R E L A T E D
B I O S
James M Gavin
Matthew B Ridgway
Gen Omar N. Bradley
R E L A T E D
S I T E S
USAAF Airborne Troop Carriers in World War II
Camp Claiborne, Louisiana
3rd Infantry Division
36th Infantry Division
Etat de Lieux
The Drop Zone
Cross Channel Attack (Hyperwar)
R E L A T E D
R E S O U R C E S
Airborne (CMH) Center for Military History
Battle of the Bulge (CMH)
R E L A T E D
A R T I C L E S
Hitler's Decision to defend Italy (CMH)
Stalemate in Italy
The Decision to Launch Operation Market Garden
Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge
Click above to order The
History of the 319th GFAB
Click above to order Battery
The 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion
In August, 1944 General Matthew Ridgway the 82nd Airborne
to take command of the newly formed XVIII Airborne Corps. (patch: right)
The U.S. XVIII Airborne Corps consisted of the 82nd, 101st and 17th Airborne Divisions.
General James Gavin replaced General Ridgway as Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division
for the remainder of the war.
n 2 September 1917 at Camp Gordon, Georgia Battery A, 319th FA was organized as part of the 157th Field Artillery Brigade and was assigned to the newly formed 82nd (All American) Division. The 319th , along with its two sister regiments, the 320th and the 321st was under the regimental leadership of Col.H.C.Williams. Organized initially as horse-drawn artillery, the 319th was authorized four six-inch howitzers.
World War I
Described as "professional perfection", the 82nd Division and the 319th first proved themselves during the St.Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne Offensives frequently punching holes in the German lines until the armistice on 11 November 1918.
After the war's end, the 319th was returned to the United States and demobilized on May 18th, 1919 at Camp Dix New Jersey. In June 1921, under authority contained in Section 3a, National Defense Act, the 319th Field Artillery Regiment of World War I was reconstituted in the Organized Reserves as the 319th Field Artillery and assigned to the 82nd Division at Decatur, Georgia.
World War II
During the second month of World War II, the 319th Field Artillery was reorganized and redesignated as the 319th Field Artillery Battalion. It was then reactivated as part of the 82nd Infantry Division at Camp Clairborne, Louisiana on 25 March 1942.
In mid-August 1942, when the 82nd Infantry Division was converted to an airborne division, the battalion was reorganized and re-designated as the 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion.
(picture above right: Men of the 319th GFAB Battery A 1st gun section on a firing mission. The soldier to the far right is Pvt. Ralph "Red" Radosh (slightly crouched having just pulled the lanyard).The soldier squatting next the breach (the gunner who aims the piece) and the soldier with his back to the camera are unidentified. The soldier to the far left is Pvt. Donald Swanson of Swords Glen, MN)
(^^ Click above Picture to Enlarge ^^)
During World War II, the 319th, along with the 82nd Airborne was the first airborne unit to be sent overseas, arriving in Casablanca in the Spring of 1943,while their sister unit, the 101st Airborne remained back at Ft. Bragg to continue training exercises. During the hot summer months of 1943, the men of the 319th practiced loading and unloading the few gliders available and generally prepared for their first airborne invasion, however they were not included in the first Allied airborne assault in Sicily (July 9, 1943 due to the lack of an adequate number of combat-ready gliders and trained glider pilots. However, Col. William Darby observed their training exercises and requested that the 319th be assigned to his Ranger Force for their mission to open up the road between Salerno and Naples in the upcoming invasion of Italy. The Ranger Force was to occupy the mountainous region between Salerno and Naples and keep the Chiunzi pass open for the U.S. Fifth Army, which would be making an amphibious assault on the beaches of Salerno.
