Author’s Note: For the information and photographs contained in this article, the author is particularly indebted to the following persons, all of whom are veterans of the 456th/463rd:
Mr. William A. Kummerer, Dr. John S. Moore, Mr. Albert J. Toward, Mr. Kenneth Hesler, Colonel Hugh A. Neal, Colonel John T. Cooper, Jr., Mr. Joseph W. Lyons, and Mr. Douglas M. Bailey.
Any errors should be ascribed to the author.
The 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion was created on the Anzio beachhead from elements of the 456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalion. The nucleus of the 456th in turn was made up of men who had been in the original Parachute Test Battery.
The Parachute Test Battery was activated at Fort Benning, Georgia in the summer of 1942 and attached to the Parachute School for administration and training. The mission of the Test Battery was to develop a method whereby an artillery battery could land with all its weapons and equipment so that it could immediately go into action in support of parachute infantry.
The 456th was the Army's first large, regular-functioning airborne artillery unit, and it was activated on 24 September 1942 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina as a part of the Airborne Command. The battalion subsequently provided cadres for the first several artillery parachute units that were formed at Bragg.
The 456th left Fort Bragg in April 1943 as part of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regimental Combat Team. After a twelve day voyage on the Matson liner S.S. Monterey, it landed at Casablanca, Morocco and was then moved by rail to an area near the City of Oujda, on the border with Algeria. Here the unit continued its training in preparation for the invasion of Sicily. It was near Oujda that most of the men in the 456th made their first night jump.
From Oujda the unit was flown to an area near the City of Kairouan in Tunisia, where it camped in the hot desert for about two days before boarding C-47s for Operation "Husky." Taking off at around 2100 hours on the evening of 9 July 1943, the artillerymen arrived over the south coast of Sicily and jumped soon after midnight. Due to faulty navigation, high winds, and imparied visibility, almost all of the airborne units that participated in the initial assault came down far from their intended drop zones and were widely dispersed. Tragically, many of the paratroops and glidermen landed in the sea and were drowned. However, those that did come to ground uninjured coalesced into small groups and proceeded to roam the enemy rear areas creating havoc and confusion and leading the Axis High Command to conclude that their numbers were much larger than they actually were.
After the assault phase of Husky was completed, the 456th was sent to occupy an area near Trapani at the northwestern tip of the island. It remained there about one month before higher headquarters decided to transport the unit back to North Africa. Accordingly, the Air Transport Command flew Batteries C and D to Bizerte; however, as the result of a SNAFU the Battalion Headquarters together with A and B Batteries were landed on the airfield at Comiso near the south coast of Sicily. The resulting separation was to last about two months. During this time, the troops at Comiso had the opportunity to engage in direct fire anti-tank practice by shooting at old vehicles being towed at some length behind a truck. This practice would later pay big dividends in the snows of Belgium.
Finally, the elements of the 456th in Sicily were loaded aboard ship and transported back to North Africa. After the unit was reunited, it embarked on a Liberty Ship named the Anson Jones for a voyage to Naples, Italy. Enroute, the ship put into the Sicilian Port of Syracuse to load supplies and await nightfall. Passage through the Straits of Messina was timed to occur after dark in order to minimize the chance of air attack by German bombers which concentrated on that choke point during daylight hours.
Landing at Naples in mid-December 1943, the 456th marched to Santa Maria where it was attached to the Canadian American First Special Service Force (FSSF). For the next six months, the history of the 456th/463rd would be interwoven with that of the "Force." As expressed by one author and former member of the FSSF, "They were new to Force then but would in the coming months become as closely attached in common experience as artillery could manage with infantry."
The 456th joined the FSSF just before its assault on Hill 720, the western spur of Mt. Sammucro. This assault went in on Christmas Day of 1943 and was part of a general drive toward Cassino and the Gustav Line during which the role of the FSSF was to protect the right flank of the U.S. II Corps and secure the high ground covering an attack by the 1st Armored Division up Highway 6. Enemy resistance east of the Rapido River and the Gustav Line was largely broken by mid-January 1944.
Fifth Army had issued tentative orders reassigning the FSSF to II Corps for the impending assault-crossing of the Rapido River. For this crossing, the 456th was to be attached to the 36th Infantry Division. However, on the morning of 30 January 1944, both the 456th and the FSSF were unexpectedly ordered to Pozzuoli, a port staging area near Naples. At Pozzuoli, they were loaded on LCT's and LCI's, and at dusk they set sail. Their destination was the Anzio beachhead.
Despite a bright moonlight night, enemy aircraft did not molest the convoy, and at daybreak it was anchored off the headlands of Anzio. By noon, the units had been unloaded and staged into an open field about two miles from the town.
