Remembering Cobra King: December 26th, 1944, in Bastogne

One of the more memorable exhibits in the forthcoming National Armor and Cavalry Museum will be a Sherman Jumbo M4A3E2 assault tank known as Cobra King.  She has quite the history.

During the German winter offensive, the Battle of the Bulge, an important crossroads town in Bastogne, Belgium had been cut off and surrounded by German forces. Patton’s Third Army was tasked with trying to break through the German lines in the south with the 4th Armored Division as the main spearhead of this counterattack. On December 26, 1944, Lt. Boggess, commander of Cobra King was fighting his way on the road from Assenois, Belgium to Bastogne. Cobra King was way ahead of the rest of the column and had just destroyed a German bunker along the road when Boggess spotted several uniformed figures in the woods near the bunker. They wore the uniforms of U.S. soldiers, but knowing how Germans were disguising themselves as Americans, he maintained a wary eye. He shouted to the figures. After no response, he called out again and one man approached the tank. “I’m Lieutenant Webster of the 326th Engineers, 101st Airborne Division. Glad to see you.” With that meeting at 4:50 p.m. on December 26, 1944, Patton’s Third Army had broken through the German lines surrounding Bastogne.

The crew of Cobra King pose for this famous photo near Bastogne, Belgium after they broke through enemy lines on December 26, 1944. The crew consisted of First Lieutenant Charles Boggess, Corporal Milton Dickerman and Privates James G. Murphy, Hubert S. Smith and Harold Hafner. (U.S. Army Photo)

. . .

After the war, Cobra King became a monument tank, put on display at Erlangen, Germany and then from there relocated to Vilseck, Germany where it remained in obscurity, the wrong registration number painted on its side from one of its numerous repaints. In May 2001, Army Chaplain Keith Goode was checking out monument tanks while serving in Germany. He was locating serial and registration numbers of Sherman tanks on U.S. Army bases. He passed the information on to the G104 Sherman interest group in the U.S. where member/historian Joe DeMarco confirmed that the tank was indeed the actual Cobra King.

. . .

At first the plan was to restore the interior and exterior to the way Cobra King looked on December 26, 1944. However, the discoveries of her interior altered that plan. It was decided … that the exterior of Cobra King would be restored to how she looked during the Battle of the Bulge, but that the interior would be left showing interior modifications to ammo storage and the damage sustained … After a two-year exterior restoration, Cobra King was as finished as possible before she was shipped out to her new home at Fort Benning, Georgia in August 2011.

There’s more at the link.

Cobra King is believed to have been written off during the controversial raid on Hammelburg in March 1945.  Her interior was so badly damaged by fire that she could not be repaired, so she was used as a display or “gate guardian” tank until her identity was rediscovered.

It’s nice to see a piece of history like that restored to its rightful place of prominence.



  1. I have wonder about serving in a tank commanded by someone who's name could be pronounced "Beau Geste" (Lt. Boggess).
    As I recall the movie didn't have a particularly happy ending… 🙂

  2. Thanks for the nice post! I'll need to go see that tank and that museum for sure. My dad was a Sherman company commander – his unit history has been an interesting read, especially when Dad was mentioned. He was literally at the tip of the proverbial spear in April, 1945, not too far from Frankfurt on the Mainz river, when his tank was hit by Panzerfausts. Got kind of dusty in the room reading about that and how one of his LTs rescued him under fire… and sobering to realize if that LT hadn't done so, I wouldn't be here.

  3. If you want to see tanks and tank armaments the place to go for now is Aberdeen Proving Grounds. They have an amazing collection of US, WWII German and Soviet Export (think Vietnam/ Desert Storm hardware). The only threat is the tanks are stored outdoors so they have a tendency to be nesting sites for paper wasps !!! Also there is a museum of U.S. Army small arms with
    quite a selection unusual/unique rifles, pistols and machine guns.

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