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Artillery Battalions in World War II

Crew of 105mm (M2). Note the panoramic scope on the left side of the gun.
Crew of 105mm (M2). Note the panoramic scope on the left side of the gun. | Source
Crew of a 155mm howitzer in North Africa, 1943 (1st ID ner El Guettar).  The version of the 155mm they're using was modfied the next year. Most notably, the safety plate was changed. The trails aren't split in this photo either.
Crew of a 155mm howitzer in North Africa, 1943 (1st ID ner El Guettar). The version of the 155mm they're using was modfied the next year. Most notably, the safety plate was changed. The trails aren't split in this photo either. | Source
8 inch howitzer battery, Philippines, 1944.
8 inch howitzer battery, Philippines, 1944.
155mm "Long Tom" battery training in England
155mm "Long Tom" battery training in England

Unparallelled Development


The use of artillery reached its zenith in World War II. The technical development between the world wars, particularly in the United States, created a system that was second to none. Time and time again in postwar interviews, German soldiers mentioned the fear that American artillery engendered along the front lines. They knew that as soon as an American spotter plane appeared over their positions, it would only take minutes before a massive barrage rained down death and destruction. There was no place to hide. The multitude of different caliber weapons combined with pre-configured firing tables meant no escape from its power. No matter how deep you tried to dig or how far you tried to run.

One of the keys to the success of the artillery branch in World War II lay in the structure of the battalion and its personnel. Whether it is within a division or as part of a Corps artillery group, the battalion was the primary unit structure for the artillery branch in World War II. Within those battalions were some of the most highly skilled personnel that the U.S. Army had throughout the war. Between the wars, there were important changes to the standard practices of the branch. Unit structure was evaluated, standard operating procedures were rewritten, and new technologies came on line. Regardless of the theater in which they operated, the branch was able to put all of these innovations into use.

The size of the battalion depended on its main weapon. The bigger the gun, the more men you needed, though the basic battalion structure for both the 105mm M2A1 and 155mm M1 units was similar regardless of the gun. Each battalion had three firing batteries (4 guns each), a Headquarters battery (the CO and his staff along with the fire direction personnel, communications center, etc.), and a Service battery (ammunition, basic supplies, mechanics, etc.). Batteries were further subdivided into sections. Battalions were usually headed by a lieutenant colonel with an executive officer who was usually a major. Batteries were headed by a captain with an exec who was a lieutenant. A 105mm battalion contained just over 500 men. Each battery had about 100 men, which broke down into five officers and 95 enlisted of various rank. A 155mm battalion had approximately 550 enlisted men with 30 officers, with each battery having around 120 men. I use the word approximately because once combat operations began, it was rare for any unit (Division, Battalion, Regimental, etc.) to have a complete table of organization. There was a replacement system, but the exigencies of combat left all units in the combat arms (infantry, armor, engineer or artillery) short of men. The Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 caused such a manpower crisis in infantry units that even some artillery units ended up sending non-essential personnel to the infantry as replacements.


Gunner Corporal using the M12 Panoramic Scope.
Gunner Corporal using the M12 Panoramic Scope. | Source

Within an infantry division, there were four artillery battalions, three M2A1 105mm howitzer battalions and one 155mm battalion. The three 105mm battalion were assigned to one of the three infantry regiments to support, forming a combat team. The assignments were made back in the States and continued upon deployment. The 155mm battalion supported the units or areas most in need at the discretion of the Division artillery commander (better known as Divarty). There were also units called cannon companies that used the M3 105mm, a lightweight, short-barreled version of the gun. In the first two years of the war, the 105mm self-propelled and 75mm howitzer were their main weapons. But they were part of the infantry regiment, and used at the discretion of the regimental CO. In theory it was supposed to provide supplemental firepower for the infantry companies. However in practice, they just never seemed to fit into the basic operations of the regiment and in many cases, ended up being used as perimeter defense. Using the vernacular of today, they could be described as a heavy weapons company on steroids. After the war, they were disbanded.

Besides the four firing battalions, an infantry division’s artillery complement contained a Division Headquarters component. It consisted of a battery headquarters, operations platoon, communication platoon, an air observation section and a maintenance section. Included in the operations platoon was an instrument and survey section along with a meteorological section. The communications platoon had the wire and radio section which was provided with over 30 miles of telephone wire and 4 radio sets. The supply and cooks sections rounded out the unit.

The jobs of the enlisted members of each firing battery varied depending on their training and circumstances with many personnel being cross-trained to do a variety of work. Each gun crew was considered a section and within each section there was a sergeant (Section Chief), a gunner corporal and assistant gunner (known as the #1), two other assistant gunners and three cannoneers. A driver and assistant driver rounded out the 105mm section, making for a total of nine men. Although requiring more personnel and having some technical differences (i.e. external powder bags), the duties of the 155mm crews were essentially the same.

No. 1 gunner on a 105mm (M2). He's to the right of the breech responsible for elevating the gun and attaching the firing pin. Top of the safety plate can be seen upper right.
No. 1 gunner on a 105mm (M2). He's to the right of the breech responsible for elevating the gun and attaching the firing pin. Top of the safety plate can be seen upper right.
Although a staged photo, it does give a good view of the 105mm. You can see the #1 holding open the breech block, and the wheel that the gunner would use for deflection.  There's also a great shot of the gunner's M12 panoramic scope.
Although a staged photo, it does give a good view of the 105mm. You can see the #1 holding open the breech block, and the wheel that the gunner would use for deflection. There's also a great shot of the gunner's M12 panoramic scope. | Source
105mm crew arriving in North Africa during Operation Torch, November 1942. Note the tire difference with later versions of the gun. Those are solid rubber tires. Within a year all 105mm M2s had pneumatic like the ones below.
105mm crew arriving in North Africa during Operation Torch, November 1942. Note the tire difference with later versions of the gun. Those are solid rubber tires. Within a year all 105mm M2s had pneumatic like the ones below. | Source
Gun section of the 522nd Field Artillery supporting the famous 442nd Infantry Regiment in 1944.
Gun section of the 522nd Field Artillery supporting the famous 442nd Infantry Regiment in 1944. | Source
240mm gun being towed by M33 tractor, Italy 1943 or 1944. The barrel was transported separately and then hoisted by crane into the gun carriage once in position.
240mm gun being towed by M33 tractor, Italy 1943 or 1944. The barrel was transported separately and then hoisted by crane into the gun carriage once in position. | Source
240mm howitzer of the 698th FAB in Italy, March 1944.
240mm howitzer of the 698th FAB in Italy, March 1944. | Source

Behind the safety plate, on the left side of the breech, the gunner corporal worked a telescopic sight known as the gunner’s quadrant (or gunner’s scope), containing an azimuth scale that measured horizontal deflection, which he set on orders from the firing officer. Officially, it was called the M12A2 panoramic telescope. It could be rotated manually 360 degrees. The sight had an alcohol bubble which he had to level prior to firing while using number wheel to traverse the tube left or right.

