Army - Accounts of the Korean War

History of the 955 Field Artillery Battalion

 
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Written by Cpl. Ron Arnold & Pvt. Harvey Steinhagen

[KWE Note: The following history of the 955 was typewritten in Korea May 1953.  Copies of this history were sent to the KWE by 955 veterans Edwin Chernow of New York and Tom Cacciola of New Jersey.  The 955 was the second National Guard artillery unit to go into Korean combat.  The 204 FAB entered combat on April 7, 1951 and the 955 FAB entered combat the next day.  Both units arrived in Pusan, Korea at the same time on the SS General Anderson (January 17, 1951).  In July/August of 1953, after this was published, John Carsons, jeep driver for "A" Battery's commanding officer, told Tom Cacciola that Chinese incoming rounds killed 11 A Battery men.  According to Jim Clark, sometime during the period of July 13-20, 1953, Joe Klinefelter and his field observation crew were overrun and killed.]

Foreword

On 8 April 1951, the 955th Field Artillery Battalion fired its first round against communist aggression in Korea.  Since that time, this battalion has compiled an enviable record in many campaigns of the Korean War and, today, on the second anniversary of the 955th's entry into combat, it is one of the finest 155 battalions in Korea.

This booklet is prepared as an informative guide to all present and future members of this organization.  It is presented for the purpose of informing these members of the distinguished record of this organization in the hope that in the performance of their duties while a member of the 955 FA Bn, they will help produce an equally illustrious future.

Korean Campaigns

For each of these periods in which an individual serves with this unit, he will be awarded one battle star to wear on his Korean Service Ribbon:

  • First UN Counteroffensive - 25 January to 21 April 1951

  • CCF Spring Offensive - 22 April to 8 July 1951

  • UN Summer-Fall Offensive - 9 July to 27 November 1951

  • Second Korean Winter - 28 November 1951 to 30 April 1952

  • Korean Summer-Fall - 1 May to 30 November 1952

  • Third Korean Winter - 1 December 1952 to Date to Be Announced

Fire Mission

A heavy mist shrouds a small valley in central Korea.  It is early in the evening on the 8th day of April 1951.  From out of a hastily erected exec post tent comes the command, "Fire Mission" and cannoneers race to their posts.  Few, if any of them, realize that they are "history in the making."  The deflection and quadrant are given and set.  The comes the command: "FIRE!!!"

Six sleek ominous steel tubes, pointing northward, suddenly come alive, belching smoke and flame; and six projectiles screech into the misty dusk, a few seconds later slamming home with a resounding "thrump" on communist lines.  And so began the combat trial in Korea of the 955th Field Artillery Battalion.

It was Battery A who fired those first six rounds on the night of 8 April 1951.  The mission was fired at 1840 hours in support of the 13th FA Bn's fire part of the 24th US Infantry Division.  On that night, Battery A and Headquarters Battery moved into position and on the following day, Batteries B and C moved into position.  From that time on, the firing was heavy as the big CCF Spring Offensive was getting under way.

On 23 April 1951, the 955th received orders to cover the withdrawal of elements of the 24th Division in the face of the CCF Offensive.  It was in this maneuver, after being in combat for only 15 days, that the 955th rose to one of its peaks of greatness.

The 13th FA Bn, which was firing supporting fire for one of the infantry companies of the 24th Division, enlisted the 955's aid in laying down a barrage to enable the 13th FA's forward observation party and the infantry company to withdraw from a position in which they were practically surrounded.  During the time this barrage was being laid, the CCF broke through to the flank of the 13th FA Bn and it was necessary for them to displace.  The 955 remained and fired almost continuously for 4 hours until the 13th could pull through the escape gap and re-lay at a rear position.

During this covering action, firing was at a tremendous rate; to cite one example, a section in Battery C fired 3 rounds in 11 seconds, the third one being fired with a broken lanyard.  For its outstanding work in allowing the 13th FA to escape with a minimum number of casualties and all of its weapons intact, the 955th received the nickname "Big Brother" from that organization.

