197th Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion
The following is a reproduction of unit history filed for the 197th
AAA AW Bn. The title page of the typewritten account calls
this an "abridged narrative" that was produced "in lieu of a planned
Pictorial History." The author or authors are anonymous.
The 197th was one of the AAA battalions that landed at Omaha Beach
on D-Day. Later, the unit found itself in the thick of the
Battle of the Bulge, coming very near to losing three batteries in
the surprise German thrust. Their story is fittingly presented
here for the appreciation of a wider audience.
The history produced by Battery A is also included
here, provided courtesy of Fred Kuntz, the
son of Battery A T/5 Leonard N. Kuntz.
NOTE: This unit should not be confused with the 197th Coast
Artillery (AA) Regiment that served in Australia. Elements of
the 197th CA (AA) were redesignated during 1942 and 1943.
THE 197th AA AW Bn (SP) IN
WORLD WAR II
The men of the 197th AAA AW Battalion are now
scattered to the various parts of America from which they came. But
friendships forged in mutual sacrifice and hardships are not easily
terminated, memories etched in the turmoil are not easily erased.
This book is not a statistical record. It does not
attempt to tell the complete story.....for that story can only be relived
in the minds and hearts of the men who were there. But it is hoped that,
in the years ahead, when thoughts turn backward, the words and pictures in
this volume will help to recall memories; will help to recreate
experiences; will help to revive comradeships.
record of this battalion in combat is an inspiring one. It is well that it
should be preserved in permanent form. May it serve as an insp1ration and
a source of pride to America's sons throughout the years!
Lt. Col. C.T. McEniry
197th A.A. B.N. (S.P.)
ACTIVATION and TRAINING
ACTIVATION AND TRAINING
There is a hill in West Texas.
It is called Logan Heights, and it is near Fort Bliss. And to
the boxlike barracks atop this hill there came, in the early winter of
1942, a group of men to form another unit in the rapidly-expanding wartime
Army of the United States.
They called it the 2nd
Battalion of the 509th Coast Artillery (AA) Regiment when they activated
it that tenth day of November, 1942. But actually it was the 197th
Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion (Self-propelled).
It's best to get straight on that right at the start.
number of things. happened before the battalion assumed its proper name.
The original cadre of 5 officers and 90 enlisted men arrived on 12
November. The commanding officer, Lt. Col. C. T. McEniry (then Major) took
over on 12 December. Fillers from more than 40 different states arrived in
large groups during December and January. The battalion received its
initial training on the 40mm. Bofors AA gun and even spent some time in
filming the weapon at the Camp Hueco range in the New Mexico desert
northeast of Fort Bliss.
But on 13 February the War Department decided that
self-propelled weapons were to be among the most valuable in future AA
operations, and designated this battalion and one other to be the first
self-propelled units established at Fort Bliss. From that day on, the
organization went to work with the weapons it was to fight with from the
beaches or Normandy to the heart of Germany. The 197th had been born!
The birth pains of a new battalion are not easy. There
were 670 enlisted men and 38 officers. Many of them were new to the army.
The basic weapons, the M-15 half track with 37 mm. gun and twin fifties
and the M-16 track with quadruple fifties in an electric turret, were
unknown quantities for practically everyone.
So that meant hard work.
It meant an 18-week training program replete with gun drill, extended
field exercises, more firing at the Hueco ranges, and a
never-to-be-forgotten 25-mile battalion hike in a sandstorm. !t meant
inspections; it meant participation in a combat problem on 10 May for
Under-Secretary of' War Robert E. Patterson; it meant parades; it meant
classes in fire control and tactics; it meant back-breaking digging in
preparation of positions during maneuvers.
But there was relaxation too. And there was fun. There was El Paso nearby;
and Juarez just across the border. Old-timers in the battalion who spent
many a Saturday night in Juarez will not require any additional discussion
on the subject. Furloughs and leaves came up in July also. The first one,
somehow, is especially important.
The training continued far beyond the original 18
weeks. And the men of the battalion were beginning to look and act
like soldiers. The outfit came out with top honors in a mass parade of'
all units at the AAATC on 24 July.