Red and white aiming posts were laid to the rear of the sight, almost in a straight line. One aiming stake was approximately 30 to 40 yards back while another was placed halfway between the gun sight and the other stake. The position of aiming posts could vary depending on the unit and terrain. Upon receiving the orders from the firing officer such as Command Left 10 or Right 20, the key task for the gunner was to get the aiming stakes and the gun sight lined up on the vertical crosshair in the scope. If the command was left 10, the head of the site would then be moved off of the aiming stakes by that many degrees. Then he would use a hand wheel to traverse the gun left. Looking through the sight once again to determine that he was still lined up with the aiming stakes, his last task would be to level the bubble, and shout ‘Ready!’ This told the Section Chief that the gun was ready to fire; he then held up his right arm as a signal to the gun crew.

Keeping the gun aligned properly was a difficult task when under the pressure of multiple fire missions, so the gunners had ways of cheating a little bit. Where possible, they could set the scope on a fixed target (e.g. Church steeple) and line up the angle on that. The wide dispersal of an exploding shell, which could be more than 50 yards, gave the gunners room to be off a little bit.

While the gunner corporal worked his sight, the assistant gunner, positioned on the right side of the breech, operated a hand wheel to set the elevation. During the relay of firing commands, included were terms such as Up 15 or Down 5, from the zero. Once the orders were received, he would spin his wheel to the correct angle. But his task did not end there; he also operated the breech block, set the primer and pulled the lanyard upon the order, Fire! Both he and the gunner corporal were also responsible for keeping the crew away from the tremendous recoil of the barrel which could kill or maim, especially in the 155mm. After firing, the breech was opened by the #1 and the shell casing would drop out automatically, where it was picked up one of the loaders to be tossed aside.

105mm ammo crew arming shells during the Battle of the Bulge (591st FAB -106th ID). Love the cigarettes around all that powder.
105mm ammo crew arming shells during the Battle of the Bulge (591st FAB -106th ID). Love the cigarettes around all that powder.
Priming an 8 inch shell
Priming an 8 inch shell
240mm howitzer preparing to fire, January 1944. This was the largest field gun in the U.S. inventory during the War.
240mm howitzer preparing to fire, January 1944. This was the largest field gun in the U.S. inventory during the War.

The two assistant gunners and three other cannoneers in the section were responsible for packing the shells with powder bags, setting the fuses according to the mission specifics and loading. Although the shells were shipped semi-fixed with the fuse already installed, it was the powder that provided the punch, so that had to be added to the shell. Each shell could take up to seven bags of powder, which were wrapped in silk and tied together. Maximum range for the 105mm was approximately seven miles (12,205 yds). The ammo men would disassemble the shell, pack the bags based on the firing orders, and reattach the fuse. Then the fuse had to be set using a special wrench. The majority of the shells expended during fire missions were usually high explosive (HE). There was a setting sleeve located at the base of each fuse. On an HE round, the ammunition crews could set it for either point detonating (PD) or time superquick (TSQ). This depended on how it was turned. For example, if the setting sleeve was turned parallel to the shell, it was set for superquick. Under the pressure of a fire mission, these tasks were hellish in the freezing, wet weather of Northern Europe. If your frostbitten hands were not already cut up from separating the silk powder bags with a knife, you got soaked kneeling down in the puddles and mud that formed around the gun pit.

155mm gun section, Huertgen Forest 1944. Great example of crew members in action. The corporal gunner to the left of the breech and #1 gunner to the right. One of the loaders disposing of the casing.  3 ammo crew to the right. Section Sgt is on phone
155mm gun section, Huertgen Forest 1944. Great example of crew members in action. The corporal gunner to the left of the breech and #1 gunner to the right. One of the loaders disposing of the casing. 3 ammo crew to the right. Section Sgt is on phone | Source
Empty shell casings near gun section, Elsenborn Ridge, 1944.
Empty shell casings near gun section, Elsenborn Ridge, 1944. | Source
105mm shells
105mm shells | Source
White phosphorus shells fired on German positions during the Bulge.
White phosphorus shells fired on German positions during the Bulge. | Source
Great close-up of a crewman adding a propellant charge to a 155mm howitzer.
Great close-up of a crewman adding a propellant charge to a 155mm howitzer. | Source

The crews on the 155mm had different challenges. Extra men were needed just to carry the shells. The 95-pound shell required separate-loading bagged charges that were loaded with the shell according to the orders given by the firing officer. There were seven different propelling charges, with TNT being the most frequently used. It was the sheer weight and logistics involved with the operations of the 155mm ammo that was daunting. Shells were usually shipped in pallets, with eight shells per pallet. At the ammo dumps, these were broken down for shipment by truck to the batteries. A truck could carry between 50 and 60 shells per trip. The fuses were shipped in crates, about 25 per box. The shells had lifting rings attached at their nose during shipment, and they had to be removed to install the fuse. As with the 105mm, color markings were used to differentiate the type of shells. The setting sleeves also mirrored those on the 105mm ammo. Because of the separately loaded powder, it was vital that the powder chambers of the 155mm tubes be swabbed and inspected after each round was fired. If too much powder residue built up in the barrel, it could cause a catastrophic explosion when a round was fired. Amazingly, those incidents were relatively rare considering the near constant use that most of the weapons received.

155mm battery during the Battle of the Bulge
155mm battery during the Battle of the Bulge
8 inch howitzer on the move during the Bulge
8 inch howitzer on the move during the Bulge
A gun section of the 333rd Field Artillery  preparing for action in Normandy.
A gun section of the 333rd Field Artillery preparing for action in Normandy. | Source

Other battery and battalion personnel included radiomen, wiremen, instrument operators (survey team), cooks, drivers, and mechanics. Many of the specialists were also grouped into sections and personnel from both the communications section and survey teams often were part of forward observation teams. Artillery batteries also had a fifth section, which was called the machine gun section. They were responsible for guarding the perimeter and hauling extra ammo.

