Lt Col Wagner J D AlessioCommanding Officer
Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) Recipient
Cpl Lewis Baldwin
Silver Star Recipients
Sgt James D Bates
Pfc Robert W Dodson
2/Lt Robert M Hull
T/5 Estle W Hardwick
The 456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion
he War Department authorized the creation of the first test parachute artillery battery in February 1942. After the officer and enlisted men chosen qualified as paratroopers, the Parachute Test Battery under the command of Lieutenant Joseph Harris began developing a system to airdrop artillery guns and artillery men behind enemy lines to provide close support fire for infantry units. During the Summer of 1942 they perfected this system which involved disassembling into 9 bundles a 75-millimeter Pack howitzer and air dropping the weapon out of the door or from the bottom of a C-47. With persistent training the 75-mm Pack howitzer could be reassemble in 30 minutes.
On 24th September 1942 the first Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, the 456th PFAB, under the command of Colonel Harrison B. Harden Jr. was activated from the Cadre and assets of the original Parachute Test Battery . The 456th PFAB was permanently attached to the 82nd Airborne Division on 1 October at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The battalion was initially comprised of three batteries, each with 4 x M1A1 75mm pack howitzers. It also had an anti-tank platoon of four x M3A1 37mm anti-tank guns. Throughout WW 2 the 456th would continue to provide Cadres for other Parachute Field Artillery Battalions.
The battalion's first combat jump was in Sicily on the evening of July 9, 1943, in support of the 82nd Airborne Division's 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The battalion's primary mission was to fire at enemy troops and tanks utilizing a high arc, or
indirect fire. During the intense Battle of Biazza Ridge, however, the battery had scored its first
victory against enemy tanks using direct fire. Following the Sicilian campaign, the battalion was split up. Batteries C and D remained with the 82nd Airborne Division and transferred to England to prepare for the invasion of France transferring the 456th PFAB designation to the European Theater. Headquarters Battery and Batteries A and B supported the 1st Special Service Force and participated in the Italian campaign battles for Monte Cassino, Anzio and Rome. In February 1944 the three batteries were redesignated the 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion, with Major Hugh A. Neal as battalion commander. Neal's command was short-lived, however, for less than four months later an enemy shell seriously wounded him. He was replaced by Cooper, who remained the battalion commander throughtout the rest of the war.
456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion - Pictures
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