3 20st Field Artillery Regiment - Historical Missions

20th Field Artillery Regiment
Historical Missions
"Duty Not Reward"

United States Artillery can be traced back to the Military Company of Massachusetts, which was chartered in 1638, and with other colonial artillery companies formed what became the Continental Artillery. More than a century later, in April 1775, the legislature authorized the formation of an artillery regiment. This unit was first commanded by Colonel Richard Gridley, a former British artillery officer who later was replaced by Colonel Henry Knox. Colonel Knox eventually became the Chief of Artillery and is credited with shaping artillery tactics for the remainder of the Revolution.

From the historical battlefields of Yorktown and Gettysburg, through the Western Plains, Mexican and Spanish American Wars, the artillery was always there. In fact, the nickname, "Redlegs", comes from that era when artillery uniforms had a 2-inch red stripe on their trousers and horse artillery men wore red canvas leggings. Continuing through the modern days of the European and Asian Theaters of WWII, the Pusan Perimeter in Korea, the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam, to the "Steel Rain" of Desert Storm, "Redlegs" have served with distinction and valor in all of our country's armed conflicts.

The Early Years, 1916

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Western Front - World War I
The 20th Field Artillery Regiment is an Field Artillery regiment of the United States Army constituted 01 July 1916 in the Regular Army. It served in France during World War - I with the 5th Division, at St. Mihiel and Lorraine.

The Front Lines were positioned along a ridge of high ground on the hills east of the Meuse river as far as the town of St. Mihiel. The town is located in the Department of Meuse in Lorraine. It was captured by the German Army in the first weeks of the war. At St. Mihiel the Front Lines turned at a 90 degree angle in an easterly direction across the low lying hills from the eastern Meuse river bank into the plain of the Moselle river. This created the bulge of a salient held by the German Army, protruding into the French-held territory. The battle area became known as the St. Mihiel Salient. In September 1918 the United States Expeditionary Force launched an offensive to break through the German line at St. Mihiel.

The attack at the St. Mihiel Salient was part of a plan by Pershing in which he hoped that the United States would break through the German lines and capture the fortified city of Metz. It was one of the first US solo offensives in World War I and the attack caught the Germans in the process of retreating. This meant that their artillery were out of place and the American attack proved more successful than expected. Their strong blow increased their stature in the eyes of the French and British

World War II 1941 - 1945

The regiment and the battalion was reactivated in June 1940 at Fort Benning, Georgia, as an element of the 4th Division, later re-designated as the 4th Infantry Division. During World War II, the unit participated in the Normandy Campaign, and subsequent campaigns in Northern France, the Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe.

Korean WAr 1950 - 1952

In 1957 the 2nd Battalion was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division and activated in Korea. In 1960 the battalion was re-designated the 2nd Rocket Howitzer Battalion, 20th Field Artillery until taking its present disignation of 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery in a 1971 redesignation.

Vietnam War 1965 - 1972

Air Cavalry Unit
In 1965, the 1st Cavalry Division went home from the DMZ, Koreaa, but only long enough to be reorganized and be reequipped for a new mission. On 01 July 1965, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was officially activated. It was made up of resources of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) and brought to full strength by transfer of specialized elements of the 2nd Infantry Division. As a part of this reorganization, the 1st Battalion (Airborne) 38th Infantry was redesignated the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 5th Cavalry Regiment and the 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 38th Infantry was redesignated the 2nd Battalion, (Airborne), 5th Cavalry Regiment. On 03 July 1965, in Doughboy Stadium at Fort Benning, Georgia the colors of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) were cased and retired. As the band played the rousing strains of GarryOwen, the colors of the 1st Cavalry Division were moved onto the field.

This time the 2-75 inch rockets were mounted on UH-1B Huey helicopters. The battalion had the ability to provide immediate artillery fire support to the airmobile units of the First Team, often operating beyond the range of conventional artillery. Because the ARA pilot was at the target site, fire could be quickly adjusted for maximum accuracy and could provide extremely close fire support.

Blue Max Cobra W/Weapon Pods
During the Vietnam War the 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery became an Aerial Rocket Artillery Battalion, equipped with "B" and "C" model UH-1 and "G" model Bell AH-1 Cobra helicopters. It was known as "Blue Max." On 15 September, 1965 the battalion stepped ashore at Qui Nhon, Republic of Vietnam as the only Aerial Rocket Artillery (ARA) battalion assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division. Two days later they flew their first combat mission as "C" Battery fired 2.75 inch rockets in support of the 101st Airborne Division.

On September 18, 1965, the battalion demonstrated another new technique, the "light ship", a Huey mounted with seven landing lights. The illumination the ship provided proved extremely effective as a tool for base security. On 11 October, the battalion fired the first SS-11 guided missile to be used in combat, destroying a villa and the Viet Cong inside. During the period 17 September to 20 October, the battalion flew 78 missions and expended 2,870 rockets.