One of the primary jobs of the instrument and survey section (also called the detail section) was to scout new positions for the battery, help lead the battery into and out of their firing positions, and lay in the guns. The skills of these men also translated into high quality artillery observers. They were also charged with conducting topographical surveys, which during combat operations were carried out rather infrequently. Upon arrival at a position, using such equipment as aiming circles, range finders, and other survey equipment like steel tapes and chains, the enlisted men of the section would lay in the guns to prepare them for aiming direction and elevation. Their officer would take a reading from the aiming circle so that the four guns of the battery would be aligned and shoot parallel with each other. The aiming circle was a small scope graduated with 6,400 mils as opposed to the usual 360 degrees (a mil is 1/6400 of a circle). It aids in laying in the guns by taking into account the Y Azimuth distance between true north and magnetic north. The reading was then given to each gunner while the howitzers were at zero deflection and a minimal elevation from level.

105mm crew preparing the shells during training exercise. Ft. Jackson, 1943. The sergeant in the middle is instructing the soldier on attaching the shell (top part) to the casing below after it has been packed with ammo bags.
105mm crew preparing the shells during training exercise. Ft. Jackson, 1943. The sergeant in the middle is instructing the soldier on attaching the shell (top part) to the casing below after it has been packed with ammo bags. | Source
Crew laying wire near St. Lo, June 1944. The steep hedgerows helped concealed the crews but also the enemy. Many times the Germans were able to ambush the crews and cut the wire.
Crew laying wire near St. Lo, June 1944. The steep hedgerows helped concealed the crews but also the enemy. Many times the Germans were able to ambush the crews and cut the wire. | Source
No matter what your job, it was dangerous - Artillery battalion mess sergeant lies dead after a German barrage, April 1945.
No matter what your job, it was dangerous - Artillery battalion mess sergeant lies dead after a German barrage, April 1945. | Source


Many of the other non-firing battery assignments came with a multitude of dangers and nowhere was that more illustrated than for the men of the wire section of HQ Battery. Their job was to lay, repair and pick up telephone line. An artillery battalion communications net was its lifeline and monitoring its operation meant constant vigilance. The risk of being spotted by enemy observers was ever present. Running a spool of black telephone cord from HQ to an observation post could put one under fire from mortars, machine guns, snipers, shelling, both friendly and German, as well as enemy patrols. The black telephone cables were constantly shot up and there were up to several miles of cable laid out between an observation post and the FDC or battery. Dense woods, thick mud and snow made repairing the lines physically demanding work. Finding the break in a line required both skill and a little bit of luck. Usually, two men were sent out. They would follow a dead line some distance, usually to a place that had just been shelled. From there, they would splice into the line with their own EE8A telephone, and crank it to ring back to their starting place. If they received an answer, they had to keep moving and the procedure was repeated until they did not get an answer. This indicated that the break was somewhere between where they were and the location of the last “Okay” call.

M7 Self-propelled 105mm ("The Priest")  near La Gleize, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge
M7 Self-propelled 105mm ("The Priest") near La Gleize, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge | Source
Forward observation team near Cherbourg, France, June 1944.
Forward observation team near Cherbourg, France, June 1944. | Source

Officer Corps

The officers’ jobs within the battery varied. Despite the copious Army manuals and regulations that defined nearly every aspect of life, the Army still encouraged low-level decision making regarding daily operations of its combat units. Junior commanders were expected to use their own initiative. Although this concept was much more limited in the artillery branch than in other branches, in practice each battery’s CO had great autonomy on officer assignments. In many cases, the executive officer ran day-to-day operations and oversaw all firing sequences and missions. Just like the enlisted, the cross training of commissioned personnel was an essential element in every battalion. The other officers could be assigned to a variety of tasks, which included motor officer, daily maintenance, firing officer or forward observer.

Duty as an observer usually occurred on a rotating basis for the officers of each battery within the battalion. A lieutenant led the small team of 3 or 4 men to a forward outpost to spend up to several days manning a front line position. There was even an instance within the 106th ID when a battery commander was actually manning an observation outpost at the time of the initial attack during the Bulge. When the situation was more fluid, as was the case in the summer and fall of 1944, the observation team may stay with a particular infantry unit for an extended time.

The majority of the officers within the artillery branch were highly skilled. If not West Pointers, many were from military schools such as the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) or the Citadel. Others were graduates of rigorous artillery ROTC programs from around the country. The Ivy League schools supplied the artillery branch with hundreds of officers throughout the war. Many others were reserve officers with established professional careers in civilian life. Later in the war, field commissions for qualified noncoms became commonplace.

Packing A Punch

US Marine artillery crew on Guadalcanal operating a 75mm pack howizter.  The jungle environment created unique problems for observers because of the tree canopy.  The climate was also corrosive to ammunition.
US Marine artillery crew on Guadalcanal operating a 75mm pack howizter. The jungle environment created unique problems for observers because of the tree canopy. The climate was also corrosive to ammunition. | Source
The 105mm M3 is seen above in France, 1944.  This smaller version of the 105mm howitzer replaced the 75mm gun in Army airborne units and cannon companies.
The 105mm M3 is seen above in France, 1944. This smaller version of the 105mm howitzer replaced the 75mm gun in Army airborne units and cannon companies. | Source

They Used Captured Weapons Too

Source
Source

Adapting to the Mission

Another key feature of American artillery during the war was the role of non-divisional artillery battalions of all calibers. These battalions were directly under the command of their respective Corps which had its own commanders and staff to coordinate all its elements. Battalions were also formed into field artillery groups of various calibers. The groups began forming in 1943. The command element of the groups was structured very similarly to that of a divisional artillery HQ with such features as fire direction center, H&H battery and service battery. A group was usually assigned from two to six battalions. One or more of the battalions of a group might be attached for direct support to an individual division. Such was the case with many African American artillery battalions. All of these units, regardless of their group or assignment, were considered Corps artillery. In a postwar study, the Army noted that the group command structure was one of the keys to success during the war because it permitted the commanders to shift artillery battalions from army to army, corps to corps or even to support individual divisions. This way the additional fire support went where it was needed quickly. During the Bulge, many of these Corps units were on the move every 12 to 24 hours. The shift of several large caliber artillery units, particularly segregated African American battalions, to Bastogne during the first 48 hours of the battle helped save the city from capture.

There were 238 separate field artillery battalions operating in the ETO by war’s end, with 36 105mm and 71 155mm battalions. This included self-propelled units such as the 275th Armored Field Artillery, who were positioned just north of the 106th. The other calibers were the 8 inch, the 240mm, and the 4.5 inch gun. For the larger caliber units and the armored field artillery, the number of guns per battalion differed from those of the standard infantry division artillery. Armored field artillery battalions had the same command structure within their organic divisions as the infantry, but contained 18 self-propelled howitzers instead of the usual 12 for the towed variety. The 8 inch gun and 240mm howitzer battalions had a total of six guns per battalion.

