Military Order of the Purple Heart

Texas Capital Chapter 1919 Austin, Texas

 

JACK B. WARDEN

1923 - 2014

 

3rd Armored Division patch

36th Infantry Regiment

Unit Crest


JACK B. WARDEN

Patriot, Chapter 1919

 (ARMY, WWII, Europe) Article September 1997

Jack saw 222 days of continuous action in Europe and had advanced from being the youngest man and the junior Private to being the battlefield commissioned Platoon Leader, in the same Platoon; all without a scratch. Until just before war's end, his men had believed he could not be hit by German fire.  Before returning home after the war, he had the exceptionally rare experience of having gone from Private to Company Commander in the same company with no other assignments outside that unit.

Jack B. Warden was born in 1923 in Collin County, Texas. When he was four years old, his family moved to Abilene where he spent all his school years. The Wardens lived three blocks from the Underwoods and both families attended Temple Baptist Church on Sycamore Street. When the war first started, and knowing Jack would soon be going into the service, he and Rebecca Underwood married. Rebecca taught school and Jack answered his draft call, reporting for Army basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky in February 1943.  In July 1943 he was sent to Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania where he became the junior Private assigned to the 3rd Platoon, Company B, 36th Armored Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Division. At age 19, every man in Company B was between six and 23 years older than Jack. He would not leave 3rd Platoon until, as First Lieutenant, he assumed command of the company after V-E Day.  (Editors Note:  It is extremely rare, even in wartime, for a private to rise in rank, receive a battlefield commission, and then command his company without ever leaving that unit of original assignment). 

3rd Armored Division moved to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey shortly after Jack's arrival and then sailed for England in September 1943.  Jack's unit was stationed at Sutton Veny on Salisbury Plains where they trained and waited for the Normandy Invasion. They boarded ship at Southampton, landed at Omaha Beach on Jun 23, 1944 (D+17), and were quickly committed to action. 

Jack saw 3rd Platoon lose many men during the next 222 days of continuous action before he was himself wounded and medically evacuated. Company B never got enough replacements, and never had more than a fraction of authorized officer strength. Jack was promoted from Private to Staff Sergeant before he reluctantly accepted leadership of 3rd Platoon. Only Jack and two others remained in the Platoon after a costly attack on December 13th. Jack received his battlefield commission two days later. Replacements brought his platoon strength up to 17 men before the Battle of the Bulge erupted.

The 3rd Armored Division was committed to help contain the "Bulge", and Lt Warden's Platoon was about to engage in an epic fight. On Christmas Eve morning, 1944, Jack received a "frag order" by radio to “go to Hotton, friends in trouble”.  Hotten (33 miles north of Bastogne) is a picturesque Belgian village on the Ourthe River, with a bridge and crossroads, and it was vital to the advancing Germans. Operating independently, 3rd Platoon, supported by two Medium and two Light Tanks, moved west for several miles to reach Hotton (along the same road where Chapter 1919 member, Ed Socha's Platoon, from the Division's Engineer Battalion, had been taken prisoner 3 days earlier). Jack Warden had barely positioned his 17 Infantrymen and 4 Tanks for defense of the town before darkness fell. Jack says, “That Christmas Eve night was cold and clear as a bell, good visibility because of snow on the ground, when 1,500 Germans with 9 Tanks attacked about 7 PM. The Germans were beaten back several times and lost all 9 Panzers to our tanks and bazookas, but their Infantry kept returning. Finally, when the Germans got among the houses we were in, we tossed grenades out the windows to keep them away. We then called for Artillery right on top of our position and just covered up as best we could. The Artillery came in right on target and it broke up the attack, saving our tails. It was all over by about midnight, the Germans never came back. I only had one man wounded and that was minor.” Lt Warden's 3rd Platoon had stopped the Germans at Hotten, their western-most penetration in that sector of the Bulge.

