DOWNEY – Longtime Downey Resident Craig Charlton recently returned home from France after participating in celebrations related to the installation of a memorial placed in recognition of the 10th Armored Division.
The 10th Armored (“Tiger”) division was activated at Fort Benning, Georgia in July of 1942. Over two years later, the division embarked for France in September of 1944, making it the first armored division to sail directly to the European mainland from the United States.
Upon arriving in the already allied-captured French city of Cherbourg, the division spent around a month in Teurthville to train and ready their equipment for combat. They officially entered combat on May 2nd, 1944 near Mars La Tour France. Later in the same month, the 10th Tigers saw their first major battle when they joined the fight to reduce the fortressed city of Metz, which had previously stood for 1,500 years on the Moselle River.
On the 19th of November, 1944, the Tigers crossed into Germany. By VE Day (the end of the war in the European theater), the 10th had made its way deep into Southern Bavaria, where it then performed post-war occupation duty until leaving Germany on the 12th of September 1945, and inactivated the next month at Camp Patrick Henry Virginia. During their service, The 10th Armored were involved in the defense of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, and are battle credited at Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe.
Charlton was one of 13 individuals of the 10th Armored Division Veterans Western Chapter, including one actual veteran of the division, to make the trip to France. Charlton’s father, Reginald Charlton (d. 2001), was a veteran of the 10th Armored Division and also a longtime resident of Downey, moving to California from Tampa, Florida during the 1950’s.
Another monument to the 10th Tigers had been previously placed in Bastogne, Belgium late in 2011, however the new memorial is the first of its kind in France. The memorial was officially installed on June 25th, a few hundred yards from the Mosel River, where a significant amount of the 10th armored crossed on a pontoon bridge.
According to Charlton, the memorial was placed as a way to honor those who were a part of the 10th Tiger Division.
“It was installed to honor the division that fought there, especially for the ones that didn’t come home,” said Charlton. “And also to honor the veterans that were still living.”
The event was attended by several of the local dignitaries, as well as the US Consul General in Strasbourg Amy P. Westling. Granddaughter of famed WWII senior officer General George Patton, Helen Patton was also present.
Charlton commented that the installation of these types of monuments does not happen much anymore, due to the few number of veterans left and the even fewer of those remaining who can attend. According to Charlton, there are only around 40 living 10th armored veterans remaining on the Western Chapter’s roster.
“We thought it was a very appropriate thing for us to do to kind of leave a legacy there in the area where the 10th Armored first went into battle,” said Charlton. “Hopefully it will be not only just an honor to them but a legacy to future generations that they can read on the plaque who the 10th Armored was and what they were doing there in November of ’44.”