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Mystery Division

Mystery Division at Rhine
Patton’s Forces Chasing Germans on Road Back

March 22, 1945
New York Herald-Tribune
By Joseph Driscoll

The “Mystery” Division of General Patton’s 3rd Army took the spotlight today by reaching the Upper Rhine, entering the important chemical city of Ludwigshaven and penetrating within seven miles of the ancient Cathedral City of Speyer, the chief community of the Bavarian Palatinate.

It was a good days work, and once again Patton’s Army was favored by blue skies and maximum visibility, which facilitated the slaughter of the enemy on the road back from the western front. A few days ago it was estimated that there were 80,000 German troops in the box between the Rhine, the Moselle, and the Saar, and now it seems that few of the these will reach the east bank of the Rhine now that the 3rd Army has cut around to their rear and their own high command is blowing every bridge on the Rhine for fear the Americans will seize it and make it another Remagen bridgehead.

But to get back to the “mystery division”. Every Army has at least one Mystery Division. When an important operation starts it is assumed that the enemy knows something about the opposing strength. On that assumption we announce certain Divisions as being on the line and withhold the identity of others.

In the present cleansing of German forces from their last stronghold west of the Rhine it was announced that General Patton was employing at least 13 Divisions, making it one of the largest Armies since the battle of Bastogne, when he had 17 Division, the largest American Army ever. Believing that each division in the line is entitled to credit for the gains it makes, we announced the identity of 12 Divisions, withholding only one. All that we were permitted tosay was that it was one of our four Armored Divisions setting the pace for the nine Infantry Divisions.

Obviously it wasn’t the famous 4th Armored under General Patton’s former Chief of Staff General Hugh Gaffey, which was first to reach the Rhine and Coblenz, Bingen, Mainz, and Worms, inspired by such a sparkplug as 30 year old Lt. Col. Creighton W. Abrams, of combat command.

Nor was the “mystery” outfit to be confused with the 11th Armored Division which took Andernach and Brohl, north of Coblentz and now has gone south to march on to fresh victories under a new commander. Brig. Gen. Holmes Daeger, who had preceded Abrams in command of the 4th’s CCB.

Nor for that matter with the 10th Armored Division under Maj. Gen. William Morris, Jr. which gave the present operation a good start by taking Trier and Saarburg and helping to outflank the Siegfried Line from Merzig to Saarbrucken, both of which have since fallen.

To prevent confusion the Mystery Division is not to be mixed up with the 6th Armored Division commanded by Maj. Gen. Robert Grow which was transferred to Gen. Patch’s 7th Army for the present operation and distinguished itself by breaking through the Siegfried Line to link up with the 3rd Army near Kaiserslautern; nor with major General John W. Leonard’s 9th Armored Division which was transferred to the 1st Army and under Brigadier General William M. Hodge won undying fame at Remagen by seizing the first bridgehead across the Rhine.

In other words, the “Mystery” Division must remain a mystery so far as the Germans are concerned, BUT IT IS FAR FROM BEING AN UNKNOWN QUANTITY, judging from today’s results.

NOTE: The 12th Armored Division was known as the “MYSTERY DIVISION” until after crossing the Rhine River on March 24, 1945.

With the armored divisions spear heading the advance and the infantry mopping up, the flying boys of the 19th Tactical Air Force under Major General O.P. Weyland enjoyed another field day bombing and strafing the retreating Germans and engaging in dogfights with the enemy, who came up in greater strength than usual with jet planes and old-fashioned propellar craft. As one flight leader reported:

“The Jerries must have thought we were friendly at first, because we were able to pull up into range before they started dropping their belly tanks and splitting up and running.”

And for a picture of a day’s activity in the blue skies over the beautiful Rhine country:

“I must have killed the pilot with the first burst, because the plane kept going straight and level. I peppered it with lead and it didn’t burn up, so I moved up alongside and saw the pilot slumped over in the cockpit. I gave it another burst and then the ship went down.”

“The other Jerries had scrammed by this time, so I headed for home alone. Over the Rhine I saw two planes going like bats out of hell.

I dropped down to look and saw that it was a P-51 chasing an ME-262 carrying bombs. I climbed for altitude and split-eagled down on the jet. I got him with the first burst and slowed down to 250 miles an hour—and then my ammo ran out.

I was so mad I flew up alongside the jet and thumbed my nose. The pilot must have known that my guns were dry, because he thumbed his nose at me.

That made me so mad I pushed back my canopy and emptied my .45 pistol at him, but missed. Then I turned into him and forced him down until he crashed:

“When I left, all I saw was a column of white smoke where he had hit.”

It’s to the happy teamwork of the armored divisions, the infantry and the air force that we owe the sensational successes of the last few weeks. Measured in terms of miles gained and towns cleared, we of the western front have needlessly developed something of an inferiority complex in the relation to the eastern front. The fact is that we have nothing to be ashamed of, all the more so when it’s considered we have been crossing the extremely rugged mountains and the Hunstruck Plateau and rivers too numerous to mention.

Since March 3 we have captured 5,230 square miles of territory and occupied 4,225 communities. In ten days from the Kyll to the Rhine the 3rd Army captured 1,060 square miles and occupied 950 communities. We rated that a very successful operation, indeed, but since March 13, operating south of the Moselle, we have captured 4,170 square miles and occupied 3,275 communities.

Altogether, we have occupied an area half the size of Belgium.
If the western front and the eastern front can maintain a pace like that Hitler’s Reich will shrink to the size of his hatband before long.