Military


2nd Battalion, 70th Armor
"Thunderbolts"

2nd Battalion, 70th Armored Regiment deploys with or without equipment, builds combat power, conducts military operations in support of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) or other headquarters as directed and redeploys.

The 70th Tank Battalion was activated 15 July, 1940 at Fort Meade, Maryland as the first independent tank battalion in the US Army. The battalion was assigned to General Headquarters and, from the start, was specially trained to operate as decentralized infantry support during amphibious landings.

Though the US didn't declare war on the Axis powers until December of 1941, the 70th Tank conducted intensive training from November 1940 until June 1941 as Army leaders prepared for the worst. The battalion was originally equipped with M2A2 light tanks (the "Mae West"), which was armed only with .30 cal machine guns. Newer M3 light tanks with a 37mm main gun were in production and were finally fielded to the battalion in 1941.

Company A participated in maneuver training at Ft. Devons and later joined the 1st Infantry Division at the New York harbor for sea maneuvers and amphibious training off the coast of North Carolina. Meanwhile, the rest of the battalion performed maneuver training at Camp Forest in Tennessee. By December 7, the 70th Tank was the only combat-ready tank battalion in the Army. On January 4, 1942, the 70th joined the Big Red One at Brooklyn Army Base where they boarded ships bound for the island of Martinique, controlled then by the pro-Nazi Vichy French government. Martinique capitulated as the convoy circled the island, and the invasion force made a practice landing at Norfolk, Virginia. After a brief return to Ft. Meade, the battalion deployed to Ft. Bragg on March 11, 1942 where they were attached to the 9th Infantry Division. The battalion was outfitted with the new M5 light tank with a better engine and an improved stabilized turret. On September 4, 1942, the battalion listened as General Patton delivered his "Blood and Guts" speech. In late September and early October, the invasion force boarded ships in secrecy, bound for North Africa.

Company B of the 70th Tank Battalion carried the first American flag into French Morocco at the port of Safi on 8 November 1942. Although Companies B and C saw little more than token resistance, Company A, attached to the 16th French Regiment, fought through Tunisia along with French and British soldiers until they linked up with Montgomery's Eighth Army on 13 May, 1943. During the closing battles of the North African campaign, Company A had captured over 7,000 German soldiers and 1,500 Italians and had earned 25 Croix de Guerres. The battalion had earned its first Invasion Arrowhead but 8 tankers had died and 19 were wounded or missing.

After a brief stint instructing the French on the use of the M5 light tank (the battalion was known to the French as Soixante-Dix, French for "70th"), the battalion was reunited with the Big Red One at Algiers and loaded ships for Sicily. Recon elements of the 70th landed in Sicily on 10 June, 1943. The battalion main body arrived at Gela, Sicily on 14 June. On 16 June, the battalion capitalized on tactics learned in the North African Desert as they defeated an attack by 16 German Mark IVs, knocking out five and forcing the rest to retreat, opening the way for the advance to the Salso River. In 13 days of continuous combat the battalion crossed four fifths of the island and became known as the "light tank outfit that opens closed pockets." The battalion had earned a second Invasion Arrowhead. Again the price was steep- 15 tanks destroyed, 11 men killed, and 44 wounded or missing.

The battalion embarked for England to reconstitute, putting in at Liverpool on 28 November 1943. The battalion had demonstrated in North Africa and Sicily that the M5 light tank was badly outgunned by the German Mark IVs with 75mm guns; they were refitted in England with three companies of M4 Sherman medium tanks with 75mm main guns in December 1943.

It was during this time that the 70th adopted "Joe Peckerwood", the "Truculent Turtle," as their mascot. Joe was painted onto every sponson and every vehicle in the battalion.

