History

895th AAAA BATTALION

OVERSEAS

with the

“SEMPER VIGILANTUS”

(Always Vigilant, motto of the 895th)

895th AAA AW BATTALION

2nd BATTALION 68th CA (AA)

(Copied verbatim with misspelling, etc., my additions in italics)

895th AAA

NORTH AFRICAN CAMPAIGN

    The 895th AAA AW Bn began its long and brilliant overseas service as the second Battalion of the famous 68th CA Regiment (AA) arriving at sun-soaked Casablanca on 19 Nov 1942 after a 16 day voyage with the D plus 5 convoy of the North Africa invasion force.

Our first taste of combat came on the morning of the last day of that jam-packed year 1942.  The crash of bombs at three AM was our first warning of the attack which lasted till 0600.  The AA defense of the port and airfield prevented damage to any military installations.  It is a matter of pride among the members of this Battalion that the amount of damage to targets protected by us in more than 2 ½ years of combat has been extremely light.

We were handed a signal honor in Jan 1943 when the 40mm gun sections of Battery E were selected to set up in the vicinity of the Anfa Hotel as special protection to the history-making Casablanca Conference at which President Roosevelt, Churchill, De Gualle and other Allied leaders formulated the “unconditional Surrender” policy.

After having absorbed a fair share of African lore and becoming accustomed to the ways of the “Ay-rabs”, we journeyed across the Atlas Mountain Range and late in the afternoon of 19 Feb 1943 descended from the hills onto the great Mediterranean Port of Algiers.

Here it was that this Battalion, still part of the 68th, played a tremendously important part in keeping open North Africa’s greatest gateway so that our fighting comrades far to the east in the hell that was Kasserine, Hill 609, and Cap Bon could be supplied with the abundance of war materials necessary for the successful prosecution of the Tunisian Campaign.

We sited our 40s and 50s on the docks, beaches and hills around the harbor to prepare a proper welcome for the vaunted Luftwaffe.  We weren’t disappointed.  On some eight separate occasions they attacked usually in strength and always determinedly.  Never were they allowed to succeed in their intentions for the splendid AA defense either destroyed them or forced them from their targets.

Units of the Battalion were involved in a number of the moves during the next two months to provide AA protection to other vital areas on the North Africa coast.  In Mar Battery F moved to Jermaps Airport some 325 miles from Algiers.  At the same time Battery H moved to Duvivior, 380 miles from Algiers to protect the railhead there.  Early in April the two batteries moved to Philippville, Algieria to protect the Port area.  Later that month Battery E also departed from Algiers and moved to Cherchell, Algieria and setup AA defense of the Cherchell harbor.  All batteries, their missions successfully fulfilled, returned to Algiers in May taking up Battle positions around the harbor once again.

Sgt Ira Nain, a section leader of Battery A, was later awarded the coveted Legion of Merit for prompt and accurate recognition, in spite of contrary information from the GOR (Ground Operating Radar??) and action against a low flying sneak attack which came in over the sea out of the setting sun of Algiers on 26 Mar 1943.  Sgt Nain opened fire on the aircraft alerting all the defenses and breaking up the attack.  Four of the enemy were destroyed by this Battalion, and more by other AA units.

In Jun after the completion of the African campaign, we moved from Algiers to Cap Bon and the Bou Ficha area where we set up AA defense for the airfields and waited impatiently to play our part in the swift moving battle for Sicily.  We’ll always remember the fleets of bombers taking off night and day to hit at Sicily, a sight of which we never tired.

Later in July we rejoined the Regiment bivouacked in a hellishly hot wheatfield near Mateur, where we sweated and sweltered through our preparations for the op to the land of the Black-Hand.

SICILIAN CAMPAIGN

    On 12 Aug 1943 the Second Battalion departed from Bizerti, Africa for Palermo, Sicily.  The trip was made on LSTs making the second boat ride for the Battalion.  We arrived in the beautiful harbor of Palermo later the following evening.  The landscape covered with green grass and numerous trees presented a welcome relief from the hot barren landscape of Africa.  Upon arrival in the bivouac area at Palermo the battalion was immediately assigned its new mission of protecting the harbor and the Bo Rizzo Airport at Palermo.  A short time after the Battalion arrived in Sicily the Scillian campaign officially came to a close with the Germans being driven entirely out of Sicily.  The Germans suffered great losses as they retreated across the straits of Messina onto the main land of Italy.  Enemy attacks against the installation guarded by the Battalion at Palermo were few and far between.  During our entire stay in Sicily the Battalion engaged the enemy only once in the wee hours of the morning when 20 enemy aircrafts attacked the port installations and shipping in the harbor.  Several bombs fell in the harbor resulting in one PT boat damaged and several casualties.