Toward the end of April, the 955th was moved, along with the 24th Division and became attached to I Corps and the primary mission was support of the 13th FA Bn's firing.  Defensive positions were the main item on the agenda for the battalion until late in May when the 955th started preparations for supporting a rumored UN offensive.

After being assigned to the 3rd Division late in May, the 955th went into another period of heavy firing in which they supported the 3rd Division in their drive from the 38th parallel to the heart of the Iron Triangle.  Also during this period of time, nuisance air raids by the enemy made the operations of the battalion more difficult as extensive air defense measures were applied.  On 13 June the battalion was assigned to "Task Force Hawkins," a push which was designed to take Pyongyang.  In direct support of the 15th Regiment of the 3rd Division, we laid heavy preparational fires and were credited with immensely aiding the regiment in taking Hill 717, a vital point in the direct route to Pyongyang.

July of 1951 brought Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York on an inspection tour of the battalion.  He was accompanied by I Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Milburn and 3rd Division Commander Maj Gen Soule.  Operational activity was light during this month with slightly over 4,000 rounds being expended.  Battery B displaced to a forward position and fired in direct support of several task forces of the 3rd Division.  The splendid showing made by the forward battery brought a letter of commendation from Brigadier General Walters of the 3rd Division Artillery.  This action took place in August 1951.  It was this action which opened the way for the successful drive on Pyongyang.

Early in September, a small push by Chinese Communist Forces overran two outposts near the battalion and the 955th laid down heavy fire on these bills to enable troops of the 25th Division, to which we were then attached, to retake the positions.  So effective was the battalion's fire that when the 25th Division troops stormed the hills, they found that less than half of the troops there were alive.  Moving back to the 3rd Division, this battalion participated in operation "Cleanup" in which the 955th fired many bunker destruction missions.

In October of 1951 the battalion established a record, which was later smashed, of 4,021 rounds fired ino ne 24-hour period.  It was the 16th day of October when the enemy assaulted Hill 281 and the 955th was one of the few artillery battalions able to bring fire upon the necessary area.  With cannoneers working without rest for the full period, the huge total of 4,021 rounds fell upon the charging Chinese, blunting the force of their assault and enabling the gallant defenders to send them reeling with a furious counterattack.

The 955th was attached, for a brief time, to the 1st Cavalry Division.  On the nights of 18, 19 December 1951, the enemy made a bold attempt in strength to capture Hill 281 from friendly units but again the heavy artillery fire by this and other units serving in the sector broke the attack.  On 22 December the 955 FA Bn became operational as the 955 FA Bn Group.  On 4 December 1951, the battalion fired its 100,000 round.

The new year brought a change of battalion commanders.  Maj Gerald C. Morgan of Sioux City, Iowa took charge of the battalion when Lt Col Gillen, the former commander, was transferred to I Corps Provisional Group.  Maj Matheny also arrived in the battalion, taking over the duties of battalion executive officer.

On 13 February the battalion was relieved as the 955 FA Bn Group and was placed under operational control of the 987 FA Bn Group.  There was a marked increase in the amount of counter-battery fire received by the battalion but no major casualties and only minor equipment damage was suffered.

Pvt. Joe B. Oliver, a member of the outfit only a week, was the first man to fall victim to the enemy as a direct result of his fire.  Oliver, a member of Battery A, was setting out an aiming stake for his gun section when an incoming artillery shell exploded nearby, fatally injuring him.  This was on 13 March 1952.  Later in March, the battalion moved 138 miles on a day-night road march without an accident and took up positions in the X Corps area.

In April, the battalion remained in the X Corps sector, with only moderate firing and receiving no counter-battery fire.  Harassing mortar and artillery fire continued to plague the OP parties and on 10 May the CCF demonstrated their ability to mass artillery when a 30 round TOT hit on and around the OP.  It was during this period that two wiremen from Headquarters Battery and a member of the OP party from Battery C earned Bronze Star medals; one of the medals, to PFC Blackledge of Battery C, being for valor as he left the OP bunker and proceeded 150 yards down the forward slope of the hill to get a map which had blown out of the observation bunker.  His path carried him through a mined area and his return trip was through enemy mortar fire as the CCF had spotted him when he left the bunker.

