443rd AAA Bn in World War II

RHINELAND CAMPAIGN

THE 443rd AAA AW Bn (SP) in GROUND SUPPORT MISSIONS

T/Sgt. MacArthur, Operations Sergeant, wrote the following after the 443rd’s first major ground support mission.

"When the fellows first heard that they would do some ground support shooting in support of an infantry attack they took interest at once. There’s something about being able to fight back at the enemy which does something for a man’s morale and the days during which 443rd gunners would toss lead at the Luftwaffe a dozen or more times a day had almost become a thing of the past. The one or two ME-109s or FW 190s that buzzed the 36th Division front several times a week didn’t provide very many satisfactory targets. Meanwhile, 443rd men had to sweat out enemy artillery barrages without being able to fire back since their guns did not have enough range.

"Their first opportunity came when each of the four line batteries provided a gun section to fire across the Vologne River into German positions in the Bois Boremont while the 143rd Infantry attacked Bruyeres from the south and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team attacked from the forest and hills on the west. The enemy must have been surprised and dismayed when several kilometers of hillside in front of them suddenly belched 37mm and .50 cal. fire at irregular intervals throughout the three days of the attack. Even though the 443rd guns were firing from one flank of the attack the Germans reacted by firing their artillery at the 443rd gun-tracks. In spite of the enemy shells falling around them the 443rd men continued to fire upon call from the Battalion Fire Direction Center, manned by the 443rd Operations Officer and Operations Sergeant. Their fire was of enormous value in supporting the attack. Much SP and artillery fire was diverted from the attacking infantry and enemy observation was greatly hindered by air and tree bursts over German positions. Many of the enemy defenders were so unnerved by the rain of lead that they were still unable to function effectively when the first 143rd infantrymen reached their positions. Since that initial ground support mission, 443rd gunners have fired again and again in support of the 36th Division Infantry.

"Battery D’s first platoon fired into Laveline de Bruyeres early one morning and received mortar fire in return. However, they were rewarded by seeing their shells start a fire which increased in intensity and culminated in an explosion just before dawn. The 443rd men, returning from their mission, were bemoaning their bad luck, believing that they had blown up the only distillery in the valley. They were considerably relieved when they later learned that they had blown up an ammunition dump.

"After firing almost daily at enemy personnel, observation posts and entrenchments, the second platoon of C Battery had it biggest day when one of its sections threw 150 37mm high explosive shells and 3700 rounds of .50 cal. bullets into enemy positions south of Fraise.

"'We don’t mind the ground support missions — as long as we’re helping to win the battles’, is the attitude of all 443rd men — this in spite of the fact that to fire a single round means that men are feeding ammunition and the gunners’ seats are five feet above the ground with no protective armor of any kind against enemy artillery, mortar fire and small arms fire — which was plentiful. Whether it’s enemy personnel, dug-in positions, vehicles or attack by ME-109s, FW-190s or the new, German jets, 443rd MA men are willing and able to make it plenty hot for the Nazis".

The practice of rotating one MA gun section per battery at a time, for rest and recuperation in the Service Echelon, was continued by the 443rd as long as the tactical situation permitted.

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