Few organizations smaller than divisions achieved more notable
records in the war against Germany than did the 991st Field Artillery
Battalion. Besides participating in the Battles of Normandy,
Northern France, the Rhineland, the Ardennes, and Central Europe,
the 991st placed the first American artillery fire on Germany
proper and on Cologne. Its Batteries also knocked out many pillboxes
in the Siegfried Line by direct fire and participated in street
fighting all the way from Aachen to the Elbe.
These rather spectacular accomplishments, however, were of minor
importance compared with the battalion's routine deeds during
its nine and one-half months of combat. Its missions consumed
48,937 rounds of ammunition and were fired in support of divisions
under the control of six different Corps and two armies. The
battalion was probably most proud of its long association with
VII Corps, the cutting tool and ball carrier for the First United
Those months of combat were preceded by forty-one months of training
in garrison, field and maneuvers. Without that training it is
doubtful whether the battalion could have accomplished what it
did with as relatively light casualties as it had to take. During
the years of preparation the 991st had three different primary
weapons, did tours of duty at eleven different posts, camps or
stations in the United States, and emerged from a regiment to
stand alone as a separate battalion.
Although the 991st technically did not come into being until
18 February, 1943, when it was constituted as a separate battalion,
its Federal service in this war actually commenced on 3 February,
1941, the date of induction of the 258th Field Artillery, of
which it was then the 2nd Battalion. The 258th, a former New
York National Guard regiment, had its home armory at 29 West
Kings Bridge Road, the Bronx, New York City.
Held in the armory for two weeks by the mechanics of induction,
the regiment finally arrived at Fort Ethan Allen, near Burlington,
Vt., on 18 February, 1941, to start its training. It is interesting
to recall that at that time the regiment's tour of duty was to
be for but one year.
At Ethan Allen the regiment shared the post with the headquarters
of the 71st Field Artillery Brigade, of which it was a part,
and the 187th Field Artillery, one of the brigade's two 155 howitzer
regiments. By May of that year it had been decided that the post's
range at Underhill, Vt., was not large enough for the regiment's
155mm GFP (Grande Puissance Filloux) guns.
An exchange of posts was arranged with the 186th Field Artillery,
the brigade's other howitzer regiment, and the 258th accordingly
went to Madison Barracks on Lake Ontario, just west of Watertown,
NY. This arrangement enabled the regiment to use the large range
at Pine Camp, just east of Watertown.
In August and September 1941, the regiment participated in the
VI Corps maneuvers at Fort Devens, Mass. These exercises were
followed in October and November by First Army maneuvers in North
and South Carolina. The regiment was on the firing range at Fort
Bragg, NC, when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor embroiled
the United States in war.
Enroute to Madison Barracks the regiment was alerted for possible
overseas movements. Several hundred Selective Service replacements
were awaiting the regiment at the post. It seemed highly probable
that the outfit would leave the country almost immediately, especially
in view of orders sending officers and men to the New York Port
The alert, like so many subsequent ones, was never followed up
by movement orders. Instead, most of the regiment's strength
was dispersed through the state of New York guarding railroad
and highway bridges and tunnels against possible sabotage. The
officers and men who had gone to the port were detailed for duty
as gun crews on hastily armed merchant ships.
In May 1942 the regiment was transferred permanently to Pine
Camp. By this time it was rapidly losing its original 100 percent
National Guard composition. Officers and men were leaving almost
weekly; their places were being filled by Reserve Officers, newly
commissioned lieutenants from Officers Candidate School and more
Selective Service men.
Although the entire brigade was assembled at Pine Camp throughout
the summer of 1942 and an intensive training program was undertaken,
the regiment was just about able to hold its own against the
inroads of personnel depletions. All branches of the rapidly
expanding army were siphoning off strength, but especially Officer
Candidate Schools, the Air Force and the Engineers.
By this time the regiment had received its second primary weapon.
