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Detailed History of the "Gun Devils"

3rd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment

        In 1917, the Regular Army forces, commanded by General John J. Pershing, consisted of little more than a Division and it became obvious that our efforts in Europe would require much more.  So at the request of General Pershing, the 82d Division was formed; and on 2 September 1917 A, B, C, D, and E Batteries, 319th Field Artillery, were organized at Camp Gordon, Georgia, as the principal fire support units of the Division.


        The 319th Field Artillery was organized as a subordinate element of the 157th Field Artillery Brigade, which provided direct support fires to the 82d Division.  The regiment was equipped with 75mm horse-drawn howitzers for its training in Georgia.  They deployed to Europe aboard the USS Lapland.


Upon arrival at La Courtine, France, the regiment was issued 155mm howitzers.  The 82d Division soon found itself involved in extensive training in the European theater of operation.  General Pershing, who felt an obligation to keep close tabs on all of his new units, remarked in his diary on 31 May 1918 that the 82d Division looked very promising, and that he was especially impressed by the much needed artillerymen.  He singled out the men of the 319th in particular.


The first big chance for the Division to show itself occurred at the St. Mihiel salient.  The salient was a bulge in the enemy lines which had to be reduced before the Allies could make an all out attack against the Hindenberg Line.  The 82d was listed in the order of battle for the main attack.  On 2 August 1918, A Battery fired the first round at the front by a unit of the 82d Division.  In order to insure the element of surprise, no extensive preparations were fired.  This marked the first time in the course of the war that American troops fought and died under their own flag in a purely American operation.  While sustaining only light casualties, the 319th had completed its first combat operation with what was described later as "professional perfection".


After St. Mihiel, the Americans advanced through German fortifications at a much faster rate than anticipated.  The Germans prepared to take a defensive stand which resulted in a major allied offensive in the Meuse-Argonne area.  For the 319th, along with the rest of the 82d, this meant meeting with the Germans between the Meuse River and the Argonne Valley.  The 319th, along with her sister Field Artillery units, participated in massive artillery preparations, punching a much needed opening in the German defensive lines.  The result of this was the achievement of all major Allied objectives and the eventual acceptance of an Armistice on 11 November 1918.


During the war numerous attempts were made at adjusting fire through aerial observation.  On 23 October 1918, during the Meuse offensive, Maj John H. Wallace, commander of the 1st 319th FA, was adjusting fire from a balloon.  The balloon was shot down by a Bodne airplane and Maj Wallace was forced to bail out. Maj Wallace made a successful descent by parachute and is remembered as the first person in the 82d to make a parachute jump.


After nearly two years in Europe and distinguishing itself in three major campaigns, the 319th Field Artillery was demobilized at Camp Dix, New Jersey, on 18 May 1919.


The interim period between World War I and World War II brought little more than routine activities as a result of the massive demobilization.  The 319th was reconstituted on 24 June 1921 in the Organized Reserves and, again assigned to the 82d Division.



On 25 March 1942, because of the Nazi threat to world peace, the 319th Field Artillery was ordered back into active military service and sent to join the 82d at Camp Clairborne, Louisiana.  On 15 August 1942 the final reorganization before our entry into World War II  took place, with the 319th Field Artillery reorganized and redesignated as the 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion.


After training in North Africa, the 319th's first taste of combat came in the Sicilian Theater.  They jumped into Sicily and advanced to the toe of Italy.  There they met with very stiff resistance.  The 82d assisted in the capture of key objectives at the port of Naples and the Foggia airfields.  The 319th was credited with much of the success in this campaign and was awarded its first Presidential Unit Citation for action at Chiunzi Pass, just south of Naples.


Following two successful campaigns in Italy, the 319th was sent to England.  The battalion was about to be alerted for participation in the greatest Allied undertaking of all, named by General Eisenhower "Operation Overlord".  The 319th left Membury Airdome, England on 6 June 1944, in forty gliders.  The gliders landed about two miles northeast of St. Mere Eglise, France, and about 5 kilometers from the designated landing zone.  The Battalion was cut off from the rest of the Division and most of the following day was spent in reorganization and attempting to contact the Division Command Post.  The Battalion was able to muster only one seven-gun battery.  The remainder of the guns were damaged during the glider landing and were left behind.


With only seven 75mm truck-drawn tubes, the 319th maintained continuous support for the 508th, consistently bringing fire within one hundred yards of friendly troops.  The 82d's advance was rapid, causing the battalion to displace numerous times during the thirty-seven day period.  On 13 July the 319th departed for England.  Due to the battalion's outstanding performance and courage during the St. Mere Eglise operation it was awarded its second Presidential Unit Citation.


Nearly one month passed before the battalion was alerted for another Airborne Operation.  This one was code-named "Market-Garden."  The operation would be part of a joint airdrop (Market) and ground thrust (Garden) in the vicinity of Arnhem.  Each battery took off from different airfields and crossed the English Channel on 17 September 1944 to participate in the invasion of Holland.