On 2 February 1944, the FSSF with the 456th went into the line under VI Corps. The Corps order read: "First Special Service Force, with 456th Field Artillery Battalion (less Batteries C and D) attached, will relieve the 39th Engineer Combat Regiment night 2-3 February and defend right flank of VI Corps S of (Bridge 5) inclusive." The 39th Engineers had been in a defensive posture and were glad to turn over the area to their replacements.
The sector assigned to the Force extended about eight miles along the Mussolini Canal from Bridge 5 to the sea. This sector comprised about one fourth of the perimeter of the entire beachhead. However, despite the very thin spreading of troops - about one every twelve yards - and the much larger enemy formations arrayed in front of it, the Force and its supporting elements were a constant headache to the enemy through their effective fire and aggressive patrolling.
The 463rd came into being on the Anzio beachhead, and its creation calls for an explanation.
In the early part of 1944, Ridgeway's 82nd Airborne Division was in England preparing for the Normandy invasion. At that time, the 82nd had two glider artillery battalions but no parachute artillery. However, the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division was still in Italy and had the 376th and the 456th Parachute Field Artillery Battalions. Ridgeway managed to have C and D Batteries of the 456th (together with the battalion's numerical designation) transferred to England with the 504th. The remainder of the 456th, consisting of its Headquarters along with A and B Batteries, were designated the 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion. In order to retain its original fire power, additional guns were obtained from the 45th Infantry Division to replace the ones taken by C and D Batteries. These were incorporated into A and B Batteries.
The 463rd was formally created at 1201 hours en 20 February 1944 at a location near the Mussolini Canal and about one half mile southeast of the small town of Borgo Bainsizza. Like the 456th, the 463rd was assigned to the Fifth Army and attached to the VI Corps. Major (later Colonel) Hugh A. Neal, who became Battalion Commander of the 456th about five days after the jump on Sicily, continued as commander of the 463rd.
The Anzio beachhead lasted four months to the day, and during this time it was essentially a defensive pocket on flat ground overlooked by two enemy held mountain masses. All parts of the beachhead were periodically subjected to enemy fire, and survival required burrowing into the ground for protection. The planning for the breakout from the Anzio beachhead called for the VI Corps told rive generally northward through the Velletri gap onto the Valmontone plain where it would cut Highway 6 to Rome. The mission of the Force and its supporting elements was to sweep the corps right flank adjacent to the 3rd Division by capturing Mt. Arrestino and then cutting across the Lepini heights to Artena.
On the morning of 23 May 1944, the breakout commenced, and the 463rd together with division and corps artillery opened fire in support of the FSSF attack. The initial thrust was to clear the area to the east of Cisterna as far as the railroad. During this phase, the 463rd provided effective support, particularly against a heavy concentration of Tiger and Panther tanks.
On 25 May, the FSSF quickly secured Mt Arrestino South of Cori whereupon it was ordered to advance directly upon Artena and leave the eastern heights to the French. Early on 26 May, the Force including the 463rd arrived in Cori and in the afternoon continued its advance on Artena arriving there the following day. Resistance to this point was light. However, during the night of 27-28 May, the Germans moved in tanks and flak wagons which began firing up and down the steep streets of Artena. The 463rd forward observers were well placed and proceeded to engage targets as fast as they appeared. Covering smoke enabled armor to accompany the FSSF attack which was slowed by an extremely heavy concentration of enemy weapons on a narrow front. By evening, a crescent around Artena had been largely secured, On May 31st, Major Neal, the 463rd Battalion Commander, was seriously wounded by an 88mm shell and had to be evacuated. He was replaced by Major John T. Cooper who had been the battalion Executive Officer.
463rd artillerymen near Cori, Italy.
Their "Pack 75" howitzer weighed only 1,268 pounds,
and it could be disassembled for airdropping.
However, its range with a 75mm projectile was only 9,475 yards
compared with 12,330 yards for the Standard howitzer
which fired a 105mm projectile.
Clearing away the resistance around Artena and Valmontone to the north was not completed until about 2 June and required heavy support from II Corps. Until the last elements of the German Tenth Army had passed through Valmontone enroute to Rome and beyond, the enemy resisted the cutting of Highway 6 with every possible means. During the ensuing attack on Valmontone by the 3rd Division on 1 June, the FSSF with the 463rd and its other elements had the job of securing the division's right flank
Fifth Army was now ready to commence its drive on Rome. With a front comprised of three corps, it planned to pursue the fleeing enemy through The Eternal City before he could reorganize on another line. To lead the assault, II Corps attached Task Force Howze to the FSSF effective 3 June. This Task Force was an armored group comprising elements of the 81st Reconnaissance Battalion and the 13th Armored Infantry under command of Colonel Howze. It was planned that the FSSF and Task Force Howze would alternate in the advance, with the armored elements driving ahead during the day while the FSSF advanced the point at night. With an enthusiasm akin to gold-rush fever, the units set out at top speed. By 1945 hours on the evening of 3 June, Task Force Howze had advanced fifteen miles from Valmontone and pulled up to let the FSSF take the night advance. By midnight the Force had reached Tor Sapienza, a suburb of Rome. At 0106 hours on 4 June the Force received orders to secure the six bridges over the Tiber River to the north of Vatican City. The combined force moved forward at daylight and entered the city limits at 0620 hours, coming under fire almost immediately from antitank guns. It was 2300 hours that evening before the Force had secured a total of eight bridges over the Tiber.
