Firsthand Account 4th Armored Division Spearhead at Bastogne | HistoryNet

Firsthand Account 4th Armored Division Spearhead at Bastogne

By Albin F. Irzyk
November 1999 • World War II Magazine

A veteran of the Battle of the Bulge tells the story of the 4th Armored Division’s Combat Command B and the relief of the encircled city.

Just before dark on the day after Christmas 1944, elements of Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr.’s 4th Armored Division, attacking from the south, succeeded in making contact with the beleaguered Americans at Bastogne. The encircled 101st Airborne Division had occupied that critically vital Belgian town for several days, categorically refusing German demands for surrender.

The dramatic linkup of the two forces broke the siege of Bastogne and was one of the great turning points in the Battle of the Bulge. This legendary event has often been described in histories of World War II, but there is a fascinating subplot to the story that is little-known.

It took the 4th Armored Division five days of bitter, costly fighting to break the ring of German units encircling the 101st, but only six days before the linkup, elements of that same division had actually been in Bastogne on the day it was being encircled. In fact, during that earlier movement into the town, those forces had come within one kilometer of the same spot to which they would return six days later, after heavy fighting. How could this have happened?

To understand this enigma, we must go back to December 8, 1944, the day the 4th Armored Division was pulled back from heavy fighting after reaching the Maginot Line, at a point a little more than nine miles from the German border. It was time for refitting and rest so that the division would be better prepared to cross the border and continue its assault to the east. The move to the rest area was not only welcome and richly deserved but necessary. The men of the division were exhausted after incessant fighting during the heavy, record-breaking November rains. The weather, the enemy and the gummy mud combined to make conditions deplorable and had taken a serious toll on the men and their tracked vehicles. Such extended breaks in the fighting were rare, and spirits were high.

At the time, I was serving with Combat Command B (CCB) of the 4th Armored Division, commanded by Brig. Gen. Holmes E. Dager, and its 8th Tank Battalion, which I commanded as a young major. During the division’s rest period my command post was in Domnon-les-Dieuze, a tiny, wet, muddy and depressing French village about 40 miles northeast of Nancy. Almost immediately, the town became littered with tank parts and equipment of all types. Not knowing how long we would be there, the men wasted no time in tackling their tasks.

On the fourth day the troops were excited and energized by the visit of the Third Army commander, General Patton, who swooped in for a quick stop. He arrived at high speed in his jeep, with a wide, crooked grin and all his stars blazing. He was jolly, animated and interested in how we were doing. After jumping out of his jeep, he worked his way along the entire length of the small town. He stopped at every vehicle, talked with every cluster of soldiers and had something to say to each–a question, a word of encouragement or appreciation, a compliment, a wisecrack, a good-natured dig. He was a master at this kind of rapprochement. His visits were brief, and he kept moving. But in 30 minutes or so, he had worked his magic–he had “touched” virtually every man in that battalion.

We soon learned that the 8th Tank Battalion was the only battalion in the division that he visited. Although the troops had no inkling of the momentous events that lay just ahead, Patton was apparently aware that an attack might be in the offing. After visiting the three other divisions of the XII Corps that day, he wrote in his diary that he had decided to put the 6th Armored Division and the 26th Infantry Division into the III Corps because “if the enemy attacks the VIII Corps of the First Army, as is probable, I can use the III Corps to help.”

December 18 is a day I will always remember as the most confusing day of the entire war. Early that morning I was told to attend a meeting at division headquarters, but before I left for the meeting it was called off. The previous day I had been told that a move was imminent and to have my troops ready to move on short notice.

At 10:45 a.m. on the 18th, CCB was placed on a one-hour alert. I continued with my preparations for the move the next day to the east, as well as the subsequent attack into Germany, by sending billeting parties forward to obtain billets for the battalion to occupy at the end of the march to the border.

At 5 p.m. the one-hour alert was canceled. Shortly afterward, I also received word the move to the east the next day was off. I recalled my billeting parties. With no order for the next day, the men settled in for the night after the evening meal.

Then, suddenly, at 11 p.m. the 8th was ordered by CCB to be prepared to move at once. That directive was quickly followed up with instructions to cross the initial point, or IP (as yet to be designated), at 12:50 a.m. and then move in a totally different direction–north! We would be moving to the III Corps zone (wherever that was) to assist in stopping a strong German counterattack in that sector.

The radical change in mission, the confusion that had preceded it, the lack of information, the uncertainty, the hasty departure in the pitch-dark and the highly unusual timing of the move–50 minutes after midnight–all combined to indicate we were involved in something serious. A cloud of apprehension hovered over the entire battalion.

As ordered, the 8th Tank Battalion crossed the IP at 12:50 a.m. on December 19. We had no information about the situation up ahead or about the enemy. CCB’s orders were to move to an area in the vicinity of Longwy, France, many miles to the north. The 4th Armored Division, previously attached to the XII Corps, was now assigned to the III Corps.

