US Army Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) in Normandy

Discussion in 'US Units' started by Earthican, May 6, 2014.

  1. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    Since there is not a separate volume for Anti-Aircraft Artillery in the US Army official histories and their operations are not well covered by the campaign histories, there does not appear to be an authoritative source of information.

    I did manage to find one article online that has a significant amount of information on the Normandy operations.

    The article covers in detail the units that participated in the assault landings but only lists the follow-on units (207th AAA Group) in one sketch map. These were the units designated to defend the beach area after the assault units moved inland. Without a detailed discussion in the text or a source citation for the follow-on units, it is hard to judge the quality of the information presented.

    Below I list the AAA units in action on D-Day and D+1.

    June 6th, 1944
    Antiaircraft Artillerymen fight
    their way off the invasion beaches
    by Col. E. Paul Sernmens
    View attachment aaaUnitsD-Day.pdf

    Online (for now)

    Original documents and transcriptions provide some check on the information.
    Orders for AAA operations on UTAH Beach.

    D-Day and D+1 AAA Units (Semmens)

    49th AAA Brigade
    397th AAA MG Bn (Provisional)

    11th AAA Group
    81st Airborne AA Bn
    474th AAA AW Bn (SP)
    535th AAA AW Bn
    116th AAA Gun Bn
    battery of the 320th AAA Balloon Bn (VLA)

    16th AAA Group
    197th AAA AW Bn (SP)
    457th AAA AW Bn
    413th AAA Gun Bn
    battery of the 320th AAA Balloon Bn (VLA)

    18th AAA Group
    467th AAA AW Bn (SP)
    447th AAA AW Bn
    440th AAA AW Bn
    110th AAA Gun Bn
    battery of the 320th AAA Balloon Bn (VLA)
  2. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    I did find another list of follow-on units reported to be assigned to the 207th AAA Group and it differs almost completely from Semmens (article above). Both lists could be correct for different time periods so I included both and provided the landing dates for those units.

    Units listed in Spearheading D-Day by Jonathan Gawne
    207th AAA Group - 9/6/44

    11/6 - 109th AAA Gun Bn
    9/6 - 118th AAA Gun Bn
    9/6 - 411th AAA Gun Bn
    7/6 - 440th AAA AW Bn
    15/6 - 552d AAA AW Bn
    13/6 - 634th AAA AW Bn

    Units listed in the Semmens article
    207th AAA Group - 9/6/44

    18/6 - 225th AAA SL Bn
    19/6 - 448th AAA AW Bn
    18/6 - 550th AAA AW Bn
    13/6 - 634th AAA AW Bn
    16/6 - 120th AAA Gun Bn

    19/6 - 204th AAA AW Bn (SM)
    23/6 - 452d AAA AW Bn
    16/6 - 633d AAA AW Bn
    13/6 - 115th AAA Gun Bn
    27/6 - 129th AAA Gun Bn
    16/6 - 184th AAA Gun Bn
  3. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    It seems likely that the AAA plans changed with the slow discharge of shipping on the beach, lack of enemy air activity and the Channel storm on 19/20 June.

    As an illustration of the shuffling of AAA assets on the beachhead the unit history of the 115th AAA Gun Bn shows them being ordered near Cherbourg and then ordered back to the beach area!

  4. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    I am a bit skeptical that one AAA Group would control the firing batteries at both OMAHA and UTAH Beach. The unit history of 407th AAA Gun (SM) cites the 11th, 24th and 26th AAA Groups near UTAH Beach from the end of June to late July.

    Just to provide a larger sense of the AAA forces deployed to Normandy I compiled a list of units that landed in June. Most of the AAA units that landed in Normandy were to support the field Corps and Divisions. In total 76 AAA battalions landed in Normandy before the breakout.


