I added them all up I had a total of 85 points. I wrote the folks back home and told them it

want be long now.

When V-J Day was announced on the 2nd of September 1945, we again encountered the same anti-climate condition that had

confronted us on V-E Day. For some reason, we couldn’t get into the spirit of celebration, we just went on about our business, but we did

breathe a sigh of relief and a great weight had been lifted from our shoulders. We knew that World War II was over---No soldier likes to

fight a war. Soldiers stop wars; they do not start them.

Victory in Europe came as an anti-climax to us. There was no hilarious celebration as at home. For one thing, we were too busy

gathering up prisoners. Then, in addition, the war had really been over several days as far as we were concerned, and the radio

announcement was not news in any sense of the word. We knew there would be an announcement but we wondered when it would take

place. Rather than celebrate we felt more the way a builder would feel after having completed a house---this job is finished, now let’s get

to the next one.

We did have some cognac and wine which had been donated to us through the courtesy of the German Post Exchange Service,

but we drank most of that on the nights of the 2nd and 3rd of May, and had very little left for the official 8th of May.

For most part, V-E Day on the banks of Schwerin Sea passed about the same as the others. We tuned in on the BBC to hear Prime

Minister Winston Churchill tell England that the war in Germany has ended with their unconditional surrender. Across the lake the

Russians put on a good fire-works display by shooting up all their flares, but this had been going on for several days and as we found

later, continued for a good many more. Just to the north of us the Seaforth Highlanders got rid of their remaining flares, and not to be

outdone, some members of our battalion threw a few hand-grenades, for we had no flares to begin with.

There was an unexplainable detached feeling in the Battalion about the German surrender. The folks at home and the people in

England had heard and read of the victory but we had actually seen the complete disintegration of the enemy before our very eyes. It

hadn’t come over night. It had been a gradual process, more and more discernible as time went on. We had not only witnessed this

breakdown but had considered ourselves instrumental in accomplishment of it. If an impartial observer, looked at the Germans and the

U.S, soldier on the 2nd of May he might have had quite a bit of trouble in telling who looked worst. About the only difference was that we

still had the guns in our hands when the shooting stopped. As a matter of fact, we probably appeared to be more on the verge of collapse

from sheer fatigue than the Germans, for we had been driving forward day and night, and they, for the most part, had been sitting at

home eating, drinking and sleeping.

My darkest moment during my tour of duty in Europe was in the early part of the battle of the Bulge and we had been fighting for

seven days. We had never seen any fighting until that time, but it doesn’t take long for a man to learn what is meant by the word “scare”

is. We were drawn back after the seven days were up, but not to rest, just to get ready to draw some more tanks. After we had drawn our

tanks, orders came down for us to attack. Well, we knew a little of what was going on. We were to jump off at 0600 hours the next

morning. I was tank commander and it was my first time at it in combat. I didn’t know what my reaction would be. The time came and

we were on our way. The ground was covered with snow and it had frozen. All our tanks could do was slip and slide all over the road,

but nevertheless we had our objective to take before night. As we moved along we picked up our Infantry. We had our plans worked out

for the way to attack, but things didn’t work out so well. We had a little bad luck---one of our tanks hit a mine and was disabled, so it

couldn’t go any further. So now we had to go on with our other four tanks. We advanced a half mile when a tank destroyer came up from

the side road and pulled out in front of our lead tank and Jerry had that spot zeroed in and it exploded trapping the rest of our tanks and

we could not go forward so we started to back our tanks up and when that happened Jerry started to throw some rounds at our tank in the

rear and he would have the rest of the tanks trapped but we kept moving back. The gunner of the 88 must have been off because he

started firing at my tank. My tank was the third one back. He started throwing them at me. I could look over the side of the tank and see

those 88s plowing up the dirt along side of my tank. I counted seven or eight of them and each time everyone seemed like it was getting

closer. One did get so close that it covered me up with dirt in the turret of my tank. I didn’t know that a tank could move so fast in

reverse but I finally got my tank under cover. We were lucky that day and we lost only one tank and the TD. All I can say is that, My

Lord must have been riding with me.

From the day that the Japanese surrendered it was a long time before I finally got my orders that I was going home. It was

nearing Thanksgiving 1945 and it was beginning to look like I would spend another Christmas in Europe but things began to move a

little faster and I soon was on my way to France where I boarded a troopship and I spent Thanksgiving day on the high sea and I got so

sick I couldn’t enjoy my Thanksgiving dinner, but after a couple of days out at sea I began to feel better knowing that I would soon be

back in the good old United States.