The old 155mm GPF had been replaced by the new 155mm gun, M1A1.
No change was made, however, in the prime mover. It remained
the old Allis-Chalmers Diesel tractor.
The first major break occurred on 18 February 1943 when the regiment
was split up into separate battalions. Within another week notice
was received that the new 991st battalion was to be equipped
with an entirely new type of gun, a weapon which was a decided
innovation at the time. It was the 155mm gun, self- propelled.
It consisted of the 155mm GPF mounted on the M3 tank chassis.
No sooner had this news been received than it became known that
the battalion was to move to A.P. Hill Military Reservation,
near Bowling Green, Va., for an intensive training period. Personnel
were frozen and as soon as the 991st arrived at A.P. Hill on
15 March 1943 pressure was applied.
Although the original plans called for the 991st to remain at
A.P. Hill for only five or six weeks before sailing, the battalion
actually remained there all summer. The tempo of training was
maintained and there was little turnover of personnel. In September
the 991st went to the West Virginia Mountain Maneuver Area near
Thomas and Davis for a month of specialized work.
From West Virginia the battalion moved to Indiantown (Pa.)
Gap Military Reservation for a month to refit. In November the
991st went to Central Tennessee to engage in final maneuvers
with Second Army. Just before Christmas the battalion moved to
Fort Dix, NJ, to stage for shipments overseas. In the middle
of January, 1944, the 991st went to Camp Shanks, N. Y., to prepare
for embarkation. It sailed from New York aboard the Cunard White
Star liner Queen Mary on 22 January and arrived off Grennock,
Firth of Clyde, Scotland, six days later. During the crossing
the battalion took over the Military Police (M.P.) detail on
the ship. Several members of the permanent gun crews aboard the
ship were men who had left the old regiment at Madison Barracks,
N.Y., in the winter of 1942.
The battalion's first station in the United Kingdom was at Court-y-Gollen,
County Brecknock, Wales. While at this post, it engaged in field
and firing exercises at Sennybridge Range, near Brecon, Wales;
at Dartmoor Forest in Devonshire and at Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire.
Ear1y in May, 1944, it changed station and proceeded to the vicinity
of Ludlow in Shropshire.
One of the vagaries of fate found the battalion still in Ludlow
when the Normandy landings were made on 6 June 1944. In fact,
it was a battalion without any guns. Its equipment had been turned
over to another outfit with a higher priority. By 18 June, however,
new guns were being delivered and by 1 July the battalion was
ready for action.
It left Ludlow on 5 July and marched 175 miles to a marshalling
area at Fawley, near Southampton, on the Channel coast of England.
The movement to the loading yards started on 9 July and the battalion,
split into two groups, sailed on 10 July. The bulk of the outfit
was aboard an American LST (Landing Ship, Tank), No. 293, whiles
the administrative and service elements followed on a British
LST., No. 214.
In the early evening of 11 July the first part of the battalion
disembarked on Omaha Beach near St. Laurent-sur-Mer. That night
in a transit area near Colleville-sur-Mer the men got their first
actual experience with combat when German planes bombed and strafed
the whole beachhead area throughout the hours of darkness.
Shortly after landing the 991st was attached to VII Corps. Reconnaissance
for positions was made on 13 July and late that evening the batteries
were emplaced astride the Carentan-St. Lo highway, just north
of the Vire Canal. Battery C fired the outfit's first shot at
0944 on 14 July, Bastille Day. During the battalion's first day
in action 586 rounds were fired in general support of the 9th
Infantry Division. With the exception of approximately one week
of maintenance at the end of January, the battalion was destined
to remain continuously engaged until 25 April 1945. The five
major battles in which it participated fell into fairly definite
patterns. In the Battle of Normandy the 991st functioned exclusively
as a battalion of corps artillery in general support.
Throughout most of the Battle of Northern France, which started
with the breakout west of St. Lo on 25 July and ended with the
reaching of the German frontier in the first part of September,
the battalion was attached directly to the 3rd Armored Division.
