The 80th Airborne Anti-Aircraft Battalion Unit History
he 80th Anti-Aircraft Battalion was activated at Camp Claiborne,
Louisiana and designated as airborne under the command of the 82nd Airborne Division on September 3, 1942 as per
General Order Number 28.
The battalion, led by Lt. Col. Whitfield Jack, was comprised of a headquarter unit,
medical detachment and six batteries of about 80 men each-A, B and C as anti-tank companies and D,E and F
as anti-aircraft units. The anti-tank batteries each had eight, .37mm guns, at first, and later switched
to the stronger .57mm or the equivalent British 6-pounder that was better suited to the Waco glider.
The AA batteries had 12, .50 caliber machine guns with M3 tripod mounts for air defense, and ground mounts
for infantry support. By September,1944, E battery also included a platoon of anti-tankers. Various
elements of the 80th trained at Fort Bragg, Fort Fisher, Maxton Air Base and Camp Davis, all in
North Carolina, before shipping out to Camp Edwards, Massachusetts with the rest of the 82nd
Airborne Division. At this staging area, the 80th prepared for overseas duty.
The battalion left New York Harbor on the SS George Washington and SS Monterey on
April 27, 1943 and arrived in Casablanca on May 10, 1943. It trained in North Africa for the invasions of
Sicily and Italy.
Units of the 80th landed at Maiori, Italy via Salerno Bay on
September 10, 1943 as part of Gen. Mark Clark's 5th Army. Attached to Col. Darby's Rangers,
the 80th's anti-aircraft batteries, headquarters and medical detachment earned a Presidential
Unit Citation before moving with the rest of the battalion to Naples where the 80th took on a
variety of patrol, guard and anti-aircraft assignments until leaving for Ireland, Nov. 17, 1943. It did
so under the command of Major Raymond Singleton, (picture above left) who replaced Lt. Col Jack on August 25th
before the invasion of Italy. Singleton was promoted to Lt. Col months later.
After many weeks of training in Kilrea, N. Ireland, the battalion relocated to Camp
Odeby, a racecourse in the Leicester area of England, on Feb 16, 1944. Anti-tank, AA and glider training
continued in preparation for the invasion of France. On the evening of June 5, Batteries A, B and C left
for Ramsbury Airfield destined for the Cotentin Peninsula where the paratroop invasion of Normandy had
begun. Batteries A and B departed England in CG4-A gliders (American) and Battery C was towed over in
British Horsa gliders.
Batteries A and B landed near Ste. Mere Eglise, the intended headquarters of the 82nd
Airborne and the first city in France liberated on the early morning hours of June 6 by the 505th PIR. Elements of the 80th reported in at 0405 with six, .57MM guns in position
in the St. Mere Eglise/La Fiere bridge area by 1730 hours of June 6.
Meanwhile, Batteries D, E and F as part of the 'Howell' Seaborne force, left Bristol,
England in two Liberty Ships on the morning of the 6th and arrived at Utah beach on June 8, narrowly escaping
German torpedo bombers that took one of the other Liberty Ships in its convoy. By late afternoon the machine
gun batteries arrived at division HQ in Ste. Mere Eglise.
The battalion was given a variety of assignments, attached to the 505th PIR,
325th GIR, 507th PIR and 508th PIR. Batteries A. B. and C claimed a number
of tanks, armored personnel carriers and towed artillery. Initially, Batteries D, E and F supplied HQ and
bridge protection against German fighters and fighter-bombers, claiming two kills. Switching to ground mounts
the AA units provided overhead plunging fire for the 325th GIR, 505th PIR and 507th PIR
in ground infantry attacks.
(picture above right: Officers of A-Battery of the 80th AAA. They are (left to right):
Capt Norman Nelson, Lt George Barre and Lt John Bullis.
(>> Click Here for additional pictures <<)
(^^ Click Picture to Enlarge ^^) )
The 80th returned to Leicester on July 15, 1944 where it rested, re-outfitted and
began training for its next mission, Operation-Market, the Airborne phase of the invasion of Holland.
Battery A landed in Holland on September 17, Battery B landed on the following day September 18, while the rest of
the battalion landed later, Sept. 23, due to poor weather in England.
