|The Hammer of Hell |
In late 1941 and 1942, the Antiaircraft Artillery defense of the division was one of the most controversial topics in the expansion of the WW II American Army. While significant strides were made, the problem was never solved. In North Africa, antiaircraft artillerymen were described as "undisciplined" by senior officers, reflecting their animosity towards coast artillerymen rather than an accurate assessment of the unit's ability to perform its combat function. Proving their worth after a year of relatively successful combat in the Mediterranean, coast artillerymen elevated themselves from the status of an irritant to an accepted member of the team, though their accomplishments were neither understood nor appreciated by those whom they supported.
Two years later, at the Remagen Bridge, they earned their permanent place in the sun. Even at Remagen, the greatest Antiaircraft Artillery battle in American history, the air defense of the division and the First U. S. Army antiaircraft doctrine were influenced by attitudes and judgments that were unfounded in fact. Senior maneuver commanders doubted the value of their Antiaircraft Artillery until the Battle of the Bulge, falling back on the decades-old judgment that the infantry could defend itself. Restricted to a battalion in each division, the antiaircraft artillerymen developed a doctrine of mass through mobility and, when necessary, reinforced the divisional area with corps AAA units.
The introduction of an Antiaircraft Artillery capability to the division began in 1939. In just three years the Coast Artillery Corps fielded hundreds of battalions with all new equipment, many of which saw combat in North Africa. Influenced by the Coast Artillery experience of defending static points, and precluded from maneuvering with the field army in the interwar years, the doctrine, equipment and training for the AAA units at Kasserine required significant adjustment. By Remagen, the fixes were in place.
Antiaircraft Artillery is the fourth combat arm in the United States Army. Like those of its sister branches, the antiaircraft story at Kasserine Pass and the Remagen Bridge is one of heroism, adversity and success. Above all, flexibility is the story of the antiaircraft artillery in WW II.