The days that followed were hectic and costly.  The Battalion was spread out over a considerable distance, and conditions were made more difficult by torrential rains.  As the Infantry advanced towards Arnhem, the Battalion was forced to displace seven times and fired 34,432 rounds over the two month period.  Their mission was accomplished in a manner described by General Gavin as "well done."


The Germans counter-attacked into Belgium and the 319th was again alerted for combat.  The Battalion fired so effectively that the 508th Infantry commander personally came to commend them.  In one instance, over one hundred and fifty prisoners were captured.  Their reason for surrender was the inability to fight or withdraw under the devastating artillery fire.


On 31 January 1945, the Infantry received a sharp counter-attack by the Germans.  Calls for the 319th's support came only minutes before moving to a new position.  Although the Battalion was march ordered, the first rounds left the tubes within minutes.  Even as the Battalion road marched to a new position, an alert forward observer saw 300 Germans staging for another attack when two of the 319th's five batteries executed a "hipshoot", another counter-attack was spoiled.  This ended the 319th's fourth major campaign of the war.  During the campaign, the Battalion occupied over fifteen different positions, two of which were on German soil.  The operation had been the longest one to date, lasting 66 days.


On 2 April 1945, the 319th was alerted for action which would take them into Germany for a third time.  During the month of April, the 319th traveled some 500 miles, taking them within 100 miles of the German capital.  3 May 1945 is in the annals of 319th history as the day it made contact with the Russian Army.  With this came the end to all hostilities in the German sector and the war in Europe for the 319th.


On 6 June 1945, the 319th returned to France.  The Battalion earned two Presidential Unit Citations, six battle streamers and numerous other awards.  It received more decorations than any other artillery battalion in the war.  The 319th returned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina where all five batteries would remain for some time.



The period following World War II, as after World War I, was one of transition and change.  15 December 1947 saw the 319th undergo other reorganizations and redesignations as the Battalion retired it's gliders and was converted to an Airborne Field Artillery Battalion.


Since September of 1917 the 319th had been assigned to the 82d Airborne Division.  The five batteries participated in the same battles, earned the same campaign streamers, and were awarded the same unit citations. 1 September 1957 brought about a major change in the Army.  The establishment of the Pentomic Division.  The Pentomic Division lasted until 1964.  Under the Pentomic concept the infantry regiments were replaced by smaller units know as battle groups. Field artillery battalions were also eliminated as the battle groups were supported by a field artillery battery.  In 1964 the Army returned to infantry brigades supported by field artillery battalions.  During 1957-1964 period the 319th was reorganized as follows:


On 1 September 1957, Battery A, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Battalion was reorganized and redesignated as Battery A, 319th Artillery, an element of the 82d Airborne Division.  It was reorganized and redesignated on 25 May 1964 as 1st Battalion, 319th Artillery.


1 September 1957 saw Battery B, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Battalion reorganized and redesignated as Battery B, 319th Artillery, 82d Airborne Division.  Relieved from assignment to the 82d on 1 February 1964, the unit was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.  On 3 February 1964 it was organized and redesignated as 2d Battalion, 319th field Artillery.  The 2d Battalion was inactivated on 31 July 1972 and was reactivated at Fort Bragg on 2 October 1986.


On 1 September 1957, Battery C, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Battalion was redesignated and reorganized as Battery C, 319th Field Artillery.  In 1960 it was relieved from assignment to the 82d Airborne Division and, on 24 June 1960, Battery C deployed with the 503d Airborne Battle Group to Okinawa as the forward-most element of the 25th, "Tropical Lightning", Infantry Division.  Relieved from assignment to the 25th Infantry, it was reorganized and redesignated on 25 June 1963 as 3d Battalion, 319th Field Artillery, and assigned to the 173d Airborne Brigade.  When the 173d was deactivated in 1971, 3d Battalion was transferred to Fort Campbell as part of the 101st Airborne Division



Nineteen years after the 319th Glider Field Artillery sailed into New York Harbor, at the end of World War  II, the 1st Battalion was again called to war.  This time it was to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (Dom Rep) for Operation "Power Pack."  On 30 April 1965, 1st Battalion, 319th Artillery departed for the Dom Rep.  The Battalion was deployed to fight as Infantry.  During the 1960's, as part of the "Garden Plot" plans, it was routine for artillery units to train as provisional infantry to quell civil disturbances.  While in the Dom Rep the Battalion performed missions such as house-to-house searches, roadblocks, and civic actions.  The highlight of these non-artillery activities was the capture of two rebel 105mm Krupp howitzers.  On 30 May 1965, 1st Battalion personnel departed to San Isidro Airfield by C130 aircraft for Pope AFB, NC.