Combat Command B, with its 8th Tank Battalion out front, led the advance of the division. Combat Command A (CCA) would be the next to move out, nine hours behind CCB and along the same route. Thus, the 8th led the odyssey north into the cold, black night, reinforced with the halftracks of the 10th Armored Infantry Battalion. At the head of the 8th was my tank, making it the lead element of the Third Army in its advance to the north.

Amazingly, the combat command had but one map, and that was with General Dager. During our rapid movements across France that summer and autumn, we occasionally had to rely on Michelin road maps for direction. But to be completely without maps was a new experience.

Once the column was on the road, we rolled mile after mile into the unknown. I was guided and directed by General Dager in a variety of ways. He radioed instructions from his jeep, his staff relayed radio messages, he sometimes rode alongside to shout directions at me in my turret, and at tricky intersections he dismounted and pointed the way.

The hours and miles passed, and Longwy loomed closer. The end was in sight. But then our spirits were dashed. As we reached Longwy, we were waved on, and we rolled through the city without slackening our pace. Our tank guns were still pointed to the north, and now, for the first time in the war, we were in Belgium. We passed through Arlon and changed direction to the northwest, still with no reduction of speed.

We began our journey in darkness and were to end it in darkness, as night came upon us again. A difficult situation became considerably more difficult, since we now had to travel under blackout conditions, and our progress would be greatly slowed. On top of that we had absolutely no idea of what lay ahead, and we were expecting to be fired on by the enemy at any moment.

Neufchâteau, another milestone, came and went as we continued to roll, still without enemy contact. Again we changed direction slightly, this time moving to the northeast. Now we were on the Neufchâteau-Bastogne road, headed toward Bastogne, another unfamiliar town.

As we neared the town of Vaux-les-Rosières, we were at last told to stop for the night. Combat Command B moved into that location, which was west of the road. I selected a spot about two kilometers east of the road for our bivouac area (I would later learn that it was near a town named Nives). By the time we settled in, it was 11 p.m.

Except for brief halts, and one longer one to refuel, we had been on the move unceasingly for more than 22 hours–half of one night, all day and half of another night under blackout conditions. Remarkably, we had traveled 161 miles over roads that were sometimes bad–without maps and without confusion. The fact that we arrived was a tribute to both our men and vehicles and spoke volumes for the work we had accomplished during the recent rest period. Most important, there had been no enemy contact.

That night none of us realized that we were the vanguard of what would later be called the greatest mass movement of men in the shortest period of time in the history of warfare. Patton’s troops had been poised to attack the Saar to the east. Forced to abandon that plan, he ordered the major part of his Third Army to make a gigantic 90-degree wheeling movement and then drive north at full speed. Involved in the spectacular maneuver were thousands of men and vehicles operating in damnable weather, often over icy roads.

Once we reached the bivouac area, there was still no rest for many of us. Many of the men were exhausted, but as soon as we reached our position we sent forward some strong patrols of light tanks and armored infantry to detect any enemy movement from the north.

Early the next morning, December 20, I was, figuratively speaking, hit by a thunderbolt. General Dager called me on his radio and, without any preliminaries, ordered me to send a task force into Bastogne. I was stunned. I protested vehemently, reminding him that the situation up ahead was unclear, terribly confused, and that this was no time for a piecemeal commitment of my forces. To my great surprise, Dager agreed with me. He said that he had just made the same arguments in a tug of war with Maj. Gen. Troy H. Middleton of the VIII Corps. Middleton had ordered him to take all of CCB into Bastogne, and he had hotly resisted, insisting that Middleton wait until General Hugh Gaffey arrived with the rest of the 4th Armored Division. Middleton finally agreed not to commit the entire combat command, but only after Dager conceded that he would send a task force instead.

As ordered, I formed the task force. It consisted of A Company, 8th Tank Battalion; C Company, 10th Armored Infantry Battalion; and C Battery, 22nd Armored Field Artillery Battalion. I placed in command of the task force Captain Bert P. Ezell, my battalion executive officer. His force would henceforth be known as “Task Force Ezell.” Ezell’s mission was to report to Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAuliffe, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, learn about the situation in Bastogne, receive instructions and render support if so ordered.

The task force moved northeast on the Neufchâteau-Bastogne road and reached Bastogne without seeing any enemy troops. Upon entering the city, Ezell was told to report for instructions–not to McAuliffe, but to Colonel William Roberts, commander of Combat Command B of the 10th Armored Division.

Shortly after Ezell radioed me that he was in Bastogne and had made contact with our troops, I was astonished to receive an order from divisional headquarters to recall the task force to Nives at once. I immediately called Ezell, whose radio operator told me that he was out talking to a colonel. I shouted, “Get him!” I reached him not a moment too soon, for at that very instant Ezell had been receiving instructions for deployment from Colonel Roberts. When I told him to return, Ezell was dumbfounded. As was to be expected, he had a difficult time convincing Roberts that he had to leave with his force just after arriving in Bastogne. A short time later, just after noon, a delighted and vastly relieved task force was on the road again.