After the war, change came again. Guns continued to be improved while others were phased out. By the Korean War, they had added six guns to the standard battery. Self-propelled artillery took on a greater role and of course, missile and rocket technology changed the branch forever. But it was the work those battalions did in World War II that set the stage for the rest of the 20th Century and beyond.

Sources

Books

Dastrup, Boyd. King of Battle: A Branch History of the U.S. Army's Field Artillery. TRADOC 1992.

Lee, Ulysses. The Employment of Negro Troops. U.S. Army 1966. (part of the Green Series)

Zaloga, Steven. U.S. Field Artillery in World War II. Osprey 2007.

Periodicals

Field Artillery Journal, March 1945.

Field Artillery Journal, October 1943.

Military History Online, "US Army in World War II: Artillery and AA Artillery." Rich Anderson, 2007.

Interviews

John Gatens, U.S. Army Ret., Personal interview, October 17, 2011.

John Schafner, U.S. Army Ret., Email interivews.

More by this Author


Comments 87 comments

UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 3 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Absolutely first class! I learned so much from this hub, but the fact that sticks out in my mind is that the loaders actually had to put bags of powder into the shells. I knew that large naval guns had separate warheads and cylindrical bags of powder, but I guess I imagined that those 155 mm and 105 mm shells were "fully formed"-- like bullets. Voted up, etc.


lions44 profile image

lions44 3 years ago from Auburn, WA Author

It's great that you were able to learn something. That's why we write. When I started writing my book, I also did not know that the 155mm shells needed external powder. I thought they were all self-contained. So it's been a real learning experience for me. Just the other day, I was able to purchase a M12 panoramic scope from a 105mm howitzer (WWII vintage). Real coup after trying for so many years.

I've learned so much from other hubs myself and I love the WWI stuff. Not sure a lot of Americans know much about that war pre-1917. Thanks again.


panpan1972 profile image

panpan1972 3 years ago from Greece

Extremely interesting!


Keith Gorzell profile image

Keith Gorzell 3 years ago from San Mateo, California

Wonderful site. Wish I would have found this before my father passed in 2009. He told little, but earned the bronze and silver star with the 980th as a highly respected Staff Sergeant in a 155 "Long Tom Battery" from D-Day to the end, including the Battle of the Bulge. His 144th FA National Guard unit held reunions from 1946 to 1998 when the numbers grew too thin.


lions44 profile image

lions44 3 years ago from Auburn, WA Author

Glad you enjoyed it, Keith. I'm trying to spread the knowledge about the role of artillery not just in WWII but throughout American military history. Your father must have done something extraordinary to win both the Bronze and Silver Star as an artilleryman (forward observer?). I've heard of the 980th and will read up on them. Thx for the tip.


Nancy 3 years ago

Someone at the 83rd Facebook page sent me a link to your page--thank you for this! I guess a lot of us get smart too late to ask our fathers about the details of their war. My father was typical, I suppose, in that he rarely talked about his experiences. He was the CO of Battery B, 908th Field Artillery, 83rd Division (Capt. John G. McNamara). I only became very interested in his war experiences in the last year or so -- I began to wonder how my parents Dated during a war, and that began my pursuit of it all. My mother was a nurse with the 16th General, an evacuation hospital closest to the Battle of the Bulge. My parents ended up marrying in Paris, but my father didn't come home for a year after my mother did. Like many, I sure wish I had pressed him for details of what he did. I knew he got a Bronze Star, and that he operated big guns, but I guess I magically thought he had a kinder/gentler war experience--whenever I saw pictures of WWII fighting, I never associated it with my dad. I know he was fairly deaf in one ear from the guns--do you know if they wore earplugs at all?

I have to reread all of this and print it out for his descendants to know what a skilled man he was! After he got out of the army, he got his engineering degree, so he had the right kind of mind for this job (I, on the other hand, did Not get the Gadget Gene, at all!). I am in awe of these warriors from WWII.

Thank you!


lions44 profile image

lions44 3 years ago from Auburn, WA Author

Hi Nancy,

Your comment is one of the nicest ones I've ever received and I'm so glad that you found it interesting. I was worried that it was a little "dry." Until I began writing about the artillery branch, I had no idea how skilled these guys were. So happy to share the knowledge with everyone. The men did not wear ear protection of any kind while in combat. I'll look up your dad and his unit. There's some great stuff online about the 83rd. I'm writing a series of articles on "artillery heroes," and hopefully I can get your dad into one. Much appreciated.


Nancy 3 years ago

Hello again--wish there was a way to get a "you've got mail" on responses here, I'm afraid I'll miss something! I would love any information you come upon about my father. I have had help from the 83rd page, and am particularly amazed at the young women and men in Europe who continue to remember the WWII soldiers, and have been so helpful. Can you contact me privately so I can send you my email, or is that impossible?


nancy 3 years ago

Oh, or I guess I can just put it here and you can not post it, correct? I'll check back soon


Tom 3 years ago

A mil is not a "thousand of an inch." That doesn't make any more sense than saying a degree is 20 feet. A mil is a measurement of angle. 1 mil is 1/6400 of a circle (actually a little more, since there aren't exactly 6400 mils in a circle).


lions44 profile image

lions44 3 years ago from Auburn, WA Author

Tom, I probably should have used the term "equal to one thousandth of an inch." Would that have been better? Let me know.

Other than that, did you like the article?


lions44 profile image

lions44 3 years ago from Auburn, WA Author

Hi Nancy,

You can get me on Facebook or you can leave your email ( I will not post it.) I think my full name is in the profile.


Ralph Poore profile image

Ralph Poore 3 years ago

Your article helped me clear up a puzzle I had about how forward observers worked. During World War II, my father was a sergeant in a liaison unit of the Headquarters Battery, 29th Field Artillery, 4th Infantry Division. I became interested in his service after his death in 1976. Since then I've interviewed a number of veterans and read others' memoirs.

Some members of the 29th Field Artillery Battalion recalled that they served in a forward observer unit for one of the battalion’s batteries, A, B or C. This did not seem possible. A forward observer couldn't request fire from a particular battery, even if he wanted to. Every call for artillery fire came through the fire direction center, which directed the fire of the batteries.

