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395th Regiment history recorded years ago

395th Regiment history recorded

     The 395th Regiment became an active unit as part of the 99th Infantry Division on Nov. 16, 1942, at Camp Van Dorn MS, along with its brother regiments, the 393rd and 394th. Army cadre trained the soldiers of the regiment, mostly draftees, and organized the regiment along the standard infantry model. Each of the three battalions had three rifle companies and a weapons company, armed with the .30 and .50 caliber machine guns. The battalion also owned its own intelligence and reconnaissance pPlatoon, as well as medics and support personnel. Following their basic training and small unit maneuvers, the division moved to Camp Maxey TX, on Nov. 19, 1943.

     On Feb. 1, 1944, Major McClernand Butler assumed command of the 3rd Battalion, 395th Regiment; he was promoted to LTC on March 21.

     The Army operated a program designed to capitalize on the large number of educated and intelligent recruits that were available. The program was called the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP), and it sought to give extra training and special skills to a select group of young men, most of whom were taken from America's colleges. The program never fulfilled its promise, and the large number of "ASTPers" were dumped into the divisions to make good on personnel shortages in front line units. This infusion of personnel into the 99th Division occurred in March 1944, when more than 3,000 joined the ranks of the Checkerboard division. The change caused some friction with the old hands in the short term, but the long-term effects were generally positive. Many of the division's best soldiers were products of the ill-fated ASTP.

     Following division level maneuvers in July 1944 the 99th boarded ships bound for England. Allied forces were fighting their way across France, and fresh units were badly needed in autumn 1944 to continue to press the offensive. American press reports from the European theater foretold the imminent fall of the Third Reich, and many men in LTC Butler's battalion thought the war just might be over before they got there. This was not to be.

     In early November 1944, the 395th Regiment arrived in France, then moved by train and truck, and finally by foot to front line positions near the German town of Hofen. The battalion dug in, with the mission to hold the line, which allowed other units to attack key dams across the Roer River. In early December, the troops at the front could feel danger in the relative calm of the situation, although for most of the men in the battalion, bone-chilling cold was the worst enemy during this time. Many key warning signs were ignored by American intelligence that might have given some inkling of what was to come.

     On Dec. 16, 1944, the Germans launched a massive ground offensive, heavily supported by artillery. Called the Ardennes Offensive by the Germans, it would be called the Battle of the Bulge by the Americans, so named because of the large westward salient it caused in the front line trace. The northern shoulder of the "bulge" was firmly held by the 99th Division along the Elsenborn Ridge. Small units conducting fierce local counterattacks and mounting stubborn defenses slowed the German advance, badly upsetting the timetable for the offensive. By the second day, German planners could plainly see that their objectives along the Elsenborn Ridge would not be taken.

     Around the towns of Hofen and Monschau, where the 3rd Battalion defended, the Germans were equally unsuccessful in achieving their objectives. An ill-fated German parachute assault, and stiff American resistance combined to prevent the Wermacht's seizure of roads and villages in the area. This allowed the Americans freedom of maneuver on the north flank of the German advance, which would continually threaten the already doomed offensive. After six weeks of relentless combat, the Battle of the Bulge was declared officially over on about Jan. 28, 1945. The 3rd Battalion, 395th Regiment had received its baptism by fire, and had performed in an outstanding manner under the harshest conditions of winter weather and combat. The 3rd Battalion was given a Presidential Unit Citation for its actions from Dec. 16-19, in which it was credited with destroying "75 percent of three German infantry regiments (General Order Number 16, March 6, 1945)." Two Distinguished Service Crosses and several Silver Stars were awarded to members of the battalion for valorous actions against the enemy.

     After a short period off the line and a change of battalion commanders in February 1945 (LTC J.A. Gallagher assumed command on Feb. 8), the battalion conducted offensive operations in Germany, including the seizure of several German towns from March 1-5. The town of Kuckhof cost the battalion dearly, with more than 50 casualties inflicted on one company alone (I Company). The remainder of the battalion reached the Rhine River on that same day. As the American press once again proclaimed the crumbling of German resistance, the front line infantry soldier still faced the reality of war and death in the same way. Fighting in many areas was as fierce as ever, with fanatical SS troops fighting suicidal last stands. The battalion participated in the fighting in the Ruhr Pocket, where thousands of German troops and hundreds of German vehicles were captured. The unit crossed the Altmuhl (April 25), the Danube (April 27), and the Isar (April 30) Rivers as the war in Europe was coming to an end. Hostilities ceased on May 7, 1945, and the battalion assumed occupation duties in Hammelburg and Bad Bruckenau until it was shipped home in the summer of 1945, and subsequently deactivated.

     The battalion colors remained folded for more than 50 years. On Oct. 17, 1999, the 3rd Battalion, 395th Regiment was reactivated as an Armor Training Support Battalion, 3rd Battalion (Training Support, Armor), 395th Regiment. Along with its sister battalions, the 1st (Engineer) and 2nd (Field Artillery), the 3rd Battalion fulfills its critical mission of training our citizen soldiers in National Guard armor and infantry battalions across a three-state region. The present members of the battalion are proud of the legacy give to us by the World War II veterans who paid in blood and tears for the fine reputation they so richly deserve.

LTC Thomas Mayfield, commander

Fort Hood TX