S. C. Men With Famed Fifth Army Battalion

Unique Success

WITH THE FIFTH ARMY, Italy – Fifty-one South Carolina men are members of the 689th Field Artillery Battalion, whose big guns recently fired the first shells into the Po Valley of Italy for Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark’s Fifth Army.

Operating six 240-millimeter howitzer and two eight-inch guns, the battalion has been knocking out bridges, pillboxes enemy guns and entire towns at extreme ranges throughout the Italian campaign.

Operating as “Artillery Reconnaissance,” a specially organized force, the battalion achieved unique success in observation of long-range fire, innovating a system of fire control depending on high-performance military aircraft. In these operations the 698th destroyed 20 bridges and knocked out or damaged 72 enemy guns.

Technical problems of the 698th are immense. The carriage of a 240 weighs 24 tons, and the tube, 12 1-2 tons, must be adjusted by crane to an eighth-of-an-inch tolerance.

These weapons are emplaced in pits dug by a huge clamshell bucket, and, since the enemy searches constantly for these positions, this work is carried out under strictest blackout restrictions under cover of darkness. Each of the guns is moved in two loads, 22 and 24 tons, each load being towed by a converted 30-ton tank recovery vehicle.

Precise Firing

The 350 – pound projectile can be lifted more than seven miles and kept in motion for as long as 98 seconds, and necessary calculations include wind direction and velocity, barometric pressure, air temperature, temperature of the powder, weight of the projectile and rotation of the earth.

Their sector sometimes is as wide as 10 miles and requires as much as 100 miles of communication wire at a time.

The battalion was activated in 1941 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It has played a leading role in actions before Cassino, on the beachhead around Anzio, and in the Liri Valley, in the drive on Rome and in offensives across the Arnio river and through the Gothic Line.

The 69th has received commendations from every American army corps of the Fifth Army, the New Zealand division and French and Polish corps then attached to the Fifth Army and the Eighth Army for services in support of each of these organizations. The French cited the 698th and awarded the battalion the Croix de Guerre.

Serving from the state with the battalion are:

Pvt. William J Martin, 944 Heidt street, Columbia, cannoneer, Pfc. Henry W. Gaffney, 2301 Marion street, Columbia, driver, Sgt. Joseph B. Elkins, Allendale, chief of signal section: Cpl. Hubert P. Brown, Arcadia, machine gunner; Staff Sgt. Willie L. Collins, Barnwell, motor sergeant: Pfc. James T. Padgett, Batesburg, truck driver, Cpl. Gary C. Hand, Belton, tank driver; Pfc. Eddie Hornsby, Jr., Blaney, cannoneer.

Pvt. Howard J. Frame, Burton, truck driver; Cpl. Boyce W. Johnson, Campo Bello, auto mechanic; Pvt. Nathan C. Tucker, 38 Bull street, Charleston, truck driver; Cpl. Ashton T. Freeman, Cheraw, truck driver.

Cpl. Frank A. McGinnis, Chesnee, truck driver; Sgt. Andrew W. Hoover, Clover, ammo sergeant; Cpl. Larry B. Cogdill, Cross Anchor, truck driver; Cpl. George H. King, Darlington, mechanic; Cpl. Alex K. Henderson, Darlington, radio operatior; Cpl. Leon C. Fincher, Easley, driver; Cpl. Fred A. Griffin, Eloree, radio operator; Pvt. Charlie R. Kemmerlin, Elloree, cannoneer; Pfc. Leroyh Jackson, Enoree, driver; Sgt. John J. Simons, Jr., Eutawville, artillery mechanic; Pfc. George M Phillips, Fountain Inn, mechanic.

Sgt. James Belue, Gaffney, crane operator; Pvt. Bold L. Welchel, Gaffney, cannoneer; Cpl. Donald Jenerette, Galivants Ferry, switchboard operator; Pvt. George Cape, Greenville, cannoneer; Cpl. Roger C. Tate, Greenville, tank driver; Sgt. William D. Jordan, Greenville, motor mechanic.

Pfc. Grady Yeargin, Greenwood, truck driver; Cpl William J. Hill, Greer, gunner corporal; Cpl. Arthur E. Forrester, Greer, instrument corporal; Cpl. Gary L. Cauthen, Heath Springs, truck driver; Pfc. Wiliard S. Ridings, Inman, truck driver; Cpl. Raymond C. Jones. Inman, ammunition corporal.

Staff Sgt. Benjamin F. Jemnkins, Kershaw, motor sergeant; Cpl. James H. Sutton, Kershaw, truck driver; Cpl. Lewis R. Plyler, Lancaster, gunner corporal; Pvt. James Wilson, Lando, T. and T Lineman.

Pfc. Willie D. Collins, Leo, cannoneer; Pvt. Joe S. Palmer, Liberty, artillery mechanic; Pvt. Don Cox, Loris, truck driver; Sgt. Luther L. Clark, Lowrys, chief of section; Pfc. Albert D. Clark, Lowrys, cannoneer; Cpl. William H. Worthy, Moore, truck driver: Pfc. Forest L. Welchel, Pacolet, truck driver; Sgt. Hoy O. Rish, Pelion, auto mechanic.

Pfc. Leo Jameson, Piedmont, cannoneer; Cpl. Broughton M. Williams, Piedmont, supply clerk, Cpl. Lennie T. Padgett, Ridge Spring, heavy truck driver; First Sgt. George H. Huggins, Rock Hill, first sergeant’s duties.

November 16, 1944  Columbia Record (published as The Columbia Record)  Columbia, South Carolina
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