MEN OF COURAGE

....history of the 351st Field Artillery Battalion

(Copyright 1995. The Jackson Advocate, Jackson, Mississippi. Posted with permission by Ms. Alice Thomas, Associate Publisher).

The 351st Field Artillery Battalion was activated in February 1941 at Camp Livingston, Louisiana, as the 1st attalion, 351st Field Artillery Regiment. At the time the Battalion was part of the 46th Field Artillery Brigade, composed of all colored enlisted personnel. In 1943 the Battalion was redesignated the 351st Field Artillery Battalion.

The Battalion was reduced considerably in strength late in 1943, with Cadres going to Engineer and Quartermaster Truck units. In November 1943 the Battalion was refilled with replacements from Camp Walters, Texas, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and some from Fort McClellan, Alabama. In March 1944, the Battalion was transferred to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where it served as Field Artillery School troops, for the training of Field Artillery Officers.

In August 1944 the Battalion was transferred to Camp Gruber, Oklahoma, whete it underwent tough training in preparation for overseas. In October, the Battalion passed the Army Ground Forces Firing Test with a very high score. In December the Battalion was transferred to Camp Shanks, New York (Port of Embarkation), where on the night of December 15, 1944, it boarded the Queen Elizabeth (converted British Liner) and sailed for England.

The Battalion arrived in Greennock, Scotland on December 21, 1944. On the afternoon of December 22, the Battalion debarked and entrained for Tisbury, England (Fonthill Camp) arriving there on December 24, where it remained until early February 1945.

During the time the Battalion was in England, the Caisson Choir (a group of 50 enlisted men from battalions of the 351st Field Artillery Group - Colored) 26 of whom are from this battalion made quite a hit with the British people, singing in various churches, and other places. Some of the places they sang were: Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, Westham Central Mission, London Central Hall, and many other places.

In February 1945, the Battalion boarded a transport at Southhampton, England and headed across the English Channel for France. The Battalion landed at the Port of LaHarve, France. From there it went to Camp Twenty Grand, France, where it stayed until March 6. On that date, the Battalion departed Camp Twenty Grand, France, and headed for Germany. The Battalion arrived at Alsdorf, Germany on March 7, moving to Neuss, Germany on March 10, where it fired the first round of 155mm Howitzer ammunition into enemy territory, in thr vicinity of Dusseldorf, Germany. Battery "A" of this Battalion fired the first round against the enemy. On March 12, the Battalion departed Neuss and moved to Bornheim, Germany, just west og the Rhine River, where it fired several hundred rounds of ammunition into enemy terriotory across the Rhine River into and around the City of Duisburg. On March 24, between the hours of 0200 and 0300, the Battalion fired a total of 801 rounds of artillery ammunition for the cross of the River by the Ninth United States Army of which the Battalion was assigned at that time. On the same day it supported the crossing and establishment of a bridgehead by the 79th Infantry Division. Later in March, the Battalion moved across the Rhine River to support the rapid advancing Ninth Army.

On April 7, the Battalion was attached to the Task Force which was assigned the job of cleaning out the Ruhr Pocket, which was formed when the Ninth and First Armies joined, in the great industrial areas of Western Germany. The results of the Task Force was the complete capitulation of more than eighty thousand (80,000) enemy troops.

At the conclusion of this operation the Battalion departed the diminished Ruhr Pocket and headed for the front lines of the Ninth Division, who had just established a bridgehead across the Elbe River. The Battalion fired a considerable number of rounds into enemy territory from this position in support of the widening bridgehead of this division. On April 28, the Battalion was attached to the XVIII Airborne Corps for general support of the Corps Artillery which was supporting the British Second Army. At 2300 hours, April 29, the Battalion fired a total of 215 rounds of artillery ammunition into enemy territory across the Elbe River in preparation and support of the crossing by the British Second Army, just south of Harnover, Germany. On May 1, the Battalion was attached to the British VI Airborne Division, to reinforce their fire, in the mighty advance from the Elbe River to the Baltic Sea. This s pectacular operation was accomplished in less than 12 hours, covering some 300 miles of enemy territory, and yielding over 25,000 enemy prisoners.

Throughout the whole operation against the Germans, over 6,200 rounds of 155mm Howitzer artillery ammunition was fired into enemy territory by this Battalion. This Battalion was assigned to the 15th United States Army prior to its arrival in France, and later assigned to the Ninth United States Army prior to its arrival in Germany.

The Battalion served with the Ninth United States Army since that time, fighting with it throughout the duration of the European war.

This Battalion has served with the following Corps since its entry in combat: XIX Corps Artillery, XVI Corps Artillery, XVIII Airborne Corps Artillery, XIII Corps Artillery; also with the following Divisions and other units: 83rd Infantry Division, 95th Infantry Division, 79th Infantry Division, and the 6th Airborne (British) Division, 34th Field Artillery Brigade and several Field Artillery groups. This Battalion is composed of all colored enlisted personnel, and mixed officers. Having a total of 16 colored officers and 15 white officers, the Battalion has been on a mixed officer status since early in 1944. This Battalion was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Charles W. Matheny, Jr., of Florida with Major Elmer G. Kelso of Maine, the Battalion Executive.

THE JACKSON ADVOCATE
P. O. Box 3708
Jackson, MS 39207-3708

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