ITALIAN CAMPAIGN

    A short time after the close of the Sicilian campaign we once again began preparations for a movement but this time a combined overland and water movement from Palermo, Sicily to the Naples Area in Italy.  The long movement began on 30 Oct 1943 across Sicily to Messina and across the Straits of Messina by Ferry and LCTs and then up the Italian coast to Maddaloni, Italy a total of 571 miles.  Upon arrival in Maddloni, the Battalion was attached to the II Corps commanded by Major General Keyes.  It was shortly after that the II Corps attempted to lead an attack to split the German forces at Cassino and drive on to Rome, but only to fail.  We all will remember our first tactical positions in the vicinity of Bellona, Italy on the 10th of Nov 1943.  While accomplishing our mission consisting of providing protection for the II Corps CP (Command Post), lines of communication, dumps, etc, every man was subjected to a month and a half on constant moves through mud, rain and miserable living conditions.  Even throughout this almost unbearable weather the Battalion carried on up through Presonzano, Vainano Caimello, Pietravairano, Capera, Pignatare, Toano and Mignano.

The second day of Jun 1944 (should be Jan not Jun) found all the batteries of the Battalion in an assembly area at Santa Maria, Italy undergoing a period of rest and rejuvenation which was to be followed by a period of vigorous training for an amphibious operation.  But the rest and rejuvenation period was only a short one because on 6 Jan 1944 the unit again took up battle positions in defense of the Third Infantry Division and Ranger Force training area in the vicinity of Pozzouli.

ANZIO BEACHHEAD

    While peacefully enjoying this new assignment at Pozzouli orders were received, on the 18 Jan, for the unit to return to Naples staging area.  From here the forward echelon of the Battalion was soon loaded on the invasion fleet of LSTs that waited on loading docks of the great Naples Harbor.

A few days after the landing, the invasion fleet of LSTs set out from the Naples harbor up the coast of Italy.  On the morning of 25 Jan 1944 the unloading on the beaches of Anzio and Nettuno for the Battalion began.  Later in the day the sea became extremely rough and then night began to fall which caused a halt to the unloading of all invasion barges.  Throughout the night and all the next day as the ships laid in the mine infested waters of the Anzio and Nettuno harbors, the German air corps relentlessly attached through dense Ack Ack fire from the Navy and land installations.  But the next day as the sea became calm, loading once again began inspite of the hostile air attacks.

As the gun sections of the Battalion reached the shore they moved immediately to assigned positions around the Anzio and Nettuno harbor and the landing strip from which they were not relieved until        8 Jun 1944.

Although the German Army was surprised by the landing at Anzio, it was not long before thirteen divisions were assembled and a ring of steel was thrown around the Beachhead.  The German ground forces attempted time and time again to drive the Allies back into the sea by relentless air and ground attacks but the spirit, courage, and desire to live of every man on the Beachhead was so great that every attack was repulsed.  It was during this period of air attacks that men of the Battalion manned their guns continuously destroying the Luftwaffe attacks.

Will we ever be able to forget how the Anzio beachhead was completely shelled by the German Artillery, and how throughout the days and long night the 88s and 170mm shells would scream and then rain on the beachhead causing death with almost every blow.  It was here too that that the Nebelwerfer rocket guns, the screaming “Mimi”, along with the enormous Anzio Express, the giant 280mm artillery piece that fired a 110 pound projectile more than thirty miles with considerable ease, made their appearance embedding memories in out minds never to be forgotten.

It will always be remembered ho during the darkest days of Feb and Mar the Infantry Provisional unit was formed from members of the command to assist the regular Infantry divisions against the German ground forces.  Later, aiding the Engineers in building the defensive positions that enabled the Infantry regiments to with stand the vigorous and relentless attacks from the German ground forces.

Surviving the terrific German air and ground bombardment for four months we finally were released from the Anzio Beachhead on the 25 May 1944 when the main forces of the Fifth Army officialy joined with the Beachhead forces.

It was on 3 Jun 1944 that the 68th CA AA regiment was ordered to reorganize and redesignate it units.  Complying with the above orders the second Battalion of the 68th now became the 895th AAA AW Battalion.

Five days after the unit was redesignated we were relieved by those “Bloody Limies” again and then moved up the coast of Italy to the Port of Civitevecchia just north of Rome.

SOUTHERN FRANCE

    After being relieved at Civitevecchia, the Battalion moved down the Italian Coast to Salerno.  Here a special and vigorous training with the 36th Infantry Division began.  It was not until the end of July that the Division and its attached units moved north again, but this time to the assigned staging area at Naples.  It was here six months previous the unit had assembled for an amphibious operation against the no historic battle for the Anzio Beachhead.  Then as now, rumors and stories as to our future disposition were the min topics of conversation.

