443rd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion in World War II

FRENCH MOROCCAN CAMPAIGN

SAFI OPERATION

In the Safi operation, 120 miles south of Casablanca, two U.S. destroyers, each with a company of infantry from the 9th Infantry Division, steamed directly into Safi harbor. They were guided by an infra-red lamp placed at the end of a jetty in the early morning hours by a small group in a rubber boat from a submarine. Caught initially by surprise, French coast artillery and mobile batteries violently opposed the landing. After several hours most of them were knocked out of action by the USS New York and the USS Philadelphia. By mid-afternoon on D-Day the French barracks in Safi had surrendered and as more men and equipment poured ashore, most of the beachhead resistance had ended by evening. Enemy sniping continued and 443rd men from Platoons A-4 and B-5 busied themselves in routing snipers out of houses and turning their prisoners over to the 9th Division’s 47th Combat Team infantry. Gun-tracks were used a number of times to blast groups of infiltrating snipers from buildings. Effective antiaircraft fire destroyed several attacking French planes and saved Safi port facilities from serious damage. In the early morning mists of 9 November a French plane attacked the harbor area and all 443rd gun-tracks in the area fired when they could see the plane. Platoon C-3, on the docks, continued to fire even though the bombs appeared to be falling towards them. The plane came down in flames. It had hit one warehouse and damaged several transports.

Forged orders had sent a major portion of the Safi garrison to Marrakesh for maneuvers just prior to D-Day. These troops began moving from Marrakesh toward Safi. Platoon C-5 moved with 2nd Armored Division’s Combat Command B to meet this threat. Naval air halted the French column about 40 miles west of Safi. CCB was preparing to attack the French dug-in positions when it was ordered to march on Casablanca, and withdrew.

443rd Platoons A-5 and B-5 moved to defend the Safi airport which was being used by Navy planes. Sniping continued and harassed the gun-track crews. One of Platoon C-5’s gun-tracks moved close to a suspected house and put 20 rounds of 37 mm shells into it. Twelve snipers surrendered. Platoons C-3 and C-5 then moved with CCB in a blackout march to Mazagan. The next morning, 10 November, gun-tracks of the two platoons shot down a low-flying French plane. That afternoon, units were notified by the 47th Infantry Regimental Commander that a truce had been declared. By the afternoon of 11 November an armistice had been declared along the entire Moroccan front. During nearly four days and nights of action on a front extending over one hundred and sixty miles and including three major beachheads, the 443rd AAA AW Bn (SP) had its baptism of fire. With the four divisions it was supporting it had emerged with a record of heroic actions. It had taken a toll of enemy planes, armored vehicles and enemy troops while meeting many emergencies with timely ingenuity and improvisations.

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