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WWII US Army Hand Painted 8th Armored Division Thundering Herd Wood Divisional Sign
Item #: VF3360
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Impressive, WWII US Army, 8th Armored Division wooden sign. Insignia measures 12 inches wide and is in excellent condition. This an another 20th Armored Division sign came out of a veterans estate in Massachusetts this week. I don't know what purpose this sign had , possible a HQ or officers quarters.   
The successes of the German armored units in Poland and France underscored America's need for an effective armored force. The tank battles of North Africa and Russia in early 1942 caused the US Army to recognize the need to drastically increase the number of its armored units. The 8th Armored Division was activated on 1 April 1942, at Fort Knox, Kentucky, to serve as a training command. The division served as the first official military guardian of the gold vault at Fort Knox. From 1942 to 1944 it functioned as a training command stationed at Camp Polk, Louisiana. During this period the 8th supplied trained personnel to the 9th through 14th Armored Divisions. In September 1943 the division completed reorganization from the old style triangular division to the new 'light' armored division, as per War Department Letter AG-322, in preparation for activation as a combat unit. The light format armored division was made up of three combat commands referred to as Combat Command A (CCA), Combat Command B (CCB) and a smaller unit called Combat Command Reserve (CCR). Units could be assigned to one of the combat commands at need, creating a very flexible formation.

During December 1943, the division participated in the D Series of exercises in Texas. The D Series were small scale maneuver problems designed as a precursor to the full scale Sixth Louisiana Maneuver Period. The D Series included exercises to simulate contact with the enemy and included recon, movement to contact, engineering and minefield clearing problems. The 8th completed the D Series and participated in the Sixth Louisiana Maneuver Period from February through April 1944 as part of the Red Force.

From the period of April through October 1944, the division conducted post-maneuver training, losing a number of trained personnel to other units and absorbing and training their replacements. At the end of October the 8th received movement orders to Camp Kilmer, New York in preparation for shipment overseas. On 6 November 1944 the division left Camp Kilmer and boarded ships in New Jersey for the United Kingdom. The ships arrived in Southampton on 18 November and the division moved to Tidworth Camp, joining the newly formed US Fifteenth Army.

England, France and 'The Bulge'
After some additional training and acquisition of new equipment at Tidworth, England, the 8th Armored Division landed in France, 5 January 1945, at Le Havre and Rouen. The division assembled in the Bacqueville area of upper Normandy as part of the (then) still secret US Fifteenth Army and was placed in reserve. In mid-January the division was seconded to the US Third Army and raced 350 miles (560 km) across France through heavy snow and ice to Pont-à-Mousson to help stem the German drive for Strasbourg, part of the German Operation Nordwind It was at this point that the division was assigned the call-sign 'Tornado'. A detachment of the 88th Armored Cavalry undertook the division's first combat action – a reconnaissance of the best route to contact with the enemy. The division, finding the enemy already halted and beginning to fall back, took part in the Third Army drive against the Moselle-Saar salient. The 8th supported the 94th Infantry Division's attack on Nennig, Berg and Sinz, 19–28 January 1945 aimed at reducing the salient between the Saar and Moselle Rivers.

Belgium and The Netherlands

Nennig and Berg were defended by elements of the German 11th Panzer Division; specifically the 110th, 111th and elements of the 774th Panzer Grenadier Regiments. German losses in action against 8th Armored units were 5 Panzer IV tanks, 72 prisoners and many dead and wounded. 8th Armored losses were 3 M4A3 Sherman tanks, 4 Halftracks and heavy personnel casualties.

From Berg, the 8th continued their advance through Sinz and more heavy fighting. German losses were 8 tanks, 1 anti-aircraft gun, 1 anti-tank gun and 1 halftrack. Division losses were an additional 6 tanks destroyed and 4 disabled as well as heavy personnel casualties. The week's action resulted in the loss of 50% of the personnel the 110th and 111th Panzer-Grenadier Divisions had brought into the Saar-Moselle triangle.

The division moved to Simpelveld, the Netherlands for rest and refitting absorbing approximately 200 replacements. The 8th was now part of the US Ninth Army and continued refitting and replacing losses during the first half of February 1945. On 19 February the division moved to Roermond, the Netherlands to relieve the British 7th Armoured Division in the vicinity of Echt and launched a diversionary attack as part of Operation Grenade, pushing the enemy north of the Heide woods and east of the Roer River.

The Roer to the Rhine
On 27 February, 8th Armored crossed the Roer River via the Hilfarth Bridge which had been captured by the 35th Infantry Division. CCA headed for the town of Wegberg. CCB moved through Sittard, Gangelt, Geilenkirchen, Randerath, and Brachelen to arrive at the Hilfarth Bridge and crossed after CCA. CCA tanks and infantry destroyed fifteen pillboxes, captured Tetelrath, and crossed the Schwalm river while CCB attacked and captured the towns of Arsbeck and Ober Kruchten.

