The accomplishments of the 11th Armored Division are told briefly in this little booklet. Its simple statements of fact will recall to you men of the Division the glorious accomplishments of your particular units. You tankers remember the horror of the days of Bastogne and the burning and exploding hulls of your comrades’ tanks. You infantrymen remember your friends who caught it from a bunker in the Siegfried Line, so that you might go on. And you artillerymen know with what courage your buddies lent the support of their weapons to the attack. You hard-working men of the supply services who forced trucks through icy, traffic-laden roads of the Ardennes, all the way into tank-convoyed lanes in "Indian Country," remember those who paved the way with their lives so that the road could be opened. The Division dedicates this booklet to those whose lives were lost in keeping the Thunderbolt running.
Holmes E. Dager
Major General, U.S. Army
December 30, 1944: The Nazis were bewildered. Intelligence had reported less than a week before: "The American 11th Armored Division has relieved the 94th Infantry Division in the siege of the Lorient pocket."
Yet, here was the 11th, 500 miles from Lorient, smashing into the enemy’s crack 5th and 15th Panzer Grenadier Divisions, and holding the vital Neufchateau-Bastogne highway. Once again, the speed of American armor had baffled the Germans.
The 11th was assigned to the Lorient Pocket on the day first elements of the Division landed at Cherbourg. But that day was December 16, when Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt unleashed his massive counter-offensive in the Ardennes. That scrapped original plans.
Tanks, half-tracks, armored cars, peeps and trucks took off in a dash through the rubbled towns of Normandy, the Seine Valley, northeast through the Argonne to the banks of the Meuse River. Bitter cold, rain and snow made the march a rugged test of armored skill.
On the Meuse, elements of the Division were tactically deployed for the first time. Assigned to guard the river from Givet to Verdun, Combat Command A, commanded by Brigadier General Willard A. Holbrook, Jr., was divided into two task forces for patrol activity. All Bridges across the river were prepared for demolition in the event Germans broke through.
In the meantime, the sole supply corridor to the embattled Americans in Bastogne was being threatened by German counter-attacks. Again the 11th changed its plans, turned the Meuse River defense over to the 17th Airborne Division, and on December 29 roared 85 miles to an assembly area near Neufchateau.
Without a pause, the Division launched into its first action. Attacking abreast, CCA and Colonel Wesley W. Yale’s CCB jumped off at 0730 next day with the 41st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron. Within an hour, the drive ran smack into an enemy attack headed for the highway.
The fighting was fierce and bitter. One CCB tank force punched its way into Lavaselle and seized high ground near Brul and Houmont. Despite a heavy artillery barrage that night, all gains were held.
Reserve Command, under Colonel Virgil Bell, struck next day, grabbed key terrain southwest of Pinsamont. Pressing on to Acul, CCR doughs were pinned down by heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire.
Twice, in the slugging battle, CCB armored doughs tried to seize the town of Chenogne but each time superior forces drove them off. The third and final assault was launched on New Year’s morning. Tanks and artillery laid down massed fire while the infantry followed up. The town was completely secured by noon.
While CCB regrouped, 13 artillery battalions hurled a paralyzing barrage of fire on the heavily defended Bois des Valets. Armored doughs penetrated the thick woods and cleaned it out. Seizure of this key point doomed the German effort to cut the supply route.
CCB next caught Mande St. Etienne in a pincers move January 2, 1945, and held it against a powerful counter-attack.
Screened by harassing artillery fire, the Division was relieved the next day by the 17th Airborne Division. The 11th Armored Division had tackled two ace Nazi divisions, punched them back six miles in five freezing days, cleared 30 square miles of rugged terrain, liberated more than a dozen towns and ended the threat to the supply route.
The Division suffered heavy casualties in its Combat baptism but it had inflicted greater losses on the enemy. After nearly two and a half years of training, the 11th had earned its spurs.
