My father, Sgt. Noble C. May, " Butch" was a tank and truck mechanic in the 3rd Armored Division in World War II. No, he was not classed as a combat soldier because he was not an infantryman, a tanker or an artilleryman, but he was awarded the Silver Star medal which is given only for outstanding bravery. He was definately in harms way. With his weapon, a Thompson machine gun, he joined with the combat infantrymen, artillerymen and tankers where he fought side by side with truck drivers, mechanics, cooks and wounded to stop the German offensive, the Battle of the Bulge, which had swept through our lines.
Anyone who could handle a gun had to join in to stop the German's unexpected counter offensive. He seldom talked of the most horrible part of his duties which was going out to retrieve diabled tanks which often contained body parts. He very rarely spoke of having to remove those parts before he could do his work. My mother spoke of how the war changed him and that I can easily understand. His duty as a mechanic involved working on tanks while they were under fire.
He told me that he was in 2 tanks when they were hit by enemy artillery. Such work as that may have, in a specific instance, earned him the Silver Star. He never talked about what earned him the medal. It must have been too painful to think of it. In addition to the Silver Star, he was awarded 5 bronze battle stars for serving in the 5 different battle zones covered by the 3rd Armored. He asked not to be put in for a Purple Heart because the bullet only burned a path across his skin. He did not talk much of his service, but I feel that he served his country well and am very proud of him. He has passed on now.
Noble C. May Jr.
The 3rd Armored Division ("Spearhead") was an armored division of the United States Army. Unofficially nicknamed the "Third Herd," the division was first activated in 1941. "Spearhead" was adopted as the nickname of the 3rd Armored Division in recognition of the division's role as the spearhead of many attacks during the liberation of France in 1944 starting with Cherbourg.
The 3rd Armored Division was organized as a "heavy" armored division, as was its counterpart, the 2nd Armored Division ("Hell on Wheels"). Later on in World War II, higher-numbered U.S. armored divisions were made smaller, with a higher ratio of armored infantry to tanks, based on lessons learned from fighting in North Africa.
As a "heavy" division, the 3rd Armored commanded two armored regiments containing a total of four medium tank battalions and two light tank battalions (18 companies) instead of the usual three tank battalions containing both light and heavy tanks (12 companies). The division commanded 232 medium tanks, compared to the 168 allotted to a standard light armored division, and commanded attached units numbering over 16.000 men in place of the usual 12,000 found in the light armored divisions. The 3rd Armored also commanded three mechanized infantry battalions.
The division's core units were the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment, the 32nd Armored Regiment, the 33rd Armor Regiment, the 23rd Armored Engineer Battalion, the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and the 143rd Armored Signal Company. During World War II, these units were organized into task forces known as combat commands A, B and R (Reserve). In addition to the core units, a number of other units of various specialties were attached to the division during various operations.
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A big THANK YOU to the United States Army Center of Military History for their help in providing the input for these pages. All pages on this website are constantly being refitted with acurate data and texts and it is an ongoing process.