Then, on 23 August, the
battalion was alerted for its first permanent change of station. On 28 and
29 August, two troop trains, bearing all personnel, departed from Fort
Bliss for Camp Pickett, Virginia, for amphibious training with the 31st
The battalion easily
became acclimated to the new post, although the prevalent rainfall
constituted a radical change from El Paso's dry climate. After preliminary
small boat and basic amphibious training, the outfit left Pickett for
advanced amphibious training at Camp Bradford, near Norfolk. From 22
September for a week, there followed intensive instruction and training in
the use of all types of small landing craft; loading and unloading men and
vehicles from everything from LCVP's to LST's; assault tactics on
beachheads, and practicing debarkation from the old Italian "YAG", when a
number of troops got their initial touch of seasickness.
On 1 October, Batteries B. C and D returned to Camp
Pickett, while Headquarters and A Batteries embarked on a practice voyage
and beach assaults on Upper Chesapeake Bay with Special Troops of the 31st
Division. The voyage was made in LST's and troop transports and
three practice landings were made before the return trip to Pickett on 11
October. In the meantime, and up to 10 November; B, C and D batteries each
made a practice voyage and assault landings on the Upper Chesapeake with
the three regimental combat teams of the division.
The battalion training
beck at Pickett during the ensuing weeks covered all types of small arms
firing and a review of basic and advanced subjects. Two inspections were
given the battalion by the Inspector General's Department during November,
the final one eliciting the remark from Colonel Lawrey, senior member or
the teem, that the 197th was one of the two best of 40 battalions he had
November was also a month of leaves end furloughs. But
on 29 November the battalion was alerted for movement to a port of
embarkation staging area on 15 December. The next two weeks were spent in
final preparation for overseas shipment, and turning in all weapons and
vehicles. Then, on 15 December, the unit proceeded by train to Camp
Kilmer. It had ceased to have a name or station. For now it was officially
known as "Shipment No. 9169-C", with "APO No. 9115".
at Camp Kilmer moved at a quickened pace. For three days the
battalion was given a thorough processing and inspection of clothing and
equipment. Final clearance by the post commander sent the unit, on 21
December, by train to Jersey City and by ferry up the Hudson River to Pier
90, North River Terminal, N.Y., where it boarded the passenger liner
Ile de France. The battalion was designated as advance unit for some
10,000 troops to follow in 24 hours, and Battery A was assigned the
mission of manning the ship's AA guns.
But it was a dry run. Engineers determined that
the ship's machinery was in need of further repairs before undertaking the
voyage, so -- after four days -- the personnel disembarked, and the 197th
went back to Camp Kilmer on Christmas eve. It was not the best Christmas
one could hope for that year. But during the following week 12-hour passes
to New York City and other nearby places were plentiful.
New Years Day 1944 found the battalion once again
moving to Pier 90, where this time it boarded the world's largest ship,
Britain's Queen Elizabeth. And at noon the following day, the
Queen Elizabeth -- bearing 15,000 passengers -- sailed past the Statue
of Liberty and out into the Atlantic.
Life aboard ship was new to all, and interesting in
spite of extreme congestion. Two meals a day and daily lifeboat drills
broke the monotony. Except for one day of heavy seas, the weather was cold
but good for the entire crossing. In mid-ocean the ship's course was
changed because of reports of enemy submarines in the area. A detour
north of several hundred miles added about 24 hours to the crossing. But
there were no attacks.
About dusk on 8 January, after a voyage of six days,
the Queen Elizabeth dropped anchor in the Firth of Clyde, Scotland.
The next morning, British and American officials came aboard to welcome
the troops, and ship's officers remarked that the debarkation was a
"first" in two ways: for the first time there had been no enemy bombing
during the unloading; and for the first time there had been no rain.
Unloading by tenders to Gourock, Scotland, the battalion boarded troop
trains to the strains of Bing Crosby singing "The Funny Old Hills,"
emanating from the loudspeakers of a nearby Red Cross establishment. Red
Cross girls served coffee, doughnuts, cigarettes and candy; and then,
during the night, the trains moved through Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle,
York, and Reading to the south of England. The battalion's new station was
Upton Lovell Camp, Codford, Wiltshire.
Now assigned to the First U.S. Army, members of the
battalion began to familiarize themselves with things typically British,
i.e. Nissen huts, the blackout, pounds and shillings, "honey
buckets", driving on the left side of the road, and British weather.
