Cobra King is an American Sherman tank of World War II. During the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, the Germans had attacked a weakly defended section of the Allied line, and the tank was the first unit to enter the Bastogne perimeter in relief of the besieged 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army.
Cobra King was serving in Company C of the 37th Tank Battalion of the American 4th Armored Division, which was the spearhead of General Patton’s Third Army racing toward Bastogne. The 37th was then under the command of Creighton Abrams, later commander of American forces in the Vietnam War and Chief of Staff of the United States Army; Cobra King’s commander was Lieutenant Charles Boggess, heading a crew of Hubert S. Smith (driver), Harold Hafner (co-driver), Milton Dickerman (gunner), and James G. Murphy (loader).
The tank crew spotted some soldiers in the distance who through binoculars looked like Americans. But the tankers were wary because infiltrating German troops were said to be dressed as Americans. Finally, an American soldier strode to the tank, stuck his hand out to Boggess, and said “Glad to see you”.
On December 26, 1944, Cobra King led its company in intense fighting in the village of Assenois. After fighting through the town, it made contact with the American 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion, at 4:50pm. With this, the German encirclement finally was broken, although several days would pass before supply lines to the south were firmly established.
Cobra King then fought on into Germany. Within a short time in the field, the chalk legend “First In Bastogne” was weathered off, and it later gained a new crew, and the identity and historic status of the tank was largely lost.
Cobra King was part of Task Force Baum, Patton’s controversial and failed attempt to liberate the prison camp Oflag XIII-B. All the tanks of the task force were destroyed; according to Army historian Patrick R. Jennings, Cobra King was hit by a round that penetrated its armor and started a fire inside on March 27, 1945. No crewmen were killed, but the tank was abandoned, and the Germans later burned it.