Seven hours after it set out for Bastogne, Ezell’s task force returned to our bivouac area with many more vehicles than it had when it pulled out. The men were beside themselves, chatting and shouting excitedly. They had seen some strange sights–so strange that they had a difficult time explaining it all to the rest of us.

As the task force moved away from Bastogne, they had encountered an American 2 1/2-ton truck in a ditch on the right side of the road. The truck was barely damaged and its driver was still sitting behind the wheel. But the top of his head had been blown off above the eyes, apparently by an armor-piercing round.

Moving a little farther down the road beyond the ditched truck, the troops noticed tank tracks running across the asphalt pavement. They were much wider tracks than could be made by American tanks and must have been made by German Panther or Tiger tanks.

The task force then came upon another strange sight–about two battalions of U.S. artillery stopped along the road. The equipment seemed to be in good shape, but there was no sign of any troops. Some of the vehicles were still idling. It was not clear whether the artillery units had been attacked and their positions overrun, or if they had been spooked by the sight of German tanks crossing the road just to the north of them and had abandoned their guns and vehicles. Given the evidence they had seen so far, it appeared that a strong German force had moved rapidly west and cut across the Neufchâteau-Bastogne road while Ezell was moving toward Bastogne. Perhaps the lead German elements had been moving so rapidly that following forces had not yet caught up with the vanguard. Ezell’s units had apparently managed to slip through a gap in the enemy echelons driving west. The task force hauled back as much of the abandoned artillery equipment as they could handle and encountered no resistance on the way back to the bivouac area.

As December 20 passed, events continued to move swiftly. At 2 p.m., CCB was reassigned to III Corps with the rest of the division. The 8th Tank Battalion was ordered to retrace its steps of the previous night and move southwest to Neufchâteau, then southeast to Léglise. We arrived in the vicinity of Léglise after dark on the 20th. Shortly after, I was surprised to learn that the rest of the division had remained in the vicinity of Arlon, and none of its units had made any attempt to close up on CCB. Only later did we learn why CCB had gone where it did and when it did.

On the 21st, I received my orders from General Dager at CCB headquarters for the attack that would take place the following day. I was also informed that during the previous night and early that morning very strong German forces had driven west and flanked the city of Bastogne on the north and south. The two forces had met west of the city and completely encircled Bastogne. Trapped in the city was the 101st Airborne Division, to which were attached elements of the 9th and 10th Armored divisions.

This was shocking news, but Task Force Ezell had provided ample clues that the Germans had been on the move the previous day. What really was disturbing was the realization that the encirclement had been taking place while Ezell’s group had been in Bastogne, and it had continued with unabated fury after the 8th Tank Battalion and CCB had left the area.

I could not help but think about what could have happened. If he had not been recalled by divisional headquarters, Ezell and his men might have been trapped in Bastogne along with Colonel Roberts’ combat command of the 10th Armored. And what if General Dager had not won the day in his tussle with General Middleton? All the 4th Armored’s CCB–if we had moved into Bastogne as General Middleton had originally ordered–might well be stuck in the besieged city.

We moved out of Léglise at 4:30 the next morning–the 22nd–so as to arrive at the IP at 6. The 8th Tank Battalion and the rest of CCB were part of the 4th Armored Division’s attacking force, coordinated with the 80th and 26th Infantry divisions of III Corps. The 4th Armored was on the left flank.

We began our slow, difficult return to Bastogne. The following day, at Chaumont, the 8th Tank Battalion was on the receiving end of one of the most powerful tank-led counterattacks of the war, temporarily slowing its advance to Bastogne and inflicting heavy casualties. Ironically, the battle at Chaumont was fought just four kilometers east of the quiet bivouac area we had occupied at Nives just three days earlier.

It took five days of bitter fighting to relieve the 101st in Bastogne, but by December 28 the area had been cleared of the enemy, and all of our positions had been consolidated. When Captain Ezell walked into the 8th Tank Battalion command post in Assenois, he was just one kilometer southeast of where his task force had been eight days earlier as it rolled into Bastogne.

Those of us who participated in this confusing operation, as well as historians who have analyzed the Battle of the Bulge in the years following World War II, could not help but note the ironies and incongruities surrounding the battle.

A number of questions have been raised about our mission:

*Why did CCB, whose original destination was the vicinity of Longwy, continue on alone until it reached a position in VIII Corps sector, only nine kilometers from Bastogne?

*Why did General Middleton of VIII Corps seem to exert “ownership” of CCB?

*Why did the rest of the 4th Armored Division not close up behind CCB instead of leaving CCB near Bastogne while the rest of the division assembled well to the rear, in the Arlon area?

*If General Dager had not protested dividing his command, what might have happened to CCB if it had rolled into Bastogne as ordered, on the day when the enemy was very much on the move?