Numerous recreational convoys afforded opportunity to visit nearby cities,
such as Salisbury, Warminster and Bournemouth.
February, the battalion moved by convoy to the 10th Light AA Training and
Practice Camp at Agnes Head, Cornwall, on the southwest coast of England.
Here, for 10 days under British tutelage, the batteries fired at sleeve
targets with all basic weapons. The British staff was pleased with the
state or training of the unit and efficiency of the weapons, and firing
results were highly satisfactory.
At the conclusion of firing, the battalion was ordered
to another station, and moved on 1 March to Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset,
20 miles southwest of Bristol. A rather large resort city, Weston afforded
ample facilities for amusement, and members of the battalion will long
remember the amusement pier, the Winter Garden Pavilion, the Odeon cinema
and many restaurants and hotel bars.
Then, on 27 March, came the "baptism of fire." German
bombers attacked the city during the night and, although the battalion
suffered no casualties, it began to realize with greater force that the
war was close at hand.
days later, two composite batteries of the battalion moved to the Assault
Training Center at Woolacombe, Devon, for seven days amphibious and
waterproofing training. Following this came preparations for actual
channel operations. During April, the battalion was divided into an
Assault Group (32 officers and about 500 enlisted men) and a Residue Group
(5 officers and about 175 enlisted men). Many conferences were held with
officers of the 16th Infantry Regiment of the First Division, to which the
battalion had been attached for the channel movement.
Then, on 23 April, the Assault Group moved to the
marshalling area camps in the vicinity of Dorchester, Dorset. leaving the
Residue Group behind in Weston. The period from 24 to 29 April was spent
preparing for the exercise "FABIUS", a practice full-scale amphibious
assault landing. Because one of its assigned LCT's was damaged by enemy
air action in Portland harbor, A Battery did not participate in the
exercise, but on 3 May the balance of the battalion Assault Group, with
the 16th Infantry, moved up the English Channel and made the practice
assault at Slapton Sands.
The batteries landed, occupied their positions and
accomplished their missions. But when, on 4 May, the practice operation
was concluded and the 16th Infantry departed, the battalion units were
given the mission of remaining on the beach for several days to provide AA
defense while other troops moved inland. This was the first real tactical
mission of the 197th.
units returned to the marshalling area on 7 May and occupied Camp D-12A.
Here life reverted to a semi-garrison status. All vehicles were
waterproofed and there was limited familiarization with the new Peca
sight. The Residue Group moved from Weston to Bournemouth, Hampshire, on
the Channe1 coast, on 26 May. where it remained until about three weeks
things began to happen. Field Orders were published. Troops were briefed
regarding the Channel crossing and landing operations. Assault units were
separated into craft loads; life preservers and other special equipment
were issued. The battalion Assault Group moved out to Portland Hards and
loaded on LCT's. Operation NEPTUNE was coming up!
Omaha Beach was
approximately three miles in length. Steep chalk cliffs rimmed the flat,
sandy beach which was some 50-100 yards wide. These cliffs, slightly
concave, were broken by three small corridors -- the beach exits -- and
several small draws.
That's what the geography books might have said about the small strip of
French Coast in the vicinity of Colleville-sur-Mer and St. Laurent-sur-Mer.
What the men in the 197th learned about Omaha Beach on D-Day was a little
different. But that's getting ahead of the story.
The loaded LCT's rode at anchor in Portland harbor for
three days. During the night of 4 June, the invasion fleet put out
to sea, but bad weather forced a 24-hour postponement and they turned the
craft back to Portland. Then, early on 5 June, they took off again.
At 0600, the huge fleet assembled off the coast of Normandy. H-hour
was 0630. And H-hour was on the "nose."
They went in -- elements of the 197th did -- at H plus
120 minutes. That was after the preliminary naval shelling and the landing
of the assault infantry waves. And they learned a few more things about
Omaha Beach. They learned that, half in, half out of the water were
hundreds of obstacles -- pilings, hedgehogs, tetrahedra, most of them
mined. They learned that the passages through these obstacles were narrow
and too often clogged with wrecked landing craft. They learned that they
must debark with all their vehicles in deep water -- that many of their
vehicles drowned out.