On 2 March – CCA captured Lobberich, moved through the 35th Inf. Div. and secured the town of Wachtendonk at the confluence of Niers River and Nette River. Co. C of the 53rd Engineers worked through the night to bridge the Niers River which was holding up the advance on Moers.

3 March CCB moved through CCA area and captured Aldekerk while CCR captured Saint Hubert, Vinnbruck and Saelhuysen in their advance toward Moers. The Division received orders to cease forward movement as it was 'pinched out' by the 35th Inf. on the right and the 84th Inf. on the left.

CCB was detached and assigned to the 35th Inf. Div. so an attack could be mounted in the direction of Rheinberg and Wesel to prevent the Germans from crossing the Rhine River. CCB attacked Lintfort and Rheinberg with the 35th. Heavy fighting, primarily against the 130th Panzer Division, took place in and around Rheinberg resulting in 199 divisional casualties and the loss of 41 tanks while the Germans suffered 350 men killed and 512 taken prisoner. The area (nicknamed '88 Lane') was under direct anti-tank and heavy artillery fire so each house had to be cleared by dismounted infantry. By 7 March a foothold was secured at Grunthal, a road crossing (B 57/B 58) in the vicinity of Alpen.

The same day the US 9th Armored Division captured a bridge over the Rhine at Remagen. The 130th Panzer Division was pulled out of the Wesel area and moved south to counterattack. By 9 March CCB of the 8th secured the town of Ossenberg as well as the towns of Borth and Wallach. CCB was relieved at 2400 and ordered to the Venlo, the Netherlands, rest area, the relief being completed on 10 and 11 March.

The division was assigned to cleanup operations in the rear areas of the Rhineland which had been bypassed during the movement to the Rhine River. During this period the division became the first US or British unit to uncover the existence of the secret Werwolf organization when several cleverly camouflaged bunkers were discovered, each containing 12 to 15 fully equipped German soldiers.

On 22 March division artillery units moved into firing positions in preparation for the assault on the east bank of the Rhine River as part of Operation Plunder. On 23 March all artillery units commenced firing over 130,000 rounds preceding the initial crossing of the Rhine River to be made by the 30th Infantry Division.

The Rhine to the Ruhr

On 24 March 18 Tank Bn of the 8th Armored Division was ferried across in support of the 30th Infantry prior to the Division's crossing. An 18th tank was the first across the Rhine in the 9th Army area and assisted in the capture of Spellen, the first town captured east of the Rhine by 9th Army. The division was the first armored division to cross the Rhine in the 9th Army area, crossing at bridge sites 'G' and 'H'.

The 8th received orders on 27 March to secure the road running from Hamm to Soest. CCA attacked on the left flank and captured Im Loh then moved on to bypass Dorsten. Heavy house to house fighting slowed the attack. New orders were received late in the next day to capture Dorsten so that the Lippe River could be bridged allowing armor to move northward.

In the meantime, CCR, located near Bruckhausen launched an attack on Zweckel and Kirchhellen to the south on 28 March. The 116th Panzer Division was defending both and the approaches had been heavily mined. CCR captured Zweckel in the afternoon and launched an attack on Kirchellen which was secured by nightfall. An advance unit of the 80th Tank battalion that had been surrounded in Kirchellen since early that morning was relieved.

CCA captured Dorsten early the next morning and CCB moved in to secure the area so CCA could join CCR in their advance to the east towards the town of Marl. Marl was cleared by nightfall. CCA then swung southeast from Dorsten heading for Polsum. CCR attacked and captures the towns of Scholven and Feldhausen. On 29 March the German 180th Volks Grenadier Division and the 116th Panzer Division withdrew and set up new defensive lines running through the fortress town of Recklinghausen.

CCR crossed the Rappholtz-Muhlen Canal on 30 March and captured Buer-Hassel. Co. C, 53 Armored Engineers built a bridge across the canal in just 44 minutes. The next day CCR captured Kolonie Bertlich. Heading east, it passed through Westerholt and Langenbochum, engaging the German defenses in Recklinghausen only 2,500 yards (2,300 m) away.

On 31 March the division was relieved by units of the 75th Inf. Div. The 8th crossed the Lippe River, and assembled at Selm. The 8th received orders on 1 April from XIX Corps to set up two spearheads for an attack to the east, the 2nd Armored and 30th Infantry in one and the 8th Armored and 83rd Infantry in the other. CCA was assigned to attack Delbrück, CCB to attack Paderborn.