    6/6 - 80th Airborne AA Bn [by glider and parachute]
    10/6 - 103d AAA AW Bn
    11/6 - 195th AAA AW Bn (SP)
    26/6 - 203d AAA AW Bn (SP)
    25/6 - 217th AAA Gun Bn
    15/6 - 376th AAA AW Bn
    14/6 - 377th AAA AW Bn
    29/6 - 387th AAA AW Bn (SP)
    23/6 - 407th AAA AW Bn (SM)
    13/6 - 430th AAA AW Bn
    17/6 - 438th AAA AW Bn
    18/6 - 453d AAA AW Bn
    10/6 - 459th AAA AW Bn
    12/6 - 460th AAA AW Bn
    13/6 - 461st AAA AW Bn
    11/6 - 462d AAA AW Bn
    28/6 - 463d AAA AW Bn
    23/6 - 486th AAA AW Bn (SP)
    23/6 - 495th AAA Gun Bn (SM)
    15/6 - 531st AAA AW Bn
    17/6 - 537th AAA AW Bn
    27/6 - 554th AAA AW Bn
  5. Earthican

    Earthican Senior Member

    Other units that contributed to the air defense of the Normandy battlefield ... Signal Air Warning battalions and Chemical Smoke battalions, others?

    I found that the 555th Signal AW Bn has an assault landing credit for Normandy which would indicate they landed at least some of their units early in the operation (DA GO 43-50).

    I am guessing the Signal AW battalions would come under the command of the IX Tactical Air Command, US Ninth Air Force. I imagine the 49th AAA Brigade of the US First Army would somehow access the friendly and enemy "air situation" gathered by the IX TAC.

    What was a Signal Air Warning battalion?

    James Toffton likes this.
  6. Vet Son 3

    Vet Son 3 New Member

    My father served with the 555th Signal Air Warning Battalion and 49th AAA Brigade as a radar specialist and instructor. He landed with the 3rd Wave at about 10 AM on Omaha Beach along with men of the 29th Division at the Vierville Cut. The Royal Navy (RN) Landing Craft Tank (LCT) was supposed to land at Dog Red Beach, but was pushed by the current to Dog Green Beach. The LCT was hit by enemy artillery fire from the German bunkers as it "hit the beach." An Irish lad who was the RN coxswain was killed. He was the only combat veteran on the craft having served in the Med. My father's 3/4 ton weapons carrier was the last vehicle off the LCT and a mortar shell struck the deck as the truck drove off. The truck was loaded with spare parts and repair equipment for the SCR-584 radar units that could lay and direct the M1 90mm batteries against both air and ground targets - terrain permitting. The truck was stashed against the bluff and my dad and his two companions joined a group of 49th AAA men and 29th Division soldiers on a dangerous trek up a path to the top of the bluff on the western side of Vierville. The 49th AAA men fought as infantry through Vierville and were on the front line about one mile inland that night. On D+1 he and his companions helped 29th Div. men clear houses in Vierville. In the afternoon they were strafed by a FW-190 fighter as they went back to the truck. (I have also talked to a Signal Corps telephone lineman with the 2nd Division who was strafed by a German fighter. The "minimal" Luftwaffe attacks on the beachhead aren't so minimal when you are the target. However, dad said the German air attacks were few because of the wonderful job our fighter planes did.) 90mm batteries were being set up that day to protect the beachhead and the radar that directed them was in use so dad got to work. One of the batteries made a direct hit on a FW-190. The Luftwaffe came over at night with medium bombers more interested in attacking the ships than the land targets, but were targeted by the radar and fired upon by the 49th AAA batteries. Interestingly the 90mm guns were also used as artillery against land targets since they could throw shells over 10 miles. As the radar men and gun crews moved in to the hedgerows beyond the beach they were harassed by German snipers, but this decreased as the beachhead widened to a full fighting front.The 49th AAA Brigade went with the First Army across France to Paris, then into Belgium fighting both air and ground targets at the Battle of the Bulge. The 49th is credited with downing over 1,000 V-1 Buzz bombs during the defense of Antwerp. The commander was General Edward Timberlake, a man my dad said always seemed to have a personal interest in what he was doing. My father's story can be seen in the June 1994 issue of MILITARY HISTORY magazine.
  7. BruceK

    BruceK Member

    My dad commanded Battery D of the 452nd AAA Battalion, the only segregated (colored[sic]) AAA unit in the ETO. About 10 years ago I happened to connect with the son of another 452nd field officer via eBay. My dad died in 1971 at age 54 but this guy's dad was still alive and amazingly enough living then just a few blocks from my mom's home in Santa Rosa. I had the privilege of attending Bill's 90th birthday party at which Bill told me that, contrary to the Order of battle on D-Day, his battery, Battery A, at the very last minute was directed to land in the 3rd wave on D Day, attached to an armored infantry battalion. If true, this would make the 452nd, along with the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, the only black combat unit to land.
    Shortly after, I found an article written about an enlisted man in Battery A who also described having gone ashore on D Day. Official records list 6/23 as the date when the 452nd landed at Normandy but what makes it interesting is that only about 550 troops were transported that day, making the 452nd only at 3/4 strength, supporting the notion that Battery A had indeed gone ashore at a different date than the majority of the 452nd. Can you shed further light upon this scenario? Thanks
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  8. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi Bruce


