33rd Armored Regiment

Excerpt from Spearhead in the West, published by Third Armored Division on 25, June 1945


Call sign: “Orchard”

The 33rd Armored Regiment, Sunday punch of Brigadier General Truman E. Boudinot’s Combat Command “B”, was the second half of that massive tank battering ram which made the 3rd Armored Division famous. Its Shermans were the first allied fighting machines to reach the Third Reich and to capture a German town. Commanded by Colonel John C. Welborn, veteran of North Africa and Sicily, the 33rd “Men Of War” emerged from the European conflict with a brilliant reputation for fighting ability.

The 33rd was an original “Spearhead” unit. It was activated at Camp Beauregard, Louisiana, on April 15, 1941, by a cadre of 92 officers and 524 enlisted men from the 68th Armored Regiment (Light) of the 2nd Armored Division. The new organization was designated the 3rd Armored Regiment (Light), until May 12, 1941, when it became the 33rd Armored Regiment (Light). Lt. Colonel Robert W. Strong was the first commanding officer, and the unit trained on a small number of the old “Mae West” light tanks.

Early in January, 1942, the 33rd received a number of medium tanks from the disbanded 40th Armored Regiment. The new table of organization, then put into affect, added more striking power and modernized the entire unit.

The 33rd Armored Regiment trained with the rest of the 3rd Armored Division at Camp Polk, Louisiana; Desert Center, California; Camp Pickett, Virginia; and Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania. Early in September, 1943, the regiment sailed for Europe on the John Errickson. Upon arrival in Great Britain, the men were stationed at Warminster, Wiltshire, England. During nine months of pre-invasion training, they maneuvered extensively over Salisbury Plain, engaged in practice landing operations up and down the British coast, and received special courses of instruction in various subjects.

Colonel Dorrance S. Roysden led the 33rd in its baptism of fire on bloody Haut Vents, Hill 91, in Normandy. In spite of serious losses, the combat team took the hill, was driven off, and came back to hold the ground a day later. In their first combat, here at Haut Vents, at Font Heberf, and Belle Lande, the men of the 33rd Armored Regiment, fighting alongside other units of Combat Command “B”, helped to turn back a vicious counter attack by Germany’s elite Panzer Lehr Division. During this period, Colonel Roysden assumed command of CC “B”, and Lt. Colonel L. L. Doan became regimental commander. Later, when Brig. General Boudinot became CC “B” commander, Colonel Roysden reverted to regimental C. O., and Colonel Doan assumed command of the 32nd Armored Regiment.

Colonel Roysden was transferred to SHAEF on August 31, 1944. Lt. Colonel Littleton A. Roberts then assumed command, but reverted to executive officer under Colonel John Welborn, two days later. Colonel Welborn led the regiment during the remainder of the European war.

The 1st Battalion of the 33rd Armored Regiment was led by eight different officers during the western campaigns. They were: Lt. Colonel Rosewell H. King, Lt. Colonel Herbert M. Mills, Major Kenneth T. McGeorge, Major William S. Walker, Major Charles W. Walson, Lt. Colonel Elwyn W. Blanchard, Major Ralph M. Rogers, and Major George T. Stallings, respectively. Of these, Colonel King, who was wounded in action on August 29, Lt. Colonel Mills, killed in action on November 18, Major Kenneth McGeorge, wounded in action on January 8, 1945, and Lt. Colonel Blanchard, who at various times commanded a battalion of the 32nd Armored Regiment as well as that of the 33rd, were most notable for length of service.

The 1st Battalion was accorded the great honor of receiving a Distinguished Unit Citation for its heroic action at Scherpenseel and Hastenrath, Germany, late in November. Lt. Colonel Mills was killed in this action. For extraordinary heroism, he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

The 2nd and 3rd battalions were more fortunate in the matter of preserving their commanding officers than was the 1st. The 2nd Battalion was led through all five European campaigns by Lt. Colonel William B. Lovelady. It was his task force which first reached Germany on September 12, 1944, and took Roetgen, first German town to fall to an invader, and later occupied by men of the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. The 2nd Battalion of the 33rd saw much action during the Ardennes, the Rhineland and the central Europe campaigns. Task Force Lovelady was a work-horse unit of the regiment.

Equally colorful and effective was the 3rd Battalion, commanded by Lt. Colonel Samuel Hogan. Colonel Hogan made history by leading one of the division’s multiple spearhead columns through Belgium flying a Texas lone-star flag on his tank. To curious inquiries from the populace, Hogan replied that the banner was that of the “Free Americans!” The 3rd Battalion was well represented at Marcouray, Belgium, during the bitter Ardennes fighting, when Task Force Hogan was cut off and surrounded by enemy troops in that town. After refusing a surrender ultimatum and fighting until gasoline and ammunition had been expended, the famous “400” proceeded to destroy their vehicles and infiltrate out through German lines. Led by reconnaissance men, the “400” did escape the trap by way of a daring 14 hour march through enemy siege forces.

The 33rd Armored Regiment earned in furious combat the right to its monicker, “Men Of War.” Spearheading the powerful drives of Combat Command “B” the regiment saw heavy fighting in all five western campaigns. The regiment took part in the closing of the Argentan-Falaise gap, the drive across France and Belgium to the Siegfried Line, and had the honor of being the first allied unit to enter Germany in force. In the Ardennes fighting and the Rhineland battles, the 33rd was again well represented, and in the final drives to isolate the Ruhr and to reach the Elbe River at Dessau, Colonel Welborn’s troops were constantly in the van of Combat Command “B.”