It was a period of exceedingly fast and fluid warfare and the
mobility of the outfit's M12s was invaluable.
The role of the battalion fluctuated during the Battles of the
Rhineland and of the Ardennes. Generally speaking, whenever the
armor was operative, the battalion was attached directly to an
armored division, almost always the 3rd Armored. During the stabilized
periods the 991st usually reverted to corps control and general
The Battle of Central Europe, in many respects, resembled the
Battle of Northern France because it was fast and fluid. As in
Northern France, the 991st again functioned with the 3rd Armored
Division. The stable periods produced heavier firing but the
fluid periods were harder work and much more dangerous because
of the long marches and uncertain, hazardous road conditions.
It was not until 12 August that the 991st broke away from the
routine of corps artillery. In the remaining days of July it
had moved down to and past St. Lo under the control of the 258th
Field Artillery Group and XIX Corps. Its stay of fifteen days
in the same firing positions southwest of St. Jean-de-Daye proved
to be the longest occupation of any one area.
August started out the same way. Still under control of XIX Corps
the battalion slowly moved toward Vire, passing through Canisy,
Moyen, Villebaudon, St. Vigor-des-Monts, Sept.Freres and St.
Sever-de-Calvados. This orderly mode of fighting ended abruptly
when on 12 August the battalion was switched back to VII Corps
control and attached to 3rd Armored Division.
To join the division near Mayenne, a march of 90 miles was made.
Before the new area had been occupied for twelve hours, the outfit
was rolling again. The envelopment of the German Seventh Army,
which soon became known as the Falaise Gap, was taking place
and the 3rd Armored was spearheading the drive of VII Corps into
the southern flank of the doomed Nazi force.
Within four days the envelopment was complete and the work of
pounding the encircled army to pieces started. In its northward
drive with the armor the 991st passed through Javron, Pre-en-Pail,
St. Sampson, La Ligniere-la-Doucelle and Les Champs de la Pierre.
On 17 August at Les Champs de la Pierre the batteries fired 1,073
rounds, the heaviest day's firing which the battalion was to
do at any time.
Most of the battalions targets in that operation appeared near
Ranes, Ecouche and Fromentel. On 19 August a curious incident
occurred when the 991st fired a preparation for the British 11th
Armor Division. The 3rd Armored was virtually out of contact,
but the battalion happened to be so situated that, by shooting
generally north, it could assist the English armor coming south.
As soon as the German Seventh Army was smashed, the chase across
France began in earnest. The 3rd Armored rolled across the plains
of the wheat country surrounding the cathedral town of Charters
and arrived at the Seine River south of Paris on 22 August. A
crossing was made between Corbeil and Melun in which the 991st
fire power assisted and on 26 August the Seine was crossed at
Tilly and Seine-Porte.
Circling Paris to the south and east the 3rd Armored headed north
in multiple, parallel columns. The battalion kept up without
undue trouble and it fired missions daily as the Marne and Aisne
Rivers were crossed. The Marne was crossed between Meaux and
Chateau-Thierry and the Aisne east of Soissons. Between the two
rivers, at Neuilly St. Front, the 991st got its first sample
of what could happen when operating with armor. Waiting in this
town to switch from one armored column to another, the battalion
was first menaced by a column of German vehicles trying to get
out of a trap and was then fired upon by a battalion of friendly
artillery which mistook it for German artillery.
After crossing the Aisne the northward drive continued via Laon.
Rozoy-sur- Serre, la Capelle and Avesnes until the Franco-Belgium
border was crossed late on the afternoon of 2 September between
Maubeuge, France, and Mons, Belgium. The most memorable incident
of the approach march occurred on 1 September when the battalion
pitched into a duel between an M7 battalion and a nest of Nebelwerfers
["Moaning Minnie" rockets] in the vicinity of Etraupont.