Activated August 15, 1942, at Camp Polk, Louisiana, the 11th Armored Division trained and maneuvered in the Louisiana woods for a year, then moved to Camp Barkeley, Texas. After advanced training, it prepared for overseas duty at Camp Cook, California, undergoing tough desert maneuvers. Arriving in England November 12, 1944, the Thunderbolts readied for combat with two more month’ training on Salisbury Plain. Two weeks after leaving England, the Division, under Brigadier General Charles S. Kilburn, was in the front lines.
January 13, 1945: Von Rundstedt had lost his great gamble. The Bulge was shrinking under the hammer blows of Allied power. With the 11th Armored Division as spearhead, Third Army’s VIII Corps kicked off to drive a northbound wedge into the enemy line, contact First Army elements knifing southward in the vicinity of Houffalize.
Attacking in column formation along the Longchamps-Bertogne highway northeast of Bastogne, CCA sparked the drive. Massed artillery fire adjusted by liaison planes pulverized an enemy counter-attack. Division engineers quickly breached a mine field that threatened to slow the advance.
Farther east, CCB plunges through Foy and Recogne to Noville where the column was forced to halt before stiffening resistance. By-passing Noville on January 15, CCB seized high wooded ground east of the town. Meanwhile, CCA cleared Pied Du Mont woods, captured 400 enemy prisoners. A sudden counter-attack which knocked out nine tanks prevented further gains.
Elements of the 41st Cavalry, commanded by Lt. Col. Herbert M. Foy, Jr., probed to the northeast in advance of combat commands, seeking contact with First Army patrols. Early on January 16, they met troops of the First Army’s Second Armored Division at Grinvet, on L’Ourthe River just west of Houffalize.
Initial contact was followed by CCA’s infantry, which battled artillery and sniper fire, blasted through road blocks. Furiously resisting Germans fired small arms, artillery and rockets at the advancing troops in a vain attempt to drive them out. Division Artillery answered with a crushing barrage of 12,000 rounds.
The linkup was secure. Enemy units attempting to withdraw from the huge trap were cut off and mopped up by supporting infantry. The way was paved for an all-out smash at the enemy’s touted Siegfried Line.
In the drive for Houffalize, there were numerous examples of heroism. Sergeant (then Corporal) Wayne E. Van Dyke, Havana, Illinois, gunner in Company B, 41st Tank Battalion, earned a Silver Star for his action at Noville. When is tank was knocked out by an 88, he was left in the town with a seriously wounded driver and bow gunner. The tank commander and loader went to the rear to direct other tanks around the town. Van Dyke pulled the driver and bow gunner from the tank, dragged them over to a church wall, played dead while German troops marched through the town.
Van Dyke sprawled on the driver who was suffering from shock. Once, a curious German came over to the apparently lifeless group and looked at the bow gunner’s wrist watch but didn’t touch him. After lying in this position for two hours, Van Dyke brought the two men into the church and placed the driver, who was unable to go farther, near the altar. Having given him first aid, Van Dyke and the bow gunner crawled back to their lines. The driver, in the meantime, was treated by a German medic and next day was rescued by his own men when they pushed into the town.
A Company C, 41st tanker, T/5 (then PFC) Herbert Burr, Kansas City, Missouri, found himself the only one of his crew able to carry on after two 88 hits knocked out his tank just outside of Houffalize. With the tank commander and gunner dead, the loader wounded, driver evacuated, the turret burning, Burr remained in the assistant driver’s seat and fired his machine gun at the enemy shielded by a haystack. After knocking out the crew, Burr pulled the wounded loader from the burning tank, crawled 200 yards through snow back to the CP dragging his helpless buddy. Then he crept back to the tank, extinguished the fire and drove it back, Burr was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
Captain John F. Maggesin, Aurora, Illinois, 42nd Tank Battalion, won a Silver Star for leading his company against a counter-attack after his own tank was knocked out. Captain Maggesin directed the assault from atop his tank, then rescued two wounded men under fire.
