443rd AAA Bn in World War II

CENTRAL EUROPE CAMPAIGN

MILITARY GOVERNMENT IN KEMPTEN

On 1 June the 443rd was attached to the 36th Division Artillery and assigned the mission of occupying and securing Kempten in the Division Artillery’s sector and supporting the Military Government of the town. Limited training was conducted, athletic activities organized along with other recreational opportunities and an Information and Education program was begun.

On 6 June Major General Dahlquist, 36th Infantry Division Commander, presented awards and addressed 443rd officers and men as follows:

This is the first opportunity I have had to address the 443rd AAA Battalion. That I have never done so before is not because I didn’t want to — I just never had the chance.

"Of all the units under my command the 443rd was the only one that I could always be sure of. How all those half-tracks were distributed was something that was beyond me.

"There are several things that stand out in my mind about the 443rd and will always stand out. The first is Wells Lewis, my aide, who came from this Battalion and who gave his life in the bitter fight to rescue the 141st. The second thing was at Ribeauville when the chips were down and all of them were on the table. There weren’t anymore and still the Germans outnumbered us — Fisher was there with his ideas on where and how to use the half-tracks. This third thing is your quiet, unassuming commander, Lt. Col. Larson. No one has done more to earn the medals which were pinned on his chest this afternoon.

Your Battalion is the oldest one attached to the Division. Most of you already have more than enough points to go home. You are restive and I am aware of the reason. The spirit and discipline with which you have taken over your job from the beginning shows the fine cooperation of your Battalion and all the members of the Division are proud to have you wear the T-Patch".

On 8 June a phone message came from Capt. Sullivan, 7th Army MA Supply Officer to the 443rd Battalion S-4, as follows:

"Two of your Battalion ‘s T-28-Els are wanted for the Third Army Museum. Officers from Third Army Ordnance will be at your Headquarters on 10 June". (These two original gun-tracks were later placed in General Patton’s Armored Museum at Fort Knox, Kentucky).

On 11 June 1945, Lt. Col. Larson received the following letter from Major General John E. Dahlquist, 36th Infantry Division Commander. It was a real tribute to the men of the 443rd and read as follows:

"Current instructions from higher headquarters direct that the 443rd AAA AW Bn (SP) will be separated from this Division. The successful culmination of the war in Europe and the redeployment of the United States forces in this Theater tend to indicate that this separation may be a permanent one. It is therefore with real regret that I say goodbye to you and the glorious 443rd AAA AW Bn. My feeling on this occasion is that of every member of the 36th Division who fought side by side with you throughout the campaigns in Italy, France, Germany and Austria. The mutual respect, the comradeship and the esprit de corps, which together we have developed as a result of our victorious campaigns on the many fields of battle and in the face of continued hardships, will be long-valued and forever cherished. Yours is an enviable record and I am proud to have had the 443rd AAA AW Bn as a part of my command.

"The 443rd AM AW Bn joined the 36th Division and became a part of it at Pozzuoli, Italy, on 22 October 1943. It has been with the Division ever since that time and has never been detached from it. It has been the sole support of the Division against enemy air attacks and often it has served in other important roles. Consequently you wear the "T" Patch with as much pride and proprietorship as any other units in the Division.

"In saying goodbye to you all I wish to leave you with the feeling that I have a personal interest in the future of every one of you".

The 443rd was involved in a number of administrative moves and actions as occupation authorities organized their work. Its assignment changed from 7th Army to 3rd Army on 14th June; from Army to 35th MA Brigade control, and to attachment to the 91st MA Group on 15 June. On that date the 443rd relieved elements of the 27th Armored Infantry Battalion near Heiligenstadt and Bamberg, north of Nurnberg. On 17 June the 443rd relieved the 353rd MA Searchlight Battalion and began a three day period of cleanup and consolidation supporting work of the Military Government. It utilized German prisoners of war to clean the countryside of war debris, abandoned guns and equipment of all kinds — German and American.

Then on 23 June a letter from XII Corps Headquarters ordered the 443rd MA AW Bn (SP) to move on 1 July to No. 4 Port, Cherbourg, France, as a permanent change of station, not as redeployment. Principal weapons were ordered turned in to the 7th Army Ordnance Collecting Point at Butzbach.

Lt. Col. Larson, who had requested personal assignment to the Pacific Theater of Operations, went to each 443rd Battery and Headquarters Battery at a formation on 29 June and stressed the fact that they had been in two and one half years of continuous combat in the French-Moroccan, Tunisian, Sicilian, Italian, Southern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe Campaigns in hot, burning desert sands, dusty sand storms, hot Sirocco winds, torrents of driving rain, wet shoes and socks in deep, oozing mud, canals, rivers and flooded land, in blinding snow-storms and freezing weather while passing the ammunition and firing their weapons, riding day and night time convoys in mountains, rain and dusty, choking roads, through blasting by artillery shells, harassing by bombing and strafing planes, fire from small arms and machine guns, mortar shells and ‘screaming meemies’, in open and exposed plains, thickly forested foothills, narrow, winding mountain trails, enemy road blocks and final victory in the beautiful foothills of the Tyrolean Alps of Austria. He addressed them as follows:

"Most of you will be returning to civilian life, to your schooling, your trades and your professions. All of this combat life will be but a memory when you recall all of your experiences over a cup of coffee or glass of beer in the comradeship of your families and friends.

"There is one promise that I will make to you if I am still alive and that is that I will write up the Battalion History of all the nine campaigns in which we fought.

"One thing in civilian life, if we meet again, I want you to come up and talk to me, even though I may not at first recognize you, and together we can discuss the old times in the Army, possibly over a cup of coffee or a glass of beer.

"Farewell and good luck to you all".

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