    Have you had a read through this thread - OMAHA BEACH. member Trux is our D-Day guru, so perhaps send him a 'conversation' - its a way of messaging people directly and off the public forum

    Good luck


    Page 7 of the link above discuss AAA on Ohama beach, still would be worth contacting Trux
  9. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Quick reply.

    One battery of 452 AAA AW Battalion was scheduled to land with the reserve 207 AAA Group. I have very few details but I think third wave refers to third tide which is D+1. This group was intended for the defence of the Beach Maintenance Area with its extensive dumps. Landing was from LSTs and they were late in unloading, which did not matter so much since the Maintenance Area was not yet cleared of the enemy. Most likely time of landing would be D+1 or D+2.

    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  10. BruceK

    BruceK Member

    452nd 40mm sildiers.jpg

    Mike, thanks so much for the info, which goes a long way towards confirming my 2 sources. I think it may have been me, not the men, who actually used "3rd wave" descriptively. Their stories were consistent, and in the case of my live conversation neither coaxed nor coached. Both men described arriving in the early evening hours and said that they were put ashore in water that was shoulder-deep. I was not in a position to press the enlisted man for details but in my conversation with Battery A's gunnery sergeant, he was quite certain that they had landed on D Day. I recognize that wishful thinking can play a role in memories of such momentous events.

    The 452nd AAA battalion was the only black anti-aircraft unit to actually be permitted to serve in a combat role in the ETO. (a few others may have been broken down into Redball Express support.) It spent 10 months in Great Britain defending both American airfields and London prior to Overlord. Its campaigns included Normandy, Northern France, Southern France, the Rhineland, the Ardennes and Eastern Europe. During the Battle of the Bulge, it along with a handful of other AAA battalions were converted by Patton into infantry units. It played a key role in the defense of the Ludendorff Bridge in Remagen, shooting down many German warplanes including 12 planes in one 24 hour period. All told, it notched 78 confirmed kills along with another 20 kills that were partially confirmed.

    My dad didn't say much about his wartime experiences while he was alive. The family's take on his experiences was that his battalion had spent little or no time actually engaging the enemy. It was only in 2006 that I thought to google the 452nd and we were stunned to discover what we did.

    Only recently have I discovered that the Army's files on the 452nd (not the individual men) were not destroyed in the 1973 fire. They are at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Kansas. May I ask you what sources you used for the information you provided? I've been toying with the idea of writing a magazine-length account of the 452nd. Any further details you can provide to me would be much appreciated. Thanks again! - Bruce Kimzey

    kimzeys at Gmail c*m

    btw, you didn't mention whether your sources specified the landing beach. Utah or Omaha?
    Tricky Dicky likes this.
  11. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron


    The only hard facts I have as yet are that a battery of 452 AAA was scheduled to land on Omaha. I have been working along the Normandy coast and have studied Sword, Juno and Gold beaches in some detail. As yet I have only reached midnight on D day for Omaha.

    Sources used so far are the loading and landing tables, V Corps plans and orders, naval plans and orders and naval War Diaries. I have so far not managed to find a way of obtaining US Army war diaries. So far my sources have come from the UK Public Record Office, Fold3 and the kindness and generosity of fellow forum members.

    For British beaches I can give landing times and precise map references for all AA gun sites. I hope such information exists somewhere for US units.

    If it were easy it would not be fun.

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  12. BruceK

    BruceK Member

    Well Mike, you certainly made my day yesterday. Whether D Day or D+1 on Omaha Beach, it's a relief to hear that the information I already had acquired wasn't purely a figment of the imagination, mine or my sources. It provides me with the impetus to obtain copies of the battalion's records from the Eisenhower presidential library. Up until now, the apparent lack of a unit history in Abilene had made me reluctant to spend the $200+ copy fees that the archivist quoted to me. Now I think I will even though it sounds like most of the 452nd's records there seemed likely to be uninformative about the D Day question.
  13. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    We are very lucky in the UK. People complain about the Public Record Office but the catalogue is readily available on line, most people live within travelling distance and anyone can go along and see, and photograph, the records. There are also many people who will photograph the documents for you for a reasonable fee.