The 8th launched its attack on schedule but CCB was soon stalled by fierce German resistance at Neuhaus. On 3 April fighter-bombers (known as Jabos by the troops) of the US 9th Air Corps provided close air support in the Teutoburg Forest and Neuhaus areas. CCR and moved up to attack Elsen to help CCB repel a strong German counterattack launched from Sennelager. CCA attacked Sennelager directly in an attempt to reduce a German strong point.

At the end of 3 April the division was relieved by the 83rd Inf. Div. and received orders to attack towards the west to help reduce the Ruhr Pocket.

Ruhr Pocket

The success of the Rhine crossing operations by Allied forces encircled approximately 430,000 German soldiers of Army Group B comprising 21 divisions of the Wehrmacht, trapping them in an area that came to be known as the Ruhr Pocket. The Twelfth Army Group was tasked with reducing the pocket.

On 3 April 8 turned 180 degrees in response to orders into the Ruhr Pocket and CCR attacked west toward Recklinghausen. CCR captured the towns of Stripe and Norddorf, and continued through Vollinghausen, Oberhagen, and Ebbinghausen before stopping for the night in front of Horne. The next day CCA attacked Erwitte. The US 9th Air Force continued to provide close air support as the division continued into the Ruhr Pocket through heavy fighting in the Lippstadt area.

Col. Wallace, the commander of CCR, was captured by German forces during the night of 4 April. On 5 April Col. Vesely assumed command of CCR and continued to attack westward capturing the towns of Horne, Klieve, Schmerlacke and Serlinghausen. At the end of the day, CCB relieved CCR and attacked westward toward Soest; capturing the towns of Schallen and Lohne while CCA continued attacking south capturing the towns of Anroechte, Mensel, Drewer, and Altenruthen. On 6 April, CCB made a 25-mile (40 km) 'end run' around Soest to the outskirts of Ost Onnen to cut off a German breakout path from the Ruhr pocket.

While CCB blocked the German withdrawal near Ost Onnen, CCA cleared the area north of the Moehne River so glider troops could be landed in case of a break-out attempt in that area. They captured the towns of Wamel, Brullinggsen, Ellingsen, and Westendorf. CCR, in the meantime, outposted all roads northeast of Soest to facilitate an attack on the town by the 94th Inf. Div.

On 7 April the eastward movement of the US 2nd Armored Division and the westward movement of the 8th Armored created a gap of 180 miles (290 km) between the two fronts. This would allow German forces to briefly cut off the US 2nd Armored.[1] Troop A, 88th Reconnaissance Squadron captured the Moehne Talsperre Dam on the 7th to prevent the Germans from flooding the Moehne Valley. CCB began an attack on Werl in the afternoon and captured Gerlingen. The burgomeister of Ost Onnen surrendered the town later that day. The following day CCR moved to secure the road between Werl and Wickede and captured the towns of Parsit, Bremen, Vierhausen, Schluckingen and Wiehagen capturing 238 German soldiers, 1 Tiger tank, and 3 88 mm anti-tank guns. CCB captured Werl by late afternoon after heavy resistance during the day. They then captured Ost Buederich by the end of the day.

By 9 April, The threat of a German breakout had passed due to the buildup of allied troops in the area. CCB moved on Unna capturing Holtun and Hemmerude. The following day CCB continued the attack on Unna and captured Lernen. A ten-minute air strike was laid on Unna to soften it up. The Germans moved reinforcements, including Hitler Youth into Unna from the Muelhausen garrison.

On 10 April CCR advanced 7,000 yards (6,400 m) in fierce fighting and secured Stentrop, Bausenhagen, Scheda, Beutrap Wemen, and Fromern. The following day CCA joined the attack on Unna and CCB went into reserve. CCB had suffered 198 casualties this period. The next day CCR captured Hohenheide and Fröndenberg after an air strike drove 4 German tanks out of the town. The town of Billmerich was also captured. Unna finally fell that afternoon after another air strike. The Germans lost 160 personnel, 2 tanks and a battery of 88's. This surrender was the end of organized resistance from the 116th Panzer Division.

CCA continued cleaning up operations in Unna while CCR captured the towns of Hengsen, Ostendorf, Ottendorf, and Dellwig. CCA was relieved on 13 April and ordered to move east of Unna across the Weser River to the vicinity of Wolfenbüttel. CCA had lost 2 tanks, 1 halftrack and 1 jeep during these operations. CCB was assigned to protect right flank of the 2nd Armored and the 83rd Inf. Div. as they moved east. They move 170 miles (270 km) to Wolfenbüttel. Later CCR was relieved and ordered to move to the vicinity of Denstorf. On the drive west, CCR suffered 203 casualties and lost 11 tanks, 3 jeeps, 9 halftracks. The German forces lost 6 Mark V Panther tanks, 4 20 mm guns, 1 large railroad gun, and 3 tons of small arms.