The loading of the invasion barges, assault boats and supply ships, etc was accomplished according to proposed plans and as the ships were loaded the moved out into the Naples Harbor.  Here in this beautiful harbor and in the shadow of the world famous Mt. Vosuvius, the invasion, Liberty and ships from the largest to the smallest were assembled.

The huge armada of modern ships slowly weighed anchor in the late afternoon of 12 Aug 1944, as the assault troops lounged on their respective ships and quietly made its way out of the harbor into the Vast Mediterranean Sea for a destination still unknown to most of the members of the Battalion.  However when this gigantic fleet of ships was out to sea four hours, the complete details of the invasion on the coast of Southern France were made known to all troops participating in this enormous operation.

During the early morning hours of 15 Aug 1944 Heavy and Meduim bombers of the U.S. Army Air Force could be hear overhead.  Soon the rumbling and thundering of crushing bombs landing on assigned targets could be heard and felt.  The invasion was now officially on.  With the approach of dawn a gigantic fleet of C47s and gliders carrying the airborne troops who were to be landed in rear of the assault beach appeared in the distance.  In a short time swarms of those air trains darkened the sky.

As the air corps displayed this spectacle of might, the navy was determined not to be out done and as the air fleet was passing overhead the guns of the warships began its tremendous bombardment of the shore installations and emplacements.  Everywhere one could see the assault boats dashing between the large transport vessels hustling to and from the shore to unload the troops and equipment as rapidly as possible on the landing beaches.

This vast scene demonstrated the great sea and air powers and fighting ability of the United Nations joint forces, a sight one will never forget.  As the minutes ticked by the units of the Battalion were unloaded and proceded to a prearanged sites supplying the AA protection for the uploading beaches and supply depots in the general area.  During the first day the German Aif Force failed to make an appearance however, at approximately 2100 hours the AA guns on the beaches began to speak in response to the drone of the long absented German Air Corps.  It was during this air raid that a German glider bomb found its mark on a LST 232 on which 1st Platoon of D Battery were loaded.  The unloading however was not hampered by the appearance of the Lutwaffe and so steady streams of troops and supplies continued to flow on the beaches.

The Battalion remained in the general area of St. Rapheal and provided AA protection for the unloading beaches and air strips for approximately a month.  From here the A, B, and C Batteries redployed to give AA protection to gasoline dumps and the unloading port of Port De Bouc while D Battery enjoyed its relocation at Avignon.  Before long the Battalion moved north to join the VI Corps and then the XV Corps in their drive into Vosges.

RHINELAND

    Leaving the sunny coast of Southern France and moving northward up the Rhone River valley through heavy rain, some of us looking upward, felt those grey – leaden skies belonged to us, we had bought them with our own blood and sweat, paid from them with the fallen buddies we’d sadly left behind to hold forever a bit of earth no one wanted in Central Itally, Anzio, the beaches of Southern France, the deep blue, beautiful, treacherous Mediterranean Sea.  Somehow, we knew we’d continue to pay for them through the days, the battles, that were ahead, we were right, the blood of our men was soon to soak into the rich lam of the “Rhineland”, Hitler’s “Sacred Soil”.

It began when Batteries A and C preceeded the Battalion to Alsace, France, late in October, 1944.  Attached to the 35th AA Brigade, VI Corps, Seventh Army, we took up missions in defense of bridges and airstrips in the vicinity of Epinal, France, then the front line of the U.S. Seventh Army.  It was a rare day that saw even a glimmer of sunshine.  Rain was almost constant, and roads fields were deep. Sucking mires, reminiscent of the Winter campaign n Italy in 1943.  But here, in addition, factors of movement added to the burden.  Besides providing AA protection for bridges  over the Moselle River, and the AOP’s of the VI Corps Artillery, Battery A protected the bivouac area of the Newly arrived 103d infantry Division, and later the VI Corps’ CP at Fremifontaine.  By 14 Nov 1944, Headquarters and Batteries B and D, arrived at Epinal, France.  The entire Battalion was thereupon attached to the 14th Armored Division and given the mission of protecting the Division’s assembly area at the Bois de Charmes.

The drive of the U.S. Seventh Army to clear Alsace of the enemy began on 20 Nov.  It was then that the Battalion became attached to the XV Corps’ 44th Infantry Division which was already committed to spearhead the advance across the Alsation plains, the northern Vosages, and through the defenses of the French Maginot line.  The gun batteries and the Battalion forward CP began a series of rapid marches wit the Dividion’s Field Artillery and other Division installations in the drive that went from Luneville to Sarreburg, thou northeast through the thickly wooded and ominous Hangviller-Dossenheim Pass, north again to Durstel, Montbronn, and Enchenburg.  Throughout this period, rain and mud still dogged the path of men and guns.  Yet, the Battalion pushed on rapidly with the reserve of the Seventh Army.  With the crossing of the Rhine, a hard winter campaign was ended, the final drive to victory was on.

