443rd Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion in World War II



Its Firing Point experience over, the 443rd moved on 13 May to an assembly area northeast of Mondragnone. A general offensive against the Hitler Line had been under way for four days and II Corps troops had broken through from Minturno to a line beyond Signo and Formia. Leading the II Corps advance were the 85th and 88th Divisions, attacking on a front extending from the Tyrrhenian Sea to east of Spigno. The 443rd was assigned by the 71st Brigade to defend road nets and forward elements of the two lead divisions, north of the Garigliano River between Formia and Spigno. Scenes in some of the smaller towns were reminiscent of Sicily as war devastation rolled around peasants making tomato sauce and spaghetti in semi-primitive surroundings.

On 18 May the Battalion CP received a radio message from Battery B that the "935th, 639th and 910th Field Artillery battalions are moving by us". The message was relayed to the 71st MA Brigade to which the 443rd was attached. This sharply illustrated the lag in communications resulting from Brigade control of MA (SP) battalions in fast moving situations. The 71st Brigade had no idea the artillery was moving and had not ordered B Battery to move with it! At once, a meeting between Lt. Col. Larson and 71st MA Brigade officers resulted in the 443rd being ordered to give unit (rather than area) support to the 85th and 88th Divisions with two Batteries on road defense. The latter was becoming critical as the rapid advance was extending and exposing supply lines. Another battalion of MA (105th) was assigned to protect Corps Artillery, with one battery on road defense. The 88th Division forged across the foothills east of the Alban Hills, cutting Highway 6 near San Cesaro and then surging northwestward toward Rome, flanked on the left by the 95th Division and with the 3rd Division on the right. The latter took Valmonte and pushed toward Palestrina. Under all of this Allied pressure and the fall of Cassino to the Polish II Corps under General Anders, the U.S. VI Corps was able to exploit the weakening German defense and broke out of the Anzio beachhead. U.S. air support had helped by strategic bombing which denied the German defenders many essential supplies. During these operations, enemy air tactics forced a change in 443rd operating procedures. Driven from the daytime skies by Allied air strength, the Germans resorted to night bombing and strafing of highways, aiming at supply train convoys between rear and forward supply dumps. For the first time 443rd Batteries were ordered to concentrate platoons around vital road nets and fire at night on seen targets.

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