Central Germany

After leaving the Ruhr Pocket on 13 April the division moved east. The 8th participated in the liberation of the Halberstadt-Zwieberge concentration camps near Langenstein (see below). Most of CCB moved on to Halberstadt with some units remaining in Wolfenbüttel until the rest of the Division arrived. On 14 April the remaining units of the Division began moving to an assembly area in the vicinity of Braunschweig with CCA going to Wolfenbüttel and CCR going to Denstorf.

For the period of 15–18 April CCB cleared the area near the Hartz Mountains of remnants of the 11th Panzer Army while CCA began moving to Seehausen to support the attack on Magdeburg by the XIX Corps. CCR moved from Denstorf to Braunschweig and continued screening the rear areas.

CCB completed clearing resistance from the edge of Forest Heimburg south of Derenburg while units of the 2nd Armored relieved CCR allowing it to move into the vicinity of Stroebeck in preparation for reducing resistance in Blankenburg. On 19 April CCA was relieved and returned to Wernigerode from Seehausen where it in turn relieved the 330th Inf. Reg. of the 83rd Inf. Div. CCB moved to Westerhausen and CCR moved to Aspenstedt to clear the remaining woods around Blankenburg. The next day the division began to attack Blankenburg. At 1000 hours a 13 plane squadron attacked Blankenburg and immediately afterward the burgomeister was contacted about surrendering after a show of force. By nightfall, most of Blankenburg had surrendered except for a few strong points that comprised fanatical resisters unwilling to lay down their arms or soldiers who had not yet received word to surrender.

On 21 April CCR cleared the woods south of Blankenburg and linked up with elements of the 1st Inf. Div. of the First Army. By 22 April the last organized resistance ended with the capture of Gen. Heinz Kokott, commanding officer of the 26th Volks Grenadier Div and brother-in-law of Gestapo chief Heinrich Himmler.

During the period of 23 April through 8 May the division was assigned an area of 90 kilometers long by 30 kilometers wide and went into occupation duty. Some additional cleanup was required of small pockets of resistance as stragglers were found.

The 8th liberated Halberstadt-Zwieberge, a subcamp of the Buchenwald concentration camp, between 12 and 17 April 1945 during its drive through central Germany. The area around the city of Halberstadt housed a number of Buchenwald subcamps that had been established in 1944 to provide labor for the German war effort, including Halberstadt-Zwieberge I and Halberstadt-Zwieberge II. More than 5,000 inmates were incarcerated in these two subcamps, where they were forced to hollow out massive tunnels and build underground factories for Junkers Aircraft of Aircraft Motors Construction Company, which produced military aircraft.

Buchenwald administered at least 87 subcamps located across Germany, from Düsseldorf in the Rhineland to the border with the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia in the east. Prisoners in the satellite camps were put to work mostly in armaments factories, in stone quarries, and on construction projects. Periodically, prisoners throughout the Buchenwald camp system underwent selection. The SS staff sent those too weak or disabled to continue working to the Bernburg or Sonnenstein euthanasia killing centers, where they were killed by gas. Other weakened prisoners were killed by phenol injections administered by the camp doctor.

Of interest is that all details regarding the camp were sealed and classified by the US Government; presumably because of the camp's involvement with an improved version of the V-1 flying bomb. In 1997, the information was declassified through the efforts of a former 8th Armored Division officer, Dr. Bernard Metrick. The records confirmed the role of the division in liberating the camp and the division's flag was added to those on display at the U.S. Holocaust Museum honoring those who liberated the death camps.

Post war

The end of hostilities unfortunately did not mean the end of casualties for the 8th Armored. On 1 May the 58th Inf. lost two men to snipers who had to be killed since they would not surrender. The next day the 58th Inf. lost an officer and three more men when a powder plant blew up in Munchshaf. Sabotage was suspected. It is believed that these were the last official wartime casualties of the division.

From 8 May through 30 May the division remained on occupation duty and continued to clean up stragglers and small pockets of resistance. On 30 May the division was assigned to Third Army. It was relieved by units of the British Army and began its move to the Pilsen, Czechoslovakia area. From 1 June through 19 September, many men were sent home under the point system. Those remaining were sent to various I & E (Information and Education) training schools. Very little other training was done.

On 19 September the division began the 600-mile (970 km) trip to Camp Oklahoma City near Rheims, France for deployment home. On 26 October the division traveled 180 miles (290 km) from Camp Oklahoma City to Camp Phillip Morris at Le Havre, France and the Division was officially dismounted. The division was inactivated on 13 November 1945 at Camp Patrick Henry, Virginia by Gen. Charles F. Colson.

There is an official 8th Armored Division memorial at the American Cemetery in the city of Margraten, The Netherlands
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