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US Army

We Gotta Go !

 

We Gotta Go !
 
It was December 16, 1944, the precursor of the Battle of the Bulge and the officers and “non-commissioned”, of the 10th Armored Tiger Division did not know where or why they were going when the order came down for all men of the division to immediately cut off the triangular patches on their uniforms and OD paint over the unit designations on their tanks and vehicles.  The date was December 16, 1944.  The order came down from General George Patton who was making the 10th Armored his “Ghost Division” and getting it ready to move 100 miles north from Metz, France into defensive positions in Luxembourg.  Secrecy was paramount and none but the officers in high command knew where our “Ghost Division” (without identity) was headed.  To this day there is suspect that General Patton moved on his own instincts.  When he heard that the Germans had launched a huge “last ditch” offensive in the Ardennes, Patton had started to “re-position” his 10th Armored Division before any orders came down from SHAEF – Eisenhower’s Supreme Headquarters. – American Expeditionary Force. 
 
Thus the lament by its lower ranking members: “We don’t know where we are going”- BUT, WE GOTTA GO.  Lowly tank commanders like me, Sergeant Tom Bubin, did not know that the Germans had launched a gigantic last ditch blitzkrieg in the weakly defended Ardennes area with the oil rich sea ports of Antwerp, in Belgium as their target.  Out-manned, out-gunned, American forces were being overwhelmed and in full retreat of the crack German Panzer divisions which had the sea ports of Belgium and splitting the allied Lines as their military objectives.  It was Hitler’s plan to force an armistice because he knew all was lost after our successful Normandy invasion.
 
The officers of our 423rd Armored Field Artillery Battalion were a tight knit group and “like family”.  Our Commanding officer was Lieutenant-Colonel William Beverley, reported to be, at 24 years of age (when our 10th Armored Division was organized in 1942), the youngest Battalion Commander in the United States Army.  But he was brilliant, personable, likeable, efficient and fair and won the respect and loyalty of both the commissioned and non-commissioned officers in his battalion.  Thus when the order came down to “go incognito” – it was obeyed.  The officers told us “non-coms”.  “We don’t know where – BUT WE GOTTA GO”.
 
When I think about it now – I don’t know how the planners put it together.  How do you move 15 thousand men, thousands of tanks, vehicles and equipment over a hundred miles in 24 hours – with the defense of Luxembourg as its objective?  I guess that was why General George Patton was a military genius.  H figured out how to do it – navigating over a 25 mile wide swath of bad French roads, trails and cow paths, all the way into Luxembourg – from Metz in Southern France…
 
The Germans were completely surprised to encounter Patton’s “Ghost Division”, which had moved nearly 100 miles in 24 hours – suddenly blocking their path.  Later, they also did not expect the savage fighting of the 101st Screaming Eagles Division which had been pulled out of rest camp near Paris to team up with Patton’s Ghost Division in the storied defense of a little town in Belgium called Bastogne.  Combat Command “B” of the 10th Armored Division had taken up positions to block the roads into and through Bastogne a day before the Paratroopers arrived on the scene – but the 10th Armored Division was a “Ghost Division” – in action a hundred miles south of Luxembourg and not supposed to be anywhere near the area of the German breakthrough.
 
But this story, in the main, is about “WE GOTTA GO” and our route into the combat zone – which was not easy to navigate.  It started from the relatively warmer area of Metz in southern France.  In just a few hours on the march – it turned to cold rain, then the further north we traveled – we met freezing rain and cold.  Oh, it got cold in that all-metal tank!  It was like the inside of an ice box.  My crew could cover up with a blanket – but it was up to “E.O.” my driver and me, the tank commander, to stay on the alert.  We could not go to sleep – or rest our eyes, unless the column ground to a halt for some reason or another – including gassing up, a bridge to cross one at a time or a road hazard to be circumvented.  As we slowly progressed further north – then came the snow and the fog, and our MPH slowed down to a crawl instead of our planner’s 5 mile per hour movement.  After stopping dead in our tracks for an hour (and E.O. catching a cat nap in the driver’s pit) I ventured out of the tank to see what the hold up was all about. 
 
I quickly saw the trouble.  The narrow road we were on ran up the hill, which was heavily bordered by a forest on both sides of the road.  The hill had been turned into an icy slide and tanks were piled up in disarray below because their steel treads could not grip into the slippery surface.  “Ah, ha” I said, “Now I can go back and get some sleep.” 
 
How wrong I was.  On my way back to my tank, I saw a major in a jeep really earn his pay that day.  He was moving our stalled column to the side of the road as he escorted a tank equipped with an earth moving blade on its front to the bottom of the hill.  He cleared away the tanks piled up at the bottom of the hill and then plowed up the left side of the road to the top of the hill and came down the right side of the hill.  Voila!  No more ice, just dirt.  The stalled tanks regrouped and started up the road.  Soon it was a muddy mess – but no longer slippery.  As our column started to move, I thought: No way that the Krauts had a chance to win this war – with future Generals in our Army like that guy.” 
 
And after the war – many of our “regular” officers made the rank of General – including our Lieutenant-Colonel Bill Beverley, Commander of the 423rd Armored Field Artillery Battalion.  He was a West Pointer.  After the war the officer of the 423rd (who came back to civilian life) stayed in close touch with each other on December 16th or the 17th.  The greeting was always: “Hey Sam, or Owen, Carl, Bill, Dean …..” “WE GOTTA GO!” and they marveled and reveled in their unbelievable, feat.  “100 miles in 24 hours and we stopped the Germans dead in their tracks.”  The 10th Armored Tigers and the 101st Screaming Eagles made Bastogne a German “Waterloo.”  But you know something sad?  We were the “Ghost Division”.  We never got any credit for being there.  The 101stt got all the fame and glory.
 
Here it is 65 years later, and the ranks of the men have been thinned to a thread of those who made this unbelievable 24 hour trek in rain, sleet, foggy mist, snow, ice and cold, - from Metz to the gates of Luxembourg City – where we denied the Germans entrance.  And you know something sad?  Because General Patton’s mission was masked in the strictest of unclassified secrecy and it was pulled off so quickly – there is no official record of the feat.  From the Germans, however, we earned the title of the “Ghost Division”.
 
Now you know about “WE GOTTA GO” and most of us – are truly….. GONE.
 
Source: The Bulge Bugle May 2012

By Sgt Thomas F BUBIN

 

423rd Armored Field Artillery

10th Armored Division

Campaigns

Battle of the Bulge,

Belgium