443rd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion in World War II

FRENCH MOROCCAN CAMPAIGN

FEDALA OPERATION

Resistance at the fishing village of Fedala, 15 miles north of Casablanca, was also strong. As the first attack wave landed just before dawn, some troops were put ashore as much as two and three miles away from their designated beaches. Some landed on rocks and in heavy surf. Lives were saved by Kapok jackets after landing craft capsized or were grounded in the surf. The beach was intermittently covered by French coastal searchlights, artillery and machine gun fire as well as by airplane bombing and strafing.

A naval battle saw the new French battleship, the "Jean Bart", immobilized and three other French ships sunk or burning while the remaining four dragged themselves, crippled, into Casablanca harbor. At Fedala a plethora of events occurred. German submarines sank four U.S. transports and damaged two other ships. Two 443rd gun-tracks of Platoon A-2 were lost as the Fedala area became known as "torpedo junction". Ammunition trailers were overturned in the surf and one gun-track of Platoon B-2 broke down at the water’s edge at low tide. Engineers managed to retrieve it after the Armistice on 11 November. However, crew members manned it continuously for three days during both bombing and strafing attacks and were awarded Silver Stars for the ordeal accomplished in wet clothing and C rations.

When heavy equipment and gun transport vehicles were not coming off the ships rapidly enough, some 443rd gun-tracks functioned as prime movers and towed artillery pieces into firing positions. Many of the 443rd’s ammunition trailers were so heavily loaded that they were mired in sand and some of the tracks threw their treads. Men waded into the surf to remove ammunition from their stranded trailers.

Platoon B-3, attached to the 2nd Battalion, 30th Regiment, was landed in the morning on a beach which was in enemy held territory 20 miles north of the its designated landing point. The gun crews fired at strafing planes as their tank lighters approached the beach. Upon landing B-3 went into antiaircraft positions and almost at once were attacked by enemy planes with one man killed and two fatally wounded. The platoon also took fire from French armored cars on the road to the rear of the beach. The platoon Leader, after dark, went looking for help and when he returned the following morning with a few reinforcements, ran into a fire fight, capturing 10 prisoners but later being captured himself. He found that his entire 31 men had also been captured and their gun-tracks immobilized. All were released after the armistice on 11 November.

With such needed equipment as that of infantry cannon companies, light artillery batteries and self-propelled 105 batteries, not coming off the transports soon enough to give support to the infantry elements, the 3rd Division located the Fedala harbor master and two pilots, who could bring the transport "Arcturus" into the Fedala docks and unload a combat team of the 2nd Armored Division.

Platoon B-2 Commander located his two trailers 6 miles up the beach in enemy territory. They had been stripped of everything but the ammunition which, because of heavy firing, some gun-tracks needed desperately. Two men were left to guard the trailers until they could be towed back to the gun-tracks, but two groups of nine and sixteen enemy bombers came over the beach. Three bombs bracketed the trailers, covering the men with sand. One was dug out, alive but the other was dead. 443rd guns at a distance had fired at the bombers and one was destroyed even though the planes were really too high for effective fire.

Two tracks of Platoon B-4 lost a man killed and one injured by bombs. Platoon A-2 was also bombed and strafed and shot down one of the low-flying planes. But by 10 November, Fedala was under control and the 3rd Division was on its way to Casablanca.

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