John R. Bender
- France, Ardennes - Belgium, Ruhr - Germany
33rd Armored Regiment, 3d Armored Division
John Reynolds Bender entered the U.S. Army in
March, 1941, as a chaplain and was part of the cadre of the newly
formed 3d Armored Division. He trained with the 3d AD at Indian
Town Gap, Pennsylvania, in Louisiana, and the Mojave Desert in California.
The desert training was reportedly under the command of General
George S. Patton. Gen. Patton allotted each man only one gallon
of water per day for all personal needs, which was not much when
the temperature was quite hot.
The 3d AD landed in England in 1943 and then in
Normandy on June 21, 1944. Chaplain Bender was assigned to the 33d
Armored Regiment, which was part of Combat Command B, under the
command of General Boudinot. He was also assigned to Task Force
Lovelady and served with its medical aid station. During the 3d
AD's dash across Europe, Chaplain Bender brought comfort to those
sick and wounded who came to the medical aid station.
Keeping up with the rapid progress of the 3d AD,
Chaplain Bender and his comrades were occasionally exposed to enemy
artillery fire, which often zeroed in on crossroads. On one occasion,
a particularly severe bombardment left him deaf for three days.
Their column on occasion also came under enemy air attacks and he
claimed that his column was once strafed by a German jet aircraft,
Task Force Lovelady was one of the first units
to break through the Siegfried Line and the first force since Napoleon
to capture a German town, Roetgen. Chaplain Bender's home town newspaper
reported the claim that he was the first Chaplain through the Siegfried
Line, the first in the city of Cologne and also Paderborn, Germany,
where the Ruhr Pocket was closed, sealing the defeat of Germany.
Paderborn was also where the great 3d Armored Division commander,
General Maurice Rose, was killed in action. See about this event
Glenn Shaunce's story on this website,
he was the driver for General Rose.
Near the end of the war, Task Force Lovelady's
HQ company and medical aid station were surrounded by SS troops.
These units, including Chaplain Bender, were captured near Dessau,
Germany. The captured troops, along with a number of wounded, were
herded into a cellar, fearing that their captors would toss grenades
into the cellar. Twenty-four hours and three counter-attacks later,
the captured troops were rescued by Task Force Lovelady.
The 3d Armored Division, one of only two US Army heavy armored divisions
in Europe, was nearly always leading the First US Armys advance
through Europe and ranks as one of the great US Army divisions of
World War II. The 3d AD led the breakout in Normandy, the race across
France and into Belgium. Besides being the first to capture a German
town, the 3d AD was the first into Belgium and the first into and
through the Siegfried Line.
In its dash to close the Ruhr Pocket (also known
as the Rose Pocket in honor of the late General Maurice Rose), the
3d AD advanced over 90 miles in twenty-four hours, a record advance
against opposition. Besides being led by General Rose, who was nearly
always very at the front lines, the 3d AD was also led by the great
VII Corps commander, General Lawton Collins. Gen. Collins had previous
combat experience leading a US Army division in the Pacific theater.
The First Army was led by the great General Courtney Hodges. Very
few Americans have ever heard of these three extraordinary men.
Chaplain Bender earned the Bronze Star, five battle
stars for the European campaign: Normandy, Northern France, Ardennes,
Rhineland, and Central Germany. Task Force Lovelady was awarded
the Presidential Unit Citation. As a member of the 3d Armored Division,
he was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Silver Gilt Star by the
French government and the Fouragere by the Belgian government.
In September, 1945 Chaplain Bender returned to
the United States, was discharged and resumed duties as a Lutheran
Minister in Paulding, Ohio. He returned to active duty in 1948 and
retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1964. Upon retirement, he started
a new congregation at Ascension Lutheran Church in Montgomery, Ohio.
Chaplain Bender died on July 12, 1978 in West Chester, Ohio and
is buried in the Dayton, Ohio National Cemetery..
Written by Frank Bender,
Proud son of John R. Bender.
John R. Bender was part of the 3d Armored Division.
3rd Armored Division waiting to advance in St.
Lo, Normandy, France.
John Bender busy typing in the field.
German prisoners of war at the St. Lo breakout.
John in front of broken down German Panther
John, here on the left, in an aid station, giving
comfort to the wounded and sick.
Joyfull greetings at the border crossing.
John standing in front of the Cologne Cathedral.
Among the other prisoners of war captured by