UNIT HISTORY



Fighter-Searchlight Tactics
   On 1-2 July 1943, the battalion, using its T/E equipment, moved by shuttle from Camp Davis to consolidated platoon positions around Burgaw, North Carolina, a small town about 40 miles distance from Camp Davis. Headquarters was established on the second floor of a loft building next to the Pender Motion Picture Theatre. After approximately two weeks training in consolidated positions, the battalion moved into extended tactical positions on 15 July as the individual sections of the battalion were deployed in a standard Fighter-Searchlight grid covering 289 square miles. Despite the fact that this was the first occasion that sections had operated independently and that they were handicapped by almost unprecedented heavy rainfall and the presence of literally thousands of poisonous snakes, all personnel showed that they had benefitted by their bivouac experience. Sections were encouraged to improvise and, almost without exception, they showed amazing resourcefulness in obtaining odds and ends with which to build their pup tent camps into comfortable living areas. Under the direction of the medical detachment, various types of snakes native to the region, including rattlesnakes, moccasins, copperheads, and coral snakes, as well as various other nonpoisonous varieties, were captured and kept alive in a pen at battalion headquarters, where they were used for purposes of instruction and identification. As a result of these measures, sickness in the swampy, rainy area fell below normal garrison proportions and not a single snake-bite casualty was suffered during the battalion's entire stay at Burgaw.

AA TRAINING
Antiaircraft training using a 60-inch searchlight for target illumination.
Normally, the light would not be placed in such close proximity to the gun
for fear of blinding the crew (this photo may be posed). The AA gun is
a 90mm M1; the location is unknown. (Photo courtesy U. S. Army.)

   Meanwhile, the battalion began vigorous training on the use of Fighter-Searchlight tactics. Although tracking missions were available far more frequently than at Ft. Sheridan, the heavy rainfall of the period still made them less frequent that was desired, but full use was made of stretches of clear weather, and the proficiency of the individual sections – both in tactics and tracking – showed rapid improvement. The unit was judged ready for its technical test on 23 August and passed it successfully. It was then given a final tactical test from 29 August to 2 September. The test included the movement of all positions under blackout conditions and employing local security measures, and was designed to test the battalion's ability to pick up targets with its own local warning, to track them through the area, and to display a thorough knowledge of the principles of Fighter-Searchlight tactics. The test was passed with a grade of excellent, the highest rating ever given a searchlight battalion on such as test at Camp Davis up to that time.


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