    British army war diaries are standard forms with an entry for each day. Many have a considerable number of appendices such as maps, orders, march tables etc.

    Good luck.

    BruceK likes this.
  14. pnc80

    pnc80 New Member


    Good morning. My uncle spent a career in the Army joining in 1943 and served in the 554th AAA AW Bn. I have tried to obtain information about his service and the campaigns during WWII. While he also served in Korea, I am focusing on WWII. I wrote to the National Personnel Records Center and received some information but it appears to be incomplete or redacted. What are my best options to find out more about his service or do you have information you can share regarding the 554th AAA during WWII.

    Many thanks.

  15. Philip Reinders

    Philip Reinders Very Senior Member

    Although I don't have any documents or accounts, I know they also were in the Netherlands in 1944 or 1945.
  16. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place....

    I agree that a separate AA brigade was probably deployed for Utah and Omaha beaches, but I am not sure the balance of army level and corps/divisional AAA can be right.

    There was a model developed for AA defence of the beachhead by Allied Combined Operations. By and large the landings on British and American beaches followed a common template, which included the air defences for the beach maintenance areas. These were the vulnerable choke points and much easier to find and hit than the dispersed combat troops. he British had an AA Brigade for the beaches for each Corps One for Gold Beach, which included the AA cover for the Arromanches Mulberry Harbour and the fuel ppoint at Port en Bessin.

    A further AA Brigade landed to provide AA for the airfields established in the beach-head. There may have been a different emphasis between the British and US as a British AA Brigade takes over the AA defence of Cherbourg by the end of the Normandy Campaign. However, I suspect the US Army must have landed AAA specifically for each beaches, and the Omaha Mulberry Harbour, Cherbourg, when captured and the airfields in the US sector. As the front line moved inland AAA was still needed over the ports and beaches and transportation hubs. When the Front line moved towards Falaise, Army level AA took over the air defence of Caen and the Orne Bridges. In the breakout the AA also took over coastal defence for captured ports such as Le Harvre and Dieppe.

    I suspect the US Army deployed at least two AA brigades outside Corps control and brought in more to cover the lines of communication in the breakout.
  17. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    Separate AAA Brigades were deployed for Omaha and Utah. 49 Brigade for Omaha. 11 Brigade for Utah.

    I am afraid that my knowledge is limited to D Day and the operation of the beaches until the end of June. 554 AAA has not appeared in the documents that I have. I have found it difficult (practically impossible) to obtain reports and dairies of individual US units.

  18. BruceK

    BruceK Member

    Mike, is there possibly a way that you can supply me with a copy of the document you used to determine that one of the 452nd AAA's batteries land on D Day or immediately thereafter? The possibility that part of the 452nd landed at Omaha Beach has major implications for those who study black history in the U.S. because that would make the 452nd the only black fighting unit to come ashore anywhere in Normandy on D-Day. History currently records the presence of blacks on D Day only from service units and one balloon barrage unit.

    As an aside, I've recently learned that the 452nd AAA was a sort of "all-star" team comprised of the best men drafted from the 16 different black AAA units which were formed in the U.S. Only the 452nd actually shipped out to the ETO and the entire battalion spent about a year in the UK defending airfields and cities before landing in Normandy.
  19. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron


    I have little to add to what I posted on 7 January. I have not found any further references to 452 AAA. The one reference I have is on a list of units in a US report on activity in Normandy. This was read on Fold3 but I cannot access this at the moment. Attempting to be helpful I clicked a link provided by a forum member and find myself unable to access the site now.

    On my Omaha thread I recently said that it was proving impossible to find information on land units and would close the thread as soon as have I posted what little I have. Information on naval matters is plentiful.


  20. Mmdumas

    Mmdumas New Member

    Any information from anyone about Edward Russell Jones, my uncle, who was at Omaha beach with an AAA? 50 % died going ashore, he fought to st lo then was shipped home, grannies only boy. Thanks Mark June 11, 2018

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