"Thunderbolt" was always the name Creighton Abrams gave his personal tank during World War II. He served in the US Army 4th Armored Division, initially as regimental adjutant (June 1941 – June 1942), battalion commander (July 1942 – March 1943), and regiment executive officer (March 1943 – September 1943) with the 37th Armor Regiment. In September 1943, a reorganization of the division re-designated the 37th Armor Regiment to the 37th Tank Battalion, which he commanded; he commanded Combat Command B of the division during the Battle of the Bulge. He was promoted to the temporary ranks of major (February 1942), lieutenant colonel (September 1942), and colonel (April 1945). Abrams was promoted to lieutenant colonel only 11 days before his 28th birthday.
During much of this time, the 4th Armored Division (led by the 37th Tank Battalion) was the spearhead for General Patton'sThird Army, and Abrams was consequently well known as an aggressive armor commander. By using his qualities as a leader and by consistently exploiting the relatively small advantages of speed and reliability of his vehicles, he managed to defeat German forces that had the advantage of superior armor and superior guns. He was twice decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor, for extraordinary heroism on September 20 and December 26, 1944.