602nd Glider Field Artillery Battalion

On July 12, 1944 the 602nd Field Artillery Battalion is informed that it was to participate in an airborne operation.

Thus, the 602d Amphibious Field Artillery Battalion of Kiska Island, the 602d Pack Artillery of Italy, became the 602nd Glider Field Artillery Battalion. Changes are made within the battalion, at the level of the organization of its batteries, given that the T/O of the GFAB mentions that it is necessary to have only 2 batteries of 6 guns each, instead of 3 batteries of 4 guns each. This results in the dissolution of the C Battery until D-Day. Glider Artillery equipment is requisitioned, plans for securing the cannons in the gliders are drawn and shown to the men before going to the aerodrome of Marcigliana, north of Rome on July 23.

For two full weeks battalion staff and personnel train intensively to familiarize themselves with all the essentials of glider artillery transport operations and conduct two fully equipped training flights. The mules and their equipment, as well as a detachment of 68 men and 3 officers of the C Battery of the 602nd go to Mont Peschio and are seconded to the 601st FA, awaiting further orders. Frascati in Italy is the staging area for the 602nd to settle on August 1, as are several units of the Task Force.

The mission of the 602nd GFAB is to provide direct fire support for the 551st Parachute Infantry Battalion, and also to strengthen the firepower of the 460th PFAB. The 602nd GFAB is made up of 657 men, commanded by Major George M. Hunt and his XO Major William E. Dressler.

Dday - August 15, 1944

The 602nd left Italy with a total of 66 gliders, 36 of which took off from Grosseto airfield and the remaining 30 from Ombrene airfield. The first group of gliders left Grosseto at 3:45 p.m. carrying the Battery Command and Service Battery, while another group departed at 4 p.m. carrying the B Battery and Medical Detachment. The A Battery takes off from Ombrene at 4:00 p.m. These are the C47s of the 440th Troop Carrier Group which tow the gliders of the 602nd and also of the 442nd Anti Tank Company Nisei after having dropped the paratroopers of the 517th on La Motte and on Le Muy on the night of August 14th to 15th.

All the glider groups carrying the 602nd GFAB land at La Motte around 6.30 p.m. on August 15. 9 men were injured during the landing, while 5 others are missing. The missing were found the next day and immediately set to work, their glider had landed five kilometers away.

By the rapid coordination of the battalion, 11 howitzers are in positions by 8:35 pm but no firing mission is requested day. The men of the 602nd GFAB dig their position and settle in for the night.

On August 16, the last mission of the airborne operation, a refueling, arrived. Hundreds of containers descend from the sky containing rations, water, ammunition, medical supplies, gasoline and blankets, one of which explodes, killing Pvt. Thomas Collinson as he repairs a damaged cannon. The men take refuge under the trees, as some bunddles do not even have a parachute, or the parachutes do not open. At 4.30 p.m., Battery A moves to another position and arrives at 6.10 p.m., it is in position to fire at 6.30 p.m. Its mission is to directly support part of the 551st PIB which orders is to take the city of Draguignan. In all, the battalion fired 160 rounds on German troops and its installations.

On August 17, the 602nd used 361 rounds to support the 551st PIB for the capture of Draguignan. Battery A destroyed and silenced several mortar and machine gun positions, and eliminated snipers. Claud Collins, James Whisenhunt and George Ray are injured and hospitalized following a shell that allegedly exploded in an unknown cause.

On August 18, the battalion was released from its functions of supporting the 551st, and was ordered to go to Puget-sur-Argens, to be able to support the 517th PIR. The battery managed to rejoin the battalion before they left La Motte to go to Puget where they arrived at 4 pm.