UNIT HISTORY



After the Bulge
In addition to its action against the enemy aircraft during the Battle of the Bulge, the unit was also instrumental in breaking up a ring of collaborationist spies near Jarny. These collaborationists, by means of light signals, had been passing information and directions to enemy planes, and the 2nd Platoon of Battery "C", after watching and reporting these signals for several nights, gathered sufficient information to bring about the arrest of 27 of these collaborators.

Neither had the battalion been idle in its homing role, the heavy air activity of the period calling for even more than the usual amount of assistance to the extremely active fighter units stationed on the fields defended by the battalion's units.

With the beginning of the new year, enemy aerial activity dropped off sharply, with only eight hostiles being engaged by the lights of the battalion during the month of January. The comparative stability of the front lines during the next few months also brought about a lessening of the number of movements bu the battalion's platoons and batteries, although a few changes were made. On 1 January, Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Battery moved into a French barracks in the heart of Metz for a stay of over three months. The 1st Platoon of Battery "B" moved from Verdun to Reims on 3 January, where it was assigned a part in the defenses of that city.

METZ CATHEDRAL
The Metz Cathedral in 1995, centerpiece of the city that served as the
site of battalion headquarters for three months in 1944-45.

Following what proved to be the German Air Force's last aggressive effort, the period saw the battalion once again functioning largely in a homing role. It was marked, however, by two cases of heroism on the part of members of the unit, for both of which those involved were later decorated. On 6 January, at Airstrip A98, around which the 1st Platoon of Battery "C" was deployed, a P-47, making an attempted takeoff, crashed. The canopy covering jammed, trapping the pilot inside the plane, and the plane's machine guns, damaged by the crash, began to fire. Disregarding the dangers of fire and the guns, Lt. Crenshaw, the searchlight platoon commander, raced to the plane, and succeeded, after a struggle, in ripping open the canopy and rescuing the injured pilot.

A very similar instance occurred little more than a week later, when an A-20 crashed in a takeoff attempt at Airstrip A64, the objective which the 2nd Platoon of Battery "B" was defending at that time. The crash occurred at night within 100 yards of Light Section 12 and the light was immediately flashed upon the scene of the wreckage. Three men, T5 Henry A. Gowett, PFC Lawrence W. Bamberger, and PFC Lloyd F. Lamaak, rushed to the plane. Despite warnings from the crew that the plane was carrying incendiary bombs, the three men extracted the crew of the plane from the wreckage, and brought them to safety.

A-20 ON AIRSTRIP
An A-20 light bomber parked on an airstrip somewhere in Northern Europe.

The month of Febuary was much like January, although enemy air activity fell of to an even greater degree, not a single plane definitely recognized as hostile being engaged by the lights. Only one move took place during the month, the 1st Platoon of Battery "B" leaving Reims on 9 February to return to the positions around Verdun which it had vacated the preceding month. The battalion's chief function was again that of homing, one instance of which was particularly noteworthy, occurring when four P-47s returning to the Continent from England became lost in a heavy overcast and, after several futile attempts to find an airstrip, were safely landed at Airstrip A64 through the assitance of the lights of the 1st Platoon of Battery "B."

March was another quiet month, with one hostile plane being engaged. On 5 March, the 2nd Platoon of Battery "A," which, since 6 September of the preceding year, had been located at Florennes, Belgium, separated by several hundred miles from the other units of the battalion, finally changed its assignment and moved into positions around Airstrip Y94, a short distance from battalion headquarters at Metz. The move ended the platoon's association with the 422nd Night Fighter Squadron, a combination which had functioned as a team ever since the Normandy beachhead, and the parting brought both the platoon and the battalion messages of thanks and appreciation from the fighter squadron. The only other movement during the month saw the 2nd Platoon of Battery "B" leave Airstrip A64 and join its sister platoon at Verdun, where a battery defense was set up.


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