Looking back over the moths of the Campaign we’d completed we know by reason of every tortuous aspect of war, by reason of every conceivable manner of opposition by the enemy and the elements,  by the most miserable factors of rain and mud, of snow and ice, there would remain forever etched in our memories the campaign—“Rhineland” We fought to get there…we fought to stay there…and once again we won that fight, the Rhineland skies were ours.

CENTRAL EUROPE

    The 895th AAA AW Battalion entered the campaign, “Central Europe”, when the first elements of the Battalion crossed the Rhine on 26 March 1945.  The remainder of the Battalion was across the Rhine on 27 March and went into battle positions with the 44th Infantry Division north of Mannheim.  The river crossing was made via the Seventh Army treadway bridge south of Worms, Germany and tho we remember tensely awaiting some defensive action on the part of the enemy during our crossing, the place was as quite as a church—our most vivid memory being our disappointment at the unassuming appearance of the Rhine itself, its non-too-pretty approaches, and the dense smoke screen that covered the bridges.  Battery A however, did go across with the fresh memory of destroying a ME 110, the day before as the plans attempted to straff bridges and other installations in the Seventh Army bridgehead area.  We remember there being very little left of the plane as it lay splattered against the ground at the Western approach to the treadway bridge— a fitting sign that the 895th had Crossed at that point.

Battery B, however, won’t forget the heavy enemy artillery and mortar fire that raked their area on the 29th of March when it went into position with the mission of protection the 44th Infantry Division’s intended bridgesite across the Neckar river during the attack on Mannheim.  The men of Battery B proved they had what it takes when they went into those positions at a time when the Infantry and Combat Engineers thought it “too hot” to approach—another instance of the Battalion doing its job under any circustances.

Following the capture Mannheim, there came a short lull in activity.  We still had to provide AA protection for the 44th Infantry Division but remained behind the front line until shifted down to the VI Corps area again 17 Apr 1945.

Before moving south, however, men of No. 5 Section, Battery D experienced the thrill of knocking out of the sun the first jet-propelled aircraft in the XV area.  It happened on the evening of 1 Apr 1945—a day which until the hours of attack had proved to be a peaceful sunny Easter Sunday.  Apparently the “Krauts” figured they’d present us with a few “Easter Eggs” of the HE variety (Possibly a Heinkel HE 162Volksjäger, “People’s Fighter”) , to mark the occasion.  The Battalion’s guns spoiled the party though and accounted for one of the two ME 262s (another jet aircraft)—roasting the chicken that laid the egg.

A new type of after dark attack became a source of annoyance during these last months of the war.  We’ll always remember al’ “Bed-check Charlie”—those lonely enemy aircraft bussing low over roadnets, straffing all vehicles moving with lights, making things exceedingly hellish for night driving—not to mention disturbing our dreams after we’d nit our sacks after a long day.

Rejoining the VI Corps in April, and moving south in the drive across the Danube and into Austria, we reached our peak of activity since arriving in the ETO.  This was the time of the rapid disintegration of the German Arm and the days of the last wild flurry of activity by the German Luftwaffe.

A series of actions against the highly touted ME 262’s and our old friends the ME 109’s and FW 190’s began with our guns accounting for at least two destroyed and 5 probably destroyed.

Toward the end of the trail, Battalion guns were also given the opportunity of firing on ground targets in support of the Division against a battered, yet stubborn enemy.   The Luftwaffe’s ME 109’s made few sorties due to the inclement weather, however heavy mine fields, and enemy artillery continued to harass men and gun positions.

Men of Batteries B, C, and D will not soon forget the thick woods and the pitchblack rainy nights in the Hangeviller-Dossenheim Pass.  They went through it with the Infantry and set up their guns in the midst of the by-passed, lurking groups of the Wehrmacht.  Always on the alert for any ground as well as air attack, men of all Batteries were successful in rounding up numerous prisoners without loss to themselves and in lending their support to holding this important road to the Rhine.

In the first weeks of December (1944), the Battalion was driving north through the Maginot Line in the Bitche sector when the German breakthrough in the Ardennes caused the U.S. Seventh Army to abandon its attack and to dig in and hold the longest front line on the western front for the rest of the winter.

The Battalion moved to the area southest of Sarreguemines giving AA protection to the 44th infantry Division throughout the winter against the fury of desperate enemy  ground attacks that began as the clock was ticking off the last few minutes of 1944.

The rain had ceased by then but in its stead were snow, sleet, and miserable, penetrating cold that crept through the men’s heaviest clothing as they stood watch at their guns—always alert for attack by air or ground forces.  Enemy aircraft continued to be cautious in their approach of the area defended and once the Wehrmacht learned it couldn’t penetrate the defenses of the 44th Division Sector the Luftwaffe also decided to give the area a wide berth.