After reading your article, I now see that an officer in one of the batteries could have served as a forward observer for the battalion, but still had to go through the fire direction center and not the battery for which they were an officer.

I'm still trying to understand the role of the liaison units, which also acted as forward observers.

What often makes things confusing is that during battle liaison unit officers in the Headquarters Battery sometimes moved to one of the firing batteries and their explanation of their roles could be come confused.

If you could offer any enlightenment on the role of the liaison unit, I'd greatly appreciate your comments.


lions44 profile image

lions44 3 years ago from Auburn, WA Author

Hi Ralph,

Thanks very much for your comments. Sorry to hear you dad passed away so young. Did your dad or the other men you interviewed use the actual term "liaison unit?" Although I have not heard the term used in that context, I think I can still offer some insight. I know that all of the batteries/battalions had liaison officers and every unit had a "battery agent." They fulfilled the role of a liaison between the units. The battery agent was an enlisted man who reported directly to the battery or battalion CO. Many times he traveled with the survey (detail) team and reported back to the CO that they could lay in the guns at a certain spot or that there was a march order. Some of the source material for my book came from a memoir by a battery agent (I will try to find it).

Was your dad in the detail section? Do you remember what his particular MOS was? That would help a lot. I do know that many of the men I interviewed ended up doing duties other than they ones they were initially assigned (a radio man became a fire control technician or the gun mechanic joined a gun crew, etc.). That was especially true for the men assigned to survey duty. So anything is possible.

I can pass along my source material so that you can give it a look. It will offer tremendous detail that you might not have gotten before.

The 29th has a great website, so your lucky there. I will reread some of those stories again to make sure that I did not miss something and email one of my sources to confirm my conclusion. Also, check out the following Army manual: "T-1 Organization of Field Artillery of the Infantry Division and Employment of the Field Artillery Battalion in Reconnaissance, Selection and Occupation of Position. Field Artillery School – November 1942." It is available free online. From what I remember, I did not see a liaison team listed in the T & O. I can send along a copy if you would like (via email or regular email).

I hope to be in touch shortly. If you have more information regarding your dad or his unit, please send it along.


Ralph Poore profile image

Ralph Poore 3 years ago

I have interviewed several men of the HQ Battery, including the sergeant who was head of the wire section and handled communication lines between the fire control center and the batteries and between the center and the liaison units as well as FOs.

Everyone I interviewed referred to the units as Liaison 1, 2 and 3. Each unit worked with a separate battalion of the 8th Infantry Regiment. Each unit also acted as an FO. I will have to check my notes, but off the top of my head each unit had a lieutenant, sergeant and two radio men and maybe a wire man.

I will have to go back and check my dad's records, but again off the top of my head I want to say his MOS was "scout."

I'm familiar with the 29th FA website and you will find info on my dad there (I'm named after him). Unfortunately, the owner of the site has died and it is no longer being maintained.

I'd appreciate any source material you can point me to. Thank you for your consideration.


Ron 2 years ago

My Dad served in WWII with the 312th Field Artillery from 1942 to 1945. He received a Presidential Unit Citation during the war in France. Does anyone know what battle this was from?


lions44 profile image

lions44 2 years ago from Auburn, WA Author

Hi Ron, I believe your dad would have been in the 79th infantry division? I can check on this later. They landed in Normandy around June 12, 1944. They reached the German border in late November I believe. So that would have been the timeline. The division suffered heavy casualties during that time. You can email me through hub pages and I can provide you with further details as well as a contact with the Division association.


Scott 2 years ago

My grandfather's World War 2 service records were lost in a fire. He served in the 808th Field Artillery Battalion as a field lineman 641 from June '44 to October '45. His campaigns were Southern France, Rhineland, and Central Europe. My grandmother was sure he served under General Patch (7th Army). My uncle is sure his line of travel was Africa, Italy, Germany, France in that order.

I can't figure out to what division/corp/army was the 808th attached. Can anyone help?

Thank you!


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lions44 2 years ago from Auburn, WA Author

Hi Scott, I'm on it right now and hope to have an answer for you in a few days.


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lions44 2 years ago from Auburn, WA Author

Hi Scott,

The 808th was a Corps artillery unit with XIII Corps, which saw extensive combat. Although not sure of the exact date yet, I believe they entered combat duty in July 1944. As I get more info, I'll let you know and put together some source material.


tyler 2 years ago

what was the REAL cause of WW1 and 2?


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lions44 2 years ago from Auburn, WA Author

Hi Tyler, not sure if you're asking a question or making a comment...let me know.


harveymk 2 years ago

I'm a pastor, leading the funeral tomorrow for a Forward Observation Officer in the Battle of the Bulge. Your article gave me the primary metaphor through which I can lift up the life of this man who served his country and God, as a mathematics teacher, a WWII and reserve officer, a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Thank You.


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lions44 2 years ago from Auburn, WA Author

Harveymk, that's one of the nicest things I've heard. Glad I could help and I'm very humbled by your words. Thx.


James Reigle 2 years ago

Hi Nancy, My Dad, who died last June (2013) was in B battery of 259TH FA Btn during WWII. He told me they used English made 5 1/2 inch guns that were actually called rifles. I haven't been able to find any info on these guns or on the 259th. I have a history of the 259th written by a friend of my Dad's was in HQ Btn but I would like to read more if it exists. Would appreciate any help you could give. Thank you, Jim


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lions44 2 years ago from Auburn, WA Author

Hi Mr. Riegle, according to the info I have, the 259th used 4.5 inch guns. Not sure if I detailed them in my article but they were similar to the 155mm. I will try to find more info about where they were.


shawshank 2 years ago

Very informative page! My grandfather was in the 278th Field Artillery Battalion Battery A during WWII. My parents stated that he ran advance communication lines which leads me to believe he was part of the wire section of the HQ battery. I did some research and found that his rank was T-4 and that he received a bronze star in addition to a soldier's medal. I'm curious if you know what sort of responsibilities his rank would entail. If I'm not mistaken, there are T-3, T-4, and T-5 ranks in the Army, so I was interested to know what some of the differences would be in an artillery battalion such as the 278th. Thank you for all the great information!


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lions44 2 years ago from Auburn, WA Author

Thx shawshank. Your dad was a Technician Fourth grade (sergeant) and his primary duty would have involved laying cable to and from observation posts as well as between other HQs (batteries, inf. companies or the Battalion HQ). From the men I've spoken to, he would have leading a group of about five men (usually with a cable truck with a spool on the back) while they laid it all out. A lot of the time it was hand rolled (particularly near the front line). I have more details and source material I can offer you. Let me know. You can use this comments section or email me from my profile page.


