12th Armored Division (United States)
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|12th Armored Division|
12th AD shoulder sleeve insignia
|Active||1942 – 45|
|Branch||United States Army|
|Motto||Speed Is the Password|
|Engagements||World War II
|Roderick R. Allen|
|U.S. Armored Divisions|
|11th Armored Division (Inactive)||13th Armored Division (Inactive)|
The division was activated on 15 September 1942. The same day, the 56th Infantry Regiment was reconstituted in the Regular Army as the 56th Armored Infantry. The regiment was assigned to the division on 7 July 1942. Activated 15 September 1942 at Camp Campbell, Kentucky. The 56th Armoured Infantry Regiment was broken up on 11 November 1943, and elements reorganized and redesignated as elements of the 12th Armored Division as follows-
- 56th Armored Infantry (less 1st, and 2nd Battalions) as the 56th Armored Infantry Battalion.
- 1st Battalion as the 66th Armored Infantry Battalion.
- 2nd Battalion as the 17th Armored Infantry Battalion.
The 12th Armored Division landed at Liverpool, England, 2 October 1944. It arrived at Le Havre, France, 11 November 1944. Advance elements met the enemy near Weisslingen in Alsace on 5 December, and the entire division moved against the Maginot Line fortifications 2 days later.
In its advance, Rohrbach-lès-Bitche and the Bettviller area were liberated by 12 December, and Utweiler, Germany, was seized 21 December. After a short period of rehabilitation and maintenance, the 12th rolled against the Rhine bridgehead at Herrlisheim that the Germans had established as part of their Operation Nordwind offensive. German defenders repulsed two division attacks in the most violent fighting in the history of the 12th, during 8 to 10 January and 16 to 17 January 1945. The division's attacks at Herrlisheim failed to use combined-arms tactics and were defeated in detail, resulting in two tank and two armored infantry battalions taking heavy losses. Poor tactics were compounded by terrain that was almost tabletop-flat, offering the German defenders excellent fields of fire. However, enemy counterattacks failed also, in part because of the firm leadership of the commander of Combat Command B, Colonel Charles Bromley, who declared his headquarters expendable and ordered all personnel in the headquarters to prepare a hasty defense. The division was subsequently relieved by the U.S. 36th Infantry Division. After recovering from the bruising experience at Herrlisheim, the 12th went over to the offensive and attacked south from Colmar. In a lightning drive, the 12th effected junction with French forces at Rouffach, on 5 February, sealing the Colmar Pocket and ending German resistance in the Vosges Mountains. Except for elements acting as a protective screen, the division withdrew to the St. Avold area for rest and rehabilitation. The attack resumed, 18 March 1945.
In a quick drive to the Rhine, Ludwigshafen fell, 21 March, and two other important river cities, Speyer and Germersheim, were secured on the 24th, clearing the Saar Palatinate. Maintaining the rapid pace, the 12th crossed the Rhine River at Worms, 28 March, advanced toward Würzburg against light resistance, and captured that city. After assisting in the seizure of Schweinfurt, the division continued toward Nuremberg, 13 April, taking Neustadt, then shifted toward Munich, 17 April. Elements of the 12th raced from Dinkelsbühl to the Danube, taking the bridge at Dillingen before demolition men could wreck it. This bridge provided a vital artery for Allied troops flooding into southern Germany.
The division spearheaded the Seventh Army drive, securing Landsberg, 29 April, clearing the area between the Ammer and Wurm Lakes on the 30th, and moving deeper into the "National Redoubt". The 12th Armored Division is recognized as a liberating element of the Kaufering concentration camps, arriving at several of the camps on 27–28 April 1945.
Elements crossed the Inn River and the Austrian border, 3 May. The 12th was relieved by the 36th Infantry Division, 4 May. On 5 May, it rescued VIP French prisoners from a German camp during the Battle for Castle Itter. It engaged in security duty until 22 November 1945, when it left Marseille, France, for home. The 12th was nicknamed the "Hellcat Division" for its ferocious advance across southern Germany.
It was deactivated on 3 December 1945 at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.
Order of battle
- 23rd Tank Battalion
- 43rd Tank Battalion
- 714th Tank Battalion
- 17th Armored Infantry Battalion
- 56th Armored Infantry Battalion
- 66th Armored Infantry Battalion
- 493rd Armored Field Artillery Battalion
- 494th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
- 495th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
- 92nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Mechanized
- 119th Armored Engineer Battalion
- 82nd Medical Battalion, Armored
- 134th Armored Ordnance Maintenance Battalion
- 152nd Armored Signal Company
- Campaigns: Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, Central Europe.
- Days of combat: 102
- Distinguished Unit Citations: 1.
- Medal of Honor-1
- Distinguished Service Cross-2
- Distinguished Service Medal-1
- Silver Star-225
- Legion of Merit-8
- Distinguished Flying Cross-4
- Soldier's Medal-11
- Bronze Star Medal-1,453
- Air Medal-63.
- Maj. Gen. Carlos Brewer (September 1942 – August 1944)
- Maj. Gen. Douglass T. Greene (August–September 1944)
- Maj. Gen. Roderick R. Allen (September 1944 – July 1945)
- Brig. Gen. Willard Ames Holbrook, Jr. (July 1945 to inactivation)
- ushmm.org, "Honoring American Liberators", 10 April 2007, retrieved 15 July 2008
- Oral History
- Book, Our War for the World (2002) (originally issued as The Other Side of Time, 1987) by Brendan Phibbs, M.D., a combat surgeon in the 12th Armored Division, covers the division's experiences in Europe. The book has been called "one of the best five Allied memoirs of the World War II".
- Book, Mark D. Van Ells, ed., The Daily Life of an Ordinary American Soldier in World War II: The Letters of Wilbur C. Berget" Edwin Mellen Press, 2008.
- Speed is the Password: The Story of the 12th Armored Division
- 12th Armored Museum a museum celebrating the division