They learned that maybe you didn't make it in your
first try, and so you tried again. And they learned that if an 88 round
landed in your LCT you didn't make it at all. They learned that if you
reached the beach, you were pinned down at the water's edge. They
learned that the beach and the beach exits were heavily mined. They
learned that about midway between the water's edge and the cliffs ran a
deep anti-tank ditch filled with water. All this they learned -- at a
Killed: 1 officer, 4 enlisted men.
Seriously wounded: 1 officer, 11 enlisted men.
Lost material: 6 M-15 halftracks, 7 M-16 halftracks.
1 M-2 halftrack, 3 Jeeps, 1 trailer.
Approximately 60 men lost all their personal belongings
and equipment. The majority of them were in the First Platoon of B
Battery, which lost all its vehicles when LCT No. 25 was hit by heavy
artillery and burned.
The Second Platoon of A
Battery was the first unit of the battalion to land successfully, coming
onto Easy Red at 0835. Other elements followed during the ensuing hours.
Many gun crews, unable to bring their weapons to bear on German positions
because of' the slope of the beach at the water's edge, gave small arms
support to infantry and engineers. Others helped clear mines from the
beach exists. Medics worked long hours under direct fire, aiding the
After many strenuous hours it became possible to move most of the men and
vehicles off the beach and up onto the plateau above. Crews from disabled
tracks dug in on infantry missions. Operational crews set up tactically.
The first night was a tough one.
On D plus 1 the AA defenses were expanded slightly to
the east and south to cover new territory taken in the advance of the
First Division. On the same day the battalion was relieved from its
attachment to the 16th Regimental Combat Team and continued a somewhat
static defense of the beachhead area until 25 June, with A Battery given
the special mission of protecting Airstrip ALR 9. Then the unit was given
the mission of providing AA defense for the City of Cherbourg immediately
upon its capitulation. Through battle-scarred Isigny, Carentan, St. Mere-Eglise,
Montebourg and Valognes the convoy moved. Positions within the town were
untenable, and most gun crews were actively engaged in small arms fire
fights with snipers and patrols during the first day or two. Batteries
began to bring in their first bags of prisoners.
On June 28, the
battalion was relieved of its mission at Cherbourg and shifted to Air
Strip ALR 9, south of Omaha Beach. That same day, the battalion residue
landed on Utah beach and joined the rest of the unit the following day.
The main situation and tactical mission of the 197th remained unchanged
from this time to 15 July. Enemy air activity had been light throughout
the period and the battalion was credited with one Category I and one
On 15 July the battalion was moved further south, this
time to Air Strip ALG 12, just east of Balleroy.
headquarters area was subjected to severe enemy shelling on the night of
20 July, the medical detachment taking the principal casualties. Tree
bursts riddled the aid tent and emphasized the necessity for digging in
deep. The month of August was inaugurated by a rather severe bombing of
the air strip, the battalion suffering a number of casualties and damage
The breakthrough at St. Lo and the resultant
fluid situation was reflected in many changes of mission and station for
the battalion. In the main, batteries were assigned to protect mobile
ammunition supply points which during this period were encountering great
difficulty keeping up with the rapidly-moving front.
On 6 August, elements of the battalion began moving
from Airstrip ALG No. 12 to the area south of St. Lo for a defense of Vire
River crossings. On 9 August the entire unit moved to the Forest of St.
Sever, near St Sever, Calvados, where a First Army supply dump was to be
established. A change of orders, however, sent Batteries A and B to Mobile
ASP No.108 near St. Hilaire du Harcourt and Batteries C and D to static
defense of Depot No.106 in the vicinity of Le Bourigny and Brecey.
Batteries A and B moved with their ASP steadily
eastward, finally reverting to an airstrip defense role near Dreux at the
of the month. Remaining elements of the battal1ori did not leave the St.
Sever area until 25 August, when C and D Batteries moved to the east,
finally setting up with ASP No. 113 near Coubert, south of Paris. Enemy
air activity was extremely light during this period. However the battalion
began to take a large number of prisoners.
came the Move to Paris!
A Battery was first into the city. At least that
battery, on 2 September, moved from Dreux to world-famous Le Bourget
Field, where it established an AA defense. B Battery moved to Le Bourget
the next day, and Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Battery
established a C.P. in the Cuban House of the University of Paris.
was, of course, out of this world! Newly-liberated and
excitingly beautiful, it afforded members of the battalion a wonderful
respite from hardships of the previous months. Organized tours enabled the
men to see the famous sights of the city, and there was a great deal of
souvenir-buying -- especially of perfume.