Earl 2 years ago

Wonderful descritive article. Brings back the memories of training on

105 Howitzers at Fort Knox in WWll. Everything you describe is just as it was in those days and I am amazed at the advances that have been

made in the artillery fire power today. Thamks so much.


MickC 2 years ago

Lions44 you have a wonderful site. I have learned so much about how the battalions were made up and how they operated. My Dad was with the 670th F A B 155 mm howitzer. He trained in Ft. Sill, OK. I know he landed in France 6 Feb 45 and was attached to the 86th Infantry Division for 2 days. After that I can find no information as to who they were attached to and what battles they were in. He talked a little about always being on the move (fire-move-fire-move) with one exception when he told me of firing for so long so quickly that their barrel actually warped. Any information you may have as to their campaigns would be very much appreciated. Thanks again for a great site...


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lions44 2 years ago from Auburn, WA Author

MickC, I will do my best to get the info. As an independent artillery battalion (Corps unit), information about their various locations can be tough to pinpoint even with the after action reports or their daily battalion reports. Will write back soon.


MickC 2 years ago

Thanks anything will be appreciated


Nancy 2 years ago

James Reigle, I am sorry that I can't help you -- this page informed me of almost anything I learned! I also joined the 83rd Inf. Div. Facebook page and group and there are still some veterans who chime in occasionally, but none of them was with the FABs. You could try joining the infantry division that your FAB was in and see if anyone has information for you. I did see them on this page, but neither of the two my dad was in (he was also with the 323, but I thought that was at the end of the war and not a FAB, so I'm still confused about some of it:

http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/wwii/usarmy/a... and this site does mention the 5" guns (do an F3 search, just one mention). Wonder why the two of my dad's aren't mentioned?

I have found other mentions of the 259, but sometimes I can't really tell what sort of a page I'm on. Is there only one 259FAB in WWII, or does each...division? use that number. Trying to figure it out for my own too.


nancy 2 years ago

Hi, don't feel like you have to put my blurb, I am crazily mixed up, I think! Have to get the "numbers" straight.


AlH 2 years ago

For MickC: I was in the 67oth F A Bn. and can give you quite bit of information about the Battalion


mickc 2 years ago

Thanks AIH, any information about the 670th is appreciated. I can give you my e-mail address if that would help or just posting on this site might help others also...mc


charles w hase 23 months ago

I am loking for any information of the 676 field artillery battlion. My dad served in this unit in44and45. I would really like to know where they were in europe


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lions44 23 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Mr. Hase, I'll take a look. The 676th was a corps unit (I think). As such, might be difficult, but will do my best. I know it's very hard to find things like after action reports and other material for those units.


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lions44 23 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Here's the link you want Mr. Hase:

http://www.ww2-airborne.us/units/676/676.html. Lots of other stuff on the site. It's great. Hope that helps. Let me know if you need anything else. I wish they were all that easy. I feel bad I can't help everybody.


Ray Pinter 22 months ago

My uncle, LT Robert J. Pinter, was killed in action on Jan.3, 1945 in the Battle of the Bulge. He was with the 195th field artillery battalion, battery C. I would appreciate any information about his unit.


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lions44 22 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Mr. Pinter, as always, I will do my best. Thx for stopping by and I will get back to you as soon as I can.


Richard Garrett 20 months ago

Great read. To join the crowd, my dad was Captain 264th Field Artillery, 8-inch howitzers, HQ battery, laying wire and communications and, as he said, stuck with "moral officer" duties. Assaulted Omaha Beach on D-Day +30 (or +60) as he joked, to being first artillery battalion across Remagen, and the Bulge. Always loved shooting the 8-inchers but was stuck in HQ, as he put it. Have some nice photos of his unit from then and unit history. What you've written is also very helpful in getting some of it straight and appreciating the experience.


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lions44 20 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Thanks Mr. Garrett. You should write a hub based on your dad's experiences. The photos would be great. I'll be writing another artillery book soon, so I might be in touch.


jennifer 20 months ago

I love this article!! Thank you so much for helping me to undestand more about my grandathers time in ww2. I just recenly found pictures of him with the howitzer. He passed away when I was 18 so I really never got a chance to talk to him about the war , and he never really talked about it. He served in the 264th Field Artillery 8 inch howitzer in battery A . I have been searcing for information but can't seem to find much on their group. My son was born on his birthday 14 years after his death and I continue to search so I can tell him all about him.


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lions44 20 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Thanks very much, Jennifer. I found some pretty good stuff on the 264th. I'll gather up the links and try to post other search help as well. Please feel free to post your grandfather's photos on my Red Legs of the Bulge Facebook page. Family members have been leaving some great pics and stories about their dads/granddads. I want it to be a gathering place for information. And if you have any more questions, just let me know.


jennifer 20 months ago

Thank you so much for all your help and information. I look forward to your future writings!!


John English 18 months ago

Ray Pinter, have you heard of the book "On The Way". It is about the 195th Field Artillery Battalion. Your uncle mentioned on page 34.


Ray Pinter 18 months ago

Thanks John, I was given a copy of a WWII memoir several months ago called "For Meritorious Service" by Reinard Wulkow, a fellow officer of my uncle. It must be the same book you are referring to because my uncle's death is mentioned on page 34. Prior to uncovering this book I knew very little about my uncle's service or his death.


Maureen Kilcullen 17 months ago

Lions44,

Thank you so much for your wonderful and informative site. My dad served in the 264th Field Artillery Battalion, Battery C, under Captain Raymond Garrett. I have been researching the 264th FAB for 5 years. I saw that Richard Garrett posted that he had pictures and a unit history. I would love to see the pictures as well as read the unit history. Is there any way to contact Richard Garrett?


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lions44 17 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Ms. Kilcullen, hopefully Mr. Garrett will get a notification that there's another comment and check it out. But I'm sure I can track him down either way. I will keep you posted.


Richard Garrett 17 months ago

Hello, Maureen! My dad was Ray Garrett, Jr. of the 264th. A few years ago, another member of that unit sent me the documents and photos that I hope are still around. Let me try to dig them out. I don't know yet how to contact you outside this forum . . . . I'm also quite interested in who your father was and in what way he worked with mine.


Maureen Kilcullen 17 months ago

Hi Ray Garrett,

Dad was in Battery C as a loader (I think). I would love to see the pictures and documents. I only have one picture of the guys on VE Day. I am happy to share that with you if you do not have that one. You can reach me at mkilcull@kent.edu. I am trying to pull the information together for my sisters and brothers. Dad passed in 1995. His name was Thomas Kilcullen.

