Dad started his military "experience" so to speak working at the B-24 bomber assembly factory in Willow Run, Michigan. From there, He enlisted in the Army in 1943 and received training in heavy artillery. Once in England, He was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, 319th Glider Field Artillery, A Battery. He trained on the much smaller 75mm Pack Howitzers. Under ideal situations, each artillery piece would be loaded into a glider,(in Normandy it was the British "Horsa" gliders and in Holland, it was the American CG4A). There would also be ammo and supplies along with 6 or 7 soldiers. Another glider was paired up with the piece that had a jeep, ammo/supplies, and a half dozen soldiers. The two gliders would try to stay together and land near each other so the jeep and howitzer could be connected upon landing.
Dad landed in France on 6/6/44 in the early evening hours near Ste. Mere Eglise. Although having the unit scattered all over, They were able to put a few jeep/howitzers combination's together to make an effective fighting force. They assisted various units with artillery support helping to prevent the Germans from reinforcing their beach positions and taking vital bridges and intersections for the Allied advance.
After D-Day, the unit returned to England in preparation for the Holland invasion. For Market Garden, Dad was picked to co-pilot a glider only because of his Willow Run experience. While inbound, the nylon tow rope had a communication wire coiled around it and he had the headphones on so he could talk with the C-47 tow pilot. Once the Germans started throwing up flak, the C-47's increased their speed to the point where the gliders airspeed indicator went into the red and the CG4A started shaking badly. Dad called the tow pilot to slow down as he was pulling them apart. The pilot responded, "You're coming with us so hang on". About then, a flak shell exploded between them and the tow plane. A piece of shrapnel hit the nylon tow rope and it started to unwind a bit. Dad added you could hear the shrapnel striking the plexiglas windshield of the glider and the "zip, zip,zip as pieces and small arms fire penetrated the wings. They were able to release and glide down to their designated landing area. Dad assisted in landing the glider and they all exited the CG4A quickly as the field was under attack with German machine gun fire. The enemy had captured the landing area only to be driven back by our paratroop forces already on the ground.
The 319th assisted in the capture of the bridge at Grave and Nijmegen. Dad has told me several things about Holland. He remembers seeing the exhaust trails from V-1 rockets being launched toward England before the advancing Allies overran the launch sites. It was in Holland he first heard about the German jets and actually saw them. Dad remembers a large German railway gun fired twice a day at the Nijmegen bridge trying to knock it out. He told me there never was a hit by the big gun and sometimes they would hear the large shells incoming and not going off on impact with the mud. The Germans would move the gun between shots to help conceal its location. There was a German plane that made daily passes at the bridge trying to bomb it. The troops nick named the plane "Bed Check Charlie" as it was always near dark. The plane score one hit but the damage was quickly repaired and it did not deter traffic across the bridge.
The 82nd Airborne crossed the Rhine near Cologne and eventually met the advancing Russians near the German city of Ludwigslust. It was there they discovered the Wobbelin concentration camp. When the German's finally surrendered, Our unit was sent to Berlin for occupation duty in the American sector. Dad was discharged in January of 1946.
This account was completed by his son Greg.
The regiment was reorganized and redesignated 13 February 1942 as the 319th Field Artillery Battalion. It was then ordered into active military service on 25 March 1942 and reorganized at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. Reorganized and redesignated 15 August 1942 as the 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion (GFAB). During World War II the battalion was present for the Invasion of Sicily, Naples-Foggia, the Normandy landings, where it earned a Presidential Unit Citation at Ste Mere Eglise, the invasion of the Rhineland (for which two operations it was granted an arrowhead distinction), and Ardennes-Alsace. It was also given the general campaign credit Central Europe.
The 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion saw its first combat action in Italy in September 1943 when it was chosen by Col. Darby of the U.S. Rangers to be his only artillery unit to support his Rangers in a seaborne invasion of the Naples coast designed to clear the way for the upcoming Allied invasion of Italy at Anzio. The 319th was the first U.S. Airborne artillery unit to fire against and engage the enemy in WWII. Fighting alongside the Rangers and small detached units from the 82nd Airborne, it effectively repelled numerous German counterattacks and kept the roads to Naples through the Chiunzi Pass clear until the US and British forces could gain control of the Sorrento Plateau after fighting their way up the coast from Anzio.
The 319th gained distinction as the first Allied unit to enter Naples and formally liberate that city from the retreating German forces. After serving as a "military police" unit to clear rubble, provide aid, food and shelter to the civilian population and also help dispose of German time bombs and other armaments left behind, the 319th was relieved of its civilian police duties and sent to Northern Ireland where it rejoined the rest of the 82nd Airborne to begin training for the D-Day invasion of Normandy. For its role in this offensive, the 319th was awarded its first Presidential Unit Citation, the first battalion of the 82nd Airborne to win such an honor in WWII. (Note: some smaller sized units of the 82nd also won the award because they were selected by Col Darby to be part of his Ranger force along with the 319th)
The 319th and its sister GFAB, the 320th, are the only two glider field artillery units to make two glider assaults behind enemy lines during the Second World War; at St. Mere Eglise on D-Day and in Holland at Nijmegen. The 319th lost approximately 40% of its strength due to death, wounds and injuries sustained by glider crashes and enemy fire on the evening of 6 June 1944 during the Normandy landings.
Because all of their howitzers were damaged by crash landings, the 319th fought as infantrymen for the first few days supporting the paratroop and glider infantry of the 82nd Airborne during the battles to control the Merderet bridgehead. The glider carrying the commander of the battalion, Col Todd, crash-landed behind German lines and he and the survivors had to fight their way back to the original landing zone to rejoin his men.
Once the battles in Normandy had subsided, the 319th was sent back to England to recoup and regroup along with the rest of the 82nd. A few weeks later, they were ordered to begin preparation for Operation Market Garden, a joint US and British assault on Northern Holland to secure the Rhine bridges for a planned invasion of the German Rhineland. The 319th's glider landings in Sept 1944 took place in daylight (as opposed to the night landings during D-Day) and there were fewer casualties although several gliders did land across the border in Germany (most of these men did not survive). The 319th provided artillery support for the 508th and 504th Parachute Infantry Regiments (82nd) during this campaign and aided in the paratrooper's capture of the critical Nijmegen Bridge.
After almost two months of combat, the 319th was then sent to Northern France for R & R in mid-Nov 1944. However, less than a month later, they were quickly brought to the front near St. Vith (Belgium) to support the American infantry which sustained heavy losses following the German assault in the Aredennes (Battle of the Bulge). During this engagement, the 319th fought close combat action against several SS Panzer units, frequently with little infantry support (the 82nd lines were stretched over a wide area to the south of St. Vith as a holding action until more US troops could be brought to the battlefront to stem the tide of the advancing SS Panzers).
The 319th then fought with other 82nd units through the Huertgen Forest and across the Rhine into Germany and continued to fire high explosive shells against the enemy until April 1945 when they reached the Berlin region and encountered advancing Russian or Red Army troops. The 319th along with other units of the 82nd Airborne served as the U.S. military honor guard in Berlin after the German surrender in May 1945.
On 15 December 1947, the 319th GFAB was reorganized and redesignated as the 319th Field Artillery Battalion. The 319th FAB was withdrawn from the Organized Reserve Corps and allotted to the Regular Army 15 November 1948, and again reorganized and redesignated 15 December 1948 as the 319th Airborne Field Artillery Battalion.
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