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752nd Tank Battalion
Historical Narrative

752nd Tank Battalion Guidons

The 752nd Tank Battalion was among the first of 121 Tank Battalions to be organized during the World War II era. Originally constituted as the 72nd Tank Battalion (Medium) on 13 January 1941, it was redesignated on 12 May 1941 as the 752nd Tank Battalion (Medium). Only four tank battalions existed prior to 1 June 1941, when the 752nd and nine others (751st through 760th) were officially activated. These ten battalions, plus the 70th, 191st, and 193rd, comprised the 1st Tank Group, which operated as a controlling headquarters until the thirteen independent tank battalions were assigned to infantry divisions in-theater.

The 752nd was activated at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, under the command of Lt. Col. Glen Anderson. Shortly after activation, the battalion moved to Ft. Lewis, Washington to complete its basic training. This phase of training was completed on 13 April 1942.

From April to July 1942, the 752nd Tank Battalion underwent Desert Training at Camp Young, in the Mojave Desert near Indio, California. This training was conducted under the direct supervision of General George S. Patton. When the 752nd entrained for overseas embarkation on the east coast, General Patton is quoted as saying "There goes the most highly specialized bunch of killers this army has turned out so far." Though few of the new recruits appreciated Patton's harsh discipline and hard-driving style at the time, most came to appreciate the lessons they learned from Patton when they entered combat. Many decades later, vets said the lessons they learned from Patton saved many lives in combat.

The battalion was one of the first US Army units of any type to ship overseas, leaving the New York Port of Embarkation on 6 August 1942 aboard the RMS Orcades. The 752nd underwent additional training at Tidworth Barracks in England, under the command of Lt. Col. George Bender. Following training in England, the 752nd shipped out for Oran, North Africa aboard the RMS Reina Del Pacifico, landing there on 17 January 1943.

Though well-trained and ready for its initial combat experience, the 752nd was sidelined throughout the entire North African campaign due to a misinterpretation of a War Department policy. As a result of this error, the 752nd was inactivated and reclassified as the 2642nd Armored Replacement Battalion on 17 March 1943. In this role, the unit was stripped of most of its men and equipment, which were transferred to replace the heavy losses sustained earlier by the 1st Armored Division. The men who remained with the newly formed 2642nd ARB operated an armored training school in North Africa, and trained thousands of men and officers who were transferred to combat assignments with other units.

The reclassification error was not resolved until 16 September 1943, and on this date the 2642nd was inactivated and reclassified once again as the 752nd Tank Battalion. The official reclassification orders state that the original orders "were published as the result of a misinterpretation of War Department policy," and that the 752nd "has never been inactivated."

By this time, the North African Campaign was drawing to a close, and the 752nd was re-equipped and reorganized under the command of Lt. Col. Hyman Bruss, formerly of the 1st Armored Division. The battalion was brought up to strength under the new Table of Organization, which added Company D to provide light tank support to the three existing medium tank companies. The 752nd shipped out to Italy, arriving near Naples on 12 January 1944. The battalion continued its training mission at a staging area near Eboli.

The 752nd saw its first combat action on 27 May 1944 as part of the Fifth Army's Anzio breakout. From this point on, the battalion quickly distinguished itself as a combat-worthy unit. The 752nd put in some hard fighting in the liberation of Rome, then experienced bitter combat in the drive to the Arno River in the summer of 1944. During this drive, the 752nd faced some of Germany's most elite units, and saw some of its roughest combat in the taking of Cecina and Rosignano. From here the battalion worked its way up to Livorno (Leghorn) and Pisa, then shifted eastward toward Florence, pushing through the Gothic Line in the fall of 1944.

During the harsh winter of 1944-1945, the 752nd remained relatively static in the Apennine mountains, due to extremely poor weather and ground conditions. Many of the men wintered for several months in their tanks, or in caves, or in bombed out houses. In February 1945, command of the 752nd passed to Major Coryton M. Woodbury, who was promoted to Lt. Col. in April 1945.

On 16 April 1945, the battalion began its push out of the mountains and into the Po Valley. On the 21st of the month, the men of the 752nd, along with elements of the 34th Infantry, were the first Allied troops to enter the key city northern Italian city of Bologna. Following the liberation of Bologna, the 752nd continued in a relentless 19-day pursuit of the Germans northward to the Alps, until the end of hostilities on 2 May 1945. The battalion met extremely fierce resistance and suffered some of its heaviest losses during the final two weeks of the war.

The 752nd was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation for its action in the Po Valley. Here, General Bolte of the 34th Infantry attaches the Distinguished Unit streamer to the B Company standard in the award ceremony that took place on 19 September 1945 at Soleschiano, Italy.

On 22 September 1945, Lt. Col. Woodbury left the battalion for a position in the Command and General Staff School in the States. Command of the 752nd was then given to Major Marvin H. Singley, whose command of the 752nd was short-lived. Singley was replaced by Major Cornelius J. McGroarty on 23 October 1945. McGroarty had previously served as a Captain/Executive Officer of the Armored Training School. McGroarty's command ran through 23 March 1946, when Major Henry W. Urrutia took over as the 752nd's commanding officer. Urrutia was replaced on 12 March 1947 by Major Graham T. Stevens. Though the records are a bit unclear, it appears that Stevens was replaced after a 2-3 week command by a Lt. Col. Richardson on 31 March 1947. From June 1947 to inactivation in August 1947, the 752 was effectively run initially by Captain Edward S. Robbins (Acting) and finally by Captain Gerald A. Harty (Acting). It is unclear what role Richardson played during these final months. Click here for officer photos and additional information concerning dates of command.

The 752nd Tank Battalion was officially inactivated on 10 August 1947 per General Order #31, Headquarters Port of Leghorn, APO 512, dated 8 August 1947.

The lineage of the 752nd Tank Battalion continued for another 10 years after its inactivation. Some of the men and tanks of A Company formed the 15th Tank Company of the TRUST peacekeeping force, which was activated on 1 May 1947. This unit served in a peacekeeping role on the border of Italy and the former Yugoslavia, and suffered casualties in this "police action." The 15th Tank Company was redesignated as Tank Company, 351st Infantry Regiment in December 1949. These "TRUST Tankers" continued in their peacekeeping role until 1954. Tank Company, 351st Infantry Regiment was deactivated at Fort Rucker, Alabama in 1955.

Though previously inactivated, the 752nd Tank Battalion was officially re-designated as the 323rd Heavy Tank Battalion at Newark, NJ on 25 January 1949, and was inactivated 31 July 1950. The former 323rd was redesignated as the 29th Tank Battalion on 27 October 1950 at Fort Hood, TX as a segregated all-Black unit. The unit was integrated on 21 April 1952, and immediately after integration the 29th Tank Battalion's efficiency was deemed unsatisfactory, and the battalion was rated "zero" on combat effectiveness. This score was attributed mainly to the newness of the troops. About a year after integration and with additional training at all levels, the 29th Tank Battalion received an "excellent" score in Army Training Test 17-7. The 29th Tank Battalion served in Germany as part of the 2nd Armored Division, serving in Baumholder and Bremerhaven.  The battalion was inactivated 1 July 1957 at Bremerhaven, Germany, thus ending the lineage of the 752nd Tank Battalion.

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