After seven days and nights at sea, battling a strong storm we arrived in New York safe and sound with my feet planted on the

ground. Debarking at New York, I was taken to Camp Kilmer, N.J., where I began processing out of the Army life back to Civilian life.

The Army personnel, whose duty was to try and sell you the life in the Army, was no life for me. They even promised me a commission

to 2nd Lieutenant if I would re-enlist. I told them that I had enough of the Army life and I would love for them to get on with the

processing and make me a civilian as soon as possible.

While I was waiting for my orders to be processed I had a few hours leave. I went into New York City and it was here that I saw

my first television and boy was it small, but we all know now that it was only being tested and it wouldn’t be long until that little picture

would be gaining in size.

My processing was completed on the seventh of December 1945 and I arrived at the separation center at Camp Chaffee, Ark, on

December 8th. At the Separation Center I received my honorable Discharge and received my mustering out pay which amounted to only

$300 total but I only received $100 at that time and was told that the rest of my money would be mailed at a later date. I also received

$14.30 for travel pay and that was supposed to buy my bus ticket to Pauls Valley, OK. They had it all figured out and that travel pay got

me home on December 10th. I was on a bus heading for Pauls Valley arriving there around midnight. I took a Taxi to 129 N. Chestnut St.

where my wife was expecting me. For the first time in almost three years I was a civilian and looking forward to spending some quality

time with my wife and families. And have a Merry Christmas.

While I was off serving our Country, Kathleen was working and living with her mother and dad, Floy and Earl Cobble. Kathleen

was trying to save all the money she could so we would have a little start when I got home. Also she was keeping a scrapbook of all

things that was going on.

The following is some of the articles that she kept for me. This one here came from the President Harry Truman, who became

President after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Harold G. Bradley you answered the call for your country and served in its Armed Forces to bring about the total defeat of the

Enemy. I extend the heartfelt thanks of a grateful Nation, as one of the nation’s finest, you undertook the most severe task one can be

called upon to perform, because you demonstrated the fortitude, resourcefulness and calm judgment necessary to carry out that task, we

now look to you for leadership and example in further exalting our Country in peace.

Kathleen received a letter from Major General Bryant E. Moore, commander of the 8th Infantry Division. The letter stated that on

the 29th of May 1945, I have just awarded the Silver Star Medal to your husband, Sergeant Harold G. Bradley. This award was made by

virtue of Gallantry in action. Permit me to share with you the pride, gratification that this award must bring you, and to congratulate you

on your contribution through you husband to the success of our Military Operations.

The General orders from the Headquarters of the 8th Infantry Division, states by order of the President of the United States, the

Silver Star is awarded to Sergeant Harold G. Bradley of the Armored Forces, Company C, 740th Tank Battalion for gallantry in action on

May1, 1945 in the vicinity of Zeetze, Germany, when the platoon leader’s tank was put out of action by Enemy fire, Sgt. Bradley

immediately led his tank into the lead position and directed the fire of the entire platoon, thus preventing it from be encircled. Through

his leadership and sound judgment, the enemy counter-attack was repulsed and the supporting infantrymen were given covering fire

while they maneuvered to other positions.

I believe that every man in our Battalion could be called heroes, but there were 40 men that didn’t live to be called a hero, but

never the less, they died in combat that those of us that did make it through the war could enjoy the freedom that we take for granted

After returning to the United States and received my discharge from the Army, I would have loved to have had more time to take

life easy, but that would have to come later, because I had to start looking for a job and that was my top priority, it was time for me to get

back to work as a civilian.

The first place I checked for work was my former employer, G. F. Wacker Stores. They told me when I was drafted, that they

would make room for me if I wanted to go back to work for them. After my visit with the boss he offered me a position in the retail store

in Pauls Valley, I started to work in the store after the first of January 1946. My wife was already working there. Working at a 5 and 10

cent store was quite a change from the jobs I had just finished.

My time in the Pauls Valley Store was short lived. When another store needed someone to manager a small store in Monahans,

TX and they wanted to know if would be interested in making the move to West Texas. I jumped at the chance. Before we could make

the move, we had to buy a car. We shopped in Pauls Valley but couldn’t find anything. Kathleen’s mother and dad took us to Oklahoma

City, we found what we could afford, a 1939 model four door Ford. That was our first car. On our way home I noticed the car was

burning oil and at one point we didn’t know if we were going to make it to Pauls Valley.

