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Military History/351st AAA Searchlight Battalion


QUESTION: Mr. Horrell,

My father James E. Griffith served with Battery A, 351st AAA (Searchlight) Battalion.  He enlisted in August 1941 and trained with the battalion in Orlando, Florida in 1942.  I believe the battalion sailed from New York in 1942.  He was in North Africa in 1942 and in Italy in 1943-44.  His unit was disbanded in Italy in October 1944; it appears that the Luftwaffe was no longer a significant threat and infantry replacements were a higher priority.  He was in Rheinbollen, Germany on VE Day.  

Can you please assist with answers to these questions:
1.  What ship(s) did the 351st Searchlight Battalion sail on?  
2.  Do you have any information to trace how the former 351st Searchlight Battalion soldiers might have moved from Italy to Germany between late 1944 and early May 1945?  (Through Seventh Army and Southern France?  Through England and Northern France?
3.  What units were in Rheinbollen, Germany in early May 1945 and on VE Day? (Possibly as part of Fifteenth Army?)

Thank you very much for any information you may provide.

Mike Griffith

ANSWER: Dear Mr. Griffith,
       Thank you for your questions.

1)   Departure Date:   January 14, 1943
    Departure Location:   New York Port of Embarkation
    Troop Ship:   USS Ancon  AP-66
    Units Onboard:   351st AAA Searchlight Battalion
         67th Coastal Artillery Regiment
         elements of the 32nd Station Hospital
    Arrival Date:   January 27, 1943
    Arrival Location:   Oran, Algeria, North Africa
         via the Straits of Gibraltar

2)   Information, no.  FACTS, no.  Opinion, yes.  From Leghorn or Naples, Italy to Toulon or Marseilles, France.  The Allies couldn't even secure the English Channel on Christmas Eve, 1944, so the less time at sea, the better

3)   To answer a question such as this one I prefer three sources, one a Primary Source.  This reply has only one source, a Primary Source.  As you know, (West) Germany was divided into smaller & smaller regions to be administered by the Western Allies (United States, Great Britain & France).  Rheinbollen, Germany was within a sector (my term) with the HQ located at Simmern, Germany.  Rheinbollen is located east, northeast of Simmern, about halfway between Simmern & the Rhine River.  In the Simmern Sector (my term) was the 214th Field Artillery Group, assigned to the 214th was the 521st Field Artillery Battalion & the 942nd Field Artillery Battalion.  This was as of May 10, 1945, the closest date to "early May and on VE Day".  There may have been other units, but these were the only units listed in the History of U.S. Fifteenth Army.

       May I ask a favour of you?  Would you be so find as to share with us what is typed in Box #6 on page two of your father's Discharge Documents, as well as ALL THE DATES typed in Box #36 on page two of your father's Discharge Documents?
       Good Luck with your quest.

   Richard V. Horrell
    WW 2 Connections

[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Mr. Horrell,

Thank you again for your assistance.

On a hunch, I contacted the county clerk's office in my father's home county.  I was surprised and delighted to find that he had indeed followed orders and recorded his discharge with the clerk's office only 3 days after he was separated.  I received a copy of his discharge document from the clerk's office this morning.

Box #6 on his discharge shows that his last assignment was to Service Battery, 539th Field Artillery Battalion.  That tracks with information I found on page 59 of the "History of the Fifteenth Army"  that you kindly referenced( Page 59 shows the 539th FA in the vicinity of Rheinbollen, in the "St. Goar Kreis" district.

You were spot on with the dates of his convoy's departure and arrival.  Here is what is shown in box #36 of his discharge document:
Date of departure 14 Jan 43
Destination       EAME
Date of arrival   27 Jan 43

His Box #36 shows "Unknown" as the departure date for his return to the US, but does show an arrival date of 16 Jun 45.  He was a high-point man, having enlisted in August 1941 and with almost 2.5 years of foreign service per Box #37, so he was among the first to return after VE Day.

Thank you so much for your valuable help.

My next challenge is to track the movement of the 539th FA prior to VE Day.  I'm hoping to review unit morning reports to determine when and where he joined the 539th after his departure from Italy.



Dear Mr. Griffith,
       Thank you for your follow-up.  In it you typed "That tracks with information I found the "St. Goar Kreis" district."  Just so this point is clear, you found this "information" on the internet.  My source for the unit history of the Fifteenth Army was NOT the internet.
       In your follow-up you typed "His Box #36 shows.......arrival date of 16 Jun 45."

Departure Date:   June 9, 1945
Departure Location:   Le Havre, France
Troop Ship:   U.S.S. Wakefield  AP-21
Arrival Date:   June 16, 1945
Arrival Location:   Boston, Massachusetts, Port of Embarkation

       In your follow-up you typed "My next challenge.......prior to VE Day."  The 539th Field Artillery Battalion arrived in France April 3, 1945.

       Good Luck with your quest.

   Richard V. Horrell
    WW 2 Connections

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Richard V. Horrell


Can answer: World War Two. Specifically, the troop transport ships that took US Military Personnel overseas & returned them to the US, 1941-47. Also, unit history of US Army QM, Signal, MP, Ordnance, Medical, Transportation & Engineer units that served during WW 2. The more obscure units are my specialty. If you have the APO that a Veteran sent letters from or received letters at, I can look up the history of that APO.


A lifelong study of WW 2, including participation as a WW 2 Re-enactor, 1980-2002. Also, interviewing over 400 WW 2 Veterans about their role in WW 2.

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Over 800 Profiles that I have written for client's about their loved one's role in WW 2.

BA, History & Political Science (19th & 20th Century European History) Webster University, Webster Groves, MO.

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Assisting the National Archives on numerous occasions during the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of WW 2, 1991-95.

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