The Story of the 95th Armored Field Artillery Battalion
of the 5th Armored Division
To our comrades who fell on the field of battle.
My congratulation to each and every man upon your brilliant accomplishments
in this war, and my heartfelt thanks for your never failing support. Command of
the 95th Armored Field Artillery I considered a great privilege; service in it,
along with you, was a great honor.
James W. McNeer
Lt. Col. FA
We provide this introduction purely for the benefit of those who may at some
future time find this book in a place of state in some dentist’s waiting room
or in the official archives of a veteran organization that is valiantly
struggling for members. The people about whom it is written, the members of the
95th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, don’t need an introduction to these
pages anymore than they need an introduction to their parents, or the old gang
around the local equivalent of the Stork Club. The might need an explanation
and that is impossible to provide. The damn thing just got written for no
particular reason. Or maybe for no reason that was particular. It really
doesn’t make any difference; it doesn’t make any sense either, but why
should we worry about that not?
If some portions of the story don’t measure up to the standards of pure
recollection the reader will just have to write that off to poetic license. The
errors were probably caused because we couldn’t remember what did happen, or
because the pages of the unit journal were shuffled for that month, or because
somebody used the overlay provided with the field orders to light their cigar,
or because--well, think of your own reason, we can’t do everything.
A Battalion Is Born
The 95th Field Artillery (Armored) was born on 1 January 1942 at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
It became the 95th Armored Field Artillery Battalion the next day, because
somebody had cut the original order wrong, and they fixed up our title with change
number one to Special Order number one using twice as much memograph paper to
get us started as was originally planned.
We were composed of a conglomerate group of assorted characters, from the
58th and 65th Field Artillery Battalions, the Armored
Fort Bragg and probably a few itinerant
individuals who just couldn't find any place to go and figured they needed a
place to sleep more than anything else. Our first home was approximately a half
acre of the mud puddle laughingly termed the “tent camp” at Fort Knox, Kentucky,
while our motor park could be differentiated from the camp primarily by the
fact that the mud was six inches deeper and a lot stickier.
The first two months of our existence were characterized by a flurry
of trying to find out who was who, and the morning reports read like the
passenger list on the Queen Mary, what with people going to, and coming from,
schools, leaves, furloughs, AWOL's and the host of other details that popped up
We started to learn how to be soldiers at Fort Knox,
sweeping the mud off the streets in the morning and tramping it back on again
in the afternoon. We marched and saluted and read Life magazine to see what our
equipment would look like when we did get it, but most of all we got a good
head start on learning how to be comfortably uncomfortable, looking a great
deal more like soldiers at the end of the two months than we did at the be-
ginning. The war wasn't going our way then, and we shared the national apprehension
relative to our ability to catch up to our enemies, who had been in the
business long before us.
At the end of February we entrained for California
and Camp Cooke to complete our organization and
training and to be in position to defend the west coast an the event of attack.
We took off with less than a third of our T/O personnel, two kitchen trucks,
two motorcycles and a 1/2 ton command car. Still we were an Armored Field
Artillery Battalion, and if we didn't have any guns we could still muster up a
complement of expert tobacco chewers, whose accuracy was undisputed. If we
couldn't shoot ‘em we could spit on 'em, and we were willing to try.
We didn't know, and we cared less, what was in store for us, simply because
the idea of leaving the infamous "Tent
City" appealed to us, and we
figured that Camp
Cooke couldn't he worse.
We had a lot to learn.
Utopia in the West
was a picture of paradise to us compared to the tent city we had left behind at
Fort Knox. It was brand Spanking new and not
really completed when we arrived, and we were the first inmates of the
barracks. Those balmy ocean breezes, and the California
sunshine were a great treat after the cold winter at Fort Knox,
and we all changed our wearing apparel to suit the climate. It wasn't necessary
to wear wool OD's over our "long Johns" anymore, suntans with
overcoats, being sufficient to combat the ninety mile winds that blew in from
It was at Camp
Cooke that we really
plunged into our military training with a will. In less than six weeks
our progress was amazing-- we planted grass anti geraniums everywhere, we built
gravel walks and picket fences, we made a garden in the desert and drew thirty
O3 Springfield rifles for training.
However, we soon began to draw our equipment faster, and the Selective
Service obligingly filled our cadre to full strength. We started to faintly
resemble 3 soldierly unit. For twelve weeks we sweated through the basic
training schedule while at the same time we kept an eye peeled on the Pacific Ocean for signs of an approaching enemy. Our
first realization that there was a war going on came when a Japanese submarine
managed to get in close enough to shell Santa Barbara one evening in March. The
inclement brought the: war a little closer to us and we doubled our' vigor on
the watch towards the West. We kept a battery in firing position on the beach
every night and continued to train, train, train. At the end of the twelve week
program we found our training paid dividends when the battalion was judged
first in the division in their training tests. The awards surprised us just
about as much as anyone, but it gave us a lot of needed confidence, too. We
felt ready for the next phase--Desert Maneuvers
The Desert Scene
The Mojave Desert in California
was a place of mystery in the summer of 1942. Rommel and the British were
playing hide and seek across the wastes of North Africa,
and we felt that with a little practice we could take right off after them. But
that isn't what happened.
Late in July we arrived at our initial maneuver assembly area near Freda,
California a friendly little town of two Indians, two gas pumps, and a hot dog
stand, carrying our version of full field equipment for the desert, water bags,
"kepi’s" for our helmet liners, and innumerable types of sun-proof
vitamin pills designed to give us vigor under the most grueling conditions. The
next few weeks we "acclimatized" ourselves to the terrific
temperatures, a process in which we lay on our backs in what shade we could
find most of the day. Wonderful - these maneuvers.
After we became acclimated to hle desert heat, the tempo of the exercises
gained momentum, and soon maneuver problems started in earnest. We chased one
another over the Chocolate Mountains, through the Iron
and from Blythe to Needles and Needles to Desert Center
all summer. By November we could throw the tracks off a halftrack and pry them
back on again in record time. Our skill at not getting lost in the trackless
wastes had increased a hundred fold, and we had painted the towns of Blythe,
Needles, and Los Angeles
a very brilliant red during the rest periods between problems. In the meantime
American Forces had landed in North Africa and Montgomery
was busy chasing Rommel back to Tunisia.