The months spent in Alsace-Lorraine, with its French background and unfamiliar Alsacian language confused us a little at first, (or was it the storks on the chimneys) but many of us soon found the warm hearted personality of the Alsatian mademoiselles differed little from those of southern France.  Corporal Vertefeuille of the BSO went so far as to lose his heart and bachelor’s status entirely to one of these maids, becoming the first member of the Battalion to marry on foreign soil.

It was also from Alsace, during this winter, that the first passes were obtained for those glorious few days in “Gay Paree”.  The men who were lucky enough to make the trip will not forget the gayety of Paris in the midst of war, the excellent accommodations provided by the Red Cross and all the host of other charms with which the city was so generous.

On 15 Mar 1945, the Seventh Army began its powerful and Spectacular attack which broke through the Siegfried Line from the south, met the Third Army driving down in its encircling movement from the north and then moving rapidly eastward, established a bridgehead across the upper Rhine.  On 16 Mar (1945), the 2nd Platoon of Battery C, moving through the Siegfried Lin in Protection of 44th Division Field Artillery, which was supporting the 3rd and 45th Infantry Division’s attack, moved across the France-German border and was the first element of the Battalion to go into battle positions on conquered German soil.  Platoons of Batteries A and D (Note each battery was made of approx 8 guns and these guns and crews were broken down into platoons/sections) followed a few hours later and all guns remained with the 44th Division Field Artillery until 21 March, when the breakthrough was assured and what was left of the German Armies was in full retreat and scrambling as best it could toward the illusory safety of the Rhine.

After a few days of rest and rehabilitation, the Battalion moved again in a rapid dash across the German Saar Basin, with the 44th Infantry Division.  The German 15th (?) Army had been cut to ribbons.  Hitler’s hope that the Volksturm would come to his aid also was a dismal disappointment as witnessed by the white flags made of sheets, pillow cases, petticoats or what have you, hung from the windows of almost every German home not smashed to smithereens, along the Battalion’s line of march.

The battalion crossed the Rhine with the 44th Infantry Division over the treadway bridge, south of Worms on 27 Mar (1945), as part of the advancing Infantry.  These missions were also successful causing great havoc to the enemy.  Individual acts  of heroism were not infrequent as we unlimbered our small arms in ferreting out diehard groups of SS troops and Wehrmacht members by-passed and left to us to deal with by the rapidly advancing tank columns.  The Battalion accounted for an untold number of enemy dead and wounded and several hundred were taken prisoner.

During the advance, men and guns were subjected to the usual enemy artillery and small arms fire, and bombing and straffing attacks by enemy aircraft, but this was the “home stretch”—nothing could stop us.

In this memorable “sprint south to Austria”, new battle positions were taken almost daily.  Guns were often moved into position only long enough to permit platoon leaders to reconnoiter new positions.  Bridges, airfields, roads, dumps, troops and guns were among those given AA protection.  The Danube (no one seems to remember anything beautifully blue about it) was crossed west of the flattened city of Ulm on 26 April and the first elements of the Battalion were in position in Austria itself, by 30 Apr 1945.  Many of us began to believe, during this rapid push southward, that the German “Gasther” was built for the specific purpose of providing comfortable over night billets, and whatever refreshment there was available, for the “Amerikanischen Soldaten”, as they pursued the fleeing Wehrmacht through the lovely countryside of Southern Germany.  In most instances we can say the German accommodations (tho mostly of the “Raus die Hous” variety) were truly elegant.

We were in battle positions in the vicinity of Imst, Austria, on 5 May 1945 when the German 19th (?) Army laid down its arms on the Seventh Army Front.  The cease fire order went into effect at 1800B hours – signaling the end of the campaign “Central Europe”, for the 895th AAA AW Battalion.  Realization that hostilities had come to an end came slowly to us that day.  Those years of battle against the wily “Kraut”, had made us wary…we rather cynical about almost everything.  The official VE day on 8th and 9th May, drove home the fact that the war was over for most of us and spirits reach a new high – we’d been through it all – from beginning to end and our record stood among the foremost.

Looking back we found that claims for enemy aircraft destroyed and probably destroyed by the Battalion from the beginning of operations to the cessation of hostilities were 13 ½ Category I (destroyed), and 14 ½ Category II (probably destroyed).  These totals did not reflect 17 Category I, and one Category II officially credited to Port AA defenses and Casablanca and Algiers (Africa), Palermo (Sicily), and Anzio (Italy).  The 895th AAA AW Battalion, then known as the 2nd Battalion, 68th CA (AA), held key AA defensive positions at each of these ports and saw action in all the engagements during which the enemy aircraft noted above were destroyed.  During the Battalion’s participation in the campaigns of the North African Theatre of Operations, it was also credited with damaging 120 additional enemy aircraft.