*After moving into Bastogne, why was Task Force Ezell immediately and summarily recalled, especially considering that General Middleton had argued strongly for its presence there?

*After the elements of Task Force Ezell had returned to their parent units, why was all of CCB relieved from assignment to VIII Corps and withdrawn–back to the rear–less than a day after arriving in the forward position?

*Should commanders at higher levels have exploited Task Force Ezell’s rapid progress to Bastogne once they knew the unit had entered the town without a fight and returned? And should General Middleton have been allowed to hold onto CCB and use it to try to keep the Neufchâteau­Bastogne highway open, possibly preventing the encirclement of Bastogne?

*Once CCB had moved into its bivouac at Vaux-les-Rosières, should the rest of the 4th Armored Division have capitalized on the situation, moving up to attack from the bivouac location only a short distance from Bastogne rather than consolidating for the attack farther south and then fighting its way north along the difficult forest axis from Arlon to the encircled city?

Among those who have answered “Yes” to the last two questions is Charles B. MacDonald, who stated in his book A Time for Trumpets: “If Middleton had been allowed to hold CCB and with it keep open the Neufchâteau/Bastogne highway, Bastogne probably never would have been surrounded. Even if the Germans had cut the Neufchâteau/Bastogne highway, the Fourth Armored Division might have capitalized on the location of CCB and attacked from Vaux-les-Rosières instead of from Arlon. Which would have spared many officers and men of the Fourth Armored Division a great deal of misery and, in some cases, death.” The following additional information about the events leading up to the Battle of Bastogne provides answers to some of these nagging questions.

On December 18, Lt. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, commander of all U.S. ground forces, called off Patton’s planned offensive into the Saar. Without hesitation, Patton told Bradley that he would concentrate the 4th Armored Division in the vicinity of Longwy, pull the 80th Infantry Division out of the line and get the 26th Infantry Division moving within 24 hours. Much later that same day he issued the order that got CCB moving just after midnight.

General Patton met with his staff at 8 the next morning, December 19, as CCB was already well on its way to Longwy. His plan, he told his staff, was to strike due north and hit the underbelly of the German penetration where it would hurt. During the next hour, Patton and his staff planned, in outline, three distinct operations. Arrangements were made for a simple code to indicate, via a brief telephone call, which operation would be implemented.

Later that same day, Patton met at Verdun with Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower and a distinguished gathering of senior commanders that some have called perhaps the most historically significant conference of the 1944-45 campaign. All agreed that there should be a counterattack at the earliest possible moment. Patton told the group that he could be ready to attack with three divisions of the III Corps on December 22. A stronger force, he said, would take several more days to assemble and would forfeit surprise. The group was astonished at his rapid response to the situation and was more than satisfied with his proposal. It should be emphasized that at this meeting Patton pledged a three-division counterattack with the entire 4th Armored Division as the key division in the corps. He was completely unaware that CCB was then on its way toward Bastogne.

Given the situation, it is absolutely inconceivable that CCB should have been sent on its merry way all the way to the outskirts of Bastogne and told to report to the VIII Corps. It turned out that General Bradley was responsible for that trip. Whatever the rationale for its mission may have been, the motivation for this decision is difficult to comprehend.

In his memoir War As I Knew It, General Patton wrote, “The next morning I arrived at Bradley’s headquarters in Luxembourg and found that he had, without notifying me, detached Combat Command ‘B’ [General Dager] of the 4th Armored Division from Arlon to a position southwest of Bastogne. Since the Combat Command had not been engaged, I withdrew it to Arlon [not Arlon but Léglise].”

Historian Martin Blumenson, in the second volume of The Patton Papers, quotes from General Patton’s diary entry of the same day, December 20: “In the morning I drove to Luxembourg, arriving at 0900. Bradley had halted the 80th Division at Luxembourg and had also engaged one combat command of the 4th Armored Division in the vicinity east of Bastogne [not east but southeast] without letting me know, but I said nothing.”

General Patton then drove to Arlon, to the headquarters of General Middleton’s troubled VIII Corps to get a firsthand picture of the situation in the Bulge. When he arrived, he found Maj. Gen. Hugh J. Gaffey of the 4th Armored Division, Maj. Gen. Willard S. Paul of the 26th Infantry Division, and Maj. Gen. John Milliken of the III Corps already there. There is considerable speculation and some difference of opinion about what actually took place during their meeting. However, subsequent events lead easily to certain assumptions.

General Middleton still must have been anxious to send CCB into Bastogne behind Task Force Ezell and surely requested permission to do so. Elements of his corps were already scattered, and his armor was especially fragmented. Middleton wanted to avoid more of the same. General Gaffey must have wanted his combat command returned. With a major attack coming up in just two days, he needed his division at full strength, and it would have been severely handicapped without CCB. General Milliken also knew that the key to his III Corps three-division attack was having the 4th Armored at full strength. He surely must have supported Gaffey’s argument to have his CCB returned.