September a major change in the tactical control of the battalion took
place. The use of mobile ASP's was discontinued, and in their place
was established three Forward Ammunition Supply Points -- one for each
corps in the First Army. The battalion was attached to the 71st
Ordnance Group and given the mission of providing AA defense for these
ASP's. As a result of this, Batteries A and B moved from Le Bourget
Field to ASP No. 116 near Soissons, and set up their headquarters in the
sumptuously furnished building occupied by German General Von Rundstedt
during earlier campaigns. Movements with the ASP's continued during
the next days until, on 9 September, in a move 100 miles to the northeast,
Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Battery crossed into Belgium for
the very first time.
During the remaining first half of September the outfit continued a series
of moves in the vicinity of Liege. Air activity was light, and
personnel had an opportunity to make many warm acquaintances among the
friendly Belgian people.
A party from the maintenance
section of Headquarters Battery became the first element of' the 19'7th to
cross over into
Germany. Trying to locate an ordnance company the men progressed as far as
Aldenburg, southwest of Aachen, on 17 September. It was not until three
weeks later, however, that tactical positions were taken up in the Reich.
Much work, in the
meantime, was concentrated on perfecting a ground defense plan for
protection of the ASP's. On 29 September, by reason of various
redispositions, the battalion achieved the unique distinction bf having
elements operating in three different countries -- Holland, Luxembourg and
Belgium. Weather conditions were bad and excessive mud made field
conditions most uncomfortable for gun crews. Battalion personnel had their
first opportunity to observe V-1 buzz bombs during this period. Their were
The first real action of October came on the 5th, when
Battery A, in the vicinity of' Heerlen, Holland, engaged five FW 190's
flying low on a strafing mission. Claims for the action were 3 Category I,
1 Category II. Battery D became the first unit to move
into Germany on 8 October, setting up a defense for ASP No. 127 in the
vicinity of Sief.
AA action stepped up a
little during October, and the number of buzz bombs increased likewise.
Elements of the battalion,
particularly Battery D in the vicinity or Aachen, received considerable
enemy shellfire. When B Battery moved to Bourcy on 18 October, the
battalion achieved a distinction not surpassed by any other unit of the
First Army. It was operating in four countries: Battery A in Holland;
Battery B in Begium, with a few fire units in Luxembourg; Battery C in
Belgium; Battery D in Germany; and Headquarters and Headquarters Battery
in Belgium. A front of 120 miles!
The paralyzing hand which unfavorab1e weather clamped
on the entire northern front during November had its effect also on the
197th. Not since D-Day had such a static condition lasted so long for the
battalion. Only one move was made during the month, with B Battery moving
to reinforce D Battery's defense of ASP No.127, near Aachen.
A few brief bits of action were noted during the first
week and hardly a day passed without a number of buzz bombs reported over
the area. A few fell near some of the battalion installat1ons but, with
the exception of a few windows knocked out by blast, no casualties or
damage to equipment resulted.
Most all fire units completed the building of improved
shelters to furnish protection against the almost continuous bad weather
and the approach of winter. Real winter started on 8 November with the
season's first snowfall. Snow continued intermittently for several days,
with a total of 10 to 12 inches reported in some places.
Under a new First Army
policy, one-day passes were inaugurated to nearby cities, and it was
possible for one officer and
14 enlisted men to visit places like Liege, Verviers, Arlon, Malmedy,
Eupen and Spa each day. It was the first opportunity for passes
since D-Day. Thanksgiving; brought turkey for all.
During the first part of December there was no movement by any of the
batteries, and there was scattered air action. On 11 December, the
operations section moved to assist Batteries B and D in perfection of the
air-ground defense plan near Aachen. On the night of 15 December a "dry
run" was held with all adjacent corps troops participating. The
problem was concluded successfully.
are some things you can't describe very well. There was Omaha
Beach.....And there was The Bulge.
just had to be there, that's all.
way it worked out , it was okay. But the 197th came very near losing
three batteries in The Bulge. There was C Battery, for instance.