A total of 226 separate AA engagements – totaling approximately 2,171 sorties, were counted over a two and one-half year period of action during which 95,684 round of 40mm and 135,776 rounds of 50 calibre ammunition were expended.  Looking back we can say we fought the brunt of the German Luftwaffe and can safely rest in the belief that we’ve don our job well.

68TH AAA GUN BATTALION HISTORY

The original 68TH was organized in the Coast Defenses of Long Island Sound

on 1 JUN 1918. Determined to have a crack outfit, the officers who organized

the original regiment chose only men who expressed a desire to go to France.

No man who did not look forward to meeting the enemy became a member of the

regiment. The organization sailed for France on the British ship Leicestershire,

after less than a month’s training.

It was from the Hindu crew of the Leicestershire that the regiment got its

famous yell. The Hindus had a nodding acquaintance with the English language,

and their version of the nautical “GANGWAY” was “GANGWAH” “GANGWAH” SIX-EIQ-fT

HOO-RAH,” which soon echoed across the Atlantic waves. The British Destroyer

68 was one of the escort vessels, and the regiment’s yell, roared across the

water, never failed to get a response from the crew of the destroyer.

The 68TH landed at Tillsbury Docks, on the Thames, where each man, as he

marched down the gangplank was presented with an engraved letter of thanks from

King George. The regiment left for France on another ship with little delay. In

France, after several weeks, 6-inch seacoast guns, mounted on massive carriages

and drawn by huge tractors, were received. Officers and men alike worked heroically

to learn in the shortest possible time to serve and fire their guns. The

regiment was just beginning to feel that it was not only a good outfit, but a

good artillery outfit, when the Armistice was signed.

On the promise of an early ship home, the 68TH moved Thanksgiving Day up a

few days so they would have Thanksgiving dinner ashore, where better facilities

for eating would be available than might be found aboard ship. The promise of

the early ship home did not materialize until 3 FEB 1919, when the unit sailed

for home on the “MATSONIA”.

It is worthy of note that the World War One 68TH had an enviable reputation

for sanitation and police. Inspecting officers hardly ever failed to compliment

the organization for the appearance of the men, the materials and the regimental

area. The sickness rate of the regiment was one of the lowest in the AEF. This

is an excellent indication of the regiment’s efficiency.

It is said that on the way home, two very sea-sick soldiers were leaning

over the rail, as sea-sick soldiers will do, when a Lieutenant said to them,

“You can’t stand there.” One of the soldiers, whose complexion was about the

color of puree of pea soup, gasped, “Yessir. I know it” and slumped to the deck.

Whether or not the story is true, “You can’t stand there” became one of the

regimental sayings that every 1918 68TH soldier and officer remembers. “You

can’t stand there” became the catch phrase of every verbal prohibition.

The 68Th landed at New York on 15 FEB 1919, and was demobilized on 21 FEB.

On 28 FEB 1919 the 68TH Coast Artillery was no more–until 4 NOV 1939.

THE NEW 68TH

On 4 NOV 1939, at Fort Williams, Maine, the 68TH Coast Artillery was reactivated

as an antiaircraft regiment. The need for a crack, mobile antiaircraft

outfit for the First Corps Area was recognized. The 68TH Coast Artillery (AA)

was the answer.

Within two years, the 68TH had grown from a number on an order to a fully

prepared regiment, with 1700 men, nearly 400 motorized units, twelve 3-inch

guns, twenty-four 37 MM guns, and twenty-four . 50 caliber machine guns. To come

this far in such a short time, every officer and every man in the regiment had

to give his best.

An advance contingent of officers and 180 men from Fort H.G. Wright, New York

arrived at Fort Williams on that November day that marked the ~~~n~ o[. th-t

new 68TH. Other officers were drawn from a w1de area. Ten days er e 1rs

‘ . . . . ;

HISTORY

PAGE 2

group of men from the Fifth Corps Area arrived. Two battalions were activated;

the First Battalion was stationed at Fort Williams and the Second Battalion at

Fort McKinley. By the end of 1939 there were nineteen officers and 923 men in

the 68Th. The regiment was a going concern–and a smoothly operated one.

In spite of the inexperience of the enlisted personnel, rigid training schedules

and the willingness of the men combined to hammer the outfit into a well

organized, well-trained unit. With all the heavy training schedules, there was

time for a sports program, which today is one of the great morale builders in

the 68TH.

On 15 MAY 1940 Battery A staged its first night drill with a platoon of

searchlights. Portland gave the drill its full attention. On Memorial Day,

fifteen days later, the regiment marched in its first public parade, through

the sreets of Portland. By 9 JUN the gun and machine-gun batteries were able to

put on an anti-aircraft exhibition for the citizens of the nearby community.

