443rd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion in World War II



Winston Churchill had stoutly resisted Franklin Roosevelt’s initial Channel Crossing strategy and master-minded the invasion of France’s North African colonies. It had become apparent that the Allies were not yet strong enough for a frontal attack on the entrenched Axis powers.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower arrived at his Gibraltar Operating Headquarters on 5 November 1942 and learned of the British Eighth Army victory over the German Afrika Corps at El Alamein. He also watched two darkened ship convoys from England pass through Gibraltar Straits heading for assault landings at Oran and Algiers. At about the same time after first heading for Dakar, West Africa, in a calculated feint, Patton’s Western Task Force was approaching the Moroccan coast.

During the zig-zagging convoy trip across the Atlantic, men of the 443rd manned Navy 20 mm. and 40 mm. AA guns, held classes in aircraft identification and antiaircraft firing for both Navy and Army troops, kept their T-28-Els in combat readiness and stood submarine watch. They also learned their various destinations, began map study, planned invasion strategy and familiarized themselves with an Army-issued booklet about North Africa and its peoples. The mission of the Western Task Force was to seize and secure French Morocco, particularly Casablanca and the southern port of Safi. The convoy detected submarines several times but destroyer depth bombs and evasive tactics by the ships avoided attack.

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8 November 1942
The Western Task Force, under General George S. Patton, sailed from the United States. The Central and Eastern Task Forces came from England.

During the day and night prior to the invasion a severe storm buffeted the convoy and added to general apprehension about what kind of resistance could be expected from the Vichy regime’s French and Arab troops. A final dinner of turkey with all the trimmings (not enjoyed by those who were still seasick) was served on the night of 7 November. Later, during the dark, moonless night, ships moved closer to shore and men clambered down landing nets into landing craft heaving on the giant swells left by the receding storm. H-Hour was 4 am on 8 November and shortly after that time the invasion had begun. Just before the landings President Roosevelt broadcast a message by short wave to the people of France and North Africa, speaking in French: "Mes Amis", he said, "We come among you to repulse the cruel invaders — have faith in our words — help us where you are able — Vive La France eternelle".

Men of the 443rd, wearing their unit shoulder patches and American flag armbands, experienced their first taste of combat; shore batteries shelling the landing forces and being silenced by naval guns, fierce and sporadic ground resistance, frequent strafing and bombing attacks by enemy planes, attacks by French tanks, artillery and infantry — all complicated by some 443rd gun-tracks being put ashore at unplanned points as surf and high tides affected landings. Through it all, 443rd gunners began taking their toll of enemy planes, one even downing an attacking plane while firing from the landing craft on the way to shore. Many of the gun-track crews went into action not only firing at enemy planes but in anti-tank defense and in reinforcing the infantry units. Some supported artillery fire and nearly all were constantly dealing with snipers, taking prisoners and caring for dead or wounded comrades.

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