Alone in a tank hit by enemy fire, Lt. William J. Kieffer, Rockford, Illinois, an artillery observer, directed effective fire on anti-tank guns by radio. Lt. Kieffer. Of C Battery, 491st AFA, also was awarded a Silver Star.
The Bulge liquidated, the 11th Armored Division began a drive to pierce the Siegfried Line. It was a job or infantry, engineers and artillery. Mines had to be cleared, pill-boxes crushed, road blocks demolished. To CCR went the assignment of penetrating the complex defenses, punching a hole to let the armor through.
At the edge of the line, CCR pulled a fast one. The Germans were expecting an armored frontal attack with the usual heavy artillery preparation. Instead, the command jumped off before dawn without artillery.
The surprise was complete. When dawn came, Nazis manning the bunkers and pillboxes found themselves surrounded – all their carefully plotted interlocking fields of fire outflanked and three towns taken.
Later, when CCR struck the main defenses of the Line the job had to be done the usual way. With heavy artillery preparation, the 63rd and 55th Armored Infantry Battalions jumped off February 6 from high ground overlooking the Line near Lutzkampen. Progress was slow as armored doughs cut their way through the barbed wire and mine fields. Lutzkampen fell the next day. Positions then were consolidated and preparations made for the last lunge against the Line.
The final assault began February 17. CCR, following up a tremendous artillery barrage, stabbed two kilometers through the main defenses to seize Grosskempenberg. The desperate, stubborn enemy used every weapon available to halt the drive but Thunderbolt doughs pressed on to wrest two more kilometers the following day. Roscheid, key point in the center of the line, fell by February 20.
Blasting pathways through the dragon’s teeth, clearing menacing mine fields and booby traps, the 56ith Armored Engineer Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. Andrew V. Inge, opened the hole for the tanks and half-tracks which followed almost immediately.
North and northwest of Roscheid, an area three miles wide and two miles deep was breached. During the costly operation, 197 bunkers and pillboxes were crushed, 432 prisoners taken and approximately 400 Germans killed.
The 11th Armored Division was now in open terrain, but soft, sticky ooze replaced the frozen ground that the hard-driving Thunderbolt tanks had encountered. While plans were perfected for the next drive, tankers and doughs took an earned respite.
March 3, 1945: Gerolstein on the Kyll River was the objective as CCB smashed forward against intense artillery and tank fire of the hard, tough German 5th Parachute Civision. Jumping off from a high ridge overlooking a broad, flat plain, tankers were in their glory, able to use the tactics for which they had been trained.
Maneuvering freely, the tanks swept across the favorable terrain, backed up by punishing massed fire from artillery and tank destroyers. Close behind, half-tracks brought up supporting infantry. At the end of the day, CCB had advanced four miles and seized Fleringen.
In the meantime, CCA joined the attack, drove on Wascheid while the 56th Engineers cleared extensive min fields.
Resistance began to crumble under the trip-hammer blows of the 11th Armored Division. Wallersheim and Budesheim fell to CCB after five enemy tanks and six 88s were knocked out. Seizing Scheuern, Kalenborn and Roth, CCB race on, reaching the Kyll River at Ober Bettingen and Nieder Bettingen on March 4. A bridgehead was swiftly established and, under terrific fire from enemy forces dug in on the opposite bank, the engineers began construction of a treadway bridge.
At Gerolstein, reached by the 90th Infantry Division, CCA crossed the Kyll on a captured span. Abandoning its bridging operations at Nieder Bettingen, CCB swung south to cross the Kyll behind CCA.
The Kyll crossing broke the Wehrmacht’s back in the 11th’s sector. Fighting only delaying actions at roadblocks, mine fields and blown bridges, the enemy retreated to the east. CCA smashed to the outskirts of Kelberg, seized the town on the night of March 7 despite anti-tank, mortar and rocket fire. Six enemy tanks were destroyed.
Driving through Mayen to Andernach on the Rhine, CCA cut the confused Nazi columns to ribbons. Simultaneously, CCB struck northeast from Kelberg through Mullenbach and Kempenich to the Rhineland town of Brohl. Both Andernach and Brohl fell March 9; Thunderbolt units rolled north along the Rhine to meet First Army forces and snap shut a steel trap on six enemy divisions.
