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World War II Veterans Visit Fort Carson
by U.S. Army Spc. Robert Vicens Rolon
September 29, 2019

World War II veterans and their families from the 12th Armored (Hellcat) Division toured Fort Carson, Colorado, as part of their 73rd consecutive annual reunion on July 25, 2019.

July 25, 2019 - James Feezel, a World War II veteran who served with the 12th Armored (Hellcat) Division, visits the 4th Infantry Division Museum on Fort Carson, Colorado during the 12AD's 73rd annual reunion. The 12AD colors fly proudly at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., where it is among the divisions honored and recognized for taking part in the liberation of prisoners from Nazi concentration camps and other sites of incarceration. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Robert Vicens Rolon)
July 25, 2019 - James Feezel, a World War II veteran who served with the 12th Armored (Hellcat) Division, visits the 4th Infantry Division Museum on Fort Carson, Colorado during the 12AD's 73rd annual reunion. The 12AD colors fly proudly at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., where it is among the divisions honored and recognized for taking part in the liberation of prisoners from Nazi concentration camps and other sites of incarceration. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Robert Vicens Rolon)

"Everybody has a different story when they get to combat,” said William Georgov, a veteran who served as rifleman and a machine gunner with the 12AD during the war.

“The day I got banged up, I had volunteered to lead the squad,” he said. “It was a new town. I’m guessing I was out 100 yards in the open. Our squad leader was very nice; every time we would come to a different town, he would select a different point man. I was the point man going into Speyer in Germany. I got halfway across the field — next thing I remember I was waking up on the ground— and I heard someone shouting ‘medic, medic!’ I had no helmet, part of my uniform and my grenades were blown off. Then I realized we got hit. I spent a couple weeks in the hospital and then I got back in my unit.”

But, Georgov said, the most impactful thing he took with him from the war was the bond that he forged between his fellow Soldiers.

“When things got rough, guys would stay together,” he said. “We were all different, but we were almost like brothers. I always felt thankful for what happened. It could have been way worse.”

Georgov is one of the 97 remaining survivors of the Hellcat division, many of which have been meeting every year for nearly three quarters of a century.

Seventeen veterans who served in the 12AD were present for the tour, as well as five generations of family members. The tour encompassed a visit to the 4th Inf. Div. Museum and to the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team Motorpool, where Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, gave instruction on modern weapons and equipment, additionally allowing the veterans and their families to look inside a Stryker combat vehicle.

July 25, 2019 - Cpt. James Frederick, a Soldier assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, demonstrates modern weapons to World War II veterans who served with the 12th Armored (Hellcat) Division and their families, on Fort Carson Colorado on July 25, 2019. The 12AD colors fly proudly at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., where it is among the divisions honored and recognized for taking part in the liberation of prisoners from Nazi concentration camps and other sites of incarceration. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Robert Vicens Rolon)
July 25, 2019 - Cpt. James Frederick, a Soldier assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, demonstrates modern weapons to World War II veterans who served with the 12th Armored (Hellcat) Division and their families, on Fort Carson Colorado on July 25, 2019. The 12AD colors fly proudly at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., where it is among the divisions honored and recognized for taking part in the liberation of prisoners from Nazi concentration camps and other sites of incarceration. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Robert Vicens Rolon)

Additionally, the 4th Inf. Div. Color Guard joined the 12AD during the weeklong reunion, where they presented the 12AD colors during a memorial service held for the fallen, and performed honor guard duties for the missing man table, also known as the fallen Soldier table, during dinner ceremonies.

The division, originally based out of Abilene, Texas, was active from 1942 to 1945 and campaigned in Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe for a total of 102 days of combat during the height of World War II.

The Hellcat Division earned two more nicknames during the war. They were known by the Germans as the “Suicide Division” for their fierce performance during Operation Nordwind in France, where, though being outnumbered and facing superior tanks, they held their ground and drove the Germans back.

They were additionally known as the “Mystery Division,” when General George S. Patton recruited the division, ordering all tanks to be painted over, as well as the removal of all identifying unit insignia, disguising the fact that Patton had an additional tank division under his command.

The 12AD colors fly proudly at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., where it is among the divisions honored and recognized for taking part in the liberation of prisoners from Nazi concentration camps and other sites of incarceration.

The 12AD is a family, and that’s what has been driving everyone to meet every year, said Corban Heinis, reunion chairman for the 73rd reunion, whose grandfather served in the 12AD.

“Everyone loved it,” Heinis said. “They loved seeing the new equipment. They loved meeting the Soldiers and their overall experience was exceptional. I’m thankful for all the Soldiers involved and for their hospitality.”

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American Pride: Poems Honoring America and Her Patriots! by David G. Bancroft