History Overlooked: Unsung Army Division Seeks Recognition

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by syscom3, Aug 20, 2007.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

    Jun 4, 2005
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    Orange County, CA
    History Overlooked: Unsung Army Division Seeks Recognition for
    Fighting to Within 40 Miles of Berlin in WWII's Waning Days

    83rd Infantry Finds in National Archives Recommendation for Citation
    They Never Received

    WASHINGTON, Aug. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- They were known as the Ohio and,
    later, the Thunderbolt Division. In the waning months of the European
    Theater during World War II, the men of the U.S. Army's 83rd Infantry
    Division and several supporting units pulled off one of the most
    incredible and overlooked feats in the annals of that well-documented

    Positioned north of Germany's Ruhr River industrial complex at the
    close of March, 1945, the 83rd received orders originally intended
    for the 8th Armored Division. They were to turn east from the Ruhr
    and race toward Berlin. In a span of only 13 days, the Thunderbolts
    fought their way across 280 miles of northern Germany as unit after
    unit within the 83rd leap-frogged and flanked one another to
    continuously press the attack east. Commandeering anything with
    wheels or hooves to move infantry at a break-neck pace, the rolling
    menagerie of "organic transportation" was dubbed by one reporter in
    news accounts as "the rag-tag circus."

    The spectacular sweep across northern Germany proved to be one of the
    most rapid movements of troops in military history. The 83rd not only
    set new infantry speed records, but surpassed those of the best
    Allied armor units. Along the way, they liberated 42,000 U.S. and
    Allied prisoners of war.

    On April 13, 1945, the 83rd arrived at the west bank of Germany's
    Elbe River, the boundary where the Allied Supreme Commander, U.S.
    General Dwight Eisenhower, had ordered all Western allied armies to
    halt. But the U.S. Army's XIXth Corps commander, Major General
    Raymond S. McLain, wanted to prevent the enemy from using the Elbe as
    a natural boundary to re-organize and counter-attack. The 83rd and
    its support units were ordered to cross the Elbe and into territory
    assigned to the Soviet Red Army, and to prepare to advance
    east/northeast (in the direction toward Berlin). In a bitterly
    contested, house-to-house fight -- the subject of the book The Last
    Battle by Cornelius Ryan, author of The Longest Day and A Bridge Too
    Far -- the 83rd secured a bridgehead on the Elbe's east bank at
    Barby, Germany. Over the course of the next several days, they
    defended it from several vicious, Nazi counter-attacks. The 83rd
    pressed the fighting east to within 40 miles southwest of Berlin, and
    on April 30, the 113th Cavalry Group of the 83rd Division made
    contact with Russian troops at Apollonsdorf. Orders finally caught up
    with the 83rd juggernaut to return to the Elbe bridgehead. The only
    American incursion into the Eastern European Theater ground to a halt
    and, on May 6, 1945, turned back to the Elbe, crossing territory
    gained at the cost of over 1,000 American casualties.

    The incredible drive to the Elbe bridgehead, and its defense, earned
    Division members 289 Bronze Stars, 132 Silver Stars, 1 Distinguished
    Service Cross and 1 Legion of Merit, but ironically no Presidential
    Unit Citation.

    Since 1996, the 83rd Division Association' s historian, 82-year-old
    Lou Gomori of Butler, PA, has researched and documented the fighting
    at the Elbe River and points eastward and, in 2003, began his attempt
    to secure some lasting recognition for fallen comrades and to set the
    record straight: "I started researching this after watching the last
    episode of a series on TV, when the narrator stated: The Western
    Allies will stop on the west bank of the Elbe River; the eastern side
    will be left for the Russians."

    Gomori submitted an application for a Unit Citation two years ago to
    the Defense Department's Military Awards Branch, through the
    sponsorship of his U.S. Senator, Arlen Spector. It wasn't until
    earlier this year that he learned that his application had been

    Then, after 62 years, some unexpected evidence surfaced to bolster
    Gomori's case. Association President Rudy Zamula, 83, Potomac, MD, is
    a contractor at the National Archives and Records Administration
    (NARA II) in College Park, MD. On his own time, he would sift through
    some of the 176 boxes of crumbling and yellowed after-action reports
    that record the Division's battlefield exploits. This spring, he
    found a copy of the original letter from Ninth Army Commander Lt.
    General W.H. Simpson recommending the Division for the Presidential
    Unit Citation for its lightning assault across northern Germany and
    the Elbe to within the outskirts of Berlin. Included in the
    recommendation were the comments of Army Lt. General Raymond S.

