(above picture)Lt Col Paul F Oswald
Commander 680th GFAB
Silver Star Recipients
Lt Col Paul F Oswald
Capt John Featherston
Pfc Francis Holbrook
Capt Jacob I Stahl
Pfc Mervin F Troutman
Capt George C Wight
17th Airborne WW II
of Honor Recipients
T/Sgt Clinton M Hedrick
S/Sgt Isadore S Jachman
Pvt George J Peters
Pfc Stuart S Stryker
The 680th Glider Field Artillery Battalion
he 680th Glider Field Artillery Battalion (GFAB) was constituted on 10 March 1943
at Camp Mackall, North Carolina (NC). The officers were recent graduates of the Field Artillery School while the enlisted men
were transferred from the 321st GFAB of the 101st Airborne, then stationed at Fort Bragg, NC.
It was activated 15 April 1943 at Camp Mackall, North Carolina under the command of Lt Colonel Paul F Oswald.
The 680th GFAB was immediately assigned to the 17th Airborne Division. Moved to the Tennessee Maneuver Area 7 February 1944 then
transferred to Camp Forrest, Tennessee 24 March 1944. The battalion staged at Camp Myles Standish, Massachusetts on
14 August 1944. It departed the Boston Port of Embarkation 20 August 1944 aboard the USS Wakefield and arriving in
Liverpool, England on 28 August 1944.
When the 680th GFAB arrived in England, the battalion was immediately shuttled to Camp Chisledon,
the 17th Airborne Division staging area, on August 29, 1944. Flight and tactical training continued and night maneuvers were added to
the training schedule. When Operation Market Garden was initiated, the 17th Airborne Division was still in training
and was held in strategic reserve.
Battle of the Bulge - The Ardennes Offensive
Suddenly, on December 16, 1944, the Germans launched a surprise offensive through the
Ardennes Forest which caught the Allies completely by surprise. The 17th was still in England. But the 82nd
and 101st Airborne Divisons were in Sissones, France and were rushed by truck to contain the bulge in the Allied lines.
Between December 17 and 23, the Germans were halted near St. Vith by the 82nd Airborne and Bastogne by a roadblock,
defended by the U.S. 7th Armoured Division and the 101st Airborne Division. To help reinforce the siege
at Bastogne the entire 17th Airborne Division was finally committed to combat in the European Theater of
From 23 to 25 December, elements of the Division were flown to the Reims area in France
in spectacular night flights then hastily trucked into Belgium. During this time tragedy struck when a C-47
crashed on takeoff from Dreux Airport killing 6 members of Battery A. A similar accident occurred at
Orleans Field wounding 6 men of Battery B. Meanwhile, Patton's Third U.S. Army
had finally broken the siege at Bastogne with a marathon thrust from the south. Upon arriving the
17th Airborne Division was attached to Patton's Third U.S. Army and ordered to immediately close in
at Mourmelon. The 680th GFAB would fire in support of the 193rd GIR in the defense of the Meuse
River sector from Givet to Verdun until 1 January 1945. On 2 January 1945 the 17th Airborne moved to
Neufchateau, Belgium. On 3 January the battalion took up combat positions near Sibret, Belgium and fired their
first combat rounds the following day.
On 7 January, the 680th GFAB would gain their baptism of fire that
would have tested the mettle of the most experienced airborne units. General Patton had ordered the
17th Airborne to seize the town of Flamierge where the 11th Armour and the 87th Infantry Divisions
had encountered brutal resistance from the Germans. By the end of that first week of combat the battalion
had fired 5560 rounds of ammunitions. The casualty count was two killed in action and five wounded.
During the next month, the 680th GFAB moved several times within Belgium firng in support
of the 513th PIR until on the 27th when the battalion took up positions near Bockholz, Luxembourg. On 11
February 1945 the 680th GFAB was relived by the 212th Armored Field Artillery Battalion and returned
to camp at Chalons-sur-Marne in France with the rest of the 17th Airborne Divison. The 17th returned to Belgium on
21 March 1945 to prepare for the air assault across the Rhine.
Operation Varsity - The Airborne Assault on the Rhine
In early February 1945, the tide of battle was such as to enable an accurate estimate as
to when and where the 2nd British Army would be ready to force a crossing of the Rhine River. It was
determined that the crossing would be in conjunction with an airborne operation by XVIII Airborne Corps.
The sector selected for the assault was in the vicinity of Wesel, just north of the Ruhr, on
24 March 1945. Operation Varsity would be the last full scale airborne drop of World War II and the
assignment went to the British 6th Airborne Division and the 17th Airborne Division.
This would be the last full scale airborne operation of the war and the first combat glider landing
for the 680th GFAB. The 680th's mission was to land north of Wesel in Landing Zone (LZ) S, a large flat
area where the Issel River and the Issel Canal merge. Then to seize the crossing over the Issel and protect
the division's right flank.
As General Eisenhower watched the operation from a church tower on the west side
of the Rhine the 680th had the misfortune of flying over a concentration of German antiaircraft weapons.
Two-thirds of the C-47's were either damaged or in flames. The pilots remained with the aircrafts until
they released the gliders which landed amid German Artillery units. The German gun crews immediately
repositioned their guns for direct fire. It was a fluid situations for a period but the glider troops
prevailed and were able to overrun the German positions.
(picture above right: Men of the 680th GFAB,
firing a few minutes after landing at Wesel.
(^^ Click Picture to Enlarge ^^) )
By mid-afternoon on 24 March 1945 after sustaining high casualties, the 680th had secured its objective
including the capture of 150 German prisoners, a battery of German 105-mm and a battery of 155-mm artillery..
By 26 March FM Montgomery had sufficient forces on the German side of the river to move eastward. The next day the 680th advanced
toward the town of Haltern in support of the 513th PIR. On 2 April the battalion moved to a position south
of Munster, where on the following day the 680th stopped an enemy counterattack by shellfire. The battalion
remained on the move until 18 April when they arrived in the vicinity of Heiden, Gross Reckon, and Velden to take over the military
government duties of that area in conjunction with the 513th PIR.
The 680th GFAB served in the Army of Occupation of Germany from 2 May - 19 June 1945. The battalion
reassembled in the Neufchateau area of France and returned to the United States via the Boston Port of Embarkation on 14
Sepember 1945 and deactivated at Camp Myles Standish, Massachusetts on the same date.
( Source: Condensed from The Life of the 680th by D.A. York and J.P. Ancker (1947, Thunder From Heaven by Don R. Pay) )
680th Glider Field Artillery Battalion - Pictures
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