Charles "Ray" Reeder
Recon Co. 33rd Armored Rgt. of the 3rd Armored Division
I joined the Third Armored Division at Camp Polk,
Louisana in early 1942, less than a year after it was formed. I
went through maneuvers in the semi-swamplands of that state and
East Texas; went to the Mohave Desert for training to possibly be
used in North Africa: was moved with Division to Camp Pickett for
shipment to Africa which was canceled: moved to Indiantown Gap Camp
for further training before a planned shipment to England for the
invasion of mainland Europe. That was almost 60 years ago, but some
memories are still vivid in my mind.
War is not a glorious happening such as pictured
in movies and on TV. My introduction to war, as it really is, was
to emerge from the dark hold of an LST ( Landing-ship- tanks) and
drive across Omaha beach about two weeks after D-Day. It was a very
sobering sight. Wreckage of the landings was scattered about, but
the stacks of our dead rolled in army blankets with feet sticking
out were a very sobering sight , indeed. We were no longer on the
fringe of war, we were in it. Bodybags of later wars would be make
the dead seem less personal, but at that time the sight drove home
the fact that this war was real. It became more real as we moved
in from the beach.
The stench of war and death hung over the land
and it is a stench I think no one could ever forget. The piles of
bodies got smaller as we moved away from the beach. As we neared
the combat area we began to see the most horrible of sights, we
were in armored vehicles moving down lane like roads between hedgerows
and we passed bodies which had been run over by tanks and were just
blobs of bloody flattened flesh and we had to drive over those spots.
Some of the spots consited only of bodies only partly obliterated.
War close up is a horrible sight. In addition to the dead men there
were many dead farm animals lying where they had fallen. The bloated
carcasses added greatly to the stench of the battle field. I know
it must be a stench smelled nowhere else.
If you are a combat infantry soldier, you are
not marching toward the enemy with your gun blazing, you are hiding
behind anything which will give you protection from bullets being
fired at you while seeking to shoot the other human being who is
also trying to kill you. Or you may be crouched down in the foxhole
you dug as shelter from an artilllery or mortar barrage, praying
that one of those shells doesn't hit your hole or a tree limb above
you which would send down a hail of shrapnel into your shelter.
If you are a tanker shielded by all that armor,
you are hoping that an enemy tank gunner or anti-tank gunner doesn't
have you in his sights, and isn't about to hit your tank with a
round which will make riddled corpses out of you and your crew and
probably turn your tank into an exploding, burning hulk. Or a single
German soldier armed with a panzerfaust ( a one man rocket launcher)
isn't crouched down waiting for you to drive by before blowing you
German soldiers would do this then wave the white flag of surrender.
I recently read that General Omar Bradley , a very moral man) issued
that such Germans were to be shot . Not for the act they had commited
by knocking out the tank but for expecting mercy after such an act.
I experienced the loss of my vehicle and two of
my crew as a part of one of the first spearheads of the 3rd Armorewd
Division which became known as the "Spearhead Division"
It was on the St.Lo Breakout which resulted in the German armies
being driven almost back into Germany. It was at the start of the
Breakout and as part of Recon. Co. of the 33rd Armored Regiment
my platoon was on the point of an armored column, with P47 planes
straffing and bombing so closely overhead that metal ammo links
from their guns fell striking our vehicles, we had just passed the
horrible sight of a German soldier sitting in a small scout car
with his hands gripping the steering wheel, but he had no head.
We had moved a little further on when my M8 armored
scout car was ordered to go through a break in the hedgerow on the
left. Once through the break I could see a stone barn at the end
of the field with Germans in the barn yard behinfd a stone fence.
I alerted my gunner on the 37 mm cannon and I cut loose firing the
ring mounted 50 caliber. We were hit almost immediately by an anti-tank
round which killed my driver and the radioman-bow gunnner who rode
beside him in the front of the vehicle. All I remember was a very
loud clang sound and a large flash of yellow fire. My gunner and
I were unwounded but were sent back to the medics.
That ended my short but eventful combat career.
The armies were moving so fast that I went to a replacement depot
and because the armies were moving so fast combat MPs were needed
and I became one. I did not yearn for more combat. It has many times
been said, "War is hell" and that says it all.
Charles Ray Reeder
The Spearhead part
of the patch was added to the patch after the ST. LO (France) breakthrough
and the 3rd began acting as the point of the 1st Army which was
leading the fast advance across France with spearheads of armor
and infantry. The Division was being referred to as the "Spearhead
Charles Ray Reeder with
two friends somewhere in England.
Charles Ray Reeder's M8 6 wheeled armored car was destroyed by an
On maneuvers in the Mohave Desert in 1942 supposedly
to prepare us for North Africa.
This the tank of the top tank commander of the entire US Army in
WW II. His name was Sgt Lafayette Pool of the 32nd Armored Regiment
of 3rd Armored Division.