    "The advance of the XIXth Corps across Germany was an operation, the
    speed of which, has seldom, if ever, been equaled. The original
    planning contemplated the use of two armored divisions abreast, each
    to be backed up by one infantry division. Because of the necessity of
    compressing the Ruhr pocket, the 8th Armored Division was
    unavailable, so the 83rd Infantry Division was ... given the whole
    mission. The performance of the (83rd) Division in keeping up with
    the 2nd Armored Division on its left was magnificent and played an
    important role not only in broadening the Corps spearhead, but also
    in protecting the exceedingly long exposed Corps right flank ... The
    speed and dispatch with which the Division moved was of particular
    importance in the crossing of the Elbe, making possible the crossing
    of the river on a broad front and the exploitation of the successful
    bridgehead. This was of the greatest importance because the enemy
    resisted the crossings fiercely as shown by the fact that father
    north ... the enemy was able to throw back the crossing attempt (of
    the 2nd Armored)."

    "After over 60 years, we finally had proof that our commanders had
    indeed recognized what we had achieved in that campaign," said
    Zamula. "As to why the recommendation was never acted upon is
    probably lost to history."

    Gomori believes publicity about the Elbe crossing, back in April,
    1945, was downplayed because of the political sensitivities of an
    American army crossing into territory assigned to the Soviet Red
    Army. The recently discovered document gives Gomori new hope that the
    Military Awards Unit will take a second look at a new application he
    intends to file soon, seeking a Presidential Unit Citation. The
    division also seeks a sixth battle star for being the only American
    military outfit to fight in the Eastern European Theater, the
    boundary of which was -- the Elbe River. Previous battle stars were
    awarded the 83rd for its role in the Normandy, Brittany, Ardennes
    (Battle of the Bulge), Rhineland, and Central Europe campaigns.

    Zamula is not optimistic despite the new-found proof that supports
    their claim. There have been only a couple of rare examples when the
    military has gone back to commemorate a unit. Despite Gomori having
    accumulated eyewitness accounts from German newspapers and German
    military veterans of the ferocity of the battles along the Elbe, the
    general perception today may be that the Division was merely fighting
    the last remnants of a German army that was already defeated. Or it
    may simply be the public has no desire to re-visit a little-known
    episode in a story outshone by more dramatic turning points in the
    European theater, such as D-Day, Anzio, and the Battle of the Bulge.

    The veterans of the 83rd Division, which was headquartered in
    Columbus, Ohio, and de-activated only a few years ago, know time is
    not on their side. When the Association holds its annual Division
    reunion in Arlington, VA, on August 22-26, about 300 veterans and
    their families are expected to attend. Despite advancing age that
    prohibits travel by many of its members, the group isn't calling its
    reunion in DC its last. In fact, plans are already being made for
    their 2008 reunion in Carlisle, PA.

    "My dream is to stage in Carlisle next year a re-enactment of the Rag
    Tag Circus convoy as I experienced it," said Zamula.

    ABOUT THE 83rd DIVISION: The 83rd Division has its roots in Ohio,
    where most of its soldiers were from when the division was organized
    for World War I. The Division's insignia remains a graphic layout of
    the letters O-H-I-O. The Division engaged in 270 days of combat and
    ranks ninth among all Army divisions in the number of casualties
    suffered during World War II with 3,850 killed and 15,013 wounded in
    action. The Division was best known for rapidly being uprooted in the
    days immediately before Christmas, 1944, at the close of the Hurtgen
    Forest campaign in Germany, to race back into Belgium to become part
    of the spearhead that blunted the German offensive known as
    the "bulge" in the Ardennes Forest. It then assisted the 3rd Armored
    Division in bisecting the St. Vith-Houffalize Highway to block the
    easterly retreat of the German Army.

    The 83rd Infantry Division Association is a non-profit organization,
    now based in Alton Bay, NH, dedicated to honoring the men who served
    in the division during World War II. The organization has 680
    members. Known as the Thunderbolt Division, the 83rd Infantry was
    first deployed in World War I and was deactivated after World War II.
    The company's insignia, a graphic representation of the word O-H-I-O,
    reflects the home state from where the Division's original ranks were

    Source: The 83rd Division
  2. ccheese

    ccheese Member In Perpetuity
    Staff Member Moderator

    Jul 10, 2007
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    R E T I R E D !!
    Virginia Beach, Va.
    That's a damn shame..... these vets should be recognized for what they
    did, even if the German army was in retreat and "defeated" on paper.

  3. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
    Staff Member Moderator

    Nov 8, 2004
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    I agree Charles.

    My :salute: to them.
  4. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

    Aug 21, 2006
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    Nightshift picker
    A Swede living in Glasgow, Scotland
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    62 years too late. I sincerely hope that they get what they so rightfully deserve this time....

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