We guessed that the troops already overseas would have made the Sahara an
American sand pile long before we could possibly put our newly acquired desert
"know how" into actual practice. They did, and back we went to Camp Cooke
to await the future.
The Return of the Prodigals
Our second stay at Camp
Cooke presaged a period
of training for speed. We turned in our old' T-19's and drew our new M-7's.
Next came a flurry of experimentation and practice in fast
shooting. We practically lived on the combat ranges and did the best we could
to duplicate actual battle conditions with live ammunition. Our simulation
reached a new high for the observation parties who discovered what it was like
to'be under shell fire. Our speed also picked up, and we reached a point at
which we could occupy a position and fire the first round within thirty seconds
of the initial call for fire. The period during which we developed this state
of proficiency was one of considerable excitement to the civilian population of
Lompoc and the
passengers on the Southern Pacific Railroad, who evidently didn't relish the
idea of running the gauntlet every day. However no damage was done and our
training progressed rapidly.
Our grass and geraniums had flourished in the lushness of California fog, and while during our earlier
stay at Cooke we had fought to plant the stuff, now we had to fight to prevent
it from growing all over our walks and into our barracks. One can grow anything
The tide of the war was rapidly turning in favor of the Allies now,
and we shared the general feeling of anticipation for the big show. When
would it start and what would our role. be? At last we got our movement
orders. We were off--to Tennessee Maneuvers, and the miseries to follow.
The move to the Tennessee Maneuver area was accomplished by train. We turned
in our vehicles in California and were to draw
new equipment in Tennessee.
We entrained at Camp
Cooke wearing our
"Sunday go to meetin"' uniforms slightly the worse for the
Our new station was quite a change from sunny California. Arriving in early March, in the
midst of the last snow storm of the year, and groping our way to our maneuver
assembly area in the middle of the night, we discovered that we were to bivouac
in a reasonably accurate facimile of a swamp. But, where there is a will there
is a way, so we built. platforms for our tents, bridging the streams that
crisscrossed the camp site to make ourselves as comfortable as possible, and
awaited our new equipment and start of the first problem.
Maneuvers were old stuff to us now. The only changes~ we found from the
desert were the substitution of pouring rain for burning sun, wooded hills and
valleys for sandy wastes. and Nashville for Los Angeles. Tennessee moved us a good
deal farther along the road to the real thing. We maneuvered rapidly and
learned to follow our maps, march at night and live in the mud instead of sand.
We also became adept at foraging somewhat to the consternation of the local
inhabitants, but chicken and fried eggs made a good snack after a long and
dusty road march, and no doubt the local economy was not too greatly upset. Our
ability to live and keep our vehicles in good shape in the field developed to
an amazing degree, a fact that proved invaluable to us when we eventually
reached the theater of operations.
The four months in Tennessee
left us again in the speculative stage. The question we all asked was
"where do we go from here"? The war in Europe was confined to Italy and the
South Pacific hardly looked like the plausible disposition for an Armored Field
Artillery Battalion. In June our question was answered -- we were to go to Pine
Camp, and so we did with all our martial train.
The Pine Camp Episode
After the dust, mud and restrictions of the Tennessee Maneuvers we expected
a general relaxation at Pine Camp. Furloughs, passes and leaves in unlimited
quantities would have been a pleasure, but we headed right into a ninety day
intense training program complete with ten percent pass quota. The days were
full of road marches, target practice and RSOP's. The nights were full of PX's,
Service Clubs, Movies, Watertown, Carthage and a little
sleep, except when we went on overnight problems. We trained to meet the
of the War Department Combat tests and wondered when we'd take them and sail
for who knew where?
Summer passed into fall and Pine Camp began to live up to its
reputation as the coldest of Army Posts. It became increasingly
difficult to stay warm and stay in uniform at the same time. Then
came happy news -- we were to be equipped with brand new winter
clothing, ponchos, pile jackets, shoe pacs -- the whole works.
Great was our rejoicing when the: outfits were issued, down to special sleeping
bags, built on the order of straight jackets. We tried them all on to be sure
they fit, and then turned them back in and continued our training.
The tension of "sweating out" overseas orders became increasingly
acute. We were sharp, or at least we thought we were. "Bring on the tests
and we're ready to go -- after we get those furloughs", of course was
every man's exclamation. In November the orders arrived. We started to operate
under instructions for overseas shipment. POM was our guide and Indiantown Gap
was to be our first leg on the course across the Atlantic.
No one told us all this, but we were used to not being told.
We Discover Pennsylvania
We loaded up on the now familiar troop train at Pine Camp and chugged off
for Indiantown Gap late in November. It proved itself colder than Pine Camp,
only with more snow. The buildings were older, and there weren't as many of
them as in our previous camp. At any rate we weren't allotted as many as we
wanted, but we managed on the accommodations we had. We still hadn't taken our
final examinations yet -- the Combat Tests, consequently we went hack into more
rehearsing, combat style. There wasn't much space to
throw the shells, having a range that looked like a tennis court but, ever
using great caution, we kept the rounds out of Harrisburg. Our shooting improved day by day
and we lost only one round in the whole period. If anyone ever finds it we'd
like to have it back for a memento, although we strongly suspect it went clean
over the mountain and chances of anyone finding that one are almost nil.
As the end of the year approached the tempo of activity increased and we
preceded to take shots for what seemed every ailment known to medical science.
Our "dog tags" had to be checked and rechecked over and over again.
Shortly afterwards we moved out and sailed through the combat tests with a
record score. At last we had time for furloughs, or perhaps we were doing a
little wishful thinking. Anyway, we discovered that we were to assist in the
Infantry and Tank tests and the old cancellation stamp appeared on a lot
of long anticipated furlough certificates. But we all squeezed under the
wire, finally, and in the midst of all the going and coming we packed up our
household equipment, turned in our vehicles, took one last look around to see
if we had forgotten anything, and entrained for a secret destination.