At 0630 on 6 June, 1944, after 18 months of training in secret, the 70th Tank Battalion rolled off of their landing crafts and onto Utah beach with the 4th Infantry Division. One of the first of the 70th Tank's soldiers to make it on the French shore was LT Franklin Anderson and his team of radiomen and engineers. Anderson was wounded by shrapnel after leaving the landing craft but made it to the seawall and directed the engineers as they blew holes in the wall for dozer tanks to enlarge.

Although A and B Companies were supposed to have been in the first wave, due to a mix up in the rendezvous area, the first tank on shore was commanded by PFC Owen Gavigan of C Company. C Company arrived with 12 of its 16 tanks and, under artillery and rocket fire, cleared obstacles with HE and bull dozer attachments and took key gun emplacements under fire, allowing follow-on ships filled with troops and supplies to make it to the beach. A Company was not so lucky. Before the tankers could disembark, one of the LCTs hit a mine and was blown in two. Nineteen tankers of the twenty on board died. As the rest of A Company's tanks hit the beach, they took up firing positions where they could support the infantry that were landing behind them. Two more tankers died during this operation, but the infantry landed safely.

70th Tank battalion engineers blew the seawall in front of B Company as their tanks hit the beach, but they met little resistance other than dismounted Germans exiting a bombed-out pillbox. All 16 of their tanks landed safely and moved through the breach made by the engineers and secured the causeway leading off the beach.

D Company, equipped with light tanks, was assigned the mission of linking up with the 101st Airborne Division which had landed behind the enemy defenses during the night. D Company found the infantry broken up into small groups under pressure from pockets of German resistance. By the end of the day, D Company had found large elements of the 101st and consolidated for the next morning's attack.

By nightfall, all the companies of the 70th Tank Battalion had reached their objectives and had consolidated the Utah beachhead.

The battalion fought its way north toward Cherbourg, at the head of the Cotentin Peninsula. C Company broke through to the 82nd Airborne at Ste. Mere Eglise on 8 June 1944, and the battalion continued north, cleaning up pockets of resistance along the road north. The tankers fought continuously for days on end, doggedly clearing the last German resistance. The town of Azeville fell on 11 June. Montebourg followed on 19 June. Cherbourg itself was not taken until 26 June, three weeks of exhaustive combat after the D-Day invasion.

The 70th Tank's losses during D-Day were the largest for any single day in the war. During the "Longest Day", they had lost 16 tanks, with 22 men killed and 8 wounded. By the time the Eighth Infantry Regiment had cleared the Cotentin Peninsula, the number of lost tanks had grown to 32, with 29 men KIA, 31 MIA and 48 WIA. The 70th Armor Battalion earned another Invasion Arrowhead and a Presidential Unit Citation for its critical role in the invasion of Normandy.

From Cherbourg, the battalion fought south through the hedgerows to Periers and the St. Lo breakthrough. The battalion entered Paris on 25 August and rolled out again towards St. Quentin on 28 August, 1944. By this time, the battalion had begun receiving upgraded Shermans with new 76mm guns. They also installed flamethrowers in their tanks as they waited to cross in to Belgium in late August.

The 4th ID crossed into Belgium in early September and reached the Siegfried Line marking the German border on 11 September, 1944. After four days of bitter fighting, the division had advanced one mile and had only broken the first bolt of the German defenses. They were withdrawn to the vicinity of St. Vith to wait for lagging supply trains. On 9 November they road marched north to the vicinity of Aachen. For the 70th Tank Battalion, this began the battle of the Huertgen forest, the toughest, longest battle of the entire war. The 9th ID and 28th ID had each been sent into the forest and decimated by withering fire from German positions. On 4 December, the 22d Infantry Regiment, 4th ID, with C and D Company attached captured the town of Grosshau and opened a path though their portion of the forest, for which they received a Meritorious Unit Citation. Most elements of the 70th were relieved and left the Huertgen forest on 8 December. The battalion withdrew into Luxembourg to refit and repair. Only 26 operational tanks remained in the battalion.