Thanks for any information and THANK YOU! to Lions44!!!


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lions44 17 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Ms. Kilcullen, glad I could help. If you have any further questions, just let me know.


Nancy 16 months ago

[Lions44 -- I don't know what happened (operator stupidity, I guess), but I cannot find a record of my previous password, so I signed up again. If you have the email of James Reigle, could you alert him that I put this up here for him? I wish this had a way to remind us to come back here : ) ]

For James Reigle -- I think you might be interested in this account of a man who was the CO of the 908 FAB A Battery (my father was B). I stumbled on this site again, and in re-reading it, I realized you probably meant something like this story which is online here:

http://www.normandytothebulge.be/83rd_RBrower.html

Hope it is helpful.


Nancy Hamilton 16 months ago

And for Robert Poole -- hope this will interest you about forward observers. A man who helps WWII veterans retrace their steps in Europe told me that my father was probably a forward observer. I don't know about that, but it sounds like it here?

Here is his Bronze Star information:

For distringuishing himself by heroic achievement in connection with

military operations against an enemy of the United States on 18 April 1945, in Germany.

In the vicinity of Steckby Forst the first battalion, 331st Infantry was

fiercely counter-attacked by two German infantry battalions and several

tanks overrunning the main line of resistance of one of the lead companies.

Captain McNamara, the Artillery Liaison Officer moved to a position from which he could direct fire on the enemy. Although under artillery, high velocity and small arms fire he continued to direct devastating artillery fire on

the enemy crushing the counter-attack. His courage and heroic devotion to duty merit the highest praise and uphold the finest traditions of the military service. Entered United Stateds Military Academy from Ohio.

(Lions 44 -- could you send Robert an email too?) As always, thank you for this site!


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lions44 16 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Hi Nancy, as crazy as this sounds, I was just in the middle of writing Robert an email because I was trying to clear any remaining requests for info. But I will get that email out to him today. Hopefully he'll see this message come up anyway. Thanks so much for stopping by again and providing that information.


Nancy Hamilton 16 months ago

Lions44 -- I just realized that unless he starts over from the top, he won't know that my father was also the CO of FAB Battery B with the 83rd Infantry Division. So can you mention that too? I think that was part of his confusion, officers involved? Sorry!


Nancy Hamilton 16 months ago

Oh no, it's RALPH Poole who was confused (but apparently not as confused as I) ---aagggh


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lions44 16 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Hi Nancy. I got the right guy. I sent him one email through his HP account. And I think I may have found him on FB as well. Try him there. Thx.


Chad 10 months ago

Looking for information on the 181 field artillery ww11. My grand father was a part off the 181st out off fourt ord cal. Can not find any info on him. All records are believed to be gone. I have his flag that is how I know he fought in the war. My dad is a vet that is how i know He fought in vetinam. 3 tours over there. My grand father name is Mack.


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lions44 10 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Hi Chad,

The records are probably gone but there are unit associations that may help. I believe the unit is still in existence as a National Guard outfit (Tenn?), which means it has a long history. So web sources should be plentiful. I'll check out some of the forums to see what I can find. Also, I'm sure there is a unit historian. Let me know what you find.

Here's what I can find:

Feb 1943 - Cp Roberts, CA

- 27 Oct 43 Left San Francisco

- 13 Nov 43 Arrived Australia

- 24 Dec 43 Goodenough Island

- 19 April 44 New Guinea

- 9 Jan 45 Philippines

Dec 1945 - Arrived San Francisco

Note, it was a Corps unit, so info is always tougher to come by.


Angela 6 months ago

My grandfather was a Artillery Mechanic 802 - Battery C 175th FA Battalion. He was in the Algerian Campaign, Tunisian Campaign, Naples-Foggia, and Home-Arno Campaign. Do you know if there is anymore information on this particular Battalion? I wondered what he may have done during WWII?


Angela 6 months ago

I forgot to add that he was in the Army and served from 11-19-41 to 10-12-45. He ended as a Tec 4 FA.


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lions44 6 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Hi Angela, they are still around, part of the Minnesota National Guard. I assume they were part of the 34th ID during the War. I'll put together something this weekend. Write me back. You can use messaging through HP or my facebook page, Red Legs of the Bulge (clearninghouse for information).


greener333 5 months ago

The projectiles in your photo "Loading 155mm shells" look like 8" projectiles. They just look to big for 155 projo's. Isn't the top marking 8H?

Thanks, another good article I need to read.


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lions44 5 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Thx, Greener. I thought they looked too big as well. However, I went with the original Army Signal Corps caption from the photo. I used the same photo in my book. But I will recheck it and confirm.


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lions44 5 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Greener, you are correct. The photo caption should read 8 inch shell. Thx.


Ned Burr 5 months ago from Ft. Belvoir, Virginia

That is an excellently done article on the division artillery of WWII. I was an FO and Survey Officer for the 324th Field in Europe and a Fire Direction Chief in Korea ('51-'52) 64th Field. I don't believe you covered prime movers and I only bring it up because a writer on the 83rd Div Facebook page mentioned that the 155's were truck drawn. Their prime mover was a high speed tractor. I don't think that you got into the fire direction centers which centers were the means by which all the guns of a unit could be brought to bear on a single target. I recall in Hurtgen Forest times when 14- 16 battalions of artillery were fired on a single target (called a TOT).


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lions44 5 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Thx, Mr. Burr. I truly appreciate the compliment, especially from someone who has been there. I did not go into the prime movers and FDCs in this article. I have another entitled Artillery Innovations of WWII, which goes into detail on the FDC in particular. Would love to hear what you think.


greener333 5 months ago

You had this sentence describing the duties of cannoneers: "Both he and the gunner corporal were also responsible for keeping the crew away from the tremendous recoil of the barrel which could kill or maim, especially in the 155mm. After firing, the breech was opened by the #1 and the shell casing would drop out automatically, where it was picked up one of the loaders to be tossed aside. " 105mm was semi-fixed, i.e., had a shell casing. 155mm ammunition was separate loading, i.e., no shell casing. It was that way for the M114, which was used long after WWII. The 4th BN 333d FA fired it's last rounds from M114's (aka Pigs) in August 1989. The cannoneer duties for US artillery were similar. The round was prepared for firing by (a) replacing the eyebolt lifting plug with fuze of choice (what I believe the cannoneer in your 8" picture was doing); (b) opening the propellant canister (all but 105); (c) preparing the charge by removing excess increments; (d) ramming the round (155's and 8" required at least 2 holding the round at the breech and several on a ramming staff seating the round in the chamber); (d) inserting the powder (on a 105, the powder was in the casing which was rammed with the round); (e) the breech was closed and for the separate loading the primer was inserted in the breech and the lanyard hooked up; (f) gunner and assistant gunner duties as you described and (g) after firing it was usual, at least in my time, to swab the bore of 8" or 155mm to make sure there were no burning powder bags in the breech.