As events later developed, CCB shouldered an extremely heavy share of the 4th Armored’s fight at Bastogne. The combat command acted as the powerful left flank, not only of the division, but also of the III Corps all the way to the encircled city. In retrospect, General Dager’s resistance to committing CCB to Bastogne earlier surely saved the unit. If he had not protested, CCB probably would have been in Bastogne before Patton was aware that it had been given away by Bradley.

It was fortunate that Task Force Ezell returned unscathed from its fruitless mission. The loss of a tank company, an armored infantry company and an artillery battery would have considerably weakened CCB.

At the Verdun meeting, General Patton had committed himself to a coordinated attack with three full divisions. He knew that the situation in the Bulge at that moment was confused. That was not the time to reinforce a failing situation and risk having elements of the 4th Armored committed prematurely. Patton’s decision was revealed when Task Force Ezell was ordered out of Bastogne shortly after noon and CCB was directed to move to the rear, which it began to do by midafternoon.

Patton chose as his ultimate course of action a well-planned, well-coordinated, orderly attack toward a known, specific objective. He jumped off from ground that was firmly in his hands. His planning and execution were sound and professional. Undeterred by the panic around him, he kept his eye on the ball.

Patton’s counteroffensive not only broke the ring enclosing Bastogne but also destroyed a portion of the German penetrating force, eliminating hundreds of enemy vehicles and thousands of troops. Because of his rapidly organized and well-executed counterattack, he was able to snatch the momentum from the Germans and seize the initiative. He had done what he had promised his commanders he would do.

In the eyes of historians, the experience of Task Force Ezell is an extremely minor episode in the war in Europe. It did not have any significant impact on any campaign. But finding the answers to some of the more puzzling aspects of Ezell’s mission helps to enrich our understanding of the Battle of the Bulge. It clarifies how the counterattack was planned and provides some fascinating sidelights on the men who made the decisions and brought about the dramatic linkup at Bastogne. No one who learns about Ezell’s trip to the city during its encirclement can help but be struck by the story’s ironies and might-have-beens. Although I was a participant in much that happened, I still find it a strange and fascinating tale. In sharing my own experience and research, my goal has been to shed a little light on an obscure, yet telling, incident that had formerly been shrouded by the fog of war.

Brigadier General Albin F. Irzyk is the author of He Rode Up Front for Patton. Further reading: A Time For Trumpets, by Charles B. McDonald; and Battle: The Story of the Bulge, by John Toland.

48 Responses to Firsthand Account 4th Armored Division Spearhead at Bastogne

  1. William Nichols says:

    My father, William S. Nichols was a sergeant in Patton’s 3rd Army, 4th Armored Division, 8th Tank Battalion, A Company. He drove a sherman tank. He did not arrive in Europe until late January, 1945. So he did not participate in the 8th Tank Battalion’s heroic exploits described in this account. It was fascinating to read and I beleive my father was fortunate to have entered the war after the Battle of the Bulge. I read a book entitled, the Siege of Bastogne, the untold story of the units to bore the brunt of the initial attack by the Germans on Dec 16, 1944. To be sure my father saw his share of front line combat and he saw Buchenwald Concentration Camp, and he was with the occupation forces in Prague and in southern Germany for one year after the war ended. I did not know that the 8th Tank Battalion was the spearhead of Patton’s dramatic 90 degree turn to save Bastogne. Thanks for your accurate recount of the important and critical time in history.
    regards, Willam K Nichols B.A. History, Sonoma State University.

    • Robert R. Ellis says:

      Like your Dad mine was in the 4th Armored Division of 3rd Army and made it through Bastogne. Our Dads, members of the greatest generation, saved the world from the dark side of evil. They endured the worst winter in Europe in over 200 years, saw friends killed and yet kept on trekking to save the world. To me the most amazing thing is they came home to build a better life for their families. How they did that, after living around death & mayhem and walking through the gates of hell is truly a statement to their guts.


  2. Nicole says:

    Just wondering, my grandfather, salvatore scalzo, was in the 4th armored division… do you know if they saw concentration camps? he never said. maybe too hard to mention if he did.

  3. Nicole says:

    Just wondering if anyone knows if the 4th armored division saw concentration camps? my grandfather was in the 4th armored, but never said, perhaps too hard to talk about?

    • David Baum says:

      The 4AD liberated the Concentration Camp known as Ohrdruff. This was the camp visited by Generals Eisenhower, Patton, et al. and was captured in film.
      As bad things were in the movie, my dad told me they were ten times worse when the liberation occurred.

