Wolverines and Thunderbolts

If you think you are cold, how about this shot from 78 years ago today?

20 January 1945, with an M-10 Wolverine tank destroyer of Co. C, 629th Tank Destroyer Battalion, in the frame, track commander SGT Jimmy Richardson talks to his driver, PVT Joe Honig, while Joes of the 83rd Infantry Division (“Thunderbolt”)’s 331st Inf. Regiment warm themselves by the fire after their retirement to the sector following the Battle of the Bulge, all trying to keep warm “somewhere near Courtil, Belgium.”

Richardson and Honig are likely in the jeep caps and jackets while the infantrymen are in the heavy coats and M1 helmets. Signal Corps Photo 455222. NARA #0006

Of the 58 Tank Destroyer battalions that shipped overseas during WWII, the 629th was one of 52 sent to the European Theatre.

The 629th TD Battalion first saw the elephant alongside the 9th Infantry Division in France during the third week of August 1944, then served with the 28th Division for the last two weeks of September during the Siegfried Line fighting and the 2nd Infantry Division into November. During the Battle of the Bulge, it supported the 75th until early January when it was attached– as shown above– to the 83rd Division. It then supported the paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division (which were fighting as “leg” infantry) during the first two weeks of February, and the 99th Division from the last week of February until the end of the war, concluding the campaign equipped with the M36 90mm GMC.

As further detailed by TankDestroyer.net:

Unit History: Established 15 December 1941, at Fort Meade, Maryland. Arrived in Liverpool, England, on 9 January, 1944 and disembarked at Omaha Beach on 2 July with M10s. Performed artillery missions in Caumont sector. Joined 30th Infantry Division in fighting at Mortain in early August, then supported reduction of the Falaise Pocket. Participated in V Corps parade through Paris on 29 August. Advanced to Luxembourg by early September and then supported operations in the Hürtgen Forest and against the Siegfried Line. Shifted to Ardennes sector on 24 December. Fought to eliminate the Bulge in January 1945. Joined renewed assault on Siegfried Line in February. Crossed Rhine River into Remagen bridgehead on 11 March and converted to the M36 that same month. Participated in operations against the Ruhr Pocket in April, then conducted road march south to Bavaria and reached the Isar River before ending offensive operations.

As for the 83rd, during the division’s later headlong rush across Germany to the Elbe (280 miles in 13 days) in 1945, it earned the nickname “The Rag Tag Circus” from war correspondents due to MG Robert C. Macon’s ordering the supplementing of the division’s transport with anything that moved, “no questions asked.”

From their unit history: 

In those thirteen days the Thunderbolt Division threw away the books and improvised. We became a weird caravan. We picked up vehicles of any kind — and kept moving. Some of us drove deep into the Harz Mountains. Some of us dashed toward the Elbe. Our eyes ached, our backs were sore — but there was no let up. At times we were so tired we did not know what we were doing.

The Germans could not stop us. Rivers and mountains could not stop us. We passed beyond the Elbe, threw back counterattacks, then waited. Suddenly it became very quiet. We had time, then, to recollect a few of the things we had done and seen.

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