30 March, 2012

30 March 1945


438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
30 March, 1945      1640

Dearest darling Wilma –

This will break all records for brevity, I think, but honestly, dear, I’m pooped! I can’t remember being so tired in a long while – but we’ve been on the road for I don’t know how long. And – we were up all night. No one minds particularly because it certainly is a thrill to travel this way. It’s amazing – what we see. I’ll try to be more specific tomorrow sweetheart – if we stay put – but for now I know you’ll excuse me if I say ‘so long’. But not before I remind you that I love you dearly, dear – and you alone! Gonna try to get some sleep now. Will write tomorrow. Love to the folks.

All my deepest love –

Route of the Question Mark


(A) Bad Marienberg to (B) Gisselberg, Germany (44 miles)
30 March - 2 April 1945

30 March... Gisselberg. The beginning of the end, for we hauled 20,000 prisoners for VII Corps, and worked at this until it seemed that we had carried the entire German Army in our trucks. Pfc [Franklin A.] PORTER caught two of them, single-handedly, in a shack in the woods.


about The Death of Major General Maurice Rose

Maurice Rose was born on 26 November 1899 in Middletown, Connecticut, the son of a rabbi and grandson of a rabbi and went on to become the highest ranking Jew in the United States Army. During his military career he earned the following honors:
The Third Armored Division official history of World War II, published after Rose had been killed in action, states, "He was over six feet tall, erect, dark haired, and had finely chiseled features. He was firm and prompt of decision, brooking no interference by man, events or conditions in order to destroy the enemy." According to Robert K. Pacios, veteran of the 3rd Armored Division, Rose was a stand-offish person with those around him. No one in the 3rd Armored Division really got to know much about his personal life. Married twice, he kept his life so secret that his two sons, by different wives, did not know the other existed until many years after some digging by one of the authors of his biography, Major General Maurice Rose: World War II's Greatest Forgotten Commander by Stephen L. Ossad and Don R. Marsh. He demanded absolute loyalty from his men. He would not accept any excuse from any of his subordinate commanders -- accomplish your mission or move on!

Major General Rose received his first military experience as a private in a cavalry troops of the Colorado National Guard in 1916. In France in WW I Rose served with the American Expeditionary Force and won the Purple Heart and the Silver Star. Named Chief of Staff of the Second Armored Division in January, 1942, he went overseas in December of that year and served in the First Armored Division in the battle for Tunisia in 1943, where he earned a Silver Star. Back with the 2nd Armored Division, he was promoted to Brigadier General just before the invasion of Sicily, where his unit was the first to enter the island's capital, Palermo. In Normandy in June, 1944, General Rose's unit beat back a major German force near Carentan. As captured documents later revealed, this action may have saved the whole Normandy beachhead.

In August, 1944, General Rose was given command of the 3rd Armored Division, receiving his second general's star several weeks later. What then followed was his daring and legendary leadership of the "Spearhead" Division, as its troops aggressively advanced and engaged German forces in northern France, Belgium, Germany, in the Battle of the Bulge, and finally in the heart of Germany itself.

The following account of the death of Major General Maurice Rose was written by Paul Leopold of the Website Staff of the Third Armored Division's History of WWII.
[Note: "This account is based on information available to me in 1966 at 3AD headquarters in Frankfurt, plus details I later found in books and on the Internet. The biography of General Rose by Don Marsh and Steve Ossad, first published in 2003, greatly amplifies what I've written below. -- Paul Leopold]

On 30 March 1945, the 3rd Armored Division lost its Commanding Officer, Maj. Gen. Maurice Rose, one of the highest ranking American servicemen killed in World War II. Military historians argue whether a general's proper place is normally at the front or the rear of his troops. If action reflects opinion, there can be no doubt what General Rose thought. He led from the front so consistently that his troops used to call him "the Division point."

Biologists have a chemical explanation for why some men (more rarely women) thrive on putting their life at risk. Rose's soldiers would, I'm sure, have explained it as sheer guts. But they knew where that kind of guts could get you. They would wonder how many cat's lives Rose had left after each brush with death.

They also knew Rose was a shrewd and careful strategist. Said to have a photographic memory, his grasp of situations was instantaneous, his responses as shrewd as they were bold. Though a strict disciplinarian, Rose rarely provoked resentment in his men, for they knew he was as hard on himself as he was on them.

Once, approaching a bridge which might have been mined by the enemy, Rose insisted on being the first to drive across it. This was pure theater, but it had an effect on morale -- an effect which he had no doubt rapidly (and accurately) calculated. The risk must have appeared just small enough to justify going for the payoff in morale. But risk there was -- and nobody said Rose had to take it.

If soldiers love a leader the more for not worrying too much about his own safety, they also respect one the more for not standing on his dignity. Rose never pulled rank. Once during the drive on Paderborn, he and his aide, Maj. Robert Bellinger, caught sight of some Germans in uniform running from the road. He told his driver, T-5 Glen Shaunce, to stop the jeep, and all three men jumped out and chased the fugitives into a nearby cemetery. Division Artillery commander, Col. Frederic J. Brown, and his driver, Pfc. A.C. Brazeal, pulled up and joined the pursuit.

