705th Tank Destroyer Battalion
The Army organized the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion at Fort Knox, Kentucky, on December 15, 1941. The outfit grew from 8 officers and 108 enlisted men from Battery D of the 58th Armored Field Artillery Battalion.
On February 17,1942. the battalion moved for training to Camp Cooke, California, where the men sharpened military skills ranging from close order drill to night motor marches in their armored vehicles. On August 14, the 705th participated in desert maneuvers with the 5th Armored Division. The battalion joined in 10 exercises, sometimes making 60 to 80-mile overnight marches. The men worked hard and it paid off. Major General J.W. Heard commended the battalion for getting through the McKey Pass and capturing Needles, California.
On October 14, the desert maneuvers were over and the battalion headed for Needles and on to Camp Hood, Texas, where they practiced tank destroyer tactics and weapons firing. The men got more commendations from the Army brass. Major General A.D. Bruce said the 705th was the finest battalion that had gone through the TD center.
On March 8, 1943, the battalion moved to Camp Adair, Oregon, where its 75-millimeter self-propelled guns were replaced by M-10s. After artillery training in Yakima, Washington, the battalion returned to Camp Adair for three months of Central Oregon Maneuvers. South Central Oregon Maneuvers followed as the men got better acquainted with their M-10s.
On November 14, 1943, the battalion headed for Fort Lewis. Washington, and got ready for movement overseas. First came the move across country to Camp Shanks, New York. On April 18, 1944, the battalion clambered aboard the former luxury liner Queen Elizabeth. Their destination was the European war zone.
The Queen Elizabeth left New York on April 20 and crossed the Atlantic uneventfully. The big ship docked at Garoch, Scotland, on April 27. There, the Gls found railroad cars waiting to take them to Tilshead, England. They moved to Trowbridge on June 1.
On June 6,1944, the greatest sea borne landing force in history stormed ashore in Nazi-occupied Normandy. The long awaited second front in Europe was open. On June 13, the 705th Battalion left Trowbridge for the port of Southampton, where the men boarded two LSTs for the trip to France. The destination was Utah Beach captured in bloody fighting by U.S. troops on June 6.
On July 18, the 671-man Battalion drove its TDs onto Utah Beach. headed into a bivouac area five miles southwest of Bricquebec and awaited combat orders. On July 31, the battalion moved 60 miles to an assembly area near Equilly. The battalion received its baptism of fire in Normandy, joining a task force sweep through Avranches, Lanhelin, and Chateauneaf toward Brest. The armored doughs took several German prisoners and enjoyed joyous welcomes from French citizens.
On August 17, the 705th took Paimpol. On August 23, Company B left the battalion to join the Second Infantry Division in the battle of Brest. The next objective for the 705th would be the heavily defended Crozon Peninsula. The Americans blasted the peninsula with artillery, then attacked. The Germans retreated. On September 21. Brigadier General Herbert L. Earnest, task force commander, praised the 705th battalion for its part in the Brittany operation.
In late September, the battalion regrouped near Rennes. Replacement troops were trained in time for a quick move through Paris to the Moselle River battlefront. On October 20, the battalion was ordered to relieve the 818th TD Battalion on the Pagny bridgehead across the Moselle. The 818th returned in November and the 705th withdrew, only to cross the Moselle again north of Thionville. From there, it rolled northeast toward Germany. On November 18, Company B's First Platoon was across the border near Merschweiler. It looked like a straight shot into Germany, many in the battalion figured. The Germans looked whipped.
The enemy was not finished. Hidden by a thick fog, the Germans launched a massive attack on December 16 along a 50-mile front in the Ardennes Forest. Nazi tanks and infantry caught First Army troops by surprise and drove a deep bulge into Allied lines. The Germans gambled that the attack would prolong the war if not save the Third Reich.
Hard-pressed American commanders called for reinforcements to plug the gap. When the 705th got the word, the battalion was ready to roll in a matter of hours. Leaving Kohlschied, the TDs scurried south to Aachen and headed for Liege. Belgium. Speed was of the essence as the battalion raced for Houffalize, Belgium.
Near Houffalize lay Bastogne, the key to what would be called the Battle of the Bulge. Holding the town were paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division and scattered army elements. As long as Bastogne was in American hands, the German drive was stymied.
The 705th was headed for Bastogne to help hold the little town. When the Germans had blocked the road between Houffalize and Bastogne. the 705th detoured through LaRoche and arrived in the nick of time. The Germans surrounded Bastogne with the newly arrived 705th.
On December 21, the Germans attacked, determined to wipe out Bastogne. But the Americans would not give up. Guns of the 705th TD Battalion ripped into German attackers. Bastogne was surrounded by two SS panzer divisions, that were getting help from six other Nazi divisions. Artillery constantly rained on the Belgian city.
The 705th TD and the 101st Airborne worked together in perfect harmony. The paratroopers would let the German tanks through, then stop the following German infantry. Deprived of their infantry support, the German tanks would have to go it alone right into the sights of 705th gunners.
The Germans poured it on with artillery, infantry, mortar, armor and rocket attacks. The weather was miserably cold and snowy; American casualties mounted. Still, the GIs would not submit.
The Germans demanded Bastogne's surrender. Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe's replied, "Nuts." The Germans did not understand, so the Americans explained that "Nuts" meant "go to Hell." The Germans redoubled their efforts to destroy Bastogne and its "Besieged Bastards." They did not succeed.