We spent our last few days at Indiantown confined to camp and hadn't been
able to talk the taxi-cab drivers in Harrisburg,
so we really didn't know where we were going except that it would be a Port of Embarkation.
Prelude to the Voyage
The train rolled swiftly eastward from Indiantown Gap until we reached New Jersey. Late in the
afternoon we, passed through the gates of what was to be Our last post in the United States -- Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.
Here we readied ourselves for the ocean voyage ahead of us, and were subjected
to a program of processing, which made every man a virtual prisoner in
his respective bunk, so he would be available within a moment's notice to
undergo any tests that might occur. Our entire stay at Camp Kilmer
was one big showdown inspection. Everything we owned was scrutinized for
serviceability with an eye to replace any item found worn out. We turned
in clothing and equipment day and night and in between inspections to sort of
relieve the monotony. We practiced abandon ship drills, went through gas
chambers, and stood our final physical examinations. All of us had both arms
legs and could walk, so no one had trouble with the physical. There is no truth
to the report that there was an ambulance following us as we marched along to
the medical building for everyone made it, anyway.
We had only been at Kilmer one day when the wall of military censorship cut
us off from the outside world. No one was allowed to leave the post, no mail
was sent out, and no telephone calls could he made. The moment for
embarkation was so near some of us got seasick just thinking about it. Three
days later we lined up with all of our gear strapped on our backs and loaded on
the train for the dock. We shuttled across the bay on a ferry boat, gazed
longingly at the Statue of Liberty, and before we knew it were aboard ship,
safely tucked away deep in the hold.
Our ship was the Edmund B. Alexander, a converted passenger liner. It was a
good ship, at least it didn't leak anywhere and no one had to sleep on deck.
Each of us had his individual stateroom hanging from the wall deep down
in the stuffy hold with about two cubic feet of air for personal use. If
we had been drenched with olive oil we could have passed for sardines in any
delicatessen in the country.
However, there was lots of room on deck, and the long climb up the
companionway from the hold to reach it provided a good bit of exercise. It wasn't
too bad - much better than swimming.
The first day at sea had varying effects on us. Some of us turned very pale,
some turned a delicate shade of blue, while "violent green" was a
very popular complexion. The chow line was very short that day, but standing
room at the rail was hard to find. However, as the day wore on we gradually
recovered our color, and by nightfall had decided that we were going to
live through this ordeal after all.
Our convoy was seemingly spread all over the ocean as far as the eye
could see. We later found that it-was the largest convoy of the war. Day after
day we watched our sister ships toss and roll their way to England, for we
were now certain that we were headed for that jolly isle. We fell out for boat
and abandon ship drill regularly until one sunny morning a dim shape resembling
land appeared on the horizon. We lined the rails as the ship drew closer to Ireland skirting its shores, and sailed down the
west coast of England to
deposit us safely at Liverpool. We had crossed
the Atlantic without sighting a submarine or
an enemy airplane, a fact that made none of us sorry.
We got our first taste of war, or more correctly, the horrible results of it
when we saw the ruined waterfront sections of Liverpool
as our ship eased its way into the pier. Everywhere was devastation and the
ruins of buildings. If we ever felt like fighting before we felt a hundred
times more so now, witnessing for the first time the work of our enemy.
Scarcely had we lined up on the dock when we were taken on an eerie march,
through the deserted streets of Liverpool to
the train that was waiting to whisk us away to our destination. Once aboard the
typical English cars we were treated to a cup of hot coffee served to us by the
Red Cross girls whose smiles improved our spirits a great deal. Their presence
brought a touch of home to us.
Over the beautiful English heaths we sped taking in all the countryside,
particularly noting the severe use of the land, for every available foot was
producing food for this country at war. After riding all that night and far
into the next afternoon we reached our destination, Perham Downs, Wiltshire,
where we were billeted in the barracks of the Royal Tank Corps.
The training of course started again and we set to our task of that old
deal, the Drill Schedule. The climate was terrible and not a few of us remarked
and the Desert had had their definite good points. Dampness and mist were the
passwords, and it was a 24 hour job trying to heat up a huge building, built to
accommodate fifty people with one infinitesimal apology for a fire-place that
lay embedded in the wall. All in all we froze. The stay in Perharn Downs was
un- spectacular, heightened only by a few passes to Piccadilly Square, or rather London. We weren't
excited about the place and we welcomed the news that we were going down to the
coast on another mission.
H. M. S. Raleigh
We mounted our trusty 6x6's and set forth again for the South of England and
a job of the utmost importance was awaiting us. This assignment was by no means
an intriguing one for it consisted of acting in the capacity of Service Troops
to give a helping hand to the boys who were to crack open Hitler’s fortress on
D-day. Our first temporary stop was at the H. M. S. Raleigh, a former Naval Training
Center, and we waited
here for a few days preparatory to our new duties. The battalion was split up,
each battery going to a different camp all in the same general vicinity, where
the invading troops would be serviced and made ready for the big assault. The
idea of turning to permanent K. P. was not at all to our liking, but we turned
to and did the best we could with the equipment placed at our disposal. The job
turned out to be a constant battle to provide the facilities we thought
invasion troops should have.
Once we were settled down to this novel routine we took a look at Plymouth and found it
presented quite a number of things to do on pass. A part of the city had been
blasted away by the Luftwaffe, due principally to its nearness to the English Channel, but enough of the pubs and theaters
remained to occupy what leisure we had. There were also almost enough ATS girls
and WRENS to help us along. All in all, we spent our time between doing K.P.,
pulling guard, or slipping off to Plymouth
or to the quaint Cornish Villages, where life was simple hut pleasant.
Everything went well and we felt that the boys who left us to embark on the
greatest and most dangerous task of their lives took a part of us along with
them, for with them went our good wishes and the prayers for their safety.
With the announcement of D-day on June 6th we were released from our onerous
tasks as cooks and kitchen police, and moved back to the Salisbury Plain where
we bivouacked in the open field to add the finishing touches to our training.
The camp was as close to the open country as it could be in England, wide
plains being everywhere. The only village near us was Tilshead, a small British
Army community that added little to our recreational facilities.
Before we could start our training in earnest we had to draw our equipment
from depots scattered all over the country, a job that lasted until we left the
area for the channel crossing.
