(homepage)       (also see Barracuda Returns to Bastogne, by J. Ted Hartman)


By Daniel W. O’Brien
11th Armored Division, 56th Armored Engr. Battalion, Co. A
in collaboration with Roger Marquet
Secretary, COBRA,** and Honorary Member, 11th Armored Division Association  

For 59 years, a relic M-4 Sherman tank has guarded the entrance to McAuliffe Square, in the center of Bastogne, Belgium.   Symbolically, it represents the relief of the besieged City of Bastogne by General Patton’s United States Third Army  in December, 1944.  The course of history was changed at  Bastogne, when the defended city  held fast during attacks by overwhelming enemy forces during the Battle of the Ardennes, also known as the “Battle of the Bulge.”  Battle scars on the M-4 Sherman bear stark witness to its untimely end. On its left side, a neat cylindrical hole punched by a German 75mm. shell remains, and a jagged panzerfaust inflicted wound is visible in the stern.

This aged warrior is now gone from McAuliffe Square.  On November 6, 2006, it was lifted from its pedestal, loaded on a heavy equipment carrier, and transported to the Belgian Army Military Arsenal at Rocourt.  There, in a project jointly sponsored and financed by the City of Bastogne and the Belgian Army, and with the cooperation of the Cercle d’Histoire de Bastogne, it will be restored to the condition and appearance it was in when it was saw action in 1944.

Throughout the years, the sides of the tank were adorned with colorful painted logos, representing the 4th Armored Division and the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion.  These units were prominent in the defense and relief of the besieged Bastogne perimeter.  Later, an 11th Armored Division logo was added.  Viewed and photographed by thousands of tourists, the tank has been a landmark in the  square named for the defender of Bastogne, United States Army General Anthony McAuliffe.

In 1947, a tank carcass remained mired in a marshy pond near the village of Renuamont, approximately 6 miles west of Bastogne.  After the end of World War II, it  had escaped demolition by scrap merchants’ torches.  The farmer and land owner, M. Denis, would not permit any activity on his property that he feared might contaminate his spring.  He finally relented, and allowed  a Belgian Army unit to retrieve the tank.   By that time, it was the only remaining unsalvaged  military tank relic  in the area.  Restored,  fitted with a new turret, and repainted,  it was presented by the Commissioner of Tourism to the City of Bastogne, and was placed on display in McAuliffe Square

In the 1990's, Belgian citizens and WWII history buffs Jacques Degive, Robert Fergloute, and Roger Marquet became interested in searching for the actual story of the Bastogne tank.  Through extensive research, they were able to not only determine its history, but also located survivors and family members of the crew.   In 1999, they published a book “La vèritable histoire du “Sherman” de la place McAuliffe à Bastogne” (The “Sherman” at McAuliffe Square in Bastogne, the true story).*  The researchers found that the tank had been assigned to Company B, 41st Tank Battalion, 11th Armored Division.  It had been nicknamed “Barracuda” by its crew.

On the morning of December 30, 1944, the 11th Armored Division was first committed to battle, attacking northerly from positions on the south flank of the “Bulge.”  They attacked  into the face of a simultaneous German counterattack intended to close the narrow corridor that had been opened into the Bastogne perimeter from the south.  Combat Command B of the 11th Armored successfully liberated the  villages of Lavasalle and Houmont, but suffered  significant casualties.

Early in the engagement, “Barracuda,” Under the command of Staff Sgt. Wallace Alexander, and a companion tank commanded by Captain Robert L. Ameno, became separated from the rest of the company.  They moved north into enemy held terrain, approaching the village of Renuamont, the command post of Col. Otto Ernst Remer, “Kommandeur”of Hitler’s elite Führer Begleit Brigade. After being discovered by an astounded Col. Remer himself, they came under attack.