Unknown to anyone a violent battle was soon to develop just south
of Mons. The German Fifteenth Army, attempting to withdraw from
the Pas de Calais to the Siegfried Line, was cut off near the
little towns of Quevy-le-Grand and Quevy-ic-Petit. The 348th
German Infantry Division, leading the army, marched blindly into
the flank of the 3rd Armored Division.
The battle started about midnight of 2-3 September. It was still
in progress when the armor turned over the job of mopping up
to the 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions late on 4 September and
headed east toward Germany. During its stay of only forty hours
in this area the battalion took more than 500 prisoners, killed
an unknown but substantial total, shot up tanks and trucks by
direct laying with its big guns and suffered its first real casualties.
Four men were either killed outright or died later of wounds,
two others were seriously wounded and one slightly wounded.
Swinging eastward the 3rd Armored passed through Charleroi, Namur,
Huy and Liege to the vicinity of Verviers. From the village of
Dison, just north of Verviers, Battery B fired on the crossroad
town of Bildchen, southwest of Aachen, at 1723 on 10 September.
It was the first American artillery fire placed on the soil of
After marching through Eupen and Eynatten, the 991st entered
Germany on 15 September just west of Kornelimunster and occupied
positions near Lufterhof. The Battle of Northern France had officially
ended and the Battle of the Rhineland had begun, but no one appreciated
it at the time. Most of the home front and many of the troops
believed that the war would end within two to four weeks.
Although the battalion remained attached to the 3rd Armored Division
for the next ten weeks, the situation stabilized. Battery positions
were changed only to keep away from enemy counter-battery, which
for the first time became effective, and to take care of special
situations. The autumnal rains set in early and the resulting
mud made life most unpleasant.
Battery B was attached to the 9th Infantry Division from 14 September
until 12 October to fulfill direct-laying missions against the
Siegfried Line. During this time more than fifty boxes were destroyed.
Many of the missions took the battery into the Hurtgen Forest
and the vicinity of the Roer River dams at Schmidt.
Battery C was attached to the 1st Infantry Division from 4 October
to 23 October. Working with the 18th Infantry, its guns helped
to blast the pill-boxes defending Crucifix Hill outside Verlautenheide
and Eilendorf to the east of Aachen. During the siege of Aachen
itself, the battery used its guns in street fighting in close
support of the 26th Infantry. For its Services the battery was
commended by Major General Clarence R. Huebner, CG [Commanding
General] of the division, and Major General J. Lawton Collins,
CG of VII Corps.
During the absences of the other two firing batteries from
battalion control, Battery A fired heavily to deliver the volume
of fire required by 3rd Armored Division Artillery. On 7 October
it received heavy counter-battery fire and five men were killed
outright, three others seriously wounded and two lightly wounded.
It was the heaviest single day's loss the battalion was to sustain.
In October Battery B was hit twice, the first time by planes,
and the second time by heavy artillery. The bombing and strafing
occurred in Brand on 12 October and eight men were wounded. The
shelling took place at Brienigerberg on 19 October and one of
the battery's cargo carriers was demolished.
Ammunition was exceedingly scarce at that time and the battalion
conducted an experiment for First Army which enabled captured
German ammunition to be fired. Tests fired by Batteries A and
B proved that 15.5 cm German ammunition could be fired safely
and subsequently the battalion was issued large amounts of it.
It was the first time during the war that captured ammunition
was fired out of American guns.
On 16 November First Army opened an offensive which was intended
to push through to the Rhine at Cologne. The 3rd Armored was
soon pinched out and the 991st reverted to VII Corps Control
on 27 November. The battalion moved forward slowly and was firing
out to the line of the Roer River when the offensive was suddenly
halted by the German counter-offensive in the Ardennes.