In October 1983 an eighteen year period of peace for 1st Battalion came to an abrupt end.  With the Cuban involvement in Grenada, West Indies, the 82d Airborne Division was called upon to participate in an operation code-named "Urgent Fury."  1st Battalion's Tactical Operations Center, A, and B Batteries provided direct support to 3d Brigade of the All American Division.


The highlight of 1st Battalion (Airborne), 319th Field Artillery's participation in the operation was the firing of almost 500 rounds into the Cuban/Soviet training camp at Calivigny, in support of the airmobile assault conducted by the Rangers.  The final elements of this Battalion to pull out of Grenada were the fire support sections attached to Task Force 2-505 Infantry, who ended their seven week stay on 12 December 1983.  The 319th was awarded an expeditionary battle streamer embroidered "Grenada" for its participation in the invasion.



3d Battalion, 319th Field Artillery was the first U.S. Army artillery unit engaged in combat in Southeast Asia.  At 0530 hours on 5 May 1965, the first of over 150 sorties of C130 aircraft loaded with me and equipment of the 173d Airborne Brigade landed at Bien Hoa Air Base from Okinawa.  In direct support of the Brigade was the 3d Battalion (Airborne), 319th Field Artillery.  The men of the 319th had a jump of two months on fellow "Redlegs", which enabled them to compile an impressive list of firsts.  One of the most important was the firing of the first field artillery round by a U.S. Army unit in Vietnam from the base piece of Battery C during a registration.


Battery A participated in a combat jump into Katum, 60 miles northwest of Saigon, on 22 February 1967, with other elements of the Brigade.  This operation included a heavy drop of all of the Battery's howitzers.  For a short period of time 3d Battalion was under operational control of 1st Division and in support of the South Vietnamese Airborne Brigade for "Operation Masher/White Wing."



Up until mid-Dec, the 3/319th had been operating with HHB and three field batteries: A, B, & C.  Then Headquarters, U.S. Army, Vietnam, authorized and formed a fourth battery, Delta, for the 3d Battalion, 319th Field Artillery.  The Battalion supported five maneuver battalions and badly needed the additional artillery support.  3d Battalion maintained continuous contact with the Artillery and Missile School, by sending letters, memorandums, and debriefings, etc.  These were studied and discussed in an effort to include new and valuable information for classroom instruction.


2d Battalion, 319th Artillery deployed with the 101st and arrived in Vietnam on 19 November 1967, performing the tactical mission of direct support to 3d Brigade.


2d Battalion was initially committed in the III Corps Tactical zone.  In April and May of 1968, 2d Battalion supported 101st operations along the highlands of the Quang Tri and Thua Thien Provinces, having been redeployed north into I Corps Tactical Zone in March.  This Battalion, along with the remainder of the 101st Airborne Division, was converted to a fully airmobile status from its former parachutist status by August 1968.


1969 found the 101st Division protecting the populated regions of the Thua Thien Province.  Most of 1970 was spent on Operation Texas Star, where they supported 3d Brigade offensive sweeps against the enemy in the western portions of the Quang Tri and Thua Thien.


3/319th participated in numerous campaigns during the Vietnam conflict, and returned to the United States on 23 July 1971.  The unit was awarded it's third Presidential Unit Citation, it's first Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, and the Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal and twelve battle streamers.  On 14 January 1972, it was relieved from assignment to the 173d Airborne Brigade and assigned to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.  It remained there until the 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment was reactivated on 2 October 1986, when its colors replaced 2-321's.


On 12 November 1971, President Nixon announced all American troops would be employed in a purely defensive mode.  2d Battalion was awarded a third Presidential Unit Citation, the Valorous Unit Award, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, two Republic of Vietnam Crosses or Gallantry with Palm, and the Republic of Vietnam Civil Action Honor Medal and seven other battle streamers.  2d Battalion departed Vietnam on 20 December 1971, as part of Increment X of the U.S. Army withdrawal from Vietnam.  2d Battalion returned to Fort Campbell in December 1971 and was inactivated the following July.  2d Battalion was reactivated at Fort Bragg on 2 October 1986.  Its colors replaced those of the 1-320th FA.


During Operation Just Cause in Panama, Alpha Battery was the only field artillery unit to deploy and was instrumental in the success of the fighting centered on the Panamanian Defense Force barracks and Comendancia.


The battalion was called upon to support Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. During the war, the battalion advanced to Iraq, nearly to the Euphrates River before being ordered to maintain defensive positions in support of 1st Brigade, 82d Airborne Division.


The battalion re-deployed from Saudi Arabia in early April 1991. Charlie Battery deployed to the Province of Kosovo on a peacekeeping mission to support Operation Joint Guardian. Charlie Battery became the first American Field Artillery unit in Task Force Falcon to conduct a training mission with live artillery in Krivolak, Macedonia.



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