Two more Bronze Stars for valor were awarded members of the battalion in June when Lt Rutledge and CPL Korotky, both of Battery B, encountered an enemy sniper while members of an OP party.  Korotky and Lt Rutledge left the OP bunker and crawled 150 yards forward to a ledge where they could observe the sniper.  The enemy marksman was so concealed that he could not be seen.  However, Rutledge and Korotky waited all afternoon amid a storm of mortar rounds and snipers bullets and finally, as the sun was setting behind hte ridge on which the sniper was concealed, the enemy sharpshooter was silhouetted in the rays of the sun, perched in a small crevice.  One fast shot from Lt Rutledge's M-1 and the sniper tumbled from his hiding place, no longer of any use to the CCF.

Also during the month of June, PFC Schildgen of Battery B earned a Purple Heart when he was wounded by an enemy mortar round which landed just 15 feet from the truck in which he was riding while taking supplies to the OP party.  There was also an increase in counter-battery fire received by the battalion in the area with the only appreciable damage being done when a round of enemy 76mm artillery exploded just 10 feet from the corner of the S-1 tent, riddling the end of the tent and doing slight damage to some of the equipment inside.

In July, the 955th moved back into the IX Corps sector, into the Chorwon area.  Through the latter part of July, August, and September, activity remained fairly quiet.  In August, one observation bunker of the battalion sustained a direct hit from enemy 76mm artillery but there was no damage to the bunker or to personnel therein.  During this period, late July and all of August, almost unceasing heavy rains mired the battalion and made observation as a normal operation almost impossible.

Four generals visited the battalion during the month; General Cleland, acting Corps Commander, General Jenkins, Corps Commander, General Colbern, IX Corps Artillery Commander, and General Kim, 9th ROK Division Commander.  Lt. Col. David M. Easterday assumed command of the battalion on 23 September 1952, replacing Lt Col. Morgan.

The heaviest action since entering Korea was encountered in October of 1952 by the 955th when the CCF made their big push on Whitehorse.  Teaming with the other battalions in that sector of IX Corps Artillery, the 955th rained death and destruction upon the fanatic attacking Chinese troops expending an amazing total of 5,235 rounds in one 24 hour period.

It was also during this attack that 1st Lt Terrence J. McLarnon, Battery Commander of Battery B, was killed in action.  On the night of 8 October, when the enemy counter-battery was the heaviest, Lt McLarnon was in the exec post.  He left the exec post to check on the welfare of his men and shortly afterward , a round landed near him, killing him almost instantly.

After the Whitehorse Mountain incident had died down, this battalion was sent as a Task Force in the Kumhwa area where they laid artillery support for a small UN offensive.  Later, the remainder of the battalion moved and at the end of October the entire battalion was again located in the central sector.  During the latter part of October and during November, a total of 15 Purple Hearts were awarded to men of the battalion.

Late in November, the battalion effected another move, occupying the positions which they presently hold.  Surviving the rigors of the second winter in Korea, the 955th FA Bn took the battalion tests given by IX Corps Artillery early in March and passed with a score of 86.6.

A resume of the battalion's activities since arriving in Korea shows that the battalion has fired 258,380 rounds in combat with an estimated 15,124 enemy casualties.  There were 6 enemy tanks and 546 enemy vehicles destroyed, 356 bunkers demolished, 4 mortars wiped out, 146 enemy artillery pieces silenced and one rocket launcher liquidated.  Added also to this total, six packs of mules, which were utilized by the CCF in a supply train that never got through, thanks to the 955th and you have the enviable record of the 955th Field Artillery Battalion at the end of its 773rd day of combat.

Did You Know???

  • That you are a member of an organization whose history dates clear back to the Civil War?

  • That this unit earned nine campaign streamers in that year?

  • That the 955th (then the 14th Infantry Regiment) has surrounded itself with glory in both World Wars I and II?

If not, then the following extract from the unit's history will be of great interest to you!!!