  4. warren brown says:

    I was fortunate to visit the Irzyks , due to my history class at Suncoast High School(Riviera Beach, Fl),Gen Irzyk ,I now serve in the army 21 yrs.and the Gen. “not big in stature”, yet, Wow. I saw things his soldiers gave him, they loved him, from Vietnam,,,on. His wife was a great History Teacher, she won’t remember me, but what matters is this couple is a national treasure(color meant nothing to them)Today, Riviera Beach has changed,yet, they opened their home to all of us(students) anuually. man i wish i could see him/her again. enjoy your lives(90+yrs young);tradition lives on from the seed you planted in me….God Bless warren brown ex quarterback/track captain) 1985

    • Roger Nelson says:

      Call him – he lives in the same house that you visited – he would be delighted to hear from you again! He was 97 on Jan 2 2014.

      • Dennis Donahue says:


        Do you know of any living 51st AIB Company C members I could contact to see if they knew my uncle S/Sgt Dennis C. Donahue (Bronze Star)? Family lore has it he was on a half-track. Thanks.

  5. RICK says:


  6. Josef Citron says:

    Response to the question from “Nicole” this past February, 2010: YES, we did actually “liberate” a Nazi concentration camp by the simple proccess of coming upon its entrance on the road we were following in convoy.

    I was in Company C of the 51st Armored Infantry Battalion, 4th Armored Div. Our convoy had come to a point where the entry to the camp was on our left side, the gates with a sign saying: “Arbeit Macht Frei” (horribly ironic statemen that the Germans put at the entrance to all of the camps.)
    Because I spoke some German, I was called up to speak to the emaciated figures at the gate, the prisoners. (They told me that the Kraut guards had fled the previoius afternoon, on learning of our approach.) There was not much known of these camps at that time, and we were bug-eyed at what we found. What I will always remember was the smell, it was overpowering and nauseating.The sight of these pitiful prisoners was overwhelming, something that I will never be able to forget.

    I reported to our CO my conversation with the prisoners, and he then asked me to go with him and some other officers to the village across the road, where the Germans were waving their arms in negative gestures and declaiming that they were “Nichts Nazis” and knew nothing of what had been going on across the road. My CO told me to order the town Burgermeister to assemble all of the townspeople over 15, and we conducted them on a thorough tour of the camp, much to their dismay.

    I have forgotten the name of the place, all these 65 years later, and have been trying to see what I could find in the ‘Net, but so far, nothing.

    I would be happy to correspond with her, or anyone that I might be of help to, and can be reached by eMail:

    • Nicole says:

      thanks so much for answering Josef. I am in awe and wonder of all of your service. Did they have therapy offered to the soldiers of WWII? I can’t even imagine what you all saw. I miss my grandfather very much, now that I am older, I wish I coul dask him so many questions, but your answer was what I was looking for. God bless.

    • Robert R. Ellis says:


      My Dad was there, the 51stAIB. Did you know him. His names was Ralph C. Ellis and was in an armored 1/2 track they named the”PISTOL PACKIN MAMA!

  7. Adam Drach says:

    Hello, Mr Citron. You don’t know me, but my Grand father, Anthony”Andy” Drach, from Ferdinand IN, fought in WWII in the 3rd Army, 4th Armored Division. As far as what Company he was in I am not sure. I know he was used as a translator often, he spoke fluent German. My Dad,(USMC, Semper Fi) has told me some of what he remembered from my grandfather. He died when I was 6. My dad said that at home, before the war, they all spoke German. After the war, my dad said he never spoke German again, and when some of the older German farmers would speak to him in German, he would get riled up and tell them to speak English. Now that my children are older, they have asked about him. My Dad said that even with his friends from the American Legion, he wouldn’t talk about what happened over there. He participated in the Battle of the Bulge, but like I stated before, I was too young to ask him about any of that.That, and my Dad’s study of military history,has installed in me a love of history, and wanting to know more about that time. One of his cousins was in the 101st Airborne as well. I want to thank you for your service, and for all the other brave men and women who fought and died in WWII. Reading Gen. Irzyk’s account, reminds me of how little I still know about that time in history. I do remember my grand father talking abut General Patton, whom he had a lot of respect for. When the move was played in their small theater, I think that was the only time I can remember him actually going to a movie theater. I just found out a few years ago, that he was there when they liberated one of the camps. I know more about my other grandfathers history, he was a sailor in the Pacific, in the US Navy. If you drove a foreign car, especially if it was a Japanese car, he wouldn’t let you park it in his driveway. I didn’t understand why at the time, until I was older. Now I know why. It is great that people can now communicate online, and have the opportunity hear the firsthand accounts from Veterans such as your self, to share the “real” history of that time period. Once again, thank you for your service, a the valuable history lesson.

  8. Ron Jackson says:

    My uncle Yates Jackson served in the 4th armored during the Battle of the Buldge and was killed in action are there any ww2 vets that remember him.