On September 14, 1943, the 319th landed by ship near Maiori, Italy and hauled their 105mm howitzers up the mountain roads in the early morning darkness. After quickly establishing their firing position, the 319th batteries opened fire against the Germans in support of the Ranger infantry forces becoming not only the first glider unit to see combat in WWII but also the first glider artillery unit to fire on the enemy. Although outnumbered by as much as 8:1 by battle-hardened German forces, including the Hermann Goering Division, the 319th and the rest of the small ranger force held out for over 10 days before being reinforced by the U.S. Fifth Army which included the majority of the 82nd airborne infantry and artillery. The men of the 319th were among the first U.S. soldiers to enter Naples and the first airborne troops to liberate a formerly occupied city in Europe. Following this, the 319th was assigned to support the 505 Parachute Infantry in action near the Volturno River to drive the Germans further north as the British and American infantry and armored forces were moving up in force from the South. For its role in this combat action, the 319th GFAB was awarded its first Presidential Unit Citation along with the rest of the small Ranger Force.
In November, the 319th and the rest of the 82nd (minus the 504 PIR which remained in Italy) sailed to Northern Ireland to begin training for the much-anticipated invasion of France. Later moving to the Nottingham Forest area of England, the 319th participated in at least one major airborne training exercise involving a glider landing, removal of guns and transports, setting up a firing position followed by an artillery demonstration.
Normandy - D-Day
Although all the airborne glider artillery was supposed to be equipped with the new M-3 snub-nosed 105mm howitzers, the 319th flew by glider into Normandy with the smaller 75mm pack howitzers. In any event, the 319th GFAB helped liberate France by landing on Landing Zone W outside of the Norman town of Ste. Mere Eglise in a 40-glider assault in the late evening hours of 6 June 1944 (D-Day). The landings were extremely difficult because of the heavy anti-aircraft fire that riddled the gliders before they landed, most crash-landed and the 319th suffered heavy casualties. The 319th were forced to fly in the less reliable British Horsa gliders that were difficult to steer and tended to smash into pieces on a hard landing. Out of a total of 337 men who landed in Normandy, the battalion lost 15 men killed in action and 58 men wounded in action during the glider landings, a 22 percent casualty rate.
(picture above: The photo above shows one of the 319th GFAB Battery B gliders that crash landed on D-Day. There were 14 men of Battery B in this glider and two glider pilots. The two Air Corps pilots were killed in the crash and two men of the battery were also killed, one on impact and the other from a bullet wound to the head. PFC "Fritz" Nigl of Battery B distinguished himself in this action by saving the lives of several wounded or injured glider troops by ripping off part of the damaged wing and dragging the men to the safety of a nearby farm house while under heavy German machine gun fire from the surrounding woods.
[ Courtesy of Dr Al Nigl ])
For 37 consecutive days the 319th's 75mm howitzers provided continuous fire support for the 82nd Airborne parachute and glider infantry, especially the 508th PIR and the 325 GIR. Following the actual glider landings, during several weeks of combat fighting, 6 officers and 17 enlisted men were killed and 85 were wounded. This amounts to total casualties for the 319th GFAB of 38 killed in action (KIA) and 143 wounded (WIA) out of a total of the 400 officers and enlisted men (337 left as one unit from Membury Airdrome in 40 Horsa gliders at 2137 hours on D-Day, June 6, 1944, the rest flew in other gliders, dropped by parachute or came by sea) that were attached to the battalion during the Normandy campaign. This total casualty rate of 45% for the 319th GFAB is very consistent with the overall Divisional casualty rate of 46%. As a result of its actions in OPERATION OVERLORD, the Battalion was awarded its second Presidential Unit Citation of the War along with the French Croix de Guerre with Palm (right).
