443rd AAA Bn in World War II



American forces began preparing and organizing for a final effort to drive enemy forces out of North Africa. Lt. Col. John Smith was relieved from command and Major Werner L. Larson was appointed the new Commander of the 443rd AAA AW Bn (SP) on 3 March 1943. Two days later, Major General Fredendall, II Corps Commander, was replaced by Major General George S. Patton. In compliance with 18th Army Group orders, II Corps had completed its planning for the coming operation and General Patton had only to see that they were properly implemented. As a consequence he spent considerable time in building up the morale and confidence of his troops. He ordered the elimination of sloppy appearance of both officers and enlisted men and required shiny helmets and colored neckerchiefs, representing the wearer’s branch of service, worn around the neck and inside khaki shirt collars. Snappy saluting was demanded.

Shortly after General Patton took command of II Corps, he indicated to Lt. Col. Larson his pleasure at the 443rd’s record of destroying enemy planes with his brain-child — the T-28-E1. He asked if the 443rd had any needs and Larson responded that he wanted to replace the telescopic, central tracer control firing system with forward area (open) sights. Said Patton, "Hell yes! Make any changes you want as long as you keep knocking down planes". Temperature and humidity changes fogged up the telescopic sights and their narrow field of vision made it impossible to focus upon and track a plane during the jarring vibration and smoke of firing. Gun crews had found the sights useless and many had been discarded during the African invasion. While in Casablanca, Lt. Col. Larson and T/Sgt. Joseph Zupancic, of battalion maintenance, had discussed an open sight and a diagram was sketched by Zupancic. However there were no suitable materials in the Casablanca. Later, shortly after the Battle of Kasserine Valley, Sgt. Zupancic and one of his men, Alex Snyder, came upon a dump of cast-off German and U.S. equipment, near Tebessa. They salvaged needed materials for building open sights. With a design for the new sights approved by Col. Larson, machinists under Zupancic went to work. Improvising jigs, they made 160 new, open sights in six days, including intricate welding by Sgt. Zupancic. In the ensuing eight days, four teams of two men each installed new sights on all 443rd guntracks scattered over the far-flung battlefield — just in time for the Southern Tunisia Campaign.

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