The parent unit was constituted 13 May 1847 as the 14th Regiment, New York State Militia, consisting of Company A (Union Blues), and Company B (Washington Guards).  Companies C through H were organized in February 1848 and the entire organization was mustered into Federal Service on 23 May 1861 at Washington, D.C.  Companies I and K, organized in Brooklyn, joined the Regiment at Camp Porter, Virginia, in July 1861.  Later that year on 7 December, the organization was redesignated the 84th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

The organization was reorganized following the war and called the 14th Infantry Regiment of the New York National Guard with companies L and M and the Medical Detachment being organized and added to the Regiment on 3July 1868.  Although the organization was mustered into Federal Service at the time of the Spanish American War, the outfit did not serve outside of the United States.

On 18 June 1916, the organization was called into Federal Service for Mexican border duty and mustered on 1 August 1916 at Mission, Texas.  The 14th Infantry Regiment, New York Guard, was organized 3 August 1917 to replace the regiment in Federal Service and was reorganized again on 12 January 1923 when it was federally recognized on 30 March 1923.

In 1940, the 14th Regiment was redesignated the 187th Field Artillery Regiment and was inducted into Federal Service on 26 September.  On 8 February 1943, the regiment was broken up and one battalion became the 955th Field Artillery Battalion.  This battalion was inactivated on 22 December 1945 at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.  It was reorganized in Brooklyn, New York, and federally recognized 7 November 1947.  The 955th was ordered into active military service on 19 August 1950 at Brooklyn, New York and was federally recognized as the 955th FA Bn (NGUS) on 4 September 1952 at Brooklyn, New York.

From there, the battalion underwent a brief period of training at Fort Lewis, Washington, and then shipped to Pusan, Korea where more extensive training was conducted.  From Pusan, the battalion moved by water to Inchon, where they came ashore early in April 1951 and moved into combat on 8 April 1951.

Campaign Streamers

Civil War

  • Bull Run

  • Manassas

  • Antetiam

  • Fredericksburg

  • Chancellorsville

  • Gettysburg

  • Virginia 1863

  • Wiederness

  • Spotsylvania

World War I Without Inscription

World War II

  • Normandie

  • Northern France

  • Rhineland

  • Ardennes-Alsace

  • Central Europe

Korean War

  • First UN Counteroffensive

  • CCD Spring Offensive

  • UN Summer-Fall Offensive

  • Second Korean Winter

  • Korean Summer-Fall

  • Third Korean Winter

Honor Roll

Killed in Action

  • Pvt Joe B. Oliver, Jr ("A" Battery) - 13 March 1952

  • 1st Lt Terence McLarnon ("B" Battery Commander) - 8 October 1952

Non-Battle Deaths

  • Cpl Charles S. Carothers - August 1951 (truck accident)

  • WOJG Lewis C. Perry - 4 December 1951

  • Pvt Sterling L. Barnes - 2 March 1952

  • Pfc Emerson R. Blue - 30 September 1952

  • M/Sgt George R. Kay - 3 December 1952

  • Pfc Kenneth M. McKeen (Service Battery) - 8 February 1953

Wounded in Action

  • Pfc Carl Whittaker ("C" Battery) - 15 July 1951

  • Pfc Kenny K. Takaki ("C" Battery) - 15 July 1951

  • Pvt Robert L. Nycum ("C" Battery) - 11 July 1951

  • Pvt Marvin T. Farris - 15 October 1951

  • 1st Lt William F. Kensett - 4 December 1951

  • Pvt Carlton J. Walters - 20 January 1952

  • Pfc James H. Schildgen ("B" Battery)- 9 June 1952

  • Pfc Robert J. Hyzny - 14 October 1952

  • Pfc Lawrence J. Kohlman - 14 October 1952

  • Pfc Robert G. Rice - 14 October 1952

  • M/Sgt Jerrel S. Carman - 2 November 1952

  • Pfc Thomas G. Hannon ("A" Battery) - 2 November 1952

  • Cpl Richard W. Mehr - 2 November 1952

  • Pfc Raymond L. Shumaker - 9 November 1952

  • Pvt Theodore M. Barton - 13 January 1953

Missing in Action

[KWE Note: Both of these men flew small L-5 one-engine field observation planes.]

  • 1st Lt Thomas E. Sifling - 7 October 1951

  • 1st Lt William W. Winters - 7 October 1951

 

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