It was in Andernach that a lesson learned 25 years ago by two 11th Armored Division commanders paid off. Two cavalry officers in the American Army of Occupation after World War I studied the Andernach sector during maneuvers held along the Rhine. On many of the maneuvers Captain Virgil Bell, Columbus, Georgia, was involved in the defense of the town while 2nd Lt. Willard Holbrook, Washington, DC, took part in the attack. When the Thunderbolt Division seized Andernach, Brigadier General Holbrook led CCA into the town. Colonel Bell commanded CCR.
Results of the drive included the capture of dozens of towns, 10,663 prisoners, including the Commanding General of the 277th Volksgrenadier Division and his staff. Credit for the capture of the Nazi general went to Carlton E. Cassidy, Clayton, New Jersey, who was on a foot reconnaissance mission. Passing a café in a small German village, Cassidy signaled his squad to stand by while he went in to investigate.
Armed with a .45 pistol, he pushed open the door and bumped into two Wehrmacht soldiers emerging from the cellar. They immediately threw up their hands and asked if they could go downstairs and bring up their comrades. The "comrades" turned out to be the general and his complete staff, consisting of 24 officers.
Swinging south, the 11th took off March 17 in Third Army’s drive to clean out the Saar-Moselle-Rhine pocket. Under the command of Major General (then Brigadier General) Holmes E. Dager, the Thunderbolt Division spanned the Moselle in the Kobern-Winningen area as part of XII Corps.
Light resistance met CCB as it swept through Altlay, Lauzenhausen, Buchenbeuren, Rhaunen and Sulzbach. Attacking in the afternoon, CCA tore through Kappel toward Kirchberg and Gehweiler to the lengthening string of towns taken.
At Kirn there was scattered resistance; bridges were blown over the Nahe River, but the attack rolled through Marxheim and Meisenheim. Enemy bazookas, anti-tank guns and infantry held up the advance at Meisenheim, but they soon were overcome by dismounted infantry. Five thousand Germans were captured on March 19 alone.
Teaming up for the final blow, CCA and CCB smashed to within a few kilometers of the ancient Rhineland city of Worms. After contacting the 4th Armored Division, CCA wheeled to the north, began mopping up remnants of German resistance on the morning of the 21st. Thrusting southward, CCB met determined opposition at an airfield on the outskirts of Worms, crushed it in one hour.
Another Thunderbolt mission was accomplished. In a 50-hour, 75-mile dash, CCA and CCB captured 79 towns, destroyed undetermined amounts of enemy equipment and sent 11,789 more prisoners to the bulging cages. While Allied forces mopped up and consolidated along the Rhine, the 11th prepared to cross this final barrier. The Germans were whipped west of the Rhine. They had suffered a knockout blow from which they never would recover.
Crossing the Rhine on March 28 at Oppenheim, the 11th Armored Division roared through ruined Darmstadt and swept on to Hanau where resistance was encountered from German replacement troops and student engineer non-coms. Under strong pressure, the Germans reluctantly fell back to Gelnhausen where CCA ran up against mines, road blocks, mortar and anti-tank fire.
By-passing Gelnhausen, CCA sped on to converge with CCB on Fulda, key communications centeer, March 31. While CCB blasted the town, supporting infantry rushed up from the rear, moved in and cleaned out the defenders.
The Division changed its course sharply April 1.Nazi big shots, fleeing from Berlin in the face of the Red Army threat to the capital, were reported to have moved to the vicinity of Arnstadt and Kranichfeld, due east of Fulda. Hitler himself was said to be in the group. The Division plunged into the Thuringian Forest, headed for the towns of Oberhof and Suhl.
Taking parallel routes, CCA and CCB spurted 30 miles beyond Fulda to the Werra River near Meiningen. At Grimmenthal, the Division liberated 400 Allied prisoners. Suhl, one of the two objectives in the lightning drive, was reached by CCA on April 3, but it took a day’s stiff fighting to clear the town of stubborn Volkssturm troops.