  9. Gary Dunow says:

    I am desperately looking for any information I can find on my dad Alton Dunow who was a Tec Sgt. in the 4th Armored Division during WWII. He was in the Battle of Bastonge and I recall him having a shoulder patch of the 4th Armored with “Battle of Bastonge Spearhead” I also know he was a tank driver (A Sherman tank which was named Lulabell). Lulabell was also in a movie entitled “Sahara” which was filmed in the 40’s sometime. Other info I have was he was in Company B Ord Maint.
    I tried several times to find out more about his part in WWII as I grew up but he would never talk about the war or the battles he was in. I know he saw alot of things that he probably would have preferred to forget. Back then post war trauma was not known about but I know he suffered from it until his passing back in 1972. If anyone reading this knew him, I would like to hear from you.
    Thank You

    • Robert R. Ellis says:


      My Dad also was there and I have done a great deal of research. You may wish to obtain a book titles “PATTON’S 3RD ARMY by Charles M. Province. It’s a chronology of the 3rd Army advance, 8/44 to 5/45. It describes in detail every day of action. Hope this helps. My Dad died in 81 and never talked of his exploits except to men of his age who served in WW2. I still am trying to find a living comrade of his who lives. These men saved the world and the price paid was blood red. THEY TRULY ARE AND WERE THE GREATEST GENERATION! GOD BLESS THEM ALL!!!!!

    • Jack Silversmith says:

      My Uncle Lewis Guffey served with the 4th armored div for 42 mo’s until the end during WW 2. He was a Tank crew member (Driver and later a tank commander).
      he stayed in after the war and served 12 mo’s in Korea and again I think he was with the 4th.I have been doing some research on my family in the war’s. This man in listed in the Army on August 1st 1930 and served with the 2nd CAVALRY

  10. SUSAN says:

    I would like more information on John Milliken
    US III Corps

  11. SUSAN says:

    Does anyone know which regiment went to England, Burtonwood aIRFIELD, after WW11 .

  12. Kim Stiglitz says:

    According to my grandfather who was in the 4th armored division, the concentration camp was Ohrdruf. You can read about it on the Wikipedia & searching Google:

    • Nicole says:

      No, we didn’t hear of such a thing as “therapy” in ‘our’ war. There have been any number of improvements in the way our soldiers are treated today as cokpared to WWII. But cryers were pretty much treated as Patton was shown as doing in his movie, “Patton”.

      Certainly, the wounded are much more likely to survive now that we have facilities to treat them so quickly. I was picked up on the battlefield in Germany by a graves registsration solder who was gathering up my buddies and assumed that I was also dead.not just unconcioius from concussion of the 88 shell that hit us. I was the lucky one.. I survived.

  13. Bill Robbins says:

    My wife’s grandfather was in the 51st Armored Infantry Battalion. We don’t know what company. He died 5 Jan 1945. She didn’t know about anything about him until I recently started doing research. His name was Esker Underwood. If anyone knows of him or has pictures of the unit they would be willing to share please contact me at

    • Robert R. Ellis says:

      Please obtain “PATTON’S 3RD ARMY” by Charles M. Province. It is a chronology of the 3rd Army advance, daily, from 5/44 until 5/45. Those brave warriors saved the world from hell.

  14. Mitchell says:

    hello, im currently reserching the 4th armored divisions combat records for a book that i am currently in production of. Any first hand information about the combat that the fourth armored units saw while entering Bastogne. it would help me so much on my work. Books can only do so much. thanks, -mitchell

  15. Susan says:

    Does anyone have any information on John Milliken who was based at Burtonwood Airforce base, Warrington England in 1944-

  16. Brian says:

    My father fought proudly with the 4th. He was always so proud to say he was 4th armored. His passed 10 years ago and never had the forum to tell his story. He passed many down to me and of course I could never have been able to do what they were asked to do. My father, Floyd Lee Block, was in the 8th tank battalion company B. Hats off to all the HEROS of the second world war and especially the 4th armored.

  17. Stuart Strahl says:

    Hello all, my father, Tec Sgt William ‘Bill’ Strahl (NY), fought with Company B, the 10th Armored Infantry Battalion, 4th Armored Div. from July 1944 through occupation. He and a buddy, John Strasewicz (NJ) stayed in contact after the war until my Dad’s passing in 1974. I have read as much as I can about his service, which he never talked about unless in the presence of John. Anyone have any data about my Dad’s unit, or links to any of the heros of Co. B of the 10th AI? Thanks.

  18. Al Kennedy says:

    I am proud to say, that i served on General Albin F.Irzyk personal staff as his driver from 1963-1965, in Fontainbleau, France..

    He is a wonderful man,a great and brave soldier who we all owe a great deal…


  19. Joyce says:

    Hello Susan

    My father is John MIlliken. What would you like to know.

    God bless you

  20. Susan says:

    Hello Joyce
    I am trying to find out about John Milliken, who was based at Burtonwood in United Kingdom, just after the war around 1943/44
    Is this your father?

