202nd Field Artillery Battalion
United States Army  World War II

United States Army World War II

Battalion History

 

After the outbreak of World War II in Europe, the 189th Field Artillery Regiment, composed of National Guard units, was inducted into Federal service on 16 September 1940 and stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  It was assigned to the 45th Division of the Third Army.

On 11 March 1942, due to the wave of reorganization that swept throughout the United States Army at that time, the 2nd Battalion of the 189th Field Artillery Regiment was detached from the 45th Infantry Division and redesignated as the 202nd Field Artillery Regiment, General Headquarters Reserve (there were still two battalions in the new 202nd Field Artillery Regiment).  All units which were not part of divisional organizations were assigned to the General Headquarters Reserve.

The 1st Battalion of the 189th Field Artillery Regiment became the 189th Field Artillery Battalion.

 
Lt. Colonel Tom Lewis assumed command on 1 March 1943, when the 1st Battalion, 202nd Field Artillery Regiment was reorganized and redesignated as the independent (“non-organic”) 202nd Field Artillery Battalion.
The 2nd Battalion, 202nd Field Artillery Regiment became the 961st Field Artillery Battalion.

Comprised of over 500 GI’s, the Deuce-O-Deuce was outfitted with twelve 155mm howitzers, divided among three firing batteries. Time was spent at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Camp Barkeley, Texas, Camp Howze, Texas and Camp Gruber, Oklahoma.  Throughout 1942 and into 1943 the Deuce’s training continued, whether in the heat and humidity of southern summers or in the bitter, winter cold of the wind-blown American plains. These months of preparation would see them traveling back and forth across the southern United States, participating in maneuvers throughout Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, and eventually overseas.

On Christmas Day 1943, the Deuce received a long-awaited gift from the Army command: they were alerted to prepare for overseas shipment. The men packed up their equipment and personal effects, and shortly after ringing-in 1944, the GI’s boarded a train on 6 January for the East Coast (for details of the trip across the Atlantic Ocean, click on the “Convoy to the ETO” link at the left on this page). On 29 January 1944, the 202nd disembarked at the docks in Belfast, Ireland. By evening they arrived at   their new home, Camp Drumilly, about 30 miles from Belfast.

Further training ensued, and as D-Day approached, the Deuce was relocated to Wheatley, England in May 1944. While away in Wales for live fire practice, the battalion received word that the great invasion was underway. Returning to Wheatley, the Deuce made final preparations for shipment to France. On 30 June 1944, the orders came through. After a rain-soaked trip to the port of Southhampton, the men loaded their 155’s and support equipment into and on the decks of three Landing Ship, Tank (LSTs). By the morning of 1 July 1944, they were headed for Normandy.

Joining the parade of vessels moving to and from the invasion beaches, the Deuce’s LSTs waited for their turn to unload. Permission to disembark came on the afternoon of 2 July 1944, and after a short ride through the English Channel surf, the men and guns of the 202nd Field Artillery Battalion went to war. Within nine hours of coming ashore, the howitzers of the Deuce were set up in a field just north of the little town of Vindefontaine, firing a few rounds into enemy territory to register the guns.

So began what would become ten months of combat for the GI’s of the Deuce. Unlike many other artillery units, the 202nd would remain in near-continuous action until the end of hostilities. From the field outside of Vindefontaine, the battalion’s 155’s would bark their loud report over the hedgerows of Normandy until the great breakout in late July 1944. Then, under the command of General George Patton, it was on to the Falaise Gap, the deadly pocket that nearly saw the complete annihilation of a German army group.

After a brief pause to regroup, the race for the Paris was on. The Allies used their superiority in mechanized transport to push rapidly across France, and as the rains of late-fall began, the 202nd GI’s found themselves at the foothills of the Vosges Mountains in eastern France. With General Alexander Patch’s US Seventh Army approaching from the south after their successful invasion of southern France, the Deuce was detached from Patton’s command, and assigned to the Seventh Army. Further gains were made, but a full push against the German frontier was delayed until spring 1945 due to a combination of supply shortages and bitter winter weather.

The cold and snow of late 1944 didn’t belay Adolf Hitler, however, and after his gambit in the Ardennes Forest failed, he unleashed Operation NORDWIND, an offensive that hit directly in front of the guns of the Deuce. Much desperate fighting ensued, but the American lines held. The front quieted down as both sides bided their time until the spring thaw.

At 0100 on March 15, 1945, the howitzers of the 202nd Field Artillery Battalion unleashed the first of what was to be a one-day record of 1,819 rounds fired at enemy targets. The famed U.S. 3rd Infantry Division, the “Rock of the Marne,” was preparing to jump-off and attack the German lines, to commence at last the spring offensive that all hoped would bring about an end to hostilities on the European continent.

Ten days later the GI’s of the Deuce were on the bank of the Rhine River, preparing to be the first artillery battalion across the bridge that was being constructed near Worms, Germany. As soon as the bridge was completed, the men rode across and deployed the guns in a field on the east side of the river. The push into central Germany ensued, and progress was steady. But in early April 1945 the order came through to halt the move towards Berlin, and to turn south instead. The new target for the 155’s was the city of Nuremberg. The city was symbolic of Nazi power; here Nazi architect Albert Speer had designed massive buildings built for the sole purpose of expressing Nazi superiority to the world. National Socialist Party ideology permeated the fabric of Nuremberg; the city square was named Adolf Hitler Platz, and Hitler agreed with the mayor of the city who declared it as “the most German of all German cities.”

After a fierce battle, Nuremberg fell. Munich was next, and then it was down Hitler’s Autobahn through the beautiful Alps to Salzburg, Austria. From there, the GI’s of the 202nd traveled up into the mountains to the idyllic lake-side town of Obertrum.

During the final days of the war in Europe, as enemy resistance disintegrated and German soldiers surrendered by the thousands, some men of the Deuce paid a visit to Hitler’s house in nearby Berchtesgaden, returning to their comrades with liberated bottles of the now-dead Führer’s booze. Other 202nd GI’s were sent out on a mission to the nearby town of Mattsee to assist with the recovery of the most revered icons of Hungary: the Crown Jewels and the mummified Holy Right Hand of St. Stephen.

VE Day, 8 May 1945.  The war in Europe was over. The 500+ GI’s of the 202nd Field Artillery Battalion, like the thousands of other American soldiers on the front lines, were grateful that the killing had ended. Now they could look forward to some sleep, warm baths, and peace.

But across the world, the war still raged. Japan fought on. The invasion of the Japanese Home Islands was scheduled for November 1945, and the Deuce-O-Deuce had been called up to participate in what was expected to be a bloodbath. Men who had earned enough discharge points were rotated back to the States, while the others assisted with occupation duties, and preliminary preparations to ship out for the Pacific Theater of Operations. Fortunately, they all got to come home. The Japanese surrendered on 2 September 1945, thereby ending the most cataclysmic event in human history.

The men of the 202nd Field Artillery Battalion were witnesses to history. They took part in many of the major battles in Europe, performed their duty well, and joining their 16 million comrades-in-arms, returned home to build the prosperous nation we are fortunate to live in today.

For their efforts, for their accomplishments, and for their sacrifices, we dedicate this web site to the men of the 202nd Field Artillery Battalion, United States Army, World War II.

We are forever grateful.



John Niesel




 

 

 

 

 

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