1st Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment
"First to Fire"
The mission of the 1st Battalion, 15th Field Artillery stands ready, as the most forward deployed Direct Support Cannon Battalion in the United States Army, is to conduct counter-fire and deep operations in defense of the Republic of Korea. In order to execute that mission, the "First to Fire" Battalion employs 3 155mm Paladin Batteries, a Service Battery, and a Headquarters Battery. These units are manned by US and Korean Augmentee to the US Army (KATUSA) soldiers who support the 2nd Infantry Division.
The 15th Artillery Regiment was first constituted on 3 June 1916 in the Regular Army. It was first organized by the transfer of personnel from the 4th Field Artillery on 1 June 1917 at Syracuse, New York. This was indicated by the flash in the upper left corner on the unit crest. It was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division on 21 September 1917 and sailed for France on 11 December 1917 to take part in the heaviest fighting of World War I. The extent of this service was indicated by the 5 wavy bars on the shield representing the 5 historic French rivers that the regiment crossed: the Aisne, Marne, Meuse, Moselle, and Rhine. By 1 June 1918, the Regiment held positions northwest of Chateau Thierry until relieved by the 26th Division in order to prepare for the July Soissons Counteroffensive. Between July and October 1918, the Regiment not only supported the 2nd Division in operations at Soissons, Margache, and Champagen, but also fired in support of the French 78th Division and the American 36th Division. On 10 November 1918, the 15th Field Artillery fired in support of the Meuse River crossing and 3 days later crossed the Rhine at Remagen for occupation duty. At the end of the war, the 15th Field Artillery Regiment had won 6 campaign streamers, 2 French Croix de Guerre, and the French Fourragere.
The 15th Artillery Regiment was reorganized and redesignated on 1 October 1940 as the 15th Field Artillery Battalion at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, which went on to serve in 5 major campaigns in the European Theater of Operations with the 2nd Infantry Division during World War 2. The 15th Field Artillery Battalion was ordered to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin on 16 October 1942, for intensive training with the 2nd Infantry Division.
The 15th Field Artillery began its participation in World War II on 7 June 1944, when it hit Omaha Beach as part of the 9th Infantry Regimental Combat Team. It went on to encounter 73 consecutive days of combat on the Normandy beachhead. Their first break in the combat action came on 19 August 1944, when the 15th Field Artillery Battalion was ordered to move 220 miles and occupy firing positions for the battle against the German fortress at Brest, France. The battle that ensued was bloody and hard fought by all elements of the 2nd Infantry Division including the 15th Field Artillery Battalion. On 26 September 1944, 5 officers and 42 enlisted men of the 15th Field Artillery were presented Bronze Star Medals, by the Division Commander, for their actions since D Day +1.
The unit fired its way through France by way of Brest and Paris, and entered Germany on 4 October 1944 to support the 2nd Infantry Division on a 27 mile sector of the Siegfried Line, firing on elements of both the 2nd and 3rd SS Panzer Grenadier Divisions. On 17 December 1944, the 15th Field Artillery Battalion fought as an integral part of the 2nd Infantry Division's attack on the Siegfried Line near Elsenborn. By 1 February 1945, the area known as Heartbreak Crossroads was taken after a multi-divisional battle.
On 21 March 1945, the 15th Field Artillery Battalion crossed the Rhine River into Germany on a pontoon bridge near Remagen, and took up firing positions near the town of Leutesdorf. After several heavy engagements, the 15th FA Bn moved to new firing positions at the town of Vaake, near the Weser River, arriving there on 7 April 1945. Throughout the remainder of April 1945, the 15th Field Artillery Battalion moved many times and even had to engage the enemy with direct fire from its howitzers. By 5 May 1945, the 2nd Infantry Division moved into Czechoslovakia. The war was officially over in Europe on 8 May 1945.
During World War II, the 15th Field Artillery Battalion was in combat for 336 days and fired 151,000 rounds, while providing direct fire support to the 2nd Infantry Division and general support to several other divisions. For its efforts and sacrifices the 15th Field Artillery Battalion was awarded streamers for 5 major campaigns including: Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, and Central Europe. Additionally, the 15th Field Artillery was awarded the Belgian Fourragere, and was cited in the Order of the Day of the Belgian Army for extraordinary combat action in the battle of the Ardennes and Elsenborn Crest.
After returning to Ft. Lewis, Washington following World War II, the battalion was alerted for duty in Korea. On 15 July 1950, it landed at Pusan and fired the first artillery round in support of the 2nd Infantry Division on 6 August 1950. On the morning of 14 February 1951, 1st Lieutenant Hartell was flying in a Liaison Plane as an Air Observer, when he noticed thousands of men and pack animals moving down from the north. It turned out that 2 Chinese Divisions were massing for an assault on the Wonju-Yogu Main Supply Route. 1st Lieutenant Hartell caught them as they were assembling and fired several Battalions onto the target area for more than 3 straight hours. This became known famously as the great Wonju Shoot, and resulted in nearly 3,500 enemy casualties.
The unit participated in all major battles of the Korean War and was instrumental in helping protect the division as it withdrew through the Kunu-Ri Pass, which was described as one of the bloodiest battles of all time. In supporting the 23rd Infantry as a rear guard, the artillerymen of the 15th Field Artillery helped stem the tide against the Chinese that were threatening the division. In the Bloody Ridge Campaign, August 1951, the unit set a new record for light battalions, firing 14,425 rounds in a 24 hour period. From 30 November 1950 to 27 July 1953, the Nattalion was in continuous combat. For its actions it received the Presidential Unit Citation and 2 Republic of Korea Presidential Citations. As a result the 15th FA Bn was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation (Army), streamer embroidered HONGCHON; the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, streamer embroidered NAKTONG RIVER LINE; and the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, streamer embroidered KOREA. Individual honors included a Medal of Honor and a Distinguished Service Cross. The 15th FA Bn was awarded 10 campaign streamers including the: UN Defensive, UN Offensive, Chinese Communist Forces Intervention, First UN Counteroffensive, Chinese Communist Forces Spring Offensive, UN Summer-Fall Offensive, Second Korean Winter, Korea, Summer-Fall 1952, Third Korean Winter, and Korea, Summer 1953.
After the Korean War, the unit returned to Fort Lewis and later moved to Fort Richardson, Alaska, where it was inactivated in June 1957. The 15th Field Artillery Regiment was reconstituted and the Regiment's A Battery was redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion 15th Field Artillery, with its organic elements concurrently constituted and activated at Fort Benning, Georgia in March 1958. The unit returned to Korea on 14 December 1968. The Battalion was stationed at Camp Pelham with the 2nd Infantry Division, as part of the Division Artillery, in defensive positions. With a change of mission for the 2nd Infantry Division, the Battalion moved to Camp Stanley in February 1971. In 1988 the battalion moved to Camp Casey where it performed the Direct Support mission in support of the 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
The 1st Battalion, 15th Field Artillery served continuously with the 2nd Infantry Division at Camp Casey, Korea, from 1988 to 2005. As part of the transformation of the 2nd Infantry Division to the US Army's modular force structure and the inactivation of the Division Artillery, in December of 2004, 1-15th Field Artillery became part of the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team. As part of the modular force structure, each modular maneuver brigade recieved an organic artillery battalion, previously held at division level and task organized during operations. Along with this reorganization came a move from Camp Casey to Camp Hovey in June of 2005. The unit remained positioned to strike hard at any aggressor that might attempt to break through the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea.
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