443rd AAA Bn in World War II

RHINELAND CAMPAIGN

BRUYERES AND BIFFONTAINE OPERATION

After taking Remiremont there was no rest for the 36th Division and its attached units. During seven weeks of autumn rains, fighting continued in efforts to clean enemy forces out of approaches to the Vosges Mountains between the Valogne and Meurth Rivers. Forward movement was slow through thickly-wooded ridges, submerged fields and mud. Although the 45th Division was abreast of the 36th left flank, the 1st French Army, on the right, had met strong German resistance at Le Tholy and was unable to match even the slow advance of the 36th Division. Consequently, the 36th’s positions protruded into German defense lines like its spearhead insignia, as it advanced through Docelles toward Lavaline and Chample-Duc. As the Division approached heavily defended Bruyeres, it received attachment of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team — The Nisei unit of Japanese-Ainerican descent. In its month-long assignment to the 36th Division, the 442nd distinguished itself in capturing Bruyeres and Biffontame — two key enemy defenses before the Vosges Mountain passes. In addition, the 442nd broke through German positions to rescue the 36th Division’s "Lost Battalion".

Although platoons of the 443rd Battalion had previously been in positions where direct support had been given to ground troops, it was in the attack on Bruyeres that the 443rd first demonstrated a planned, expanded mission of infantry ground support. In response to the VI Corps Commander’s letter, Lt. Col. Larson drafted a tactical plan letter to the 36th’s General Dahilquist. In short order, Division G-3 and 443rd S-3 sections had drawn up a plan for AAA support of the attack on Bruyeres. Under cover of darkness, Platoons A-1, B-2, C-2 and D-1 moved gun-sections to pre-selected positions, in defilade and behind barns in forward positions. They were prepared to place harassing fire on enemy infantry reserves east of Champ le-Duc and to reduce enemy advanced positions before Bruyeres. 443rd S-3 Fisher and his operations sergeant, MacArthur, had prepared a series of target designations and on the morning of 18 October, from an observation post in a farmhouse between gun-track positions, sent periodic radio commands for firing at targets. Under this barrage of automatic weapons fire the 143rd Infantry attacked and found a confused enemy along the railroad, the road and at the edge of the Bois de Boremont while enemy fire from the right flank was greatly diminished as a result of the 443rd "hosing" fire. The 442nd Combat Team was then able to secure the hills north and east of Bruyeres and push on to capture Biffontaine. MA support of these attacks continued for three days after which the gun-tracks rejoined their platoons. Another "first" for the 443rd had been highly successful — and was observed by a number of high ranking officers from Corps and Army. Such infantry support became a standard tactic for the 443rd as the campaign continued. During these actions, Platoons B-2 and C-2 damaged one of two ME-109s near Docelles. On 21 October, with all platoons firing except A-1, five ME-109s attacked from three different directions. One was destroyed. The Germans had suffered a demoralizing defeat and General Truscott determined that it was the moment to drive to the Meurthe River from St. Die in the north.

As experience continued to be gained in utilizing MA (SP) firepower in its expanded role, occasional guidelines were issued by the 36th Division Commander, such as:

"AAA guntracks will not be placed in wooded areas because of artillery tree bursts, or ahead of the infantry, or ahead of anti-tank guns at road blocks when in infantry-supporting roles.

"AAA guns will be placed adjacent to or behind buildings for sufficient cover and defilade in infantry supporting roles ".

The 443rd Commander, to ensure more complete security, ordered that all-night manning details include one man on each gun-track with the AAAIS warning net to function 24 hours a day.

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