The camp was alive with rumors of our impending movement to France, any one
of which was as reliable as the other. All information was top secret. The
Intelligence Department had little to fear from us however, as we didn't know
from day to day when we would be ordered to move out.
The training schedule made its weekly appearance with a decided emphasis on
physical conditioning which translated itself into a daily routine of
calisthenics and twenty mile road marches. In spite of our designation as
armored troops we covered a goodly portion of southern England on
foot. The marching toughened us up, however, a fact that paid us dividends
As time wore on we followed the news of the Battle of Normandy and
"sweated" out our movement orders. The maintenance crews worked day
and night with their welding torches to modify our vehicles for our purpose.
Finally we began to draw and load full allotments of ammunition. The rumors
spread like wildfire. Just as we were beginning to wonder if we were going to
get into the war at all we struck camp and rolled off to the marshalling area
at Southampton to cross the channel.
After waiting patiently for hours to take our assigned place in the convoy,
we finally jumped on our vehicles and rolled out of Tilshead. On the way down
to the coast we took another look at the fresh English countryside, wondering
if our destination, France,
would resemble it. Upon arrival at Southampton
we were destined to remain here much longer than we expected, for we had
forgotten that the tremendous job of loading the vehicles onto the boat still
had to be done. We watched with interest as the massive cranes hoisted vehicle
after vehicle, tank after tank in to the hold of the vessel. And everyone felt
a bit uneasy seeing the huge tanks dangling crazily from a cable that groaned
in protest. But everything proceeded smoothly, and darkness found all our
armored vehicles safe within the ship, ready to sail. Shortly afterwards we
boarded the ship and with everything in readiness, it quietly slipped away from
the pier. The trip itself was uneventful for us, but our Service Battery, which
had gone on ahead on another vessel had its first taste of enemy action when a
German plane swooped low over the deck and strafed it. This incident brought the
stark reality of war home to us, and we were determined not to let that
challenge go unanswered. But, with the exception of the above, we all passed
safely over the channel, despite the fact that our first mate turned out to be
an addict of the bottle. and we had misgivings of his ability to handle his
job. He was quite a character, and there were some of us who feared that his
unsteady behavior might have a disastrous effect on the course of the ship and
that we might find ourselves in Africa, instead of France. Our
fears were dispelled when we finally sighted the coast of France. Shortly
after arriving we landed on Utah
Beach; floating to shore
on barges, and headed for our first tactical position, St. Sauveur le Vicornte.
THE BATTLE OF FRANCE
Preparation for Rattle at St. Saveur Le Vicomte
Our bivouac at St. Saveur was a portion of the early Normandy battlefield. We pitched our tents
amidst the grim reminders of the first battle that foretold of our own task to
come. The hushed fox holes and now silent hedgerow machine gun nests dotted the
area. Enemy potato masher grenades, scattered remnants of German uniforms, and
the hulks of abandoned vehicles added their share to the battle scarred
landscape. Even an occasional Prisoner of War was picked up in the area and the
battle line lay just ahead.
While waiting for our first commitment to battle we busied ourselves with
last minute preparations. We built additional baggage racks for our vehicles,
picked up the last few odds end ends of equipment, and tried to strip
down to essential items for combat.
The stripping process moved smoothly down to the point at which we were to
turn in our duffle bags. Here we went through the most amazing series of orders
and cancellations we had yet to receive. We packed and unpacked the things so
often the contents began to wear out. Just as we were about to lose our
minds with the above situation, Field Order No. 1 was issued and we
discovered we had six hours to take the road with the balance of the division,
and move to the vicinity of Lassay,
duffle bags went out with a rush and we packed up ready to move out to
the great adventure. At midnight, the battery of anti-aircraft artillery that
was to fight with us the rest of the war joined our column and we left St.
Saveur le Vicomte, bound for combat.
"Vive L' Amerique"
None of us will ever forget our first night's march to meet the enemy. We
knew little of the situation. What little information we had indicated that the
American Army had broken the German line at Coutances. We were to exploit the
breakthrough and our column rolled on through the dark and dust gaining speed
as the night bore down on us. Never in all our days of training had we had a
march like this one. Visibility was zero. The darkness of the night and dust
left us under a black cloud through which the winking blackout light of the
leading vehicle peeked sparingly. On and on we went, and in spite of the dark
and the terrific pace we managed to end up all together the next morning at our
destination, only to find that we had to continue onward again. The
breakthrough was clear; we were to drive into the German rear, and speed was
again the watch word.
Three days after we had moved from St. Saveur le Vicomte, and had reached
Avranches. we paused to get our breath and await further news of the situation.
It was at this point that we came under nightly strafing attacks from what the
daily press insisted was the "vanished Luftwaffe". Our "ack
ack", however had shot three of the attackers down while we suffered no
We left the vicinity of Avranches on the sixth of August, with our mission
still to drive into the German rear and at last we felt we were going to
accomplish what we set forth to do. As we moved west, we found the characteristics
of the countryside completely changed. Gone were the hedgerows to be replaced
by open fields. Gone were the demolished and deserted Norman villages to be
replaced by red roofed French towns thronged with wildly cheering Frenchmen --
-- and Frenchwomen. "Ooh la la", who can forget those mademoiselles?
We rolled on through village after village, and the war lost its somber
note. The French sun smiled on us all day, and the French people greeted us
with flowers, apples, tomatoes, wine. champagne and a beautiful beverage we
thought was cognac. We later discovered it was triple distilled dynamite or
something strongly resembling it.
The column rolled merrily on through Vitre and out the other side, when
suddenly we were jolted back to earth with a thud. Our forces had hit a strong
point and we realized that we were locked with an enemy who had only been
evident previously by the wrecks of vehicles that had been strewn along the
roads. The resistance was quickly overcome however, and we did not find it necessary
We moved on again, still driving deeper into enemy territory, although we
still found the route of march lined with cheering and waving French who
continued to shower us with flowers and wine. We reciprocated by passing out
cigarettes and chocolate bars as long as they lasted. The medics found it
necessary to explain that being hit in the eye with a flying tomato tossed by
celebrating Frenchmen did not constitute a battle wound.