Despite a delay at the Werra because of a blown bridge, CCB reached Oberhof the afternoon of April 3, met strong resistance which was knocked out by heavy artillery bombardment. The town was secured the following morning.
While the two columns drove to the Werra, CCR swept from Steinbach Hallenberg to seize Zella Mehlis, home of the famed Walther small arms plants. Here, the 22nd Tank Battalion captured one of the largest concentrations of pistols, rifles and automatic weapons in Germany. Said First Sergeant Daniel H. Boone, Naples, Texas, Company B 22nd Tank: "I feel like I’m sitting on the vault at Fort Knox, where they keep all the gold. And, on the other hand, I’m so sick of looking at German pistols that I never want to see another."
Now only 6 miles from the Czechoslovakian border, the 11th Armored Division changed direction, shooting its swift-moving spearheads to the southeast. The enemy’s retreat turned into a rout – prisoners overtaken b the flying advance columns were dazed by the Thunderbolt’s speed. As the 11h flashed through Bavaria, supporting infantry often was unable to keep up and several times Corps was forced to halt the Division to allow doughs to catch up. Pessimistic front line men sensed the kill, talked guardedly and hopefully of the end.
The two combat commands, CCA and CCB, drove on in parallel columns. Themar, Scheusingen and Hildburghaudsen fell in rapid succession to CCA, while CCB knocked out Zeilfeld. Resistance was expected in Coburg where the two columns were to converge but the garrison at Coburg Castle, on the outskirts of the city, surrendered after its officers deserted. When the columns entered the city on April 10 they found the civilians removing the roadblocks and white flags flying from the windows.
Striking swiftly on the 12th, CCA swung to the northeast to take Kronach, and the next day entered Kulmbach where light small arms fire was encountered. While part of the command was clearing out the town, other elements sped on to occupy Stadt Steinach and Unter Steinach. In this drive two 240 mm railway guns were captured intact as well as an experimental electronics laboratory specializing in ultra-high frequency radio which had been moved from Berlin only a few days before.
Thunderbolt tankers also ran up against a group of teenage youngsters, some of whom were only 13 years old. The youths had been given uniforms a few days previous to the Americans’ approach and had been ordered to leave the town. Homesick, hungry and tired, they were picked up while carrying white flags by an MP detachment under Major Ernest L. Booch, Quincy, Illinois, and returned to their homes.
Meanwhile, CCB swung to the south and captured Mainleus. Then, a flying column of the 41st Cavalry raced to Bayreuth, twenty miles away. Reaching the outskirts of the historic Bavarian city, famed for its Wagnerian music festivals, negotiations began for its surrender April 14.
The defenders were given three hours to give up. Shortly before the time expired, the town was reported clear except for some fanatics. To meet possible resistance, tanks and infantry rushed into the city which fell with little trouble. Later in the day, elements of the 71st Infantry Division moved in, and the 11th pulled out to an assembly area north of the city.
Two tank men, PFC Al Houska, Portland, Oregon, and PFC Chester Gajda, Detroit, Michigan, captured five Germans on a hilltop overlooking Bayreuth. The two tankers headed for a plowed corner of a field to dig foxholes in the soft ground. Just inside the fence, in high grass, they found the Germans, armed with bazookas. The Nazis overawed by the armored vehicles in the vicinity, threw down their arms and surrendered.
Jumping off again on April 19, the 11th Armored Division captured the Wehrmacht training center of Grafenwohr. The town was the combined Fort Knox and Fort Sill of the German Army, the birthplace of German panzer tactics. American tankers tested the terrain, found it like Louisiana. The largest chemical warfare supply dump in Germany also was captured, with an estimated 3,000,000 rounds of chemical artillery shells and thousands of gas mines.