C Battery was set up at ASP No.126 near Waimes when Von
Rundstedt crashed through on his way to Antwerp on 16 December. So on the
next day, when German patrols began infiltrating, the ASP company blew up
much of its stores and withdrew. So C Battery deployed in a ground defense
role near the outskirts of Waimes and proceeded to hold the right flank of
the German counter-offensive. When the First Division's 16th Infantry came
up, they found this AA battery all alone, as Brig. Gen. Clift Andrus,
division C.O., said, "A source of inspiration" to doughboys of his crack
outfit arriving on the scene.
Battery sent a couple of boys to an ordnance company in Malmedy. They
never came back. But their bodies were found a month later in the roadside
snow, where they had been shot by the Germans.
On 18 December; word was received that the enemy had
captured a field hospital unit in Waimes. So Captain Olcott, the battery
commander, organized a small task force and went into the town. The
Germans were driven off after a short fire fight, and the hospital
personnel were evacuated. And C Battery took over the town of Waimes.
there was A Battery.
was at ASP No. 128, near Bourcy on the left flank of the penetration.
Heavy enemy shelling of the battery's positions was the first signal that
the big winter operation was underway. The unit moved into ground defense,
and established road blocks to delay enemy armor reported approaching in
the vicinity of Donnange.
American armor and artillery began to pull back,
leaving A Battery as the only holding element in that sector. Finally, on
receipt of orders to evacuate to ASP No. 128A, near Champlon, the unit
began to pull out, as German units were observed approaching down the
road. Back through Bastogne to Champlon went the battery, but the next
day, 19 December, it became apparent that this position also was
unsatisfactory and the battery moved with the ASP to Bellevaux. Further
moves took them to Bertrix, to Florenville, to Virton. On the final move
-- probably for the first time in this war -- AA guns protected a moving
ammunition train, as they moved down a road paralleling the tracks.
Then there was Headquarters and Headquarters Battery.
the night of 16 December these units were alerted to assist nearby
elements in ground defense of the Sourbrodt-Camp Elsenborn area. The
following day, reports of enemy paratroops in the area were confirmed. In
the afternoon the tremendous blast of demolitions at ASP No.126, a few
miles away, broke many windows and caused minor injuries to a number of
men. On 18 December, the headquarters units were ordered to an assembly
area at Aywaille, and then to the vicinity of Werbomont.
However, the movement to Werbomont was interrupted by a "stand by" order,
which indicated that the enemy was in the vicinity of that town. The
convoy was halted at dark on a side road near Bosson and local security
guards were posted. The following morning the commanding general of the
82nd Airborne Division informed the unit that he was to employ his
infantry in the Bosson area, and the convoy was to pull back at least five
miles to the northwest without delay. The order was complied with, the
convoy moving to a new C.P. at Wegnez, but for many months personnel
referred to the time that the Headquarters Battery was relieved by the
82nd Airborne Division in the Battle of the Bulge.
Batteries B and D, stationed near Aachen, were north of
the German penetration, but during the month of December saw an increasing
amount or air action, underwent many paratroop alerts, were bombed and
strafed, and fulfilled ground missions successfully.
After the intense action of the early days or the
Bulge, the months or January and February were comparatively dull. Battery
C was engaged in a mission of providing AA defense for First Army
headquarters, and the other batteries made numerous moves on missions with
ASP's and MSR's. There were scattered air engagements during the month,
but the main personnel made up for a somewhat grim Christmas by catching
up on rest and rehabilitating themselves and their equipment.
February was largely a repetition of January, although
the weather began to improve considerably. On the 5th a buzz bomb landed
in an orchard near battalion headquarters at Wegnez, causing a few minor
casualties, and on the 22nd a terrific explosion in the captured enemy
ammunition section of ASP No. 137 resulted in slight wounds to a few
fortunate seizing and exploitation of the Remagen bridgehead was only the
beginning of events which were to make the months of March and April
go down as among the most remarkable in the history of warfare. For on 24
March the entire front boiled into action -- surging across the Rhine in
its entire length to initiate the "rat race" to the heart of Germany and a
junction with the Russians.