Our heroic march of liberation was finally brought up at St. Aignaur,
when after four days of constant marching we crossed sabers with the ninth
Panzer Division. Here we discovered what spearheading really meant. The Germans
proved to be determined foes, and in no time at all we found them all around
us, or at least we had reports to indicate there were pockets of them to the
front, the rear, and to the flanks. We fired our first rounds at St. Aignaur
and we shot them in every conceivable fashion, including direct fire with time
burst at an Infantry attack that attempted to infiltrate our area. We received
a real baptism of fire, and came out distinctly victors over the pride of the
German Panzer Corps.
From St. Aignaur the route of march swung northward and we raced to join the
Canadians who were reported driving south toward us. Again we met the crowds of
wild and enthusiastic French, who by this time were innocently holding us back
by their tumultuous greetings. On we drove through Sees, Contilly, Bleves, to
Le Mesle where again we overran the Germans who tried to halt our impending
junction with our allies. Again we used direct fire against infantrymen who
charged our positions, annihilating them.
Our confidence had increased with every mile. Victory was in the air. The
ringing shouts of the French will never be forgotten. "Time's a
wastin", the battle cry of the campaign, was on every man's lips. Our
halts were only long enough to gas up and push on past Sees through Essai and
into Nonant le Pin, where we closed the southern pincer of what turned out to
be the Falaise Gap.
After two days at Nonant we turned eastward again -- Our mission? On to
Paris, the goal of every division and the heart of every Frenchman.
The wild rat race was on again. We rolled swiftly on through Marmoville,
Nauville, Courtomer, repeating the same now familiar pattern of overrunning or
by-passing anything that got in our way. As we passed Tuboeuf we had news of an
enemy armored concentration at Laigle. The leading elements of the tanks and
infantry swept by them on the south, but the Germans tried to stop the advance
and struck our column as we followed the leading elements. The battalion was
split, and C Battery found itself facing an ambush of German armor and
infantry, and forced to fight a tank battle at close range. The contest raged
for three hours and the ambush was destroyed, but not before we had lost an
M-7, one of our anti- aircraft vehicles, and all of C Battery's one-quarter ton
trucks. One entire gun crew was lost. It was the hardest blow the enemy had
struck, but we quickly recovered and moved swiftly on towards Paris.
Word came down that we were to allow the French to make the initial entry
into their own capital, therefore our advance was diverted north, and we
reached the Seine
Mantes-Gassicourt, ready to assist the French if necessary.
Through Paris and on to Belgium
We assumed firing positions at the very gates of Paris for several days contenting ourselves
with shooting at the Germans across the river until our orders to move on
through the capital arrived. We displaced forward on the 30th of August and
passed through St. Germain into the city proper, to be greeted by the wildly
overwhelmed us in true French style. As we marched down the Champs
Elysees our column was overrun with the joyous men, women and
children of the metropolis, all of whom attempted to kiss us, or shake our
hands in thanksgiving. Ahead of us we could see the Arc de Triomphe decked out
in the flags of all the nations, while the Eiffel Tower
pointed its finger to the sky in the distance. However the gifts of eggs,
tomatoes, potatoes and wine that had been presented us in the farm districts
were not to be seen in Paris.
Our advance remained unchecked, and now the names of the French towns began
to have a familiar ring. We were approaching the Compeigne Forest
-- the scene of the last Armistice.
At Compeigne we hit trouble again. The remnants of the retreating Germans
had taken refuge in the woods. It was difficult for armor to weed them out, so
we literally saturated the area with shells, while the doughboys rounded up the
strays. The job held us up for two days however, longer than we cared to stay
in one position.
Finally we were able to cross the Oise
River and push on to the
Belgian border. Ammunition and gasoline were beginning to be the problem now,
because our advance had been so rapid that it necessitated leaving supply dumps
far behind. The ammunition and gas trains were forced to travel for hundreds of
miles to keep us amply supplied. Yet we managed to keep going even though the
"K" ration had grown about as popular as a case of
hives, and "C" rations were used only as a last resort.
On the 3rd of September we completed the entire march across France from Normandy
and found that the only difference in the greetings of the Belgians was the
color of the flags. The same cheers, the same kisses, the same language and
best of all the same eggs.
After crossing into Belgium at Conde we all expected to drive on to
Brussels, but our orders: were changed and we turned about and headed back to
drive the faltering Germans from the Duchy of Luxembourg.
We Liberate a Duchy
presented a new and different type of welcome to the liberating troops. Their
joy was probably as great as that of the French and Belgians, but there was a
touch of conservatism that tempered their display of emotion. The streets were
hung with American and Luxembourgian flags and lined with smiling and waving
people, but the demonstration lacked the unfettered spirit that had
characterized the French outbursts.
The Germans realized we were getting closer to the Fatherland than they had
ever dreamed possible, and accordingly their delaying actions became more frequent
and violent. However the weather remained in our favor, the sun shone
continuously and our columns fanned out over the countryside with the Air Corps
hovering overhead ready to give us assistance on call.
The enemy began using his own artillery in heavier concentrations, realizing
the seriousness of this situation. Up to this time counter- battery fire had
been of little consequence to us, but now we found every shell being
returned with interest. Fortunately we suffered no casualties as a result
of these renewed efforts, but the "88" outranged our "105"
and we seldom were able to silence the enemy without moving in dangerously
close to his positions. The P-47's above us were our guardian angels in these
situations and by staying in direct contact with them we formed an
artillery-air corp team that was unbeatable.
Within a period of two days the entire Duchy of Luxembourg had been
cleared of Germans, and we had taken positions facing the Siegfried Line
opposite Wallendorf. On the 13th of September the 95th Field Artillery
Battalion fired its initial rounds on German soil. The next few days we duelled
sporadically with the German Artillery, neither side seriously affecting the
The first break in the Siegfried Line occurred after we joined with several
medium artillery battalions in heavily shelling the approaches at Wallendorf.
The Infantry and Tanks moved forward and crept up the, precipitous road that
led over the Our River and up the steep cliffs on the far side, into Germany itself.
