Dr. J. Ted Hartman was born in Louisiana. Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Ames, Iowa. He was the last of three siblings. His father was a Professor of Forestry on the faculty of Iowa State University. Dr. Hartman is 91 years old and has written a book entitled Tank Driver.
Ted graduated from high school in 1943, and started college, but was drafted shortly thereafter. The Army sent him to basic training in field artillery at Camp Roberts, California. He was assigned to the 11th Armored Division at Camp Cooke, California. Once his training was complete, he drove a tank under the command of General George Patton. A year later, the division was shipped to the east coast by sleeper trains. They boarded troop ships in the New York Harbor. His ship was in the largest convoy of ships to cross the Atlantic Ocean up to that time.
After a two week crossing, his division landed in Liverpool, England. The 11th was moved by train to southeast England to an armored training camp. After five months, his division drove their tanks to the English Channel and boarded ships called LST’s (Landing Ship Tanks) and transported to Normandy, France. The 11th then engaged in a forced march across Northern France.
Dr. Hartman said, “We left for Belgium where the Battle of the Bulge was being fought. We steadily gained ground and by mid-March, 1945, we reached the Rhine River. The Rhine was 1/4 of a mile wide in that location. The engineers had built a pontoon bridge for us to cross. A pontoon bridge consists of air-filled tanks attached to each other with tread ways for the tracks of our tanks to roll on. As soon as we were across, we headed across Germany at full speed, gaining 35 to 40 miles per day. We headed to the eastern border of Germany and turned south to the Austrian border. We crossed the Danube River into Austria. At this point, the war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945. We were 100 miles from the Russians. There were 20,000 German soldiers trapped between the Russians and us. The German soldiers fled and we set up a camp to hold them until we could march them back to the Russians. In order to march them back, we had a tank in front facing forward and a tank facing backward and repeated this process with more tanks until the Germans were surrounded. The Russians were already punishing the Germans angrily.”
Dr. Hartman continued, “There were five men assigned to each of these massive Sherman tanks. They weighed 33 tons and consumed two gallons of gas to drive one mile! In Belgium and France, I drove a tank in a foot of snow many times with no heat in the tank. It was designed to pull in the air through the front and push the air through to the back, so in the summer it was hot and in the winter it was cold. My feet were cold so much of the time that they froze. The doctor told me the blood flow had been constricted for so long during the freezing weather that my feet would never function normally again. My feet still bother me when it is cold.
“Upon my arrival home, I enrolled in Iowa State to complete pre-medical studies. I was accepted to Northwestern University Medical School, after which I acquired training as an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Michigan. I was granted a fellowship at Oxford University, England where orthopedic surgery first started.
I met my wife Jean in a cafeteria. She had been educated in dietetics, and that was her first assignment. I introduced myself and we began dating. After about a year, we married in her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri in 1954. We have been married for 61 years and have three children and four grandchildren.
We have been back to Europe and met an orthopedic surgeon from Belgium who invited us to the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. When we visited Germany, we were treated nicely and even thanked by some Germans, who said they would never have gotten rid of Hitler if the United States had not been involved!”
Respectfully submitted by,
Marian Anderson and her daughter Katherine McLamore,
Co-Chair Texas South Plains Honor Flight Veterans Liaison