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By: Paige Devine

     Period: 1st  


John Matthew Devine

John Matthew Devine (1885-1971) was a decorated General of World War II.  Personally selected by President Eisenhower to serve as Commander of the 8th Armored Division (The Thundering Herd)  in 1944, General Devine had previously served as the Commanding General of the 7th Armored Division, where he served in continuous combat from D-Day plus two, to after landing in Normandy, France.  He led the Division until 1945 during a period of intense combat.  Later, as Commander of the 2nd Armored Division (Hell on Wheels) from September 4, 1945 to March 24, 1946, he oversaw occupation duty in Germany after the war.  


Leading The Thundering Herd

During the most intense fighting of WWII, he led the 8th Armored Division as they defeated German forces inside Germany.  In a New York Times Article dated March 31, 1945, General Devine is mentioned as well as the Division’s role in the Army’s sweep into Germany.  In an After Action Report written on March 27, 1944, http://www.8th-armored.org/aar/8hq_marapr.htm Brigadier General Devine gives an account of the final push of the Division into Germany.  Another interesting and detailed After Action Report from earlier that month (March 7, 1944) can be found at:  http://www.8th-armored.org/aar/ccb_roer1.htm.     The 8th Division was involved in some of the major final victories of the war in Europe, having on March 4, 1945, pushed into Germany, making history by reaching the Rhine.  (The Last Days by John Toland, p. 189)

Hell on Wheels Commander

As Commander of the 2nd Armored Division from 1945 - 1946, General Devine oversaw the occupation of Germany in Berlin at a time when the 2nd Division was staffed to maximum capacity, leading 21,000 soldiers.  During the occupation, Devine led the Division in its return home from victory to United States soil.  In an article in the New York Times, dated January 30, 1946, The Second Armored (Hell on Wheels) Division, arrived in Staten Island from Marseilles, France.  The article mentions that the Second Armored Division was one of the Army’s most active combat units, participating in campaigns from the invasion of Africa to the fall of Germany.   The New York Times article, attached, describes that personnel from the 2nd Armored Division received numerous service medals and honors, took 95,000 prisoners, or six times its own strength at the maximum size. 

During World War II, The 2nd Armored Division had seen considerable bloodshed and hardship.  The months preceding General Devine’s leadership were marked with the movement of the Division from Africa to Normandy, fighting the deeply penetrated German Army who were cold, and lacked supplies.  Vance Kidwell, supply sergeant with the 78th Armored Field Artillery of the 2nd Armored Division had been behind the action in North Africa and reached Normandy several weeks after the division arrived in France on D plus one.  He remembers, “On October 1944 we reached Palenburg (inside Germany) and a week later the town of Uback.”  The Division pulled back numerous times due to snipers and stiff resistance of the Germans, but ultimately was victorious.   The 2nd Armored Divison  remained to occupy Germany as post-war planning and arrangements were made, under the leadership of General Devine.  (The Greatest War, Americans in Combat 1941-1945 by Gerald Astor p. 795 and 805-806).    By April, the Division was mopping up stragglers in Forst Konigslutter, the assigned zone of occupation.  (The United States Army in WW II Chronology 1941-1945 p. 510, compiled by Mary H. Williams for the Office of the Chief of Military History, U.S. Army).  The Division, under the former General Simpson, could have attained a major historical conquest, if it had been allowed to continue his plan, which was to attack Berlin straight up the Autobahn, but the plan was altered due to President Eisenhower’s decision to by-pass Berlin since the Russians were closer and would surely get there first.  (The Last Days by John Toland, p. 385.)

Continued Military Leadership

            After his successful commands leading the 8th and 2nd Armored Divisions from 1945-1946, Devine was named Chief of Staff of the Army, serving for one year in that important position.  In February, 1949, Major General Devine was named Commanding General of the 1st Calvary Division, located at Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas.  He served as Commanding General there until August, 1949. Later in 1952, he retired from Active Service.  Major General Devine died in 1971 at the age of 90. 

A Possible Ancestor?

Through an investigation of my family tree, compiled by my great-uncle, I discovered that General Devine could in fact be related to me.  My grandfather, George Devine, (1938-2010), was born to Gertrude and Paul Devine (1880-1943) in Boston, MA.  Paul’s Father, Matthew, had 3 sons, but we are not sure of their names, except for Paul.  It is possible that John Matthew (1995-1971) could be a cousin to Paul or even a brother.  Further investigation is needed regarding these possible family ties. 



 Online Sources 






 Book Sources

The Greatest War, Americans in Combat 1941-1945, by Gerald Astor

The United States Army in WW2 Chronology 1941-1945, compiled by Mary H. Williams

The Last Days, by John Toland