On Monday, Kathleen’s dad took the car to a friend and he pulled a ring job and had it ready to go in a couple of days and by the

weekend we were packing what we could carry with us and we headed out for West Texas where the sand storms was a way of life out

A day after we arrived in Monahans, I met with Joe Vandiver, who was the manager of both stores. He filled me in on the

position and what he wanted me to do. I hit the work force running and Kathleen was working along my side. I also had two other sales

persons. One of the largest jobs we had to do was go through the store and all merchandise that was made in Japan we had to pack up all

the items and take them out of circulation, due to the war with Japan.

Our first child was born in February, 1948, a son. That year, Kathleen’s dad passed away and we moved back to Pauls Valley

where I went to work for the Pauls Valley Daily Democrat and 37 years later, I retired in 1986.

Our son, Phillip enlisted in the Air Force in 1966 after graduation from High School and spent four years serving his country.

After leaving the Air Force and starting his family, He fell from a cable television tower to his death in 1979.

In 1997 health problems in my family made it hard for us to live in Pauls Valley, we moved to League City, TX. to be near our

daughter and her family and Kathleen’s doctors in Houston.

Many years had passed and the 740th Tank Battalion had been having reunions, but I was never able to attend. In 1997, several

members of the Battalion traveled to Europe to retrace the tracks we had left behind at the end of WWII. They returned to their sojourn

to share their accounts of old friendships renewed and the many memorials they had visited in Belgium which were situated at various

locations in tribute to the many allied soldiers who had fought and died there. To their surprise some even bore mention of the 740th

subsequently, at the annual meeting of the Association in September 1997, it was suggested that since so many units had placed

monuments to memorialize their comrades, it would be fitting for the heroes of the 740th to be represented as wells

The membership favorably received the idea of a monument project. A campaign was initiated for raising funds and immediate

discussion ensued concerning preliminary sketches. Following the January 1998 Board meeting, designs for our monument were

reviewed. There was a monument in Dumas, TX, that was dedicated by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and it was suitable in design what

our organization had in mind.

Contact was made with our friends, Marcel and Mathilde Schmetz of Clermont, Belgium, for researching monument

manufactures, comparing their capabilities, materials, and credibility and pricing. As to the location, our primary concern was that the

monument be place in any one of the many areas where the Battalion had been stationed or engaged in combat and that the particular site

be properly maintained. The Battalion also sought authorization from the city government to conduct a formal dedication at the

convenient time of the year. Marcel and Mathilde dedicated themselves to our project spending countless hours in obtaining the

particulars as well as contacting the various city heads. After several meeting with Mr. Dewez, Mayor of Dalhem/Neufchateau, we were

advised that the ground had been designated for the monument. By this time the monument dimensions had been finalized and submitted

to the selected Monument Company for a final quote.

So compelling was the enthusiasm that our generous membership came through with the necessary funds in just a matter of

months. On April 24, 1999, our 20th month efforts culminated with amazingly beautiful results. The dedication of the monument

embodied in stone and granite the lasting bond of love among patriots.

The monument was funded through generous, voluntary contributions of Tankers and their families. Tanker widows and their

families and family member of those killed in action, all member of the 740th Tank Battalion Association. The memorial’s main structure

stands nine feet in height and ten feet in width. It is cut of Belgian blue stone and back granite, constructed and installed by the Pesser

Pierres and Marbres, of Aubel, Belgium. The protectors of our monument are Monsieure Desire and Charles Wiels of


On April 24, 1999, members of the 740th Tank Battalion and citizens of Dalhem/Neufchateau and the surrounding area dedicated

the monument to the members of the Battalion who gave their lives for our country and to the citizens of the area who took our members

into their homes and comforted them during the dark days of November and December, 1944, prior to the battalion’s entrance into

combat during the Battle of the Bulge.

Although the monument was late in becoming a reality, our members often wished that a marker of some kind could be erected in

Belgium dedicated to the effort and struggle they encountered there. Due to the fact that our members were raising families, making a

living and dealing with life, the monument was delayed until this time.

I was not able to make the trip for the dedication of our monument, those who made the trip had the dedication ceremony video

tapped and a gold medallion made so that those unable to attend could remember this special occasion.

The 740th Tank Battalion now has monuments erected at Camp Bouse, Arizona, Fort Knox, Kentucky and Dalhem/Neufchateau,


In July of 2004, I had the opportunity to return to Europe with a tour group of 29 people, we honored the men killed in action at

the Monument with a special program. This was the first time I had returned to Europe in 60 years and will be the last time. The years

are creeping up on all World War II Veterans. There are reports that 1000 vets are dying each day. How many are they left that haven’t

told their stories?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...