The infantry men and the M4 Sherman tank at Sprimont, Belgium, 9th of September 1944.
This is an article about some research I did to the picture below. It shows a group of advancing infantry men next to an M4 Sherman tank.
This picture is well known to many, and often has the caption “Yanks of 60th Infantry Regiment advance into a Belgian town under the protection of a heavy tank”.
I think the picture is amazing. The men all huddled up next to the tank, advancing on the Rue Fond Leval in Sprimont, Belgium on September 9th, 1944. This is how the same spot looks today:
However, I always wondered about this specific picture. After enlarging it many times, and studying the helmets of these men, I was always convinced that these were men of the 39th Infantry Regiment, also part of the 9th Infantry Division. It seemed as if they had the famous “AAA-O” slogan painted on their helmets. This slogan was created by Colonel Harry “Paddy” Flint, and meant “Anything, Anytime, Anywhere, bar none!” Read more about the history of the AAA-O here.
In the enlarged picture you can clearly make out the AAA-O stencils on the helmets. This indicated that these men were not part of the 60th Infantry Regiment, who used to have the “Go Devils” logo on their helmets, but actually men of the 39th Infantry Regiment!
Now, besides finding out about the helmet stencils, I wanted to find some more concrete evidence that would place these men in Sprimont on the 9th of September, 1944. Let’s have another look at the picture: We can assume that the picture was posed. If the street would be unsafe, the person taking the picture probably would not have been this far out into the street to take the picture, but huddled up next to the tank as well, are maybe hugging a wall of one of the houses. The hatches of the tank are also open. These were usually closed when going into a combat zone. All this could indicate that these men were at this location after the initial fighting.
We know that all 3 Regiments of the 9th Infantry Division were advancing towards the direction of Verviers and Eupen during these September 1944 days. The 3rd Armored Division created Task Forces, consisting of their own Armored Regiments with various attached units, including units of the 9th Infantry Division. In the 60th Infantry Regimental After Action Report for September 9th, 1944 there is mention of the Regiment advancing to Sprimont, and encounter enemy resistance here:
“The following day, September 9th, 1944, the Division found itself east to the vicinity of the town of Verviers. The 60th Infantry Regiment pushed onward on the right and moved in a motorized column from Ouffet to Poulseur, where it crossed the Ourthe River. The Regiment continued advancing to the town of Sprimont, reduced a German strong-point there, and then turned south for about three kilometers to secure the bridges over the Ambleve River at Aywaille. At the end of the day, the 60th Infantry Regiment bivouacked on the Aywaille area, where they were greeted by many happy locals”.
When we look at the map, the route for the 60th Infantry Regiment looks like this:
For the 39th Infantry Regiment, we find this After Action Report entry:
“Meanwhile, the 39th Infantry Regiment moved out from Villers le Temple in trucks and advanced to the vicinity of Gomze Andoumont where it attacked against tank, infantry and mortar fire. Joined by a Task Force of the 3rd Armored Division, the regiment quickly eliminated the opposition, but because the armor had priority on the road, the advance was delayed and defensive positions were taken up for the night in the Louveigné area, just southwest of Gomze Andoumont”.
Again we have a look at the map, and see these movements for the 39th Infantry Regiment:
As we can now determine, the route of the 39th Infantry Regiment went through Sprimont as well. There was no action for these men, as the 60th Infantry Regiment already swept through the town. There must have been time to take a proper picture, resulting in this amazing, beautiful picture of the advancing men of the 39th Infantry Regiment through the town of Sprimont on September 9th, 1944. I always found this picture very interesting and am happy to find some clues that can place the men of the 39th Infantry Regiment there on that time.
One thing is sure: The men next to the tank are not part of the 60th Infantry Regiment, but clearly are members of the 39th Infantry Regiment.
I will update this page with new information as I am still researching these pictures. Any additional information is welcome, and feel free to CONTACT me.