Skies cleared, allowing critical supplies to be air-dropped to the beleaguered defenders. The 4th Armored Division cut its way through the German lines and relieved Bastogne.
Stateside training paid off for the 705th TD at Bastogne. From December 19-26, battalion gunners destroyed 39 German tanks, 3 half-tracks, 3 trucks, an armored car, 3 anti-tank guns and 4 other vehicles. They also accounted for an untold number of enemy casualties.
The defense of Bastogne wrecked the German drive in the Battle of the Bulge. In January, the enemy retreated, never again able to mount a successful attack against Allied armies on the Western Front. The 705th TD stayed on the Bastogne front until January 17 and 18 when it was relieved and ordered to Houmont and Brule, Belgium, for some rest and recuperation. Major General Maxwell D. Taylor, 101st commander, thanked the 705th TD Battalion, for its crucial help at Bastogne. There was another honor for the armored doughs: the battalion earned a Presidential Unit Citation for their valiant defense of the little Belgian city.
On March 1, 1945, the battalion returned to combat with a new division: the 11th Armored. The next day, Major John Dibble Jr. took command of the 705th. He replaced Lieutenant Colonel Clifford Templeton who was killed in action on March 1.
The weather was still miserable in early March, but the Germans were on the run all along the Western Front. The 705th drove its TDs onto a wide, smooth autobahn, gunned their engines and rolled deep into Germany. The armored doughs were part of Combat Command B of the 11th Armored "Thunderbolt" Division.
They had reached the Kyll River, an important objective, but not as important as the next one: the mighty Rhine. On March 6, CCB was on the way.
"More speed!" was the order that crackled again and again on TD radios. CCB swept through Kellberg and Mullenbach to Kempenich and on to Brohl in the Rhineland. On March 9, Andemach and Brohl fell to the Thunderbolt columns. The division rumbled north along the Rhine to link up with the First Army. The American thrust trapped six German divisions.
The 705th TD captured more German prisoners and military equipment than the men could count. But records showed that in its dash to the Rhine, the 11th Armored Division bagged more than 10,500 German prisoners and captured 100 artillery pieces.
On March 17, the 11th Armored swung south as part of General George S. Patton's Third Army campaign to eliminate the Saar-Moselle-Rhine pocket. The 705th TD and the rest of CCB ran into light resistance at Altlay, Lauzenhausen, Buchenbeuren, Rhaunen and Sluzhach. Pairing up for a final blow, CCB joined Combat Command A near historic Worms on the Rhine. The Germans fought hard at an airfield near the city, but CCB took it in an hour.
In their second Rhine drive, CCA and CCB captured 79 towns, destroyed huge amounts of enemy equipment and took an additional 11,789 prisoners. The Germans were defeated west of the Rhine.
On March 29, the 705th TD Battalion rolled up to the Rhine and crossed on a treadway badge built by Army engineers at Oppenheim. The Thunderbolt Division rushed ahead with CCA and CCB converging at Fulda, an important communications center. CCB assaulted the town, which surrendered. Across the Rhine, "it was a blur of names as the 705th swept through town after town, moving east and southeast toward Austria and final victory," wrote T/4 Glenn E. Sire, a battalion veteran.
CCA and CCB were advancing in parallel columns. At Speilberg and Bad Soden, the 705th TDs liberated two hospitals with 350 American, British and French prisoners of war. It was almost impossible to keep up with the names of other towns approached and passed: Ruckers, Bettinghausen, Eichenberg, Oberschonau, Themar, Juchsen and Gestungshausen. "Fire fights ensued at many points, but the outcome was always the same," Sire explained. "The defeated Germans were killed, captured, driven back."
CCB grabbed Mainleus and turned toward Bayreuth, an old Bavarian city and hometown of the composer Richard Wagner. It, too, fell to the hard-charging Thunderbolts, who also seized Vorbach, Grafenwohr, Schnaittenbach, Stamsried and Patersdorf. At Beunberg CCB troops freed 3,000 Soviet and Polish slave laborers. As they approached the Regen River, they met 16,000Ò starving slave laborers from the Flossenburg and Buchenwald concentration camps. Hundreds of bodies lay along the route from the Flossenburg camp. The SS marched the prisoners out of the camp and killed those who could not keep up.
The speedy drive of the 11th Armored made it the eastern most division in the Allied westem drive. The 705th TD Battalion was rolling parallel to the Czech border and bound for Austria. Schonberg, Freyung, Sonnen and Wegscheid were left behind.
On May 1, it snowed as 705th TDs clanked over the border into Austria. Again, CCA and CCB were traveling abreast. The 705th battalion was in Kirchslag on May 8, when the men got the news they had been hoping or praying for since they arrived on European soil in June: Germany had surrendered. The battalion made contact with Soviet soldiers on May 8, too.
In June, the 705th moved to Urfahr, near Linz and began occupation duties, including the processing of displaced persons and prisoners of war. From Urfahr, the battalion moved to Mondsee. In July, the battalion was inactivated. Records showed that the 705th Tank Destroyer Battalion lost 48 men, of which 30 were around Bastogne.
The 705th battalion earned five battle stars. On July 3, 1945, Major General Maxwell D. Taylor, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division and Major General Holmes L. Dager, Commander of the 11th Armored Division, awarded the battalion, the coveted Presidential Unit Citation.Back to "Our History"