In late October the battalion was called upon to provide support for the Pleiku Campaign, for which the division would earn the Presidential Unit Citation. Alpha Battery saw the first major action in the campaign when Plei Me Camp came under attack the night of 29 - 30 October. Using the light from flares dropped by the Air Force, battery pilots bombarded enemy forces assaulting and mortaring the camp. As one platoon expended its ordnance another would take its place. The action continued until 0430 hours with rocket s fired within 100 meters of the friendly forces.

During the Pleiku Campaign, "C" Battery was positioned on a small strip on a tea plantation south of Pleiku City. On the night of 12 - 13 November the enemy attacked the position in battalion strength. As the first mortars hit the camp, pilots dashed to their helicopters and quickly had them all in the air, the first instance in Vietnam when all aircraft evacuated without loss from an airstrip under attack.

On 28 November, "B" Battery flew a unique mission on when Special Forces requested that the battery destroy the gates of a fortified VC village. The gate's heavy timbers were protected by booby traps and weapons positions. Three well-aimed SS-11 wire-guided missiles blasted the gates open.

In 1966, the battalion participated in numerous operations. The battalion also began a major civil affairs program in early 1966, donating clothing, toys and sundries to villagers in the hamlet of Tu Luong, near Camp Radcliff. This program proved its effectiveness when in February a battalion helicopter crashed south of An Khe. The villagers volunteered to search the VC-infested hills for the aircraft and its crew, and successfully located it in time to save two seriously injured crewmen.

On May 16, 1966, two pilots of the 20th. volunteered to fly in support of a company in contact and in danger of being overrun by a large VC force. They inched their aircraft through the fog, rain and darkness up the slope of a mountain peak east of An Khe, until they were hovering directly over the beleaguered company; then, directed by the artillery forward observer below, they unleashed ripple after ripple of rockets into an enemy assault force. Their timely fire support was credited by the ground commander with stabilizing and extremely grave situation.

On May 22, 1966 the battalion fired it 100,000th rocket in Vietnam in support of Operation CRAZY HORSE.

On October 9, 1966, the battalion demonstrated just how much the enemy feared their weapons. "A" Battery received a fire mission against an enemy bunker that could not be effectively engaged with 2.75 inch rockets. Two SS-11 guided missiles were fired at the bunker; the first exploded a foot away from the one by six foot aperture. The second entered the aperture and exploded inside, destroying it. The 55 VC in the adjoining bunker decided not to test the accuracy pf the pilot and laid down their arms.

At 0105 hours on December 22, LZ Bird was attacked by the 18th North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Regiment and "A" Battery responded to the call for support. Despite the night, fog and heavy rain the battery delivered a withering fire on the attacking enemy half an hour after the battle began. "C" Battery soon joined the fight and the aircraft stayed on station until the attack was repelled and the enemy force destroyed.

Operation PERSHING, was to be the longest operation of the Division, began in February to root out the enemy forces in the Bong Son Plain, An Lao Valley and the mountains adjacent to An Lao. The battalion moved its command post, with "A" and "C" Batteries, to LZ Two Bits.

CH-47 Extraction Maueuver
CH-47 Extraction Maueuver

During this period the battalion had added to its arsenal CH-47's, Chinooks armed with grenade launchers, two pods of rockets and two .50 caliber machineguns. Additionally, the Battalion added the mortar aerial delivery system consisting of 81 mm mortars used on interdiction targets with canopy cover. In March, a five man recon team on the ground came under heavy automatic weapons fire. Lift ships wouldn't make an extraction of the team from a sharp ridgeline obscured by clouds, so a CH-47 hovered near the ledge, which was too small to allow a landing, set its rear wheels on the ground and took the men aboard. Enemy fire made several hits but the extraction was completed successfully without injury. By the end of the year the battalion had fired 500,000 rockets since arriving in Vietnam.

In early 1968, the Division moved from II Corps to I Corps in 1968, meeting the enemy head on in the battle of Hue, Khe Sanh and the A Shau Valley. In numerous close firefights aerial rocket artillery blasted the enemy, foiling his plans for victory. The deadly accuracy of the SS-11 missile penetrated VC bunkers and fortifications. Psychological Operations used pictures of ARA aircraft to frighten enemy soldiers into surrendering.

During 1968 the battalion made the transition between Huey ARA ships and the AH-1G Cobra. Unlike the Huey, the Cobra was specifically designed for fire support, and carried firepower equivalent to that of three conventional artillery batteries. The Cobra could pack 76 rockets and has a mini-gun capable of firing 4,000 rounds per minute. Added to the mini-gun in later models was the 40 mm grenade launcher, which can chuck out 400 rounds per minute.