The Battalion's next operation was Operation Market Garden. On the 18th of September 1944 the Battalion landed by glider with the more powerful M-3 105mm howitzers in the vicinity of Groesbeek, Holland near the German border. Most of the 319 gliders landed near the two designated landing zones - LZ "T" and LZ "N" starting at 1445 hours and , two and half hours later , the two firing batteries were set up and had already started firing on German positions in and around the Nijmegen bridge area. All landings occurred under heavy German artillery and mortar fire however only 12 casualties were suffered on landing. Although no deaths occurred at the landing zone itself, one glider with HQ battery enlisted men and one officer was shot down over Holland and all the men aboard were assumed to be killed in action or missing in action, no details were ever provided in the official unit journal. At least two other 319GFAB gliders landed beyond the German border and most of the men were either killed or taken prisoners by the Germans, only one officer made it back to the battalion CP. Another 319 GFAB glider crashed in the English Channel but the men made it back to England safely. In this campaign, the Battalion fired on German defenders using more than 34,000 rounds in 4 months and provided artillery support for the 508 PIR and 505 PIR for their combat role in the capture of the key Nijmegen Bridge to open up the road to Arnhem. For its action in OPERATION MARKET GARDEN, the 319th was awarded the Military Order of William.
On 18 December 1944, the 82nd Airborne Division was ordered to move to the vicinity of Webermont, Belgium with the monumental task of holding key terrain points and counterattacking to stem the breakthrough by German Armored and Infantry forces in this sector. The Battalion successfully deployed up and down the front lines during the "Battle of the Bulge" sometimes removing their 82nd Airborne patches in order to confuse the Germans. It was for the success of their effort that the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division were awarded the Fourragere 1940 by the King of Belgium. During this engagement, the 319th provided direct artillery support for the 508th parachute infantry fighting near Goronne, Belgium.
(picture above: Men of Battery A of the 319th GFAB
during the Battle of the Bulge - 27 December 1944. They are (left to right) Kneeling: William Bonnamy, Hjalmer "Okie" Olkonen and Fred Fitzke; Standing: unidentified soldier (he might be Joe Guislimo), "Doc" (no other identifiers on him)
Robert Carte, Ted O. Simpson, Fred Harsh, Ralph "red" Radosh and Ken Hanne.
(^^ Click above Picture to Enlarge ^^) )
Later in January, the 319th again supported the 508th PIR during the bloody battles to regain the territory lost in December especially the battle for control of the heights of Thier-du-Mont near Vielsalm and then in February moved along with the division through the Huertgen Forest and supported the 508th in the penetration of the West Wall (Siegfried Line) defenses near Bergstein, Germany.
The final sweep of the 82nd Airborne through Germany and across the Rhine River near Cologne began on 1 April 1945. Once the Ruhr Pocket was cleared the 319th together with other units of the 82nd Airborne Division moved to the vicinity of Blekede and the Elbe River with the mission of forcing a crossing of the river and driving east to contact units of the Russian Army. The battalion moved forward into Ludwigslust, Germany where it contacted Russian forces and began occupation duties on 1 May 1945. On 15 August 1945, the Battalion moved to Berlin and again assumed occupation duties.
Since World War II, battalions of the 319th Field Artillery Regiment have seen action in the Dominican Republic, Vietnam and Grenada. The 319th earned two additional Presidential Unit Citations in the Vietnam War.
Source: "Regimental History of the 319th Field Artillery" and "The Official History of the 319th PFAB by Col James Todd"
courtesy of SSgt Mahlon Sebring; updated by Dr Al Nigl))
319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion - Pictures
- 319th GFAB - Officers
- Photo of the Officers of the 319th GFAB (
(left to right) - Kneeling: Lt. Kondratic, Lt. Mullen, Lt. Fellman,
Lt. Fickner and Lt. Green. - Standing:
Lt. Valasko, Lt. Johnson, Lt. Ragland, Lt. Cole, Lt. Cook
and Lt. Zgradski.)
- 319th GFAB - A Battery
- Photo of Captain Sartain, Commander of Battery A, resting at an encampment.
- 319th - A Battery
- Miscellaneous photos of Battery A Gun Sections. (Photo
- 319th - Misc Photos
- More photos of the 319th GFAB. (Photo
- 319th - Misc Photos (2)
- More photos of the 319th GFAB. (Photo
- MG Jas. Gavin - Berlin
- Photo of MG James Gavin, Division Commander of 82nd Airborne, attending a football game in post-war Berlin during the occupation. (Photo
- 319th - A Battery
- Photo of Battery A in Germany circa 1945.
R E L A T E D B O O K S
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