In commemoration of their achievement, a plaque was ceremonially placed on St. Paul's Gate In the middle of Rome on 4 June 1984 - the 40th anniversary of its liberation. The inscription on the plaque reads as follows:
First Special Service Force
On 4 June 1944, the United States-Canadian First Special Service Force commanded by
Brigadier General Robert T. Frederick led Allied Forces of General Mark Clark's Fifth Army,
apart of Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander's Fifteenth Army Group,
in the attack to liberate The Eternal City. In this action Task Force Howze of the 1st Armored Division,
the 463d Parachute Field Artillery and city units of the Italian Resistance gave valiant support
as we breached the gates of Rome and secured the Tiber bridges.
To our brothers in arms of all nations who died in the battles of the Italian Campaign
we dedicate this memorial.
First Special Service Force Association
4 June 1984
Monte La Defensa - Monte Majo - Monte Sammucro
Anzio Beachhead - Rome
Through 5 June the FSSF, with the 463rd, assembled in the area of Tor Sapienza. The following day, they were relieved from combat and placed in Fifth Army reserve for a much needed rest and recuperation. For this, the units were moved to Lake Albano, about seven miles southeast of Rome and west of the Alban Hills. Here the Vatican summer palace overlooked black volcanic beaches which ringed the blue waters of the lake. Liberal passes into Rome were interspersed with a program for reequipping and retraining.
The FSSF and the 463rd parted company on 1 July 1944 when the Force was moved to a training area south of Salerno (the two units were to meet again in France). The 463rd remained at the lake until 15 July when it was moved by truck to Lido de Roma where training continued in preparation for the invasion of Southern France. Batteries C and D of the 463rd (originally transferred to England during the reorganization at Anzio) were activated on 21 July 1944.
The invasion of Southern France - code named "Operation Dragoon" - was conceived as a means of putting large quantities of additional men and material onto the Continent of Europe. It was not felt that these could effectively be used in Italy, and the Channel ports were already operating to capacity. This left the South of France, which included the large Port of Marseilles.
The invasion was to open with an airborne assault by the First Airborne Task Force commanded by Brigadier General Robert T. Frederick (who commanded the First Special Service Force until about 23 June). Frederick organized and trained this composite unit in the amazing time of less than one month. The Task Force was to be transported in 535 C-47 and C-53 aircraft together with 465 gliders. It was to drop in the Argens Valley near Le Muy and Draguignan to block roads leading to the beachhead then attack the town of Frejus near the coast from the rear. The parachute troops were to jump at first light around 0430 hours and were to be followed by the gliders beginning around 0930 hours.
The First Airborne Task Force was principally comprised of the following units:
British 2nd Independent Parachute Brigade
517th Parachute Infantry Regiment
551st and 509 Parachute Infantry Battalions
550th Glider Infantry Battalion
463rd and 460th Parachute Field Artillery Battalions
602nd Glider Pack Howitzer Battalion
On 11 August, the 463rd was trucked to the airport at Grosseto, about 100 miles north of Rome near the coast. Here, together with the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion, they loaded aboard C-47 aircraft for the flight across the Ligurian Sea.
At 0425 hours on 15 August 1944 in scattered clouds and fog, one half of Headquarters Battery, all of A Battery, plus the 1st and 2nd Platoons of D Battery jumped in the vicinity of Le Muy, France. As the result of a navigational error, the other half of the Headquarters Battery, all of B and C Batteries plus the 3rd and 4th Platoons of D Battery jumped at 0430 hours in the vicinity of St. Tropez. Despite the inadvertent splitting of the 463rd into two parts, the unit managed to reassemble as a battalion by 17 August about 31/2 miles southwest on Le Muy. The Battalion Commander, Major John T. Cooper, fractured his ankle in the jump on 15 August and was replaced for approximately two months by Major Stuart M. Seaton, the Battalion Executive Officer. Upon his return from a hospital in North Africa in mid-October 1944, Major (later Colonel) Cooper served as Battalion CO of the 463rd until the end of the war.