Field Marshal von Rundstedt, the German commander, opened his
surprise attack on 16 December against VIII Corps on the right
flank of First Army. Three days later the battalion began to
pull out of Weisweiler and Nothberg to move to Belgium to stop
the German threat to Liege and the First Army rear areas. The
battalion headquarters, headquarters battery and Battery C were
attached to XVIII Corps (Airborne) and Battery A was attached
to CCB [Combat Command B] of 3rd Armored Division. Battery B
remained under control of VII Corps.
Until 3 January the First Army remained on the defensive and
until that time the battalion was never entirely together. Battery
A worked with 3rd Armored Division, 30th Infantry Division and
XVIII Corps (Airborne). The other two batteries generally stayed
together and switched back and forth from the control of VII
Corps to 3rd Armored Division. Towns in which units of the 991st
worked included Stoumount, LaGleize, Werbormont, Manhay, Hotton,
Soy, Fanzel, and Weris.
When First Army opened-its offensive on 3 January to pinch off
the German bulge, the entire battalion was again with 3rd Armored.
The advance was south toward Houffalize and positions were occupied
near the towns of Les Forges, Manhay, Malempre, Fraiture and,
Ottre. The weather during this period was the most severe the
battalion ever had to endure. It snowed almost every day and
the weather was consistently cold. The temperature fell close
to zero several times.
Two days before the official closing date of the Battle of the
Ardennes, 25 January, the battalion was withdrawn from action
and sent to Andenne, Belgium, for a Class A Ordnance check. It
was the first respite from combat for the personnel since entering
combat six and one-half months earlier. Before the allotted period
had ended, however, the battalion was ordered back into the line.
Battery B returned to action under control of XVIII Corps (Airborne)
on 31 January and prepared to occupy positions at Montenau, Belgium.
Before this could be accomplished, however, it was attached to
1st Infantry Division for direct laying against the Siegfried
Line in front of Ramscheid, Germany. The rest of the battalion
arrived two days later and fired from positions near Honsfeld,
Belgium. On 7 February the battalion was shifted to the north,
still under control of XVIII Corps (Airborne), and went into
position at Germeter in the Hurtgen Forest. Three days later
the 991st reverted to VII Corps control again and displaced to
Langerwehe. From this area it supported the 104th and 8th Infantry
Divisions when they crossed the Roer River on 23-24 February.
As soon as these divisions had secured a bridgehead, the 3rd
Armored Division was turned loose again and, as usual, the 991st
was attached to the armor. In the early morning hours of 27 February
the 991st heralded the climax of the Battle of the Rhineland
by placing the first artillery fire on the valley's largest city,
Cologne. During the reconnaissance for those positions on the
afternoon of 26 February near the town of Morschenich the battalion
nearly suffered a major disaster when the entire party including
the battalion commander and all the battery commanders, narrowly
escaped an intensive bombardment, apparently by friendly planes.
Cologne fell on 6 March and three days later the 991st was ordered
to Lorraine to be attached to Seventh Army, which was about to
assault the Siegfried Line along a line extending from Saarbruecken
to Hagenau. This offensive opened on March 15 with units of the
battalion working behind all three of the army's corps - the
VI, XV, and XXI. Most of the battalion was concentrated behind
XV Corps in front of Zweibniecken.
During the assault phases of this operation the battalion lent
close support to the 3rd, 45th, 63rd, 100th and 103rd Infantry
Divisions. Once the line had been penetrated, it was attached
to the 6th Armored Division and rode with the division on its
virtually unopposed march via Kaiserslautern to the Rhine in
the vicinity of Worms.
Supporting missions for the crossing of the river at Worms by
XV Corps were fired from positions inside the city. As soon as
the crossing was made good, the battalion moved upstream toward
Ludwigshafen and took up positions on the very banks of the river
to blast any obstacles cut loose in the stream by the Germans
at Mannheim to destroy our pontoon bridges.
Orders to return to First Army and VII Corps were received on
30 March and the long march north was started immediately. Led
by VII Corps First Army had burst out of the Remagen bridgehead
and the battalion had to march almost 400 road miles to catch
up. The Moselle and Rhine Rivers were both crossed on 1 April,
the Moselle at Treis, and the Rhine at Bad Godesberg.
