The 3rd Armored Division earned its nickname "Spearhead"
the hard way, battling across France and Belgium. Among the many
tankers to have fought with the 3rd, there are four that are
called tank "aces": Lafayette G. Pool. Henry J. Earl,
Shelton C. Picard. and Cliff L. Elliott.
Lafayette G. Pool, who first became known to many when at
Camp Polk as a selectee, made his name on the boxing team. It
was apparent that with his aggressiveness and quick reflexes
he would make a good tanker.
Pool started his war service as an armored tank mechanic and
worked his way through the ranks to become a full-fledged tanker.
His first tank was named "In the Mood". When that Sherman
tank was shot out from under him, he climbed in another, named
it "In the Mood II" and went back into combat. "In
the Mood II" was also destroyed beneath him and his tank
crew in the 83 days of combat in which Pool led the entire 3rd
Armored Division on 21 full-scale attacks.
As part of the 3rd Battalion. 32nd Armored Regiment, Pool's
tank crew destroyed 258 enemy armored vehicles during the fighting
from Normandy, France, to Aachen, Germany. He personally captured
250 prisoners and killed more than 1,000 enemy soldiers.
Pool lost his right leg when "In the Mood III" was
shot out from under him. The army was persuaded to retain Pool
on active duty. His experience was helpful in training a number
of tank commanders. "Lafe" Pool retired as Chief Warrant
Among his awards are the Distinguished Service Cross, the
Legion of Honor, and the French Croix de Guerre with Gold Star.
He was twice recommended for the Medal of Honor. He was also
admitted into the Honorable Order of St. George presented by
the United States Armor Society as a Distinguished Knight.
Henry J. Earl was the only "ace" to be wounded and
rejoin the attack through Europe, and the only one to be captured.
Earl was wounded at St. Pois in Normandy during the breakthrough
and had taken part earlier in the "Windy Hill" action
on 9 July 1944. After recovering from his wound, he rejoined
his original unit, I Company, 1st Battalion, 33rd Armored Regiment
awaiting the Allied advance outside Breinig, Germany. On 16 November
1944, the 1st Battalion attacked in the Scherpenseel/Hastenrath
area for which it would be awarded the Presidential Unit Citation
for its actions there on 16, 17, and 19 November 1944.
Earl was among four tanks that reached the objective in Hastenrath
from 19 that began the attack. He made it around the minefield
at Scherpenseel and the fierce fighting that took place there.
However, during the fighting at Hastenrath, his tank was hit
and the burning hulk had to be abandoned. It was then that Earl
and his crew were captured when they jumped into a ditch for
safety. He was taken eventually to Oflag 64 [PW camp] in the
Later Earl escaped, spending two weeks behind the German lines.
He met and joined a Russian patrol, but his stay with them was
brief, as they were separated during a fire fight with the Germans.
He spent another ten days behind German lines. With the help
of a Polish major, he made his way to Bydgoszcz in Poland. Eventually
he made it to Odessa, Russia, and then to Port Said, Egypt, and
from there to the 5th Army Rest Camp in Naples, Italy.
Shelton C. Picard of D Company, 2nd Battalion, 33rd Armored
Regiment was the only one of the aces to get one of the new heavy
tanks, the General Pershing tank, with a 90mm gun. He received
a battlefield commission during the latter part of the St. Lo
breakthrough and was lucky, as were the others, to live.
He took part in the "Windy Hill" (Hill 91) fracas,
the breakthrough at St. Lo, the Mortain counterattack, and the
Falaise Gap actions in Normandy, the advance through Northern
France, Mons, the Siegfried Line campaign, the Bulge (where his
company opposed KG Peiper's 1st SS, the most vicious opponents
the 3rd had in the war), and the capture of Cologne.
Later in the war he was to have another experience that would
test his survival further. In taking the objective of Marburg,
Germany, Picard was assigned the new Pershing tank. Because the
tracks on the new type of tank were too wide to cross on the
normal pontoon bridges, Picard was told to detour on his own
from the unit to an intact bridge and then rejoin the task force
for the assault on Marburg. The detour took several hours, and
Picard thought for sure the task force was ahead of him on the
main route. He and his crew continued on for six or seven hours
until they reached the outskirts of Marburg. The task force was
nowhere to be seen!
Picard took his tank into the middle of town and radioed the
task force commander, Colonel Lovelady. He then found out the
task force had been held up in a battle for the last two to three
hours and had to change routes. Picard was given the new route
with instructions to make his way to the task force clearing
the anti-tank guns so the task force could continue to Marburg
Picard found the road, and as he slowly rounded the first
curve, he could see three or four Germans behind a log barricade
with an anti-tank gun all zeroed in, waiting for the column to
come close enough. Picard told the gunner to "put an HE
[high explosive round] in the gun and just let them have it,"
which he did. They destroyed three more road blocks before rejoining
the task force. This is remembered as the taking of objective
with a task force consisting of one tank.
Clifford L. Elliott is another of the "aces" of
the 3rd Armored Division. He traveled point in many actions as
a tank member of Company E, 33rd Armored Regiment. The day 26
August 1944 stood out as extraordinary. It started out at Meaux
and ended at Soissons, France. His tank and crew destroyed two
Mark IV tanks, two 88mm dual purpose guns with their prime mover
vehicles and their entire crews of about 20 men, two anti-tank
guns, and 17 large trucks.
These accounts of four of the 3rd's tank "aces"
are the stories of a soldier's life which is to do his duty and
to try to survive. They always moved forward as part of the "Spearhead"
from the beaches of Normandy to the heart of Germany.