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lions44 5 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Hi Greener, I thought it was obvious that I was still talking about the 105mm only. As a writer, I should never assume. Appreciate the help. If you see anything else, let me know.

I will delete the "especially in the 155mm" portion, which should make it clearer.


greener333 5 months ago

lions44: I went back and reread the other portions of your article and tried to delete most of my comments since you had covered them elsewhere.


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lions44 5 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Thx, Greener. Keep me posted.


Passion1507 2 months ago

My father served with the 808th Field Artillery BN in the European Theater of Operations in the Battle of the Bulge. He was a Field Lineman 641. He said he belonged to the Ninth Army. He served from Aug. 1943 to Mar. 1946. I believe I saw a post from 2 yrs ago from Scott asking about which Army the 808th belonged to. My father installed communication lines from the observation post to battalion headquarter and to the line batteries, and repaired same. Also operated small switchboards and telephones.


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lions44 2 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Passion, you are correct. The 808th was part of the 9th Army, XIII Corps. It was a Corps Artillery unit. Can I get your dad's full name and rank? I'm heading to the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge reunion next month (here in Seattle). So I can ask around about the unit, etc. If you would like to send a photo, that would be great. Use my Facebook page and I can make my "Red Leg of the Week." Thx.


Nancy 2 months ago

I would love to talk to anyone connected with the 908 FAB B Btry, if there are any descendants who have pictures to share, or stories, if you come across any. I just missed a man who served under my dad, died two weeks before I found him, but I have at least one of his descendants and hope to talk to her.


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lions44 2 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Nancy,the 908th was part of the 83rd Infantry Division during WWII. You can contact their historian (Dave Curry) or visit their website at:

https://83rdinfdivdocs.org.

Here is a link from the site: https://83rdinfdivdocs.org/units/908th-fa-bn/

Also, there is a Facebook page for the Division. Type in 83rd Infantry Division.


Nancy 2 months ago

Yes, I am familiar with, and a member of the facebook page, and have used Dave Curry's site. I meant when you go to the Battle of the Bulge reunion, if you hear of anyone there interested. Thank you.


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lions44 2 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Absolutely, Nancy. Will do. Sorry I misunderstood you. Stay well.


greener333 2 months ago

I ran across these you tube articles on the 333FA. You may have seen them but these are the first time I've seen them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-2mMFXt8UE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_X_V4NdN34

3 Rounds


lions44 profile image

lions44 2 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Thx Greener. I have seen them, but I hope to add them to my You Tube channel soon. Appreciate the reminder. Please pass them on. It's so important these men are not forgotten.


Bill Lister 2 months ago

Our uncle, Richard V. Fritts, was a Technical Fourth Grade in the 993rd Field Artillery Battalion, in the Pacific Theater in 1944 and 1945. He was a Artillery Mechanic and recently celebrated his 99th birthday! The pictures of the 8" Howitzer in the Phillippines, 1944 really brought back memories! Thank you so much for this information.


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lions44 2 months ago from Auburn, WA Author

Mr. Lister, so glad to hear from you. I'm honored to have helped honor your uncle. If he has any pics he would like to share, please send. I do a Red Leg of the Week on FB page and I'm always looking for new guys. Thx.


Peggy Southall 8 weeks ago

Thank you so much for sharing this information. This is the best article I have read on the US Army Field Artillery in World War II. My dad, Eugene F. Southall, was a field lineman (technician 5th grade) with HQ and HQ Battery. He went in with the 406 Field Artillery Group and was discharged with the 196th Field Artillery Battalion. I don’t know why he changed units. I think both were part of the 79th Infantry Division. I’m grateful to have found a book entitled “Under Cover” that in their own words provides a G-rated history of the 406th Field Artillery Group from January 29, 1944 through Ju;y 7, 1945.

My dad died in 1987 and never talked much about the war. I do know that he landed in England February 26, 1944 and France on June 14, 1944. He was discharged in NYC on December 26, 1945. He was in Normandy, northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland, and Central Europe. If anyone can share any knowledge or similar experiences, I would appreciate it. I’m especially curious as to why he changed units.


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lions44 8 weeks ago from Auburn, WA Author

Ms. Southall, thanks so much for sharing your dad's story. It was very common for the men to be reassigned to other units after the end of hostilities, as some units were rotated home as well as individual personnel based on points. So the personnel without enough points were kept with other units until their time came up. That is the most likely reason your dad was moved to the 196th. The 406th was probably sent home first as the 196th did occupation duty for a couple of months. I'm not sure that the 196th was part of the 79th. I'll have to confirm that. If you could share a photo that would be great.


Nancy 8 weeks ago

Hi lions44-- I have a picture of my father in uniform, are you looking for those, or only with the howitzers? Also, where did the term red leg come from? I just read that recently, don't remember where, but couldn't find it at google.

Like Ms. Southall, my father was in two different FABs, and someone at the 83rd site said that because he, my dad, was regular army (West Point), he would be staying for the Occupation, which he did, for another year, and that's about when the change occurred, I think, from the 908 to the 323. That baffled me til someone pointed out that in his situation, points wouldn't matter, and exactly what you said--the regrouping of men. And I didn't really think about how the army wouldn't stop practicing, because my father's section, at least, thought they were going on to Japan.


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lions44 8 weeks ago from Auburn, WA Author

Hi Ms. Southall, I would like a picture of your dad in uniform. I have an artillery tribute page and try to put up a "Red Leg of the Week" feature a few times a year. Maybe a quick bio on your dad (West Point class, hometown, etc.). Always a popular feature and in some cases, it has brought old friends together. You can either email me, friend me on Facebook or my Red Legs page. I'm also available on Google + or Twitter.

The term Red Leg began in the Civil War, First during the Kansas border wars and then the Army adapted it later. It referred to Unionists in the State. Then during the Civil War, the artillery branch began the practice of having red stripes down the side of their pants to distinguish from the infantry (who still wear blue). I left out a lot, but that's the easy synopsis.

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