The Battle of Central Europe began in earnest for the battalion
when it rejoined the 3rd Armored on 6 April and went into position
at Tietelsen, just west of the Weser River. The Weser was crossed
on 9 April and one week later the battalion had rolled to the
Mulde and Elbe Rivers with the armor. The 104th Infantry Division
used a platoon from Battery A in street fighting in Halle and
a task force from 3rd Armored used a platoon from Battery B in
Bitterfeld and small towns in its vicinity.
Late on the afternoon of 24 April the battalion fired its last
missions from positions just outside Dessau on the Elbe. At noon
on 25 April the battalion was withdrawn from action and marched
sixty miles westward to the foothills of the Harz Mountains to
take up occupation duties.
After a week in the vicinity of Harkerode in the Harz the battalion
moved southwestward and took over an area in northern Thuringia
with a battalion CP [command post] in Allstedt-an-der-Helme,
On 1 July the whole area was relinquished to the Russians and
the battalion moved to Lorsch in the Rhineland between Darmstadt
and Mannheim. After a month at Lorsch the battalion went up into
the hills of the Odenwald east of Bensheim.
The return trip to the United States started on 19 September
when the battalion made a two-day road march to Camp St. Louis
near Rheims, France. After nearly a month in the Calais staging
area, the outfit sailed from Marseilles on 30 October aboard
the Liberty ship Jonathan Elmer. It arrived in Boston on 14 November
and was deactivated at Camp Myles Standish, Taunton, Mass., on
16 November. As a result of redeployment and readjustment of
high score personnel, no officer or man who had marched out of
the Kingsbridge Armory more than four and one-half years before
returned with the outfit.
During its nine and one-half months of combat the battalion
had thirteen men killed in action and forty-three wounded. Its
officers and men received 122 decorations- one Distinguished
Service Cross (posthumously), three Silver Star Medals (one posthumously),
eighty-eight Bronze Stars and six Air Medals with twenty-seven
The Belgian Fourragere 1940 also was awarded to the battalion
as a unit for participating in the liberation of Belgium from
3 to 13 September, 1944, and in its defense from 20 December
1944 to 31 January 1945. During the liberation the battalion
worked exclusively with 3rd Armored Division and during the defense
it worked most of the time with the same division. It is believed
that the 991st was the only non-divisional artillery battalion
to receive this honor.
During its Federal service the battalion had six different commanders.
Lt. Col. Edward S. Brannigan commanded until August, 1944, when
he was succeeded by Major (later Lt. Col.) C. J. Reilly. Col.
Reilly left in April, 1943 and was succeeded by Lt. Col. (later
Col.) O. A.. Axelson. Col. Axelson was followed in October, 1944,
by Lt. Col. William E. Grubbs. Major (later Lt. Col.) William
E. Whalen took command in February, 1945. In September, 1945,
Lt. Col. John C. Flowers assumed command and brought the outfit
10 May 02
991st FIELD ARTILLERY BATTALION
A Working Bibliography of MHI Sources
"History of the 991st Field Artillery Battalion."
n.p., 1955? Photocopy of typescript, 1955?
12 p. #202-991FA.1955.
"991st Field Artillery Battalion." Field Arty Jrnl
35 (Sep 1945): pp. 549-50. Per.
Sawicki, James A. Field Artillery Battalions of the U.S. Army.
Vol. 2. Dumfries, VA:
Centaur, 1977. pp. 1204-06. #202-FA.1977. Brief organizational
Soffer, Lewis. "An M-12 Battalion in Combat." Field
Arty Jrnl 35 (Jan 1945): pp. 29-31.
Per. Fighting in France from Normandy to the Siegfried Line.
Table 1991st Field Artillery Battalion reference articles
on file at the U.S. Army Military History Institute (USAMHI):