Unit history 37th Tank Battalion
... On 25 March 1945 the 3rd Army crossed the Rhine. The 5th Infantry Division crossed in Navy landing craft near Oppenheim before the Germans could fire a shot. When the east bank was secure, a pontoon bridge was quickly constructed, and by 03:00 hours on 26 March 1945, the 37th was across with the rest of the 4th Armored Division. The 37th exploded through the Red Diamond (5th Infantry Division) perimeter; by nightfall Company D's light tanks and Infantry from the 10th AIB captured the railroad bridge over the Main River. Meanwhile, CCA (Combat Command A) had secured the Main crossing near Hanau. The 37th, with the rest of CCR, sideslipped west and followed CCA across the Main on 28 March 1945. By dusk, the 37th's M4s were in Giessen, 40 miles north of Hanau. The Frankfurt-Berlin Autobahn was the 4th Armored Division's axis of advance. The 37th reached Hersfeld (today Bad Hersfeld) the last day of March. On 2 April 1945, under heavy air attack, the 37th crossed the Werra.
In actuality, the entire 37th Tank Battalion did not reach Giessen the night of 28 March 1945, for Company C and one platoon of Company D's tanks had been detached for a special mission. They did not know it at the time, but these two elements would never rejoin their organization. They reported on 26 March 1945 to Captain Abraham J. Baum. Besides elements from the 37th, it consisted of Company A, a reconnaissance platoon, and an assault gun platoon from the 10th AIB. The mission: liberate 1.500 American prisoners in the OFLAG at Hammelburg, sixty miles behind German lines. The orders came direct from "Lucky Forward", General Patton's CP.
At 21:00 hours on 26 March 1945, Company B of the 37th and Company B of 10th AIB punched a hole in the German line at Schweinheim. Through this hole went Task Force Baum, which in turn found itself alone in the enemy area. On 27 March 1945 a weak radio transmission was monitored reporting enemy troops marshaling at Gemuenden. As Gemuenden was halfway to Hammelburg, it was an indication that TF Baum was well on its way. Messages later that afternoon told of losing four medium tanks and two officers and 18 men wounded or killed. Then the messages petered out. On 29 March 1945, Division reported "No news of Baum". At 20:00 hours that night Radio Berlin reported that a great victory had been achieved by the German army near Hammelburg; later reports even claimed annihilation of the entire 4th Armored Division, which was known to the enemy as "Roosevelt's Butchers". On 6 April 1945, by which time the rest of the 37th was deep in Saxony, Company C and Company D's platoon were written off the books. The personnel were reported missing in action; replacements for them and their equipment was requisitioned. Finally, on 9 April 1945, Captain Baum returned to American lines and the entire fate of the TF was determined.
As the 4th Armored Division history states, "the task force battled through more than two German divisions to the Hammelburg OFLAG. On the way, the column took 200 prisoners, including a general and his staff, destroyed enemy troop trains, shot up towns, knocked out German tanks, vehicles and uncounted Krauts. The light force suffered. Bridges were blown in front, both sides and behind the onrushing tanks. A span was blasted as American and German infantrymen fought on it. The task force smashed road blocks, raced down highways, sneaked on back roads and followed compass courses across country."
"When they reached their objective, half of Task Force Baum was left in fighting shape. The Armored Infantrymen who had not been wounded rode the remaining tanks. Wounded men lay on the gas cans in the half-tracks and helped steady each other at the machine guns. The seriously wounded were left behind with the dead along the side of the road."
Against ever-stiffening resistance by an enemy who thought an entire division had broken through the Main River defense line, Captain Baum's decimated column finally reached the stockade near dark on 27 March 1945. After a hot fight, the prisoners were released, armed, and mounted on the back decks of Company C's tanks for the ride back to friendly lines. Captain Baum directed the remnants of his force northeastward, but by now the area was swarming with German infantry and armor. By morning of the 28 March 1945 all the task force's vehicles had been knocked out. The force then broke into groups of fours and fives and attempted to exfiltrate back to American lines. Finally, about 35 men made it. The rest were killed or captured. Of the 293 officers and men of TF Baum, 32 were wounded, 9 killed and 16 who were missing in action are still unaccounted for. Of the remaining 236, virtually all, including Captain Baum, were prisoners at one time or another.
Although they did not accomplish their mission successfully, the tankers and infantry of TF Baum contributed a great deal to the Central European Campaign. No less than an entire German Corps was diverted to the seeking out and destruction of the two company task force. Only the loss of the means to fight on kept them from continuing. The story of TF Baum will serve as a stirring example of individual courage and small unit leadership as long as nations have armies ...
unit history of the 37th Tank Battalion,
2002 © Copyright Peter Domes - Date of last change: 2005-01-22