20th Armored Division (United States)

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20th Armored Division
20th US Armored Division SSI.svg
Shoulder sleeve patch of the United States Army 20th Armored Division
Active 1943–1946
Country United States
Branch United States Army
Type Armored division
Nickname Armoraiders / Liberators
Engagements

World War II

Commanders
Notable
commanders
Orlando Ward
Roderick R. Allen
U.S. Armored Divisions
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The 20th Armored Division was an armored division of the United States Army in World War II. It was activated on 15 March 1943 at Camp Campbell in Kentucky. The Division has no real nickname although it did associate itself with the nickname "Armoraiders" while in training at Camp Campbell. (Nickname information taken from 18 March 1944 issue of the Camp Campbell Newspaper, Retreat to Taps.)

After certification as a liberating division by the Center of Military History on 28 October 1988, and the awarding of a Liberation Certificate by the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, veterans of the division adopted the name LIBERATORS as a Division Motto.[1]

History[edit]

Plaque at Dachau concentration camp honoring the 20th Armored Division and displaying the moniker 'Liberators'.

The 20th Armored Division departed Boston on 5 February and arrived at Le Havre, France, 18 February 1945. On its arrival, SHAEF discovered that the division required an unprecedented amount of additional training before being ready for combat. It was sent to Buchy for a month of training before being deemed acceptable for combat duty. It then moved through, Belgium to Langendernbach, Germany, 10 April. After giving serious thought to breaking up the new division to provide replacements for the veteran armored divisions under his 12th U.S. Army Group, General Omar N. Bradley, sent the unit to Marktbreit, where the division was attached to the III Corps; 20 April. Three days later, it was detached and reassigned to the XV Corps, Seventh Army, at Würzburg, Germany.

The condition of the division when it arrived overseas was undoubtedly affected by a recent change in its primary mission. Until October 1944, the 20th Armored Division's mission was to train soldiers and qualify them for overseas shipment as replacements for armored units. To perform this mission, the division included in its strength an unusually large number of intelligent and highly trained men, including students from several of the Army's advanced college training programs.[2]

Some incomplete records minimize the division's activity, i.e.: Elements of the division first saw action as Task Force Campbell when a false surrender by the enemy resulted in fighting in the town of Dorf, 25 April. The division assembled near Deiningen and reconnoitered for routes to the Danube. The Danube was crossed, 28 April, the 20th meeting sporadic, light resistance. Elements seized the bridge over the Paar river at Schrobenhausen and secured crossings over the Ilm River. The only element of the 20th to participate in a serious engagement was the 27th Tank Battalion. The 27th Tank was attached to the veteran 42nd Infantry Division during its attack on Munich, 29–30 April. The rest of the 20th had been ordered off the roads leading into Munich on 28 April to allow the 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions to attack Munich.[3]

The actual arrival of the 20th Armored Division into combat occurred 4–9 April 1945. The division's Armored Field Artillery Battalions (the 412th, 413th, and 414th), with elements of the 33rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, moved up to the west bank of the Rhine River to support the 101st Airborne Division near Delhoven, Germany, and the 82nd Airborne Division across the river from Hitdorf, Germany.[4] It was the 412th that supported the 82nd in their attack on Hitdorf that resulted in the awarding of a Unit Citation.

The 20th Armored Division's 27th Tank Battalion was attached to the 42nd Infantry Division on 23 April 1945 and led the attack to capture the town of Donauworth on the 25th to secure the crossing of the Danube River.[5] The success of the operation prompted this quote from Lt. Col. Donald E. Downard, commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion, 222nd Infantry (42nd Infantry Division) who had witnessed more than 25 months of combat, "I have never seen a more aggresive [sic?] armored unit." [6]

Elements of the 20th Armored Division, primarily from Combat Command B, comprised Task Force 20 which was awarded a Unit Citation. The Recommendation for Unit Citation dated 3 October 1945 states, These units, which constituted Task Force 20, are cited for outstanding performance of duty in action during the period 28–30 April 1945, in the vicinity of Neuherberg, Germany. With soldierly courage and irrepresible determination members of Task Force 20 pushed an armored spearhead 45 miles beyond the Danube River to the outskirts of Munich, destroying a supply train, capturing almost 800 prisoners, and securing four bridges over the Amper River intact. Continuing the attack on 29–30 April against an enemy entrenched in elaborately prepared dugouts and behind the thick walls of the SS Training Center and an Anti-tank School which were defended by small arms, machine guns, hundreds of panzerfausts and twelve 88 mm guns, our troops killed 700 SS Troops, who fought stubbornly and fanatically. This victory destroyed the defenses of Munich, Germany, removing resistance to the entry of troops into the City. [7]

The division crossed the Inn River at Wasserburg on 3 May, entered Traunstein, 4 May, and was moving toward Salzburg when it received word that hostilities would cease in Europe. The division is credited with only eight days in combat losing only 46 men killed in action and 134 wounded.[8] The division returned to the U.S. in August 1945 and was slated to invade Japan, but after the atomic bombs were dropped it was inactivated 2 April 1946 at Camp Hood in Texas.

Peanuts creator Charles Schulz rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant while a member of the division. Elements of the 20th Division participated in the liberation of Dachau concentration camp. Schulz's unit was near but did not actually enter the camp.[9] Future Vice President Spiro T. Agnew attained the rank of 1st Lieutenant while with the 20th Armored Division's 480th Armored Infantry Regiment (prior to reorganization to light armored division TO&E).[10]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ 20th Armored Division in World War II, 1993 Edition, Walsworth Publishing Company, Inc.
  2. ^ Major General Orlando Ward, Life of a Leader, Russel A. Gugeler,Red Anvil Press, 2009
  3. ^ Order of Battle, ETO, 1945; Seventh U.S. Army: Report of Operations in France and Germany, 1944–1945
  4. ^ 413th Armored Field Artillery Battalion Unit History for 1945, declassified NARA records dated 9/26/00, #NND735017
  5. ^ 27th Tank Battalion After Action Report, 23–30 April '45, declassified NARA records dated 4/18/95, #NND735017
  6. ^ The CC BEE 20th Armored Division Combat Command B newsletter, Volume 1 Number 3, dated Friday, 15 June 1945
  7. ^ AG Record #AGPD-B 370.24 (12 Jan 46), declassified NARA records dated 9/25/00, #NND735017
  8. ^ Michaelis 2007, p. 150
  9. ^ Michaelis 2007, pp. 146–147
  10. ^ Special Order 39, Headquarters, 480th Armored Infantry Regiment, Camp Campbell, Kentucky, dated 15 May 1943

References[edit]

  • Michaelis, David (2007), Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography, New York: Harper, ISBN 0-06-621393-2