443rd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion in World War II

IT WAS PATTON’S IDEA

INTRODUCTION

One of the little known sagas of World War II is that of the 443rd AAA AW Battalion (SP). This independent unit came into being as a result of planning by General George S. Patton, Jr. during the spring of 1942 when he identified the need for a new type of weapon designed for the kind of warfare he envisioned in North Africa, the Mediterranean area and in Europe.

The early, dark days of World War II saw the United States reeling in surprise and shock from the onslought of Japanese forces in the Pacific. Nevertheless Allied strategists were preparing for early entry into battle against the European Axis powers. In spite of Joseph Stalin’s repeated demands for a cross-Channel assault in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill met early in that year on a destroyer in the North Atlantic and agreed that the initial attack of the Western Allies would occur in North Africa against the "soft underbelly of the Axis." General Patton was named to open this "second front" as Commander of the Western Task Force.

Patton assessed the operation and quickly determined that it would require weapons and weapons systems not then available. One crucial need was for a highly mobile weapon capable of delivering high rates of accurate fire at enemy planes or against ground vehicles and armor without delay in shifting between targets. In the spring of 1942 Patton requested the War Department to provide his command with such a weapon and by August it was ready and designated T-28-E1.

Meanwhile the Continental Army Command was busy with a combat-readiness inspection of the Army’s automatic weapons battalions. The 443rd CA AAA AW Battalion of Fort Sheridan, Illinois, emerged as the nation’s number one unit and in August of 1942 it was ordered to turn in its towed, 37 Mm. AA guns and move by train to Camp Pickett, Virginia. There it was reconstituted as the 443rd AAA AW Bn (SP) and equipped with 78 of the new T-28-El weapons. (2 were retained to be used for experimental purposes in the U.S.) This was the first step in what was to develop into a remarkable combat record through nine major campaigns and three amphibious invasions in the North African, Mediterranean and European Theaters of Operations.

The 443rd AAA AW Bn (SP) was there when the Allied "Second Front" opened in North Africa on 8 November 1942 and it continued in almost constant combat until German Army Group G surrendered on 6 May 1945. Its route led through Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia to Sicily, Italy, France, Germany and into Austria. Periodic combat reports sent to Washington by the 443rd resulted in effective redesign and improvement of equipment and to activation of standard, mobile, AAA units with the new equipment.

Only 26 of the 443rd’s original T-28-El gun-tracks were operational when the war ended. Eight had been transferred to French forces in North Africa and the rest, destroyed or lost in combat, had been replaced with new, improved weapons.

This story about the 443rd AAA AW Bn (S)) is what happened to it and to its men, living and dead, who made "Patton’s Idea" work. Justice cannot really be done to the combat record of the 443rd without acknowledging the countless, selfless instances of leadership and heroism shown by enlisted men and officers alike. But a special tribute must be paid to Lt. Col. Werner L. Larson who, as Battalion Executive, brought the unit to the peak of training that resulted in its selection for the role that it was to play, and who, as Battalion Commander, imparted a fearless, intense drive for excellence and victory to a unit that attained both.

John R. Fisher. (S-3)
Lt. Col. USAR (Ret)
443rd Operations Officer

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Copyright 1998 443rd AAA Association. All Rights Reserved
This World War II history is sponsored and maintained by TMFM