The band was organized and made its first public appearance in the Flag Day

parade.

By 5 AUG the 68Th was in convoyon its way to the manuevers in New York. The

trip was a creditable performance for the new unit. The manuevers were of great

assistance in the training of the regiment.

(NOTE:) It was during the unit’s stay at Fort Williams that the “LOLAMY”

Crest was designed and adopted for the 68TH. “LOLAMY” means. “CAN JX)”. This info

was provided by CHARLES Me KEIGHEN who served in the 68TH at that time.

The change of station to Camp Edwards, Mass., was completed on 16 SEP and

life in a tent camp was experienced for several months while the cantonment was

being completed. Mud and rain made living conditions uncomfortable. For a while

the men slept in trucks because the camp was flooded. The regiment carried on

with a min:i.rrn.ml of interruption, and on 25 NOV movement into the barracks began.

Training has progressed to its final stages. The 68Th is being trained as a

potential fighting regiment. Mobility, accuracy of fire, and all the rest of

the blitzkrieg qualities that are required by a modern anti-aircraft regiment

in modern warfare are being stressed. The 68TH Coast Artillery (AA) has been

welded into a regiment that can fulfill its new mission not only in defense

against hostile aircraft, but also against hostile tanks and mechanized forces.

Having been placed on First Priority for both controlled and non-controlled

items of equipnent, we are now completely equipped for war. We are up to full

strength in personnel. At this date, 20 OCT 1941, we are entering our final

stages of training which will render us fully capable of efficiently executing

any assigned mission.

Finally the 68TH received the long awaited order to embark for active participation

in the war. They sailed from New York on 1 NOV 1942, arriving at Casablanca

18 NOV 1942. Their participation· in the African Campaign consisted of ·

operation in Casablanca and Algiers. The regiment was officially credited with

participating in thirty (30) air raids and destroying a total of thirty-four

(34) kills during the campaign. One battery destroyed a total of five (5) JU-88′s

in a single engagement. The African Campaign terminated for the 68Th in JUNE

1943 upon orders moving them to Sicily.

The Sicilian Campaign was considered the easiest operation of this crack

outfit, and finally terminated in September 1943 with the Italian Campaign.

The regiment arrived at Naples the latter part of September 1943 for participation

in what was to be proven the roughest Campaign. The regiment was soon

rushed to the Cassino front to support the 45TH Infantry Division in a Field

Artillery role This was the first AA outfit in the European Theatre to be

HISTORY

PAGE 3

assigned a Field Artillery mission, another “First” for the 68TH.

The Cassino operation lasted until New Year’s Day 1944. Preparations were

made for the Anzio invasion, which commenced 23 JAN 1944 with the 68TH as one

of the assault forces. This was the campaign which proved the metal of the 68TH.

Twenty-four (24) hour standby alerts were the order of the day for nearly three

(3) months. The regiment was employed in a dual role, that is, they were prepared

to fire against enemy aircraft, or as a Field Artillery mission. The unit

received fire from the noted German’s big gun “Anzio Express” which was located

in the vicinity of Rome. It was here that another “First” was established by

the 68TH. One of the batteries captured the first German one-man submarine

taken in that theatre.

During the Anzio operation the regiment was reorganized. On 30 MAY 1944, the

first Battalion of the regiment became the 68TH AAA Gun Battalion.

After Anzio the fall of Rome came next, with the 68Th Battalion taking an

active part. The participation of this unit in the Italian Campaign ended 10 AUG

1944. The Battalion was sent to the Port of Bagnoli, Italy for another sea voyage

and new adventures. On 15 AUG 1944 the 68Th was committed to Operation

Anvil, the invasion of Southern France.

For their meritorious manner in which the Battalion participated in the

Italian Campaign the Commanding Officer received two letters of commendation

from General Clark. It was cited by General Clark that this battalion had engaged

the enemy in 233 separate flights, and was officially credited with 46

air-craft destroyed, 23 probably destroyed and three (3) damaged.

The 68Th landed on the coast of Southern France 15 AUG 1944 in the vicinity,

of ST. Raphael and was again assigned the dual role of anti-aircraft artillery

and field artillery missions. During this phase the unit supported the 1ST Airborne

Task Force and participated in taking the French cities of cannes and

Nice. As the invasion of Southern France progressed inland the 68Th remained

in tactical positions along the French-Italian borders, in the Maratine Alps

with the spirit of high morale and efficiency always evident.

on 7 MAR 1945 the unit was relieved from its assignment with the 7TH Army

and reassigned to.the 6Th Army Group. Orders were received for a move to the

Vittel area in France to join the 44TH AAA Brigade in the 6Th Army Group. Upon

arrival at this point a new type duty awaited the 68TH. This was acting as security

guard for the 6TH Army Group. All equipment considered excess, such as

90.MM guns, tractors, etc. were to be turned into Ordinance. The Battalion commenced

operation in its new role of security force immediately. Security posts

and road blocks were established throughout the Vittel area. The unit served in

this capacity with numerous personnel returning to the Zone of the Interior under

the point system.