Wielding tommy guns and pistols, the five -- enlisted men, field officers, and a general -- captured twelve of the Germans. When Cpl. James Omand, the messenger, arrived on his motorcycle he saw a sight he would never forget: the Division Commander herding a bunch of prisoners at pistol-point!

It was this sort of "gallant carelessness" and the habit of establishing his command post within small-arms range of the enemy, that allegedly earned Rose the nickname among the Germans of "the American Rommel". And after he died, Chicago Sun correspondent Thomas R. Henry, compared him to Stonewall Jackson, declaring in his eulogy that "in Maurice Rose's death [the U.S. Army in Europe] has suffered its greatest single loss."

The circumstances of Gen. Rose's death are not -- and perhaps never will be -- perfectly clear. The accounts of the two men who were with him are substantially consistent, but perforce obscure, as the shooting occurred on a dark country road, suddenly, and while both witnesses were diving for cover. The identity of the third witness, the German who shot Rose, was never discovered.

This is how it happened.

With his aide Bellinger, and driver Shaunce, Rose was in a jeep accompanying Task Force Welborn along a dirt road heading for Paderborn. Ahead of them in another jeep was DivArty commander, Col. Brown; behind them in an armored car, the Division G-3, Lt. Col. Wesley Sweat. Their motorcycle messenger followed behind.

Suddenly Welborn's column was raked by intense small-arms and direct tank and anti-tank fire from both sides of the road. Cradling a tommy gun, Rose leapt into a roadside ditch. Shaunce and Bellinger dove for cover beside him. Just then one of the Task Force's tanks in front of them was destroyed by direct fire.

Unaware of their commander's predicament, Division officers in the rear tried to contact Rose by radio. When Division Chief of Staff, Col. John A. Smith Jr., learned that the column had been cut he knew the situation was grave; the more so when a radio message from Rose arrived ordering Col. Liander L. Doan's Task Force to move in and close the gap. It was Rose's last order. Minutes later he and his party became aware of German tanks closing in on them from the rear. Caught in a vise of enemy armor, their only hope was to make a dash across-country and attempt to join forward elements of the Task Force.

Under a hail of bright tracers, the command vehicles cut sharply to the right off the road and into an adjacent field. The messenger left his motorcycle and joined the G-3 personnel in the armored car. It was dusk now, and the Germans were sending up flares to silhouette the American vehicles.

Further ahead, Rose's party turned back onto the road, heading for what looked to them like the silhouettes of Pershing tanks. But when they'd driven past the first of these one of the men noticed that it had two exhaust pipes. Pershings had only one. They were among German Tigers.

Turning back was out of the question. Safety lay up ahead with the main body of T. F. Welborn. DivArty commander Brown gunned his jeep past three of the tanks, ripping off a fender as he squeezed past a fourth. By now the Germans realized they were in contact with the enemy. The fourth tank clanged to a halt and swung sideways, in an attempt to block the American vehicles. Brown barely got his jeep through. Rose's driver floored the gas in a desperate bid to follow him, but was caught in a wedge, his jeep pinned between the huge panzer and a tree.

As Brown looked back to see if Rose had managed to get through, he caught sight of another Tiger bearing down on him. Swerving sharply to the right, he gunned his vehicle over a ditch and cleared the road. Abandoning the jeep in the middle of a field, Brown ran for cover. "Everybody scrambled out and headed for the woods," he later recalled, "as by now the Germans had sent up flares and their tanks were firing."

Before Rose and his companions could scramble to safety, the top-hatch of the Tiger opened and a German soldier appeared flourishing a machine pistol. Perhaps he was one of the half-trained recruits the Wehrmacht were rushing into service in the last months of the war. He seemed excited, even panicky -- possibly trigger-happy. He shouted something unintelligible.

Rose reached toward his pistol belt. The tanker shouted again, seemingly gesturing at the general's side-arm. Can he have thought Rose was about to draw it? It seems incredible that Rose, his .45 still in its holster, would have tried to shoot it out with a man who already had him covered with an automatic weapon. Yet that must be how it looked to the other, for he suddenly fired a volley of bullets at Rose. At least one struck him in the head and killed him. Meanwhile Shaunce and Bellinger threw themselves under the tank and managed to crawl to safety in a nearby ditch.

Shaunce was lightly wounded and, after a series of narrow escapes, reached another Task Force; Bellinger spent four days behind enemy lines before being liberated. Several others got away clean; though Lt. Col. Sweat and his G-3 staff were captured and held for a month in Stalag XI-B in Fallingbostel before they were liberated by British forces.

The next day two 3rd Armored sergeants recovered General Rose's body.
General Rose was the eleventh American general officer killed in action in this war. Eight others have died in airplane crashes and fifteen from natural causes, while eight are missing and nineteen are prisoners of war. Cheated by his untimely death of the national fame he deserved, Major General Rose was buried in the American Military Cemetery in Margraten, The Netherlands. In this large and majestic cemetery, the remains of over 8,300 United States servicemen fallen in WWII rest in peace. To this day, the grounds are lovingly cared for by the people of Margraten.

The following is a brief video of Rose's first interment ceremony, before his re-internment in the Netherlands. Also included is a still photo of his parents, Rabbi Samuel Rose and Katherine Rose, at their home in Denver, Colorado, after learning of his death.

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