On March 24, 1945, the 36th Armored Infantry crossed the Rhine near Cologne, and at 0400 hours, jumped off in the attack; towards Paderborn as a final objective.   Jack said, “That day, for the first time, I had a premonition that I was about to be hit.  At Asbach, we were out forward of Company A on our left.  Co A was under heavy fire from four Tanks. One of the German Tanks turned and fired on the building that we were in, wounding 6 of my men and all 17 German prisoners that we had just captured. I had a large shell fragment in my upper right arm, but it didn't bleed badly; so I took two morphine shots and we continued the attack. As we approached the next village, we came upon the same four German Tanks - with white flags on their gun barrels. They surrendered. I talked briefly with the German Tank Commander (who spoke good English), of the tank that had wounded me; before I let the Medics take me back for treatment 

Jack Warden was medically evacuated to a hospital in Paris and he would remain hospitalized for more than a month. He was released and rejoined his unit in May. By that time, Company B was at the Elbe River and the fighting was over.  First Lieutenant Warden soon became Company Commander. Jack returned to the United States in February 1946 and was discharged at Camp Fannin in Tyler, Texas.  Then it was home to Abilene. He and Rebecca moved to Waco in 1947 and lived there several years before making Austin their permanent home. Jack originally worked for the Wesson Oil Co., and eventually retired from Hunt-Wesson Foods in 1972.  Jack Warden became a charter member, helping to establish Chapter 1919, Military Order of the Purple Heart. Jack Warden died February 11, 2014, at age 90.

This is the Western Union wire that Informed Jack Warden's Family

that He Had Been Wounded

Local Newspaper Article Detailing the News from Jack Warden

Lt. Jack B. Warden

December 1944

3AD B Company 36th Armored Infantry Regiment

Earlier Photo

Jack Warden

Armored Infantry Squad Carrier, Halftrack

 

THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE

 

December 1944: Allies advance on Germany in 600-mile north-south line.

 

Hitler plans counterattack, his Wacht am Rhein. Ensuing battle - known as "Battle of the Ardennes" or "Battle of the Bulge," because of the shape of the enemy line - will result in 76,000 American and 100,000 German casualties.

 

CONDITIONS

Cold, snowy, foggy conditions prevent aerial help for Allies.

St. Vith and Bastogne, both important road and rail junctions, control the two north-south thoroughfares fit for tanks.

 

HITLER’S PLAN

Controlling port of Antwerp would cut Allied supply lines and split their armies, buying time for Germany to perfect its rockets and develop atom bomb.

His 5th and 6th Panzer armies would break through the Allies' line at weak spot in the Ardennes.

German 7th Army would hold off Gen. George Patton and the American 3rd Army.

Panzer armies would cross Meuse River, head northwest and capture Antwerp.

 

EVENTS OF BATTLE

(Numbers correspond to map)

 1 -- Dec. 16, 1944, 5:40 a.m.: 250,000 German troops, 2,300 tanks roll over American 106th Division (416 killed, 1,246 wounded, 7,000 missing in action).

 

2 -- Malmedy: Germans slay Allied prisoners.

 

3 -- St. Vith; 424th Division joined by 7th and 9th armored divisions, hold St. Vith for about a week.

 

4 -- Dec. 19, Bastogne: 101st Airborne, 10th Armored divisions besieged by Germans. Americans short of ammunition, food, suitable clothing for the cold.

Dec. 22: Germans demand Americans surrender. Gen. McAuliffe reportedly replies 'Nuts.' Bad weather prevents air drops.

Dec. 22-23: Luftwaffe bombs Bastogne.

Dec. 23: 150 tons of American supplies dropped.

 

5 -- 2nd Armored Division fights five days against 2nd Panzer Division and part of 9th Panzer Division at Havelange at head of bulge.

 

6 -- Divisions of Patton's 3rd Army attack Germans from south.

Dec. 24: Unable to reach Antwerp, Germans plan to cross Meuse at Dinant, drive north, meet other German column that crosses at Roer River and cut off 1st and 9th armies.

Dec. 25: Allies hold Bastogne with help from 4th Armored Division.

 

7 -- Rochefort and Celles: Americans crush German panzers.

 

8 -- Jan. 1, 1945: Patton attacks Germans from south.

 

9 -- Germans attack in Saar River valley, hoping to draw Patton's army away from Ardennes.

 

10 -- German Air Force bombs Allied airfields in Belgium and I Holland.

Jan. 3: Montgomery attacks Germans from north.

Jan. 3-4: Germans launch new, unsuccessful attack on Bastogne.

Russians begin offensive to take Berlin. 6th SS Panzer Army pulled from Ardennes to protect Germany from Russians in east.

 

11 -- Jan. 16: 84th Division from 1st Army and 11th Armored from 3rd meet in Houffalize and nip the end off the bulge.

 

The Battle of the Bulge is over - although not officially until Jan. 28, when the Germans retreat to their original position of Dec. 15. Their morale broken, Germans begin surrendering in huge numbers. By May, the war in Europe is over. Neither the British nor the Americans are destined to reach Berlin first. With many German forces occupied in the Ardennes, Russians sweep through Poland and end up capturing the German capital.

 

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