The crippled 4th ID and 70th Armor Battalion held Luxembourg City during the Battle of the Bulge in late December and fought north to the Pruem and on to the Rhine. Detached briefly to the 63d ID for the assault on Saarbrucken, the 70th and the 4th ID raced south and east across Germany. The 70th Tank Battalion ended the war at the Starnberger Sea in southern Bavaria.

From 8 May 1945 until 22 May 1946, the battalion performed occupation duty in Bamburg and Nurnberg, Germany. On 22 May, 1946 the battalion was deactivated.

In 30 months of war, 12 officers and 149 enlisted soldiers were killed, while 75 officers and 405 enlisted soldiers were wounded. Ninety medium and 35 light tanks had been lost. The 70th had 3 D-Days on an island and two continents. It had received 9 Distinguished Service Crosses, 3 Legions of Merit, 123 Silver Stars, 2 Soldier's Medals, 287 Bronze Stars, 709 Purple Hearts, and 25 Croix de Guerres. It is the oldest and most decorated tank battalion in the United States Army.

On 1 August, 1946, the battalion was reactivated as a training unit at Ft. Knox, KY. The battalion was redesignated a Heavy Tank Battalion in 1949 and D Company was dropped from the rolls.

The 70th Tank Battalion was hastily manned and refitted with M26 Pershing tanks at the outbreak of the Korean War. The 70th was sailed from San Francisco on 23 July 1950 and arrived at Pusan on 7 August. The battalion was attached to the 1st Cavalry Division and the companies were "farmed out" as they arrived. A Company went to the 5th Cavalry Regiment, B Company to the Eighth Cavalry Regiment, and C Company to the 7th Cavalry Regiment.

The desperate fighting in the Pusan perimeter was close and vicious. The defense continued until 15 September, when the build-up of Allied forces was sufficient to break through the North Korean lines. They fought doggedly north across the peninsula, destroying remnants of North Korean forces as they pushed on toward Seoul. C Company with the 7th Cav Regiment was the first to link up with MacArthur's Inchon invasion force outside of Seoul. The 70th Tank Battalion received another Presidential Unit Citation for bravery in action at Taegu, during the breakout from Pusan.

The battalion continued north, reaching Pyongang on 19 October, and pushing onto the Yalu river. On November 1, 1950, 500,000 Chinese troops crossed the border and overwhelmed UN forces, beginning the Chinese intervention in the Korean War. B Company, with the Eighth Cav, was encircled at Unsan and had to abandon their tanks and fight their way across the mountains on foot. Forty-one soldiers in B Company lost their lives in that battle.

Until late January 1951, the 70th fought continuous delaying actions in the withdrawal to the south. By April, the battalion was again spearheading the "First Team" north of the 38th Parallel. Then south to defend Seoul, and finally "Operation Commando" that established the present line in the vicinity of Yonchon.

Company B, 70th Tank Battalion was reorganized and redesignated as 2nd Battalion, 70th Armored Regiment and assigned to the 24th Infantry Division in Germany in 1963. The Battalion remained in Germany until 1990, when it was deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of the 1st Armored Division and fought bravely throughout an 89-hour campaign that left Saddam Hussein's army a smoking ruin. During the course of the ground war, 2-70 Armor participated in the assault on Al Busayyah, helped to destroy a brigade of the Adnan Republican Guards Division, and participated in the largest tank battle of the war, where 2-70 Armor and 1-35 Armor destroyed an entire brigade of the Medinah Republican Guards Division in less than 40 minutes. As a credit to their professionalism, the battalion was able to accomplish all of these feats without the loss of one soldier or combat vehicle. For their heroic effort in the liberation of Kuwait, the battalion was awarded the Valorous Unit Award.

After the victory in the Persian Gulf, 2-70 AR returned to Germany and was reassigned to the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) in 1992. The Battalion was deactivated in Germany in 1994 and reactivated in February, 1996 at Fort Riley, KS as part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.



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