575th AAA Battalion History
The 575th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion was activated at Fort Bliss, Texas, on July 10, 1943. Lieutenant Colonel Willard L. Wright was commanding officer of the 700-man battalion, whose officer and enlisted cadre came from Camp Davis, North Carolina, and Camp Callan, California.
The battalion soon grew with fillers and the men got down to
training at Fon Bliss, Camp Carson, Colorado, and in New Mexico. At Camp
Carson, they trained with the 104th "Timberwolf' Division. After Wright
was hospitalized, the battalion got a new C.O., Lieutenant Colonel Philip I.
On October 24, 1944, the 575th left Fort Bliss for Camp Shanks, New
York. Four days later, the anti-aircraft artillerymen boarded the troopship
Marine Wolf in New York harbor for the Atlantic crossing. Aboard were
headquarters battery plus batteries A-D. The ship left on October 30 and
docked at Liverpool, England on November 12.
The battalion was posted at Doddington Park near Nantwich in
Cheshire. On November 25, the men received orders attaching them to the 11th
Armored Division. On December I, the 575th AAA moved south to join the
division at Codford, near Warminster in Wiltshire.
In early December, the 575th got acquainted with units of the
"Thunderbolt" Division and prepared to move across the English
Channel to the war zone. On December 16, the battalion sailed across the
channel aboard LSTs and HMS Empire Lance, landing at Cherbourg.
On leaving England, the Thunderbolts were ordered to clear out the
Lorient pocket in Normandy where the Germans were holding out with ample food
and ammunition. The Battle of the Bulge changed that. The German surprise
attack in the Ardennes Forest drove deeply into allied lines; the 11th Armored
would be sent to help plug the gap.
Early on December 20, the last elements of the 575th battalion
arrived in the assembly area near Bncquebec. On December 21, the men learned
they were Belgium-bound to help win the Battle of the Bulge. Two days later,
the 575th was in Soissons, having quickly passed Pans.
Early on December 26, gunners of the 575th fired the division's
first combat rounds. They shot down a Focke Wulf 190 fighter while protecting
a budge at Sedan, France, on the Meuse River. After leaving the 17th Airborne
Division in control of the Meuse line, the Thunderbolts headed for Neufchateau,
Belgium. The 575th Battalion closed into bivouac near Neufchateau on December
The Americans had stopped the German drive and the 4th Armored
Division had smashed through to relieve surrounded Bastogne, where troops of
the 101st Airborne Division and other Army units had fought desperately to
hold the town. The Thunderbolt Division was given the job of holding open the
road between Neufchateau and Bastogne.
The Luftwaffe was not a major threat, so the 575th found itself in
a new combat role: support for armored attacks. After five days of bitter
fighting, the 11th Armored Division was relieved by the 17th
Airborne, The battle and the cold had taken a toll among the 575th's men and
machines. Battery B was the hardest hit; enemy action or frostbite put 2
officers and 14 men out of action. The battery also lost two half-tracks. But
the 575th Battalion had been part of a drive that had shoved crack German
troops back for six miles and had liberated more than a dozen Belgian towns
including Chenogne Lavaselle, Flohamont, Rechrival, and Mande St Etienne.
During a reorganization of the 11th Armored, Battery B was relieved
from attachment to CCB and was replaced by Battery D. Lost vehicles were
replaced, too, and the men of the battalion rested as best they could. They
would be back in battle soon.
On January 13, the Thunderbolt Division resumed the attack to help
take the pressure off Bastogne. Two days later, the division joined up with
the 2nd Armored Division of First Army at Houffalize. The bulge was gone and
the Germans were streaming back toward the Westwall.
The 575th Battalion seemed to be charmed. Under heavy enemy fire,
the anti-aircraft gunners suffered just one man killed. More Belgian towns
were taken: Benogne, Recogne,. Mabompre, Foy, Cobru, and Noville among them.
The relief of the 101st and Bastogne was complete on January 17.
That same day. Batteries C and D of the 575th were relieved from CCA and CCB
respectively and attached to CCR as ground support for holding the division's
line between Hardigny and Bourcy. The weather was bitterly cold, making
operations even more difficult.
The Germans continued to harass the Thunderbolts with mortar and
artillery fire. On January 21, batteries C and D went back to CCA and CCB
respectively. Battery C found out later it had set up in a mine field, but in
the cold and snow none of the mines exploded. The weather continued to plague
the men: Battery D was short 21 men, most of them suffering frostbitten feet.
The division's next objective was the Westwall. Dubbed the "Siegfned
Line" by Amencan and British troops, the Westwall was a deep defense line
consisting of barbed wire, tank traps, "dragon's teeth" obstacles,
bunkers, pillboxes and mine fields, all covered by infantry, artillery and
On February 4, Battery
D moved to near Burg Reuland with CCR. Battery A was attached to CCB, which
had the mission of protecting the south flank of VIII Corps. Battery C was
with CCA in Corps reserve. Battery B had the job of protecting division
From Burg Realand. Battery D moved into Germany with CCR. They
faced one of the toughest sections of the Siegfried Line at Heckusheid. On
February 11, Battery D reverted to division artillery; seven days later. CCR
broke through the Siegfried Line.