We followed cautiously behind them anti found ourselves in the Reich on the
15th of September. We were now playing the part of conquerors, not liberators.
The "West Wall", which the Germans hall flaunted before the eyes
of the world as impregnable, was breached, and we felt that the end was near.
At least it seemed imminent and nothing could stop us on the road to Berlin -- or so we
thought. Our columns penetrated swiftly to a depth of fifteen miles when we
were ordered to halt and consolidate our positions. It was here that the enemy
decided to stop and fight. Slowly he built up a new wall of encirclement and
every day found more artillery pouring down on us, with the ferocity of tile
counter-attack increasing in volume. Confusion was everywhere, and it was not
unusual to see our three batteries firing in the same number of directions. To
make matters worse our main supply route was being infiltrated time and time
again by enemy Infantry, and the ammunition trains overcame tremendous
obstacles carrying our desperately needed shells.
The Germans kept pushing in closer and closer until on the 19th of September
his artillery concentrations reached such a peak in severity that we were
forced to fall back to our alternate area. This temporary withdrawal gave us no
respite however, and we were compelled to turn our guns away from the enemy
artillery batteries and train them on the tanks and infantry that were
attempting to outflank the entire penetration by overrunning our positions.
The battle increased in intensity, but in spite of the fury of the German
attack we held until we were ordered to withdraw to the west bank of the
"Our". There were no allied troops available to reinforce us, but we
had accomplished our mission by diverting the German strength to the point of
our penetration allowing the high command to direct the main effort of the
allied attack elsewhere. We retraced our steps through Wallendorf and
reoccupied our old positions to resume harassing the Germans. Our experiences
under fire had showed our ability to stand adversity as well as success
although many of our friends were no longer with us.
The tenacity of the German defense at Wallendorf proved that they were not
yet ready to give up a lost cause and that our hopes of an early termination of
the war in Europe had been premature. The gay
optimism of the French campaigns gave way to a new realization that now that we
were at the gates of Germany
we would be faced with a foe determined to protect every foot of his home soil.
The Hurtgen Forest
After the sweep of liberation across France,
Belgium, and Luxembourg, the
war settled down to a dogged fight for yards instead of miles, against a foe
who had apparently rejuvenated himself. The armored spearheads of which we had
been a part were held to limited objective attacks, and we fought from
stabilized positions rather than changing from day to day, or hour to hour as
we had in the past. We shifted generally northward from week to week firing
into the now strongly garrisoned Siegfried Line. Late in November we entered
the bloodiest battle of the war -- the Hurtgen Forest.
Everything about Hurtgen was difficult and miserable. The forest itself was
so thick that we were forced to hack clearings in it to emplace our guns. The
roads were merely dirt paths which quickly turned into rivers of mud, and the
weather was uniformly cold and wet. Each day found us either drenched to the
skin or covered with snow. The winter nights were sheer misery for all of
us and we had no shelter from the elements other than our shelter-halfs and
make shift log huts. Every round of ammunition had to be carried into the
position area and during the twenty-five days in which we occupied the
same positions we fired an average of two thousand rounds a day. It was a
back- breaking period for all of us, especially for the gun crews, who labored
incessantly to keep the hot barrels in action.
Throughout the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest
the troops to whom we had been providing direct support fought their way
doggedly into the towns of Kleinhau,
Brandenburg, and Beregstein, all
of which were fanatically defended by the enemy. The casualties to our
supported troops were extremely heavy and included all of our Forward Observer
In spite of the adverse weather affecting flying conditions the area was
kept under constant observation by our Cub airplanes, which flew in the rain
and snow to direct our fire on the enemy.
The Battle of the Hurtgen Forest
is not one that any of us is likely to forget. It was a harrowing experience in
its entirety, and the best that can he said of it is, “It's Over".
After the completion of the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, we anticipated a rest
period, but we soon found out otherwise. Orders came to proceed
south to the vicinity of Rotgen,
support the proposed attack on the Roer River Dams. It was a relief to be out
of the forest, although the new area was also a quagmire
necessitating a great deal of pushing, hauling, digging and winching to get our
twenty-five ton M-7's into position.
We waited in readiness for the expected attack firing a few harassing rounds
and interdictions until, on the night of December 16th, the Luftwaffe made an
appearance overhead and suddenly dropped parachutists in our midst. We
immediately went into action, killing or capturing those who were unfortunate
enough to drop in our immediate vicinity, and setting up a tight defense
against any who might have landed nearby. As dawn broke, information of the
overall situation filtered down and we learned that Von Rundstedt had launched
an armored counter-offensive against our inadequately held defenses in the Ardennes. Our lines had been broken and the Germans were
heading rapidly towards the Meuse
River to encircle our
We were ordered to fall back and occupy new positions in the vicinity of Eupen, Belgium
to protect the road blocks that were established to prevent the German
armor from swinging north. This march compelled us to make a night
occupation in preparation for firing at dawn, the time of the expected German
drive. The attack did not develop, however, and after the first few days of
tension we relaxed somewhat and concentrated on apprehending the German agents
who had been infiltrating our installations and attempting to sabotage defenses
and headquarters in the rear areas.
The Ardennes offensive brought new
onslaughts from the German air force. Our ack ack gunners began to average one
plane a day until the initial impetus of the German attack wore off and tile
"Bulge” was eliminated by an allied "pincer" movement from the
north and south.
The Roer Crossing
As the Ardennes Campaign drew to a close the allied effort turned again to
crossing the Roer
River, and we moved
northward to support the planned assault. Spring was in the air although it did
little towards improving the weather conditions under which we fought. Old
General Mud had almost complete control of the battlefield, while the melting
snow combined with the spring rains to swell the Roer to flood level. We
learned that the Germans controlled the dams up river and the destruction of
them would send a roaring flood down on us, completely inundating wide areas
and rendering the proposed crossing impossible.
For this assault on the, Roer we dug in at Ederen, Germany and again tugged
and hauled our heavy M-7's into place only 1500 yards front the front lines.
Camouflaging ourselves, we sat back and waited for the orders that would send
our barrage against the enemy, preparatory to the crossing. Finally they
arrived on the 23rd of February and at 2:45 in the morning, we joined in the
most intensive and concentrated artillery barrage fired during the entire war.