“Barracuda,” in attempting to turn and escape, became mired in a snow covered pond.  There, it became a “sitting duck” for enemy tank and panzerfaust fire.  Tank Commander Staff Sgt. Wallace Alexander was mortally wounded, Gunner Cpl Cecil  Peterman and Loader Pfc. Dage  Herbert were wounded and captured.  Driver Tech/4 Andrew Urda and Bow Gunner Pfc. Ivan Goldstein were uninjured, but captured.  Alexander died several days later in captivity.  Peterman and Herbert received minimal medical treatment for their wounds, survived, and were incarcerated as prisoners of war in Stalag XIIA near Limburg, Germany.  Urda and Goldstein also  eventually made it to Stalag XIIA, but only after being treated, not as prisoners of war, but as slave laborers. Goldstein had been identified as Hebrew by his dog tags, and by a letter in his pocket from his mother, reminding him to observe the Jewish holiday, Hanukkah.  Goldstein and Urda had already made a pact, vowing to stay together in captivity.  They narrowly escaped execution, but were brutally overworked and starved. After their liberation near the end of the war, the two severely emaciated captives spent many months recovering in US Army Hospitals.  Andrew Urda never fully recovered from his mistreatment in captivity.   He died in 1979.  Ivan Goldstein’s health was eventually restored.  He now lives in Jerusalem.  Captain Ameno’s tank was also destroyed, killing him and four members of his crew.  The fifth crewman was wounded, but died in captivity a short time later.

The refurbished M-4 Sherman tank named “Barracuda” is scheduled to return to its place of honor in McAuliffe Square in May 2007.  It will then bear the original historically accurate symbols and markings that identifying it as a tank assigned to Company B, 41st Tank Battalion, 11th Armored Division.  It will also be the centerpiece of a display which will honor all units that served with distinction in the defense and relief of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.

The City of Bastogne expresses their appreciation  to the following persons who are responsible for assistance and implementation of the tank restoration project:

Dr. Michael Staes, Bastogne City Councilman in charge of the restoration
Col. Sosson, Army of Belgium, Commanding Officer, Rocourt Arsenal
Adjutant Daniel Libert, Rocourt Arsenal
Phillippe Octave, Surveyor of the Works, COBRA**
Roger Marquet, Secretary, COBRA**
Dr. J. Ted Hartman, President, 11th Armored Division Association,
and veteran of Company B, 41st Tank Battalion          
The 4th Engineer Battalion, Army of Belgium (for transport).


*The bilingual book (English and French) “The Sherman at McAuliffe Square in Bastogne, the true story” is available (16 Euros+shipping & handling) from: Robert Fergloute - Avenue des Petites  Epines, 28-B-6600 Bastogne, Belgium, or from Roger Marquet - Chenogne, 1d-B-6640 Sibret, Belgium

**COBRA - Comité d’Organisations Bastognard ‘Remember Americans’ 


Removal of the M-4 Sherman Tank "Barracuda" from McAuliffe Square, 
Bastogne, for Restoration at Rocourt Arsenal on Nov. 6, 2006

Note: Bastogne photos courtesey of Guy Peremans, Vice President of COBRA. 
Other photos courtesey of Rocourt Arsenal

01_crew_preparing_to_remove_tank_turret 02_crew_removing_tank_turret_2006_11_06 03_lifting_chains_attached_to_tank_turret_2006_11_06 04_lowering_turret_to_the_ground 05_lifting_tank_from_pedestal
01_crew_preparin... 02_crew_removing... 03_lifting_chain... 04_lowering_turr... 05_lifting_tank_...
06_tank_loaded_on_trailer 07_tank_on_carrier 08_belgian_army_transport_crew_with_tank_of_carrier 10_tank_unloaded_at_rocourt_arsenal 11_deck_of_tank
06_tank_loaded_o... 07_tank_on_carri... 08_belgian_army_... 10_tank_unloaded... 11_deck_of_tank.jpg
12_engine_compartment 13_turret
12_engine_compar... 13_turret.jpg