The batteries took on their usual assignments with A, B and C providing anti-tank
protection to the 504th PIR, 505th PIR, 508th PIR and 325th GIR. They also used the .57MM in attacks against fortified MG positions. Also, at that time all of E Battery switched from .50 cal. to antitank. Batteries D, E and F protected the
anti-tank units, and provided plunging fire for the infantry regiments.
The battalion remained with the rest of the 82nd throughout the campaign and left
Holland with the Division for Camp Suippes in France on Nov. 11. It remained there until the 82nd was called
in as Corps reserve along with the 101st Airborne to stop the German breakthrough of the Allied lines in the
Ardennes forests of Belgium. The 80th AA arrived in the Werbomont area on Dec. 18. Batteries took up defensive
positions along the Salm River from Dec 20 to 24 from Trois Pont on the north to Grand Halleux to the south in
support of the 505th and the 508th where it engaged elements of the 1st SS panzers (Panzergroup Piper)
and the 9th SS Panzer. It also supported an East to West line from Salmchateau to Regne in support
of the 325th GIR taking on the 2nd SS Panzer Division, allowing the 7th Armored Division to
withdraw in safety.
The 80th claimed 3 armored vehicles, three MG nests and a Mark-III tank over
that time frame. Battery D supported G Company of the 505th in defense of Grand Halleux, beating
back a battalion size force of the 9th SS on the night of Dec. 22 as the Germans tried to cross the
Salm River bank.
The battalion pulled back on the 24th with the rest of the 82nd and resumed the
offensive on Jan 3, 1945. It provided plunging fire and anti-tank fire for the 2nd battalion of the 505th
on Jan 7 as it re-took the town of Goronne, Belgium near Grand Halleux. The 80th was relieved with the
rest of the 82nd by the 75th Infantry Division of Jan 11. On the 21st the battalion was back in
action, assisting in the re-taking of St. Vith with the 7th Armored Division, the 517th PIR and
(picture above right: Men of the 2nd Platoon, D-Battery of the 80th AAA
take over a German .75mm anti-tank gun during the winter of 1944-45 in Belgium. They are (left to right):
George Mittlestadt,Hampton `Joe` Mason, Ken Shanafelt and Edward Burns.
(>> Click Here for additional pictures <<)
(^^ Click Picture to Enlarge ^^) )
The 82nd continued to move toward the Siegfried line and as it did, the 80th
used its .57mms on Feb 1, B Battery knocking out 4 troop transports and two enemy jeeps while Battery F used
4,000 rounds of .30 cal ammo to convince a German squad to give up its stronghold. By Feb 23, major combat
operations for the 80th ended and the battalion returned to its old barracks at Camp Suippes in France.
On April 1, the battalion moved back on line into Germany, arriving in Modrath.
By the 4th, batteries received their attachments. A and F were assigned to the 505th, C and D were
assisting the 504th and E took up positions with the 325th. The battalion guarded a 30- mile front
along the Rhine with Cologne in the center. During the spring offensive to cross that river, the 80th
participated in the breaking up of defensive positions on the East side of the Rhine, taking prisoners and
actually arranging with the regimental combat teams, the surrender of entire German towns and cities.
In July, the battalion, minus its high point men who were transferred to the
17th Airborne, moved on to Berlin as troops of occupation. It returned to the United States with
the rest of the 82nd Airborne in late December. It marched with the Division as it spearheaded the ensuing
victory parade down New York City's Fifth Avenue.
Overall, the battalion or its composite units earned six battle stars, two
invasion arrowheads and one Presidential Unit Citation as well as other unit citations. Three men earned
the Distinguished Service Cross and three were awarded Silver Stars for actions in Normandy, Holand and
the Ardennes. It was deactivated in 1946.
The 80th Airborne Anti-Aircraft Battalion - Pictures
80th AA - D Battery
- Photo of 80th AA, Battery D on parade Odeby, England - (Cpl Robert Wengerd carrying guidron standard; S/Sgt Fred Attalla (in glasses) leads squad.) (Photo courtesy of Tommy Taylor)