After its reassembly, the 463rd worked its way up to the coast toward Nice with the Task Force. On the way, much larger and better equipped enemy forces were defeated, captured, or dispersed. Near Nice the 463rd and a glider infantry battalion were transported north into the Maritime Alps to fight as mountain troops for the next several months. During this period the men of the 463rd fought the "Champagne Campaign," which entailed combat with the enemy interspersed with occasional passes to enjoy the pleasures of the French Riviera just a few miles away. However, with the onset of winter, the 463rd was replaced by another parachute field artillery battalion and on 22 October 1944 was withdrawn from combat and moved by truck back to the south coast.
For a while, the men of the 463rd were able to relax and enjoy life on the Riviera without the distraction of the war. However, toward the end of November 1944, the First Airborne Task Force was disbanded, and the 463rd was attached to the 101st Airborne Division for administration and rations. The 101st was in north central France at Mourmelon-la-Petite, just to the east of Reims, where it was sent after Operation Market Garden in Holland. Traveling by truck from the Mediterranean Coast, the 463rd arrived at Camp Mourmelon on 12 December 1944. The weather was cold and wet. After a short but restful week, all hell broke loose to the north.
Late in the day on 17 December 1944, the 463rd was placed on alert as a result of the German breakthrough in the Ardennes. In mid-afternoon on the following day, the artillerymen departed by truck from Mourmelon, France and headed north. As they neared Bastogne the roads became crowded with retreating soldiers from units that had received the brunt of the German onslaught.
On the morning of 19 December, after an all night drive, the 463rd arrived at the temporary headquarters of the 101st Division Artillery on the road south of Bastogne only to learn that no plans had been made for positioning the battalion. On his own initiative, the 463rd Battalion Commander elected to continue on to the Town of Hemroulle, about 1.5 miles northwest of Bastogne. The unit closed into this area at about 1500 hours and set up its Command Post and Fire Direction Center in the town. On the following day - 20 December 1944 - the Germans cut the remaining road leading into Bastogne and completed their encirclement.
The 463rd was assigned the mission of providing artillery support to the 327th Glider Infantry Regiment whose sector thinly covered the west and south borders of the defensive perimeter. Initially, this support was limited because of extremely heavy fog and low clouds which prevented the Forward Observers from adjusting indirect fire. However, fire missions were conducted whenever targets could be. On the 21st, the Battalion commenced redeployment of howitzers into previously prepared direct fire positions from which they could defend against tanks. This was done because of the changing tactical situation and also because supplies of high explosive ammunition had dwindled to the point where they insufficient to support heavy indirect fire missions. Fortunately, the 463rd had some armor piercing ammunition which it had obtained in Italy. This ammunition had not been listed on unit ammunition reports, and it was soon to become very useful.
About noon on 23 December, the weather allowed the first aerial resupply drop flown by 241 C-47 aircraft. It arrived none too soon. Some guns had no high explosive shells left, and others had only a half dozen or so. Rations were totally exhausted. The sight of the colored supply chutes coming down gladdened the hearts of the paratroopers. At dusk on the 23rd, the Germans launched an attack from the south in an attempt to break through the 327th Glider Infantry lines, but this was halted by midnight with heavy losses to the attackers.
In the pre-dawn hours of 25 December - Christmas Day - the Germans launched a second all-out attack intended to wipe out the Bastogne pocket. This time it was out of the northwest and headed straight toward the 463rd. Eighteen Mk. IV tanks with supporting infantry broke through the thin defensive line of the 327th Glider Infantry and began to advance toward Hemroulle. After the initial breakthrough, little opposition was met, and the German tank infantry team with eleven of the tanks proceeded several miles to the outskirts of Hemroulle. Evidently mistaking the town for Bastogne, the tanks and infantry pulled off the road and halted. Their stopping point was only about 100 yards from several of the 463rd howitzers which were virtually invisible because of the darkness combined with a recent light snowfall. Incredibly, the German column remained in this position for over an hour. The battalion headquarters had been alerted to the presence of the tanks by an outpost guard, however, Major Cooper ordered that fire be withheld for as long as possible. This was done in hopes that the light of dawn would improve the hit probability and because of a concern that the tanks might, after all, be American. As the dawn broke, the outline of the German tanks and their distinctive muzzlebrakes made identification unmistakable. When the command to fire was given, the ensuing battle lasted approximately half an hour, and during this time many of the 463rd men fought as infantry. Eight tanks were knocked out by the howitzer crews and when one of the others received a hit which injured its commander, it was captured intact by an artilleryman who hung his undershirt on the tank's muzzlebrake and drove it back to within the battalion's defensive perimeter. Two tanks managed to escape the deadly fire of the 463rd but were destroyed by a rapid deployment armored force dispatched by Division Headquarters. Of the eighteen tanks which began the assault, none survived the day.
In the gathering darkness just