The Thunderbolt drove on. Leading elements liberated 1722 Allied prisoners at Weiden on April 22. Nabburg, Schwarzenfeld and Cham fell without resistance. South of Cham, an airfield was captured with 50 enemy planes. After it was seized, three more aircraft, their pilots unaware that it was in American hands, landed and were seized.
Men of the 11th had a first-hand glimpse of SS atrocities in their drive to the Danube. Hundreds of bodies of political prisoners lay along the route of march, which led from the Flossenburg concentration camp. The SS had marched the prisoners out of the camp and killed those who could not keep up. On the way, tankmen liberated thousands of undernourished Allied prisoners of war.
Reaching the Regen Rover on April 24, the rapid advance was halted by a blown bridge at the village of Regen. Dismounted infantry from CCB crossed the stream and seized the town after a short but sharp struggle. That night the 56th Engineers threw a treadway bridge across the river and the column resumed its advance next morning.
Smashing ahead, CCA swept through Grafenau, overtaking the Japanese legation of 37 men, women and children fleeing to Vienna by rail. Freyung fell to CCA on the morning of April 26 while CCB swung south of the city, and early that night the advance elements of CCA crossed the Austrian border.
As the main bodies of the Division moved up and consolidated their positions in the next four days, heavy resistance developed at the border town of Wegscheid. Small arms, mortar, anti-tank and artillery fire burst from the town itself and surrounding woods. Division Artillery moved up, amid a devastating barrage. Infantry closed in from the east and north, gained the summit of a series of hills overlooking the town, and on the night of April 30, stormed into the town and cleared it.
The end of April found the fast-stepping 11th Armored Division as the easternmost division in the American Army, 250 miles from Fulda and with a record bag of prisoners. In the swift onslaught the Thunderbolt had liberated more than 3,000 allied POWs and hundreds of German political prisoners. As the end of the war neared, the 11th was poised for the last strike into Austria.
Plunging across the Austrian border on May 1, CCA and CCB followed parallel routes toward the Danube River. Tearing through fanatical SS resistance and several defended road blocks, CCA grabbed Rohrbach and Neufelden, forded the Muhl River at Neufelden and struck out for the southeast. CCB also changed direction, sped to Zwettl, cutting the main north-south highway leading to Linz, and continued east while CCA went on to Linz. Wrote Russell W. Davenport in the New York Post:
"There is no doubt in my mind that the most important "secret weapon" of this war is the tremendous driving power of the Americans. These boys of General Dager’s 11th Armored Division have never been in reserve for more than a few days at a time since they landed at Cherbourg last December. According to the speedometer of one of the original headquarters half-tracks, they have traveled 1,599 miles. Those are not merely road miles; they are combat miles."
After two days of bitter fighting along the approaches to the key Austrian city, the 11th entered Linz on May 5 through Urfahr, a neighboring city across the Danube River. Leading citizens of the two cities attempted to negotiate a conditional surrender b which German soldiers could be allowed to withdraw and fight the Red Army approaching from the east. General Holbrook rejected the offer, ordered his troops to enter Urfahr and Linz.
Despite rejection of the German’s terms, the 11th found Linz undamaged and not a shot was fired in defense. The tankers, accustomed to the stony silence of German civilians, were amazed by the Austrian welcome. Women and children showered their vehicles with flowers. Housewives brought out pitchers of cider and bottles of wine.
The liberation of tattered, starved-looking slave laborers, mainly Russians, Poles and Yugoslavs, resulted in dancing in the streets.
Relieved by the 65th Infantry Division, the 11th pushed out of Linz. Advancing down the Danube, a reconnaissance patrol uncovered two notorious concentration camps at Mauthausen and Gusen. Here were 16,000 political prisoners, representing every country in Europe, all reduced to living skeletons and ridden with disease. The bodies of more than 500 were stacked in an area between two barracks. The few long-term prisoners still alive said that at least 45,000 bodies had been burned in the huge crematorium in four years. Other thousands were killed in the gas chambers, injected with poison or beaten to death.
