Hedgerows to Reservoirs
HOWARD DALE ELLIOTT JR.
A COMPANY, 126TH ARMORED MAINTENANCE BATTALION, 4TH ARMORED DIVISION
M BATTERY, 11TH MARINE REGIMENT, 1ST MARINE DIVISION
Howard Dale Elliott Jr. was born on march 4th 1924 in Alexandria Virginia. He worked as a Machinist and enjoyed playing basketball and the Sousaphone Bass. He into the US Army on May 12th 1943 to do his part and fight in the Second World War. The grouping consists of His WW2 issue Ike jacket and shirt as well as his Korean war USMC Vandergrift in a gorgeous dark green color.
A Year later he would fins himself in England as part of the US 4th Armored division, A company 126th Armored Ordnance maintenance battalion. The 4th Armored would land at Utah beach about a month after the initial D Day invasion, they wasted no time and quickly stormed through Normandy and Northern France, pushing the Germans back. This would carry them into autumn and winter 44 when they would have their greatest achievement as a unit. During the frigid winter the Germans launched the massive Ardennes offensive or Battle of the Bulge, a desperate gamble by Hitler to try and break the allied advance. During this advance they managed to surround and cut off the 101st airborne at Bastonge. It would be the 4th Armored division that would liberate them and break the Germans grip around the town, saving the beleaguered garrison. He would spend many days working against the cold steel of the divisions vehicles, repairing battle damage rearming and ensuring his fellow soldiers were ready to head into action. I imagine it wasn’t a pleasant job in the freezing temperatures, washing out the blood and bits of friends from inside the vehicles and trying to ensure the new crews had the best chance against the enemy.
The division would go on to fight through Luxembourg, all over Germany, liberating the Ordruf Concentration camp and even into Czechoslovakia where they would end their advance in Susice. Howard would be discharged on December 21st 1945 just in time for Christmas!
Following the war he would marry Teresa Elizabeth Alvarez, in 1947 they had a daughter Linda Marie. Just 3 years later he would leave them behind to go to war, he was one of the lucky ones who would return.
Nearly 7 years to the day when he first walked into the army recruiter office with his draft slip to serve in WW2 he would find himself enlisting with the marines into fight in Korea. He didn’t know it yet but the experience he gained in the freezing winter months during WW2 would prove invaluable to him during this war. Howard would serve in Korea as a truck driver with M battery, 4th battalion, 11th Marine Regiment. Between August 1950 and June 1951 he would take part in the assault and seizure of Inchon, Capture and Securing of Soeul, Participated in the Wonsan-Hungnam, Chosin campaign, and operations in south and central Korea during the stalemate of 1951 and battle of the outposts.
He would come home in June 1951 and remain in the USMC reserves until 1952 when he was discharged to civilian life.
Normandy Hedgerows 1944
The 4th Armored along with the Howard and A company 126th Armored Ordnance maintenance battalion would go into combat for the first time on July 17th 1944.
They would be attached to VIII Corps. Their orders were to secure the Coutances area as part of Operation Cobra. This was designed to work in tandem with Operation Goodwood which was taking place around Caen. Following this the Division would move south to capture Nantes which effectively cut off the entire Brittany peninsula on August 12th. Then the division would swing east, driving hard and crossing the Moselle in a bitter battle in mid September, finally capturing Luneville on the 16th.
During their advance the 4th Armored was facing off against several German Panzergrenadier brigades including the SS Panzergrenadier Brigade 49 and SS Panzergrenadier Brigade 51. These were part of the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division "Götz von Berlichingen" and were small temporary units that got folded into this division in early August. The 4th Armored was successful in defeating these units through superior tactics, training and overwhelming air and artillery support.
The Battle of the Bulge 1944
Just a couple days after the Germans launched their massive Ardennes offensive on the 16th of December the 4th was called into action. They were ordered to race into Belgium covering an incredible 159 miles in just 19 hours. They were the spearhead of patton 3rd army.
The 4th would smash into the Germans around Bastonge where the 101st airborne had been cut off and surrounded. This would be the famous battle from the band of brothers TV series. The first unit in was Company C, 37th Tank battalion. They would break the German siege and liberate the town. The 4th AD received the following Letter of Commendation:
To: Maj. Gen. Hugh J. Gaffey The outstanding celerity of your movement and the unremitting, vicious and skillful manner in which you pushed the attack, terminating at the end of four days and nights of incessant battle in the relief of Bastogne, constitutes one of the finest chapters in the glorious history of the United States Army. You and the officers and men of your command are hereby commended for a superior performance.
Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., Commander, Third U.S. Army
Ohrdruf Concentration camp, Hell on Earth 1945
The first concentration camp liberated by US forces would be Ohrdruf, located south of Gotha, in Thuringia, Germany. This camp was officially created in 1944 and was a sub camp of Buchenwald. The 4th Armoured division led by Brigadier General Joseph Cutrona, and the 89th Infantry Division marched into the camp on April 4th 1945.
The camps function was to supply forced labour for projects and interm undesireables, etc like many camps. However the overall purpose and projects of the camp are largely unknown. Much speculation has been made as to its purpose including a testing site for a German nuclear bomb. Other possibilities are an improved V-2 rocket or long-range jet-powered bombers. There were large tunnels discovered near by that led to these speculations but not much information has ever been found.
When the men of the 4th entered the camp they found hell on earth, sadly this would be just on of the first of many that the world was becoming aware of. They men would be greeted by Piles of rotting bodies, funeral pyres with corpses partially burnt, and living quarters not fit for animals. The SS had executed many of the remaining prisoners that were unable to walk, leaving their corpses were they were killed. Some 7,000 people were murdered in this camp and its surrounding area.
Ohrdruf had also made a powerful impression on General George S. Patton, who described it as "one of the most appalling sights that I have ever seen." He recounted in his diary that:
"In a shed ... was a pile of about 40 completely naked human bodies in the last stages of emaciation. These bodies were lightly sprinkled with lime, not for the purposes of destroying them, but for the purpose of removing the stench. When the shed was full—I presume its capacity to be about 200, the bodies were taken to a pit a mile from the camp where they were buried. The inmates claimed that 3,000 men, who had been either shot in the head or who had died of starvation, had been so buried since the 1st of January. When we began to approach with our troops, the Germans thought it expedient to remove the evidence of their crime. Therefore, they had some of the slaves exhume the bodies and place them on a mammoth griddle composed of 60-centimeter railway tracks laid on brick foundations. They poured pitch on the bodies and then built a fire of pinewood and coal under them. They were not very successful in their operations because there was a pile of human bones, skulls, charred torsos on or under the griddle which must have accounted for many hundreds."
The Chosin Few of the Korean War 1950
By the time he landed at Wonsan on the east coast on October 26th Howard had already spent around a month in Korea, taking part in the landing at Inchon and capturing Seoul on the western part of the peninsula.
MacArthur had decided to load thousands of troops up and sail around to the east coast, they were to aggressive push the north Korean forces all the way to the Yalu river at the northern border with china.
Much to the dismay of X Corps commander Major General Oliver.P. Smith who had raised concerns the American forces were stretching themselves to thing and risking disaster. He would slow his advance and ensure to consolidate his positions at every opportunity. By late November the 1st marine division including the 11th regiment had successfully encamped around the Chosin reservoir near the Yalu river. For the men here the war was over…. Or so they thought.
On November 27th out of the freezing darkness came the sound of bugles, artillery and thousands of feet.. hundreds of thousands. The Chinese had indeed entered the war, and in incredible force. The Chinese 27th corps of the 9th army launched multiple attacks and ambushes throughout the Chosin reservoir area with nearly 120,000 men. The UN forces consisted of only 30,000 men. The 5th, 7th, and 11th Marine regiment along with Howard found themselves completely surrounded and cut off by the 89th and 79th Chinese divisions. Communications had been cut off by the Chinese 59th division on the road between Yudam-ni and Hagaru-ri.
By the morning of the 28th US forces were nearly entirely cut off and surrounded. The battle would last 17 days, with the US managing to escape the trap. Not with out suffering 900 killed or missing, 3500 wounded and nearly 6500 casualties from frostbite and the cold. The Chinese 9th army suffered nearly 37,500 casualties during the battle, this crippled the army and for the most part these casualties were a result of the weather and freezing temperatures. The Us forces had to even airdrop a bridge in several pieces as the Chinese had destroyed the only one on their escape route south, they feverishly worked to deploy this under fire so they could escape. During the evacuation they burned or destroyed everything they couldn't take with them, loading their dead onto trucks, stacked up like cord wood their bodies had become rock hard in the -50 temperatures.
In mid December following a fighting retreat south the division was evacuated from the port of Hungnam to Pusan. This would be one of the worst defeats in US history and the men who lived through it would forever be known as “The Chosin Few” Howard would be there to witness it all, serving as a truck driver with M battery of the 11th Marine Regiment, towing their guns and supplies through hellish snow and extreme temperatures, its certainly lucky for him that he knew how easily vehicles could also become casualties to the cold. If it wasn’t for men like him and their transports its very likely a lot more men would never have made it out.