Afterwards, the 11th Armored went into Corps reserve and began
preparations for a new drive. At the end of' February, Battery A was resting
in Leithu, Belgium, after being subjected to sporadic artillery fire. Battery
B was at headquarters in Wilwerdange, Luxembourg. It had sounded the alarm
among Thunderbolt brass when the gunners fired on a night attacking enemy
plane. Battery C had moved with CCA to Manderfeld. Belgium, in Corps reserve.
It was ready to help exploit a breakthrough there if or when it came. Battery
D, with division artillery, was headquartered at Hascheid,. Germany.
On March 2, the Division began moving to the vicinity of Prum,
Germany to cross the Prum River. Over the Prum, the division raced for the
Kyll River, the last water barrier before the mighty Rhine. The Thunderbolts
reached the Kyll on March 6, with Battery A playing the biggest part for the
575th Battalion in the drive. Moving with the 41st Tank Battalion, the second
platoon opened fire and silenced enemy mortar and small arms fire at a
On March 7, CC A crossed the Kvll and was followed by the rest of
the division which took of'f for the Rhine via Kelherg and Mayen. Two days
later the Thunderbolts were on the Rhine at Bruhl and Andernach The 11th
Armored had linked up with First Army and trapped thousands of German soldiers
west of the Rhine.
To then men of the 575th Battalion, it was obvious the Germans were
in deep trouble. They saw long lines of prisoners streaming to the rear,
sometimes without guards. All along the roadsides and in nearby fields were
abandoned tanks, halftracks. artillery pieces and other debris of war.
At the Rhine, the Thunderbolts mopped up. The 575th was spread from
one side of the division to the other. Souvenir hunters reaped a bounty of
German vehicles, cameras, pistols, clothing, telephones and other trophies
which showed up in camp. The men also sampled the famous white Rhine wines.
Even the threat of snipers failed to stay the souvenir seekers.
The battalion minus was in Niedermendig with division headquarters
while the batteries settled in nearby. Battery A headquarters was in a
Wassenach hotel with good wines. Battery B was headquartered in Niedermendig
and Battery C at Kruft. Battery D headquarters was at Obermendig. On the
Rhine, the battalion managed to fire a few rounds at stray German planes and
accidentally shot down a crippled British bomber. 'The crew cleared the whole
matter up for us when they appeared." a battalion veteran recalled.
On March 16, the division drove 70 miles north along the Rhine to
Worms. Casualties in the 575th were light two men wounded, a half-track
damaged and a jeep lost. The anti-aircraft artillerymen saw more Germans
surrendering and more equipment left behind. Many hoped and prayed the war
would be over soon.
Patton's Third Army was strung out on the Rhine from Worms to
Coblenz.. Suddenly, on March 21, the 575th battalion got to put into practice
what it had learned stateside. Ten German fighters appeared in the sky near
Worms. Batteries A and D opened fire: Battery A claimed two enemy planes. The
rest flew away without hamming the Thunderbolt Division. Later in the day, a
sole ME-262 jet streaked overhead. Battery A opened fire, but the German got
away unhurt. During the next few days, single airplanes appeared in the sky at
odd hours, but stayed out of range of 575th gunners.
On March 25, the 11th Armored switched from the XII to the XX
Corps. The Corps mission was to hold the river line on the south flank of
Third Army and assist in preparation for a crossing. The Second Platoon of
Battery A drew one of the oddest assignments imaginable for an anti-aircraft
outfit. The men were told to train their guns on the Rhine near Worms and
blast from the water any mines that might be floated down to disrupt bridging
The 11th Armored was to go over the Rhine on a pontoon bridge at
Oppenheim. German airplanes attacked at night, trying desperately to wipe out
the badge. Gunners from the 575th and other units fired back and downed 12
enemy planes. The division crossed uneventfully on March 28.
The Thunderbolts pushed deeper into Germany, passing Darmstadt and
Hanau before heading toward Fulda. On April 2, German planes reappeared. Most
of the time they stayed out of range of the 575th's 37-millimeter and .50
caliber guns. Batteries A and D took on 50 FW- 190s and claimed to have
The division was in
Thuringia and the loot continued to pile up in the fast moving 575th column.
It seemed everybody had a souvenir pistol or camera. The Luftwaffe had made
its presence known, so AA gunners kept eyes trained on the skies.
On April 7, the 11th Armored headed south and east into Bavaria. On
April 13, four FW-190s swooped low and tried to shoot up division trains.
Gunners from Batteries B and C opened up; Battery B hit one of the speedy
fighters, which was tom to pieces. The next day, bomb-laden FWs returned and
AA gunners near division headquarters put up a storm of fire. The Germans
turned away: one plane dropped his bombs, which tell harmlessly in a nearby
The Thunderbolts rumbled on, capturing Coburg, Bayreuth and
Grafenwohr. On April 23, the 11th Armored seized Cham and saw Nazi atrocities
first hand. CCB overtook a column of prisoners from a concentration camp. Many
had been shot by their SS guards.
The 575th had been joined by two batteries of the 128th AAA
battalion, which would provide better protection against high flying enemy
planes. On April 24th and 25th, the 575th claimed five planes
destroyed and six damaged.
From Bavaria, the 11th Ammored crossed into Austria where on May 8 they got the official word that Germany had surrendered. The 575th Battalion had credit for 15 3/4 enemy planes destroyed, 3 probably destroyed and 8 damaged. Eight soldiers of the battalion were killed in action, 22 were wounded and 41 were injured.