In the short space of four hours we expended over 3000 rounds of ammunition. On
our left and right flanks other artillery battalions joined in the serenade of
death preceding the operation "Grenade”. The entire sky was filled by the
crimson flashes of thousands of guns. The east bank of the Roer became one
black mass of dust and burning buildings.
The crossing was successful and the assault elements quickly moved beyond
our range. We ceased fire and waited for our turn to cross in support of the
armor that would exploit the breakthrough. That time was not long arriving, for
soon we were to cross the Roer under the cover of darkness and move up behind
the tanks and armored infantry, ready to dash on to the Rhine.
The Roer to the Rhine
The open fields that spread across Germany
from the Roer to the Rhine looked like superb
armored terrain. But, when our vehicles began to sink in the soft, yielding
ground we discovered how mistaken we were. Vehicles bogged down completely as
soon as they left the roads. We were restricted in our power to maneuver, and
the selection of firing positions proved a great deal more difficult than we
had anticipated. It all added up to the same type of pushing and hauling we had
run into at Hurtgen and Rotgen. Muscle was again substituted for machinery.
The Germans took advantage of our terrain difficulties and fought
skillfully, slowing our advance to a mere walk, until we found a vulnerable
point in their defenses northwest of Munchen-Gladbach. With a sudden sweep the
tanks broke into the clear and raced to the Rhine
at Orsoy. Throughout this offensive the Germans attempted to stem the armored
drive with their emplaced dual purpose flak guns. Our job was to neutralize
them, allowing the tanks to proceed forward. To do this, it necessitated
occupation of positions almost in the front lines`to overcome the German
superiority in gun range. Fortunately the speed of our advance was of such
great momentum that they were unable to fully capitalize on this great
As our columns drove on Orsoy we took positions at Eick, where we blocked
the German retreat across the Rhine by
shelling them unmercilessly. However, though the Germans could no longer cross
the river, we were faced with the same obstacles. Then came the astounding news
of the American Bridgehead at Remagen. We swung to new sites on the Rhine at Lank-Latum while the rest of our division went
into a static position to prepare for the general crossing of the river that
was soon to come.
At Lank-Latum we pulled our guns as close as possible up to the buildings of
the town and settled down to as weird an existence as we had yet experienced. We
shelled the Germans on the east bank of the Rhine
and they in turn shelled us. We remained in the same positions for three weeks,
firing in volume enough to keep the Boche guessing as to where the next assault
would strike. They, in turn, poured harassing fire back at us in frantic
attempts to drive us off. We became subterranean dwellers, and lived in
the cellars of the houses to avoid the deadly rain of the shell bursts. We
welcomed our relief from that assignment joyously, and lost no time in moving out
to join the rest of the Division, in what was to be the last campaign of the
The plans for the final assault in Hitler’s Germany
were extremely ambitious, Our first objective was Hannover, which appeared to
be deep within the German lines from our positions west of the Rhine. Our' paratroopers had already dropped behind the
enemy lines at Wesel
and were rapidly expanding the bridgehead while we waited for the jump off
signal. The Engineers had thrown two heavy pontoon bridges across the river
near Wesel and on the 30th of March, the
battalion rolled over the bridge ready to provide close support to the armored
columns that were pursuing the enemy into the heart of Germany.
The contrast between the breakthrough in Germany
and the one in France
was as distinct as night and day. In France
the population had greeted us wildly, but here in Germany the ruins of what had been
towns and villages were all that bid us welcome. But there remained the weary,
bedraggled slave labores, who had managed to stay behind when their German
masters fled. They tried to greet us cheerfully, but for the most part were too
exhausted to do more than wave pitifully and smile their thanksgiving.
The sight of these victims of aggression gave us all a deep feeling of
revulsion towards the perpetrators of these atrocities. It was hard to realize
that we were really witnessing results of "Nazi Culture".
Our first day's march carried us from the Rhine to the Ems-Canal, where we
were to assemble preparatory to moving over the canal towards Munster and Hannover.
Unfortunately we found our assembly area still in enemy hands and we were
forced to fight our way into it, a routine which was by this time not new to
us. The fight over, we were ready to move out and exploit the breakthrough.
To the Weser
On the morning of April 1st, the battalion: in support of Combat Command R
began its drive to the Weser
River. Crossing the
treadway bridge built the night before over the Dortmund-Ems Canal
near Senden, in typical breakthrough "rat race" fashion, we raced 40
miles before dark. Off again the next morning we crossed the Ems Canal,
and swung east towards the Weser. We were
confronted by armed roadblocks manned with bazookamen which halted the column'
periodically, but the enemy was disorganized;by the speed of our advance
and his futile efforts failed miserably to slow our drive. The large city
of Herford lay
ahead of the command, and at its outskirts we ran into anti-tank guns. We went
into position and our guns broke their silence of several clays, and succeeded
in neutralizing the enemy pieces. All night long we fired heavy concentrations
into the city, started fires, and led the Germans to believe the city was
to be entered in the morning. Instead, we split up into two columns, encircled
the city, isolating it and moved on towards the river hoping by
some lucky chance to catch some bridge intact. Suddenly high velocity
fire began landing between the columns. The German artillery firing on us
was detected by our forward observers-- 10 88's. The battalion began
firing at once, pounding the positions with everything we had. We began using
time fire and our tankers moved in buttoned up, followed by the infantry. The
net result was the destruction or capture of ten 88's, and the death or
surrender of all the personnel. It was the perfect illustration of teamwork and
the effectiveness of our artillery support. On we raced then to the river, only
to have a bridge blown up in our faces as we approached. Our cub reported a
bridge near Rinteln still intact; therefore the command dispatched a party to
attempt negotiation for the surrender of the town and the bridge.
Unfortunately, before the talks could be completed the bridge was blown by
order of the German High Command with our envoys still behind their lines. When
the enemy refused to return our party an ultimatum was delivered to the effect
that unless they were released by 10 O'clock the next morning we would destroy
the town completely. A half hour before the deadline we fired several
"persuader" concentrations a few thousand yards away and they proved
effective. Our envoys were returned on time. We had reached the Weser, but the bridges had been blown.