The 11th Armored Division rushed all available medical facilities to Mauthausen to prevent further loss of life while cavalry patrols probed eastward, seeking contact with the Red Army advancing westward from Vienna. At 1550, May 8, Troop A, 41st Cavalry commanded by Lt. Kedar B. Collins, Albany, Georgia, met a patrol of the Soviet Seventh Guards Division, first unit of Third Army to link up with the Red Army.
The meeting took place in the midst of battle. The Soviet patrol of seven tanks was following the trail of its planes strafing and bombing a German column of SS Panzer patrol, consisting of an armored car and three peeps, was almost taken under fire.
Sergeant John L. Brady, riding in the lead peep, leaped up and shouted, "We are Americans!" Lt. Gene Ellenson, Coral Gables, Florida, and Lt. Richard L. Lucas, Mount Carmel, Illinois, shot up flares to identify their nationality. The Red Army troops replied with their flares and jumped out to join the Americans. First Yank to meet the Soviet patrol was T/4 Frank H. Johnson, Reno, Nevada, who was greeted by Lt. Fyodor A. Kiseyev.
T/Sgt. Clarence L. Barts, Chicago, Illinois, was mistaken for a German at the time of the meeting. The Red Army soldiers demanded his pistol. When they learned he was an American, they hugged and kissed him.
Others who took part in the historic junction of the victorious armies were Corporal Theodore Barton, Brisbane, Australia, a released POW who acted as interpreter; PFC Robert P. Vanderhagen, East Detroit, Michigan; T/Sgt.Joseph P. McTighe, Louisville, Kentucky; Corporal Will Richmond, Trenton, New Jersey; PFC Michael Tancrati, Springfield, Massachusetts; Sergeant Marvin Estes, Montrose Colorado; and T/5 Andrew Florey, Medford, Oregon.
Later that day, commanders of three German military units offered to surrender unconditionally to the Division. These were the 2nd SS Panzer Corps, with 50,000 troops; the 8th German Army, strength 100,000; the Russian Forces of Liberation, a Nazi–sponsored army, 100,000 strong. All were told to remain in place.
At 0001 May 9, the war officially ended. The mission of the Allied Armies – unconditional surrender of Germany – was accomplished. The 11th Armored Division after four months and ten days of combat, ended the European war in the forefront of the American eastern drive.
Following the surrender, men of the Thunderbolt Division could take stock of their achievements. They had captured 76,229 prisoners, nearly twice as many as were taken by the entire American Army in World War I. The figure did not include 10,000 prisoners turned over to supporting infantry divisions for evacuation or 34,125 German troops who violated surrender terms by fleeing from the Red Arm. These troops were rounded up and turned over to the Soviet forces.
The 11th had swept across Germany in one of the swiftest advances in military history, captured hundreds of cities and towns, destroyed a good part of the German forces and liberated thousands of Allied prisoners and slave laborers.
To accomplish its mission, the 11th Armored Division functioned as a smooth-working, hard-striking team. Besides the armored infantry and tank battalions, the 183rd FA Group and attached units played an important role. Troops such as the 575th AA Battalion, 705th, 602nd, and 811th Tank Destroyer Battalions, 991st Engineer Treadway Bridge Company, and 996th Engineer Treadway Bridge Company helped in beating the Germans into submission. In many of the battles the 11th had the support of the XIX TAC.
Men of the 81st Medical Battalion worked tirelessly, treating and evacuating casualties swiftly and efficiently. Vehicles and weapons were kept in fighting trim under all conditions of weather and terrain by the 133rd Ordnance Battalion. Truck drivers of the 381st Quartermaster Truck Company and the 659th Quartermaster Truck Company, not only delivered over ever-lengthening lines but on one occasion dismounted and fought with the infantry. Wire men, radio operators and messengers came in for their share of praise also.
It was a team that adapted itself smoothly to eve-changing conditions under the control of the Division staff, a team that met and defeated the best the enemy could throw against it. The 11th Armored Division accomplished every mission, made a combat record in which every Thunderbolt soldier could take genuine pride.