March and April were months of movement for the 197th and for the entire
Allied forces. They were months of fluidity in which German soldiers were
picked up far behind our own lines. They were months in which beautiful
and almost unscarred landscapes were covered in long road marches. They
were months of changed missions for the battalion. They were months of
The initial days of March saw the battalion's elements
closing up to the Roer at Duren. The latter days saw them closing to and
crossing the Rhine near Bad Godesburg. An order on 28 March attaching the
unit to the III Corps brought a significant change in combat missions. The
batteries left their seven month session of defending First Army Forward
Ammunition Supply Points to take over the job of protecting field
artillery, bridges, and special corps installations.
On 9 April this mission was changed again, as the
battalion reverted to First Army control and was assigned to protection of
two airstrips, one near Fritzlar and one near Kassel. Air activity in
April was practically nil, and on the 24th the 197th was attached to the
VIII Corps and moved some 150 miles to the Weimar area to protect supply
dumps, airfields, and bridges.
The sands in the hourglass of Hitler's war were running
out. As April ended and May began it became evident that tactical
operations were reaching a standstill. A good deal of time was spent on
maintenance of equipment and ordnance inspections. German planes began to
land on our airstrips, their crews surrendering to men of the 197th.
On 7 May at 1120 hours, the message of unconditional
surrender of the Germans was received at battalion headquarters, the
surrender to be effective at 0001 hours on the 9th. All offensive
operations were ceased immediately, but the battalion continued its AA
defense mission until 1630 hours on 10 May. On the following day the 197th
was enroute to Landkreis Eisenach to take over security guard and military
was the end of combat for the battalion. The end of 339 operational days
on the Continent; the end of a road 1200 miles long from Omaha Beach to
Weimar, Germany. In that time and in those travels, the 197th had 106
engagements with enemy aircraft. It had emerged with 23-1/2 confirmed
claims for craft shot down or damaged -- 13-1/2 Category I's and 10
Category II's, or an average of 22.2 per cent "kills" per engagement.
And that is the end of the story. It began simply. It
ends simply. The 197th AAA AW Battalion (SP) was born on a hill near El
Paso, Texas. It came over 6000 miles and worked for two and a half years
to do a job. In the doing of that job, many brave men fell. But the job
was done! Magnificently! Gloriously!
serving throughout the European Campaign of World War II with the First
U.S. Army, the 197th was then respectively assigned to the Ninth, Seventh,
and Third U.S. Armies. It completed four and one half weeks of training
for redeployment to the Pacific before V-J Day, and then engaged in
Occupational duties with its C.P. in Forcheim, Germany until 10 March
1946. It was responsible throughout this period of occupation for the
Landkreis Forcheim and during several months thereof for the additional
Landkreises of Ebermonstadt, Erlangen and Lauf .
March 1946, the battalion left Forcheim for Bremerhaven, Germany, where it
completed its processing at the Marine Compound and sailed for the States
on 2 April, 1946, on the Lewiston Victory.
Deactivation of the 197th AA AW Bn (S.P.) took place on 12 April, 1946 at
Camp Kilmer, N. J.
Respectfully, Humbly and Gratefully, this book is dedicated to those of
our Comrades who fell fighting for Freedom. Their memory is enshrined in
the heart of a grateful nation...
Capt. Everett v. Peterson, B Battery, 6 June 1944,
Pvt. Robert V. Brewer, B Battery, 6 June 1944, Normandy, France
T/5 James L. Tetters, B Battery, 6 June 1944, Normandy, France
T/5 Robert B. Wells, B Battery, 6 JUne 1944, Normandy, France
Pvt. John R. Ruland, D Battery, 6 June 1944, Normandy, France
T/5 George R. Duncan, B Battery, 13 June 1944 Normandy,
Sgt. Lawrence W. Hope, D Battery, 15 June 1944, Normandy, France
Capt. Irving S. Roth, Medical Detachment, 20 July 1944, Normandy,
Cpl. James P. Rogan, B Battery, 15 Sept., 1944, Belgium
T/5 Byrl J. Hoffstatter, B Battery, 15 Sept.,1944, Belgium
T/4 Cecil J. Cash, C Battery, 20 Dec., 1944, Belgium
T/5 Raymond A. Heitmann, C Battery, 20 Dec., 1944, Belgium
Pvt. Steve B. Piasecki, D Battery, 25 April, 1944, Belgium
HISTORY OF BATTERY "A" 197th AAA (aw) Bn
From Nov. 10, 1942 to May 7,
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