To the Elbe
On the afternoon of April 8th we crossed the Weser at the Pied Piper's
famous town of Hameln.
We were reenforced by the 695th Armored Field Artillery Battalion who
stayed with us to the Elbe. Just before
dark the column encountered some 500 SS troops near Springe. Together
with the Air Corps we leveled the town. Thoroughly demoralized, the enemy gave
up by the hundreds, completely dazed by the deadly accuracy of our fire. We
continued on through the night, halting within range of Hannover
and the next morning took off again to isolate that famous city. All went well
until all hell broke loose near Rethen when Hannover's
thick defensive ring of flak guns opened up on us from all directions.
Traversing our guns almost 300 degrees, we fired one thousand rounds in three
hours, destroying or neutralizing up to ten batteries, with our Recon troops
acting as emergency forward observers. The enemy fire caused us only
slight casualties despite direct hits on our CP, and some of our armored
vehicles. We then joined our southern column and headed for Peine and the
Autobahn with our mission to cut off Hannover
with a greater arc. This we accomplished so rapidly that we caught several
tanks and truckloads of infantry totally by surprise. Peine surrendered and the
next morning we were off again, the Elbe
River objective now
appearing more and more attainable. Time and again we pulled off the road,
softened up the town ahead with fire, and then moved on. Gifhorn was the next
to fall and here we split up into two task forces one supported by us: the
other by our sister unit, the 695th Field Artillery. Our column headed due east
liberating thousands of inmates of a concentration camp. Who can forget those
men in the striped prison uniforms trying to smile at us, but too weak and
emaciated to do so.
The prisoners were coming in in droves that night, and the problem of taking
care of them bothered us more than the dangerous roadblocks that we were
maintaining on all sides. We quickly solved the immediate job of sending the
hundreds of men to the rear who were constantly streaming in and we received
orders to proceed to our next objective - the Elbe River.
The familiar rat race was on again and we sped along the road intent upon our
mission. Successfully reaching our assigned positions, we learned that the
bridge had been entirely demolished. But we had done our job -- We were on the
banks of The Elbe.
Division von Clausewitz
Having taken up positions by infiltration within fifteen hundred yards of
the Elbe opposite Havesberg, we thought we were preparing to cross and head for
reminded one of our typical missions. Instead, we were called upon to turn
about, swing north and drive again to the Elbe
to smash a strong force of the enemy known as Task Force Clausewitz. which was
seriously harassing our rear lines. After waiting a few days at Salzwedel and
firing at scattered groups of armored vehicles and just soldiers hiding out in
nearby woods, we took off for Luchow. Here we ran into Anti-tank guns and
Nebelwerfers. Using both ground and air observation, however, we pounded them
incessantly until they were completely destroyed. Moving carefully through the
hastily assigned roads, we pushed through to Luchow which was unconditionally
surrendered to us. On we went toward Zadrau when again the column was stopped
by 88's, Nebelwerfer fire, and fanatical Hitler Jugend troops. We went into
position and fired continuously for two straight hours, alternating our use of
White Phosphorous and high explosive, thus causing fires in Zadrau and Heide.
Our air observers picked up the column of Nehelwerfers and called for our fire
which annihilated them. Next they discovered the camouflaged 88's and
demolished six of them, with their prime movers and entire crews. When the
column moved through Zadrau and Heitle our supported units radioed their-
thanks for our accurate fire, and when we passed through we saw for ourselves
the devastating effects of our firing. Our final objective, Dannenberg, was now
in sight, and we halted for the night at its outskirts. We rested little that
night, laying down barrages into the town, and neutralizing more Nebelwerfers
including their ammunition trucks. The next morning we went into Dannenberg and
turned our guns again toward targets across the Elbe.
The Ferry site near Domitz and many enemy gull batteries were constantly under
our continuous pounding.
For the record, we had reached the Elbe Our
next mission? -- Everyone wondered what our next disposition would be.
Wait for the Russians
The fighting was over for the Division, but not yet for its artillery. On
April 26th we left CCR and joined Division Artillery under XIII Corps control.
March order came and off we went to our new position beyond Arendsee in the
small Elbe River
town of Gr. Wanzer.
The Russians were approaching, and all we were allowed to fire was initial
registration. Service Battery set up a rest center on the See anti the deer
hunters had a~field day. Then on May 2nd at dusk the news arrived -- The
Russians were on the other side of the Elbe.
German civilians were throwing themselves into the river, trying to get to our
side. Officers and men went down to the river, crossed in rowboats and joyfully
greeted our Russian Allies. The long awaited link-up had been made.
We had met the Russians. It looked like the war was over but again life in
the army proved unpredictable. The division was alerted for another mission,
and we were again attached to CCR. We moved to Wesendorf, were billeted in
comfortable quarters and awaited further instructions. The division was
attached to the XVIII Airborne Corps in the 2nd British Army, and it appeared
highly probable that, so assigned, we would cross the Elbe.
Speculation was rampant, and Denmark
loomed up as our new field for liberation.
We were standing by for march order, at the same time watching the thousands
of PW's stream by in their own vehicles voluntarily heading for our enclosures.
There appeared to be many more thousands of enemy troops than of our own, but
fortunately they were unarmed. More important, the spirit of resistance had
long since died within them. It resembled the breakthrough but we knew it was
the desperate exodus of their armies from the Russian areas.
Every news bulletin gave promising predictions as to when the unconditional
surrender would actually come. Then on May 7th orders came to cease all
offensive operations, and VE day was to be proclaimed twenty-four hours later.
That joyous hour, so exultantly received throughout the world, came and went
for us with little excitement. We played ball and pursued our normal duties,
but deep down inside we all felt a sense of relief, joy, and profound
happiness. We reminisced a great deal on that momentous day; our thoughts were
of those who were no longer with us to see this joyful hour, and we wondered
what the future held for us.
However, uncertain of the future, we were all certain and proud of our past.
The 95th Armored Field Artillery Battalion had had its share of trials and
tribulations. But through it all the battalion had done its job well, hall
never failed in its mission, and had emerged from the war proud of its