UNIT HISTORY



Northern France and Belgium
During the battalion's comparatively short stay in these positions, operational activity against enemy aircraft was again at a minimum. The 2nd Platoon of Battery "A," still at Florennes, Belgium, and the 1st Platoon of Battery "A" at Coulommieres continued to furnish an increasing number of homings, often as many as 20 a night apiece.

One of the most noteworthy of these occurred at Coulommieres on the night of 24 September when a C-47, observed to be sending an SOS signal on its downward recognition lights, was brought in safely by the canopy that was immediately formed. The grateful pilot, upon landing, called the searchlight operations room to give the information that he had been so completely lost that he was not certain whether he was over Allied or enemy territory and that he was down to his last 30 minutes of gasoline.

C-47 IN FLIGHT
A C-47, the USAAF's premier transport plane, in flight over the Ardennes, Winter 1944.

On 5 October, the 6th Signal Radar Maintenance Team was attached to the battalion, and on 7 October, the 11th Signal Radar Maintenance Team joined the unit. More or less permanent assignment of these teams was now made, with the 1st SRMU, which had joined while the unit was at Rennes, going to Battery "A," the 6th SRMU to Battery "B," and the 11th SRMU to Battery "C."

By early October the first full rush of the Allied armies across France and into Germany had been temporarily checked, and as the front lines began to stabilize, the battalion, in a series of shuttling moves, took up positions roughly between the Marne and Meuse Rivers, gradually moving up in the months that followed to the line of the Moselle.

The 1st Platoon of Battery "B" was the first to move, taking its assignment of the defense of bridges at Vitry le François on 7 October. The 2nd Platoon of the same battery moved to Chalons sur Marne, also to defend bridges, on 10 October. The 1st Platoon of Battery "C" moved around Airstrip A64 at St. Dizier on 13 October, while, on 16 October, Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Battery opened its new command post at Savonierres en Perthois, and, on the same day, the 2nd Platoon of Battery "C" took up a defense of bridges at Bar le Duc. This series of moves was completed on 17 October when the 1st Platoon of Battery "A," still following the 425th Night Fighter Squadron, moved to Airstrip A79 at Reims.

SEARCHLIGHT (3K)

Upon completion of these moves, the entire battalion, with the exception of the 2nd Platoon of Battery "A," was attached to the 51st AAA Brigade. Headquarters and Headquarters Battery were under the 21st Group, while batteries and platoons were divided between the 21st and 92nd AAA Groups, changing from one group to the other frequently in the following months as assignments were shifted. The 2nd Platoon of Battery "A", at the same time, was relieved of its direct attachment to the 422nd Night Fighter Squadron and attached to the 52nd AAA Brigade and the 118th AAA Group, although it continued to function in the same role with the night fighters.

The months of October and November saw some increase in activity against enemy planes due to the battalion's closer approach to the front lines, a total of seven hostile aircraft being engaged during this period, but the battalion's chief function continued to be in the homing of friendly aircraft, with the 1st Platoon of Battery "C" on Airstrip A64 joining the two Battery "A" platoons in furnishing the bulk of these homings. In addition to the regular homing activities, the various elements of the battalion developed a number of other aids which made it available to the Air Force units with which it was working, including the check of cieling heights by means of the lights, the check of IFF transmission on friendly craft leaving the field, the vectoring of night fighters by means of data picked up by the battalion's SCR-268's, and the use of the SCR-268's to warn Air Force units of the approach of intruders.

The period was one of heavy rains and the battalion sections were faced with an acute mud problem, which was solved, after a considerable struggle, by strict mud-control measures and by the acquisition of wooden floors for the pyramidal tents in which the sections now were housed.


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