    Kindest Regards

  21. joyce breazeale says:

    Hi Susan

    This may not be the one you are looking for. After the war ended in 1945 my dad returned to his family in TN. Hope you find what you are looking for. God bless you

  22. Susan says:

    Hello Joyce

    Was your father based at Burtonwood England in around 1944 then posted back to TN we’re is that? If not then he is possibly not the John I’m looking for.. Thank you so much for replying and your help

    Kindest regards

    Susan x

  23. joyce breazeale says:

    Hello Susan. My oldest brother should know this information so I will contact him. My father’s middle name was Willard. He was living in Nashville Tennessee before and after the war.. I’ll respond about England after I hear from my older brother.
    God blessU.

  24. Susan says:

    Hello Joyce

    I really appreciate your help, although as you mentioned, this may not be the John Milliken I am looking for.. as I have been researching and there seems to be quite a few with the same name, making it much more difficult for me..
    What was your fathers job/position?

    Once again thank you for replying

    Kindest Regards

    Susan x

  25. joyce breazeale says:

    Hello Susan
    When my father came home from the war he worked as a Butcher or meat cutter with a large corporation. I do not know his position before the war but am pretty sure it would have been a blue collar or labor position. My father did not receive a higher education.
    Hopefully you will locate the correct one.

  26. Dennis Donahue says:

    My uncle, Staff Sgt. Dennis C. Donahue, was on a half-track for the 51st Armored, Company C. Got the Bronze Star. Did you know him? God Bless the WWII vets. They saved the world.

  27. Tony Salerno says:

    I had two uncles who served in the 51st AIB, Jerry Salerno and Joe Romano. Joe received the purple heart and Jerry, who was on a half-track received certificate of merit for an incident that occurred in
    Waldenburg, Germany on 4/13/1945.
    Just wondering if anyone knew of them.

  28. Charles Bialon says:

    My dad (Stanley) was also in the 3rd Army, 4th Armored tank division, 8th Tank Battalion, 3rd platoon. He was a tank driver and said he had 3 of his tanks destroyed – he never got scratched – lucky guy!

    • Roger Nelson says:

      Feel free to contact Gen Irzyk at his home in West Palm Beach Florida. He probably remembers your father.

  29. Stuart Strahl says:

    Hello everyone, my dad, William E. Strahl, was a Tech Sgt in 10th Armored Infantry Bn from St. Lo through the end of the war. He was involved in the CCB initiative. I am looking for anyone who has more information on 10th AIB and or any personal remembrances. I have read various accounts including Lucky Luciano’s and Al Irzk’s books and others, but am always interested in hearing more accounts. My father never spoke of the war except during visits with his best friend John Strazewicz until dad’s death in 1974. Please let me know if anyone had a father or relative in 10th AIB and further information or sources. Thanks.

  30. George Hemcher says:

    Here is a group which shares information and photos related to the 4TH Armored Division everyone here will find interesting.

  31. Richard L.Kantz says:


  32. Dan DiTomasso says:

    Stuart I recommend the following:
    1-\The Ardennes: The Battle of the Bulge\, Hugh M. Cole, Center of Military History, US Army; and
    2-The Fourth Armored Divison ( from the Beach to Bavaria), Capt. Kenneth Koyen
    I learned after my Mother died that she was a war bride. Her first husband was 1st Lt. Charles C. Gniot (misstated in #1 above) who was killed on Dec 27, 1944 as the 10th AIB was retreating Chaumont. I visited the Luxemborg American Cemetery in Nov 2012 to visit his grave and place a picture of Chalrie’s mother and his wife (my mother) at the base of the cross at his gravesite – This place is a beautiful resting place for so many American Heroes – Hope this helps.

  33. Joe Hockhosen says:

    My father was in the 4th armored at bastogne. wondering if anyone new him.

  34. Tony Watkins says:

    I had a dear friend who was a Sergeant assigned to the 4th Armored Division after much of his unit was wiped out. He said after the snow stopped they were moving towards Bastogne in a long 2000 piece armored unit. He was near the front of the column when General Patton passed his vehicle in his jeep. Not long after that his truck was pulled over and the rest of the column were waved on passed by soldiers. He said they were behind General Patton’s jeep. He got out of his vehicle and the General was lying on the ground because he had been shot in the jeep. He and several other soldiers picked up General Patton and carried him into a building and laid him out on a table with his pistols still in his holster. He said he and the rest of the soldiers were sworn to secrecy. He said that he was an old man now and it really didn’t matter much anymore after all this time. He died a couple years ago in his nineties.
    I asked his son in law, who served in Vietnam if he ever told him the story as I was told it. He said it was near the same exact story that he had told him. The first time in the 1970’s and about twice since then, and that he never talked much about the war. But the son in law said he believed it happened just as he told it and that he didn’t believe the story of the car accident.
    I can’t help but wonder if any of the other soldiers that were there ever told their relatives about this incident or if any one has ever heard of such an incident.
    This man was a very godly and gentle man and was very serious.
    I would imagine that the Russians would have known about it since FDR had a man in the White House working for him that was telling the Russians everything.

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