In July 1968, the Battalion fired its 750,000th rocked in Vietnam; however the unit had not forgotten the other side of the war. That summer it also adopted an orphanage in Quang Tri, helping to expand the orphanage's space, building beds and providing medical care. In addition to their regular fire missions, the ships of the Battalion carried out regular mortar patrols at the division basecamp and brigade headquarters.

By the end of 1968 the 2nd Battalion, 20th Artillery helicopters were known throughout the 1st Cavalry Division as "Blue Max," a fitting tribute to pilots and crewmen whose skill and daring at least matched that of the World War - I flying aces with the the award originated. The blue Maltese Cross on the original medal was adopted by the battalion as a symbol.

In December 1968 the Battalion, with the rest of the division, moved to a new area of operations, the III Corps Tactical Zone near the Cambodian border north of Saigon. That same month the NVA assaulted LZ Dot, located 43 kilometers northwest of the new division basecamp at Phuoc Vinh. Some 2,000 enemy hit the tiny LZ at midnight with a human wave assault after a mortar and rocket attack. ARA was called in, decimating the enemy just as they penetrated the outer wire. At 0630 hours the enemy broke contact, leaving 287 dead.

Returning to the States, the Battalion was inactivated 10 April, 1971 at Fort Lewis, Washington, redesignated 01 September, 1971 as the 2d Battalion, 20th Field Artillery, relieved from assignment to the 1st Cavalry Division on 13 September, 1972 and assigned to the 4th Infantry Division, and activated at Fort Carson, Colorado.

Relieved 16 September 1980 from assignment to the 4th Infantry Division the Battalion was attached to the 8th Infantry Division in Wiesbaden, Germany in 1976, where it would remain until it was deactivated in 1984, subsequently reactivated in 1987 and again deactivated in 1992. On 16 Jqanuary, 1996, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2d Battalion, 20th Field Artillery, was redesignated as "B", 20th Field Artillery, assigned to the 4th Infantry Division, and activated at Fort Hood, Texas.

On 17 September 1998, reorganized and redesignated as Headquarters, Battery, 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery (organic elements concurrently activated).

In 2001 the battalion supported the testing and fielding of the M270A1 launcher and became the first M270A1 MLRS unit in the Army. Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery Regiment, held a launching ceremony on 17 April to present the new MLRS to the 4th Infantry Division. The ceremony consisted of a live-fire exercise attended by key members of the 4th Infantry Division and the 49th Armored Division, Texas Army National Guard.

Iraqi Freedom - I 2003

In March 2003. the Battalion deployed to Iraq and took part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, where they performed not only their traditional field artillery tasks, including firing the first deep missile fires of the Division in combat, but performed armed reconnaissance missions, joint security patrols, cordon and searches, raids, and a wide variety of civil military operations. The Battalion redeployed to Fort Hood in March 2004 and on 16 December, 2004 was relieved from assignment to the 4th Infantry Division.

Iraqi Freedom - IV 2006 - 2008

MLRS Launched From FOB Q-West

The Battalion was reactivated as part of 41st Fires Brigade, assigned to III Corps, at Fort Hood, Texas. As part of the transformation of the US Army to the modular force structure, the 41st Fires Brigade was designated as the III Corps Fires Brigade intended to support the 1st Cavalry Division.

Upon returning to Fort Hood the unit underwent training equipment maintenance until on 01 Ochtober it was redesignated as the 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery Regiment and called into action in December 2005, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Upon return from deployment in December 2006 it was increased in size by the addition of a 3rd Firing Battery ("C" Charlie), and adding a radar unit (A/26 FA). In addition, a previous support company, the 67th FSC, which had only been temporarily (ad-hoc) attached at the beginning of the deployment was made a permanent part of the battalion. The addition of the 67th FSC thus increased the potency of the battalion.

Iraqi Freedom - IV 2006 - 2008

The unit deployed in OIF 07-08 to Taji to conduct MLRS fires.

Iraqi Freedom - VI 2008 - 2010

The unit deployed again in OIF 08-09 in Wasit Province, Iraq conducting counterinsurgency operations. The battalion served as the last unit on a 15 month deployed cycle.

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Copyright © 1996, Cavalry Outpost Publications ® and Trooper Wm. H. Boudreau, "F" Troop, 8th Cavalry Regiment (1946 - 1947). All rights to this body of work are reserved and are not in the public domain, or as noted in the bibliography. Reproduction, or transfer by electronic means, of the History of the 1st Cavalry Division, the subordinate units or any internal element, is not permitted without prior authorization. Readers are encouraged to link to any of the pages of this Web site, provided that proper acknowledgment attributing to the source of the data is made. The information or content of the material contained herein is subject to change without notice.

Revised 03 Dec '12 SpellChecked