The 68TH as a unit returned to the U.S. in 1946 and was stationed at Fort

Bliss, TX until 4 MAY 1947 when it was brought to zero strength and placed on

inactive status.

HEAIXJUARTERS

68TH AAA GUN BATTALION

FORT BLISS, TEXAS

By order of the Department of the Army, the Adjutant General’s Office, AGA0-1

322 (11 Ocy 48) CSGOT-M, 27 October 1948 Subject Reorganization of the 68TH AAA

Battalion, and 1st Indorsement thereto, Fourth Army, AG 322 (AAA) AKAAG-M, 4 NOV

1948, and Section III, General Order Number 55, Headquarters Anti-aircraft

Artillery and Guided Missile Center, Fort Bliss, TX, 15 NOV 1948, gave the authority

for the reorganization of the 68TH AAA Gun Battalion (90.MM) (Mobile), as

a General Reserve Unit at Fort Bliss, TX, effective 20 NOV 1948, in accordance

6811-l AAA G.JN MITALICN “FIRSTS”

The 68TH AAA Gun Bn was reduced to zero strength in May 194 7. It was reorganized

20 NOV 1948 at· Fort Bliss, Texas.

In NOV 1949 the Battalion was transferred from Fort Bliss, TX to Fort Lewis,

Washington. It remained at Fort Lewis until AUG 1950 when it was ordered to

Korea. It landed in Korea the 6th thru 11th SEP 1950.

Although primarily an antiaircraft unit, the 68TH AAA Gun BN lays claim to

a string of firsts that ~uld do credit to any field artillery outfit.

The 68TH AAA was the first unit in the United States alerted for overseas

shipment after the outbreak of the Korean War.

It fired the first 90M’1 AAA Gun, in support of the Infantry, in Korea on 16

SEP 1950.

Zeroed into the farrous “Bowling Alley” the round was followed by hundreds of

others fran the “NINETIES” of the 68TH and :p.:3ved the way for the 1ST cavalry’s

breakout of the Pusan Perimeter.

16 SEP 1950 was also the day “B” BTRY 1ST SG”"”I’ Salem Jones of Port Arthur, TX

becarre the first m:m of the Battalion to come under enemy sm3ll arms fire.

Jones, a field artillery officer during World War II, was running a survey for

gun batteries, which had never fired as field artillery before, and carre under

fire of the North Korean small arms. “That is one tirre I didn’t need a oorse”,

the Texan said as he retold the story of scrambling up the side of \hill with

bullets kicking up dust around him.

After the breakout above Taegu, the 68TH’s heavy guns were shifted fran one

unit to another as they were needed. At Pakchon they fired the first 90t-t1 shell

into North Korea while supporting the British 27TH Brigade.

A few short weeks later, while attached to the 24TH Division, and only 18

air miles fran the Yalu River, they reached the end of the run north. The big

witrdrawal began as Olinese Camunist oordes p:>ured into the battle, rut for

the “NINETIES• a lot of ~rk was still to be done.

During the rush north the supply system became critical so the battalion

rrotor officer, capt. Edward Stephenson of Olympia, WA., famed what was called

“Operation Hot Rod.” In this operation, 33 of the unit’s vehicles were used as

a provisional truck battalion to rush supplies fran RTOs to the lines. With

1st LT. Lyle R. Lawson of Minneapolis, MN., as executive officer and convoy

leader and 1st LT. Alexander E. Shackelford of Pomona, CA., as the other convoy

leader, Operation Hot Rod gained fame with its speedy delivery of supplies and

was cmmended by I Corps coom:mder LT. Q-:N. Frank W. Milburn.

In one night, 30 DEC 1950, the guns hanmered out over 780 rounds of high explosives

covering the 1st ROK Division as it crossed the Chongchon river. When

battalion S-3 MAJ. Harry Landsman of New York City :p.:3ssed the ~rd to fire fran

the wheels, CAPT. Henry Turek of Jackson, OH. whose “C” BTRY was the last to

cross, reported he had been firing that way for 30 minut,es.

Later at Seoul, the 68TH fired the nineties at a Chinese plune, marking the

first time that type of gun was used as an antiaircraft weapon in Korea.

The 68TH gave the first battlefield promotions by an antiaircraft unit in

Korea.

Personnel from the 68TH were among the first antiaircraft troops granted R&R.

The 68TH AAA was awarded the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation,

Streamer Embroidered.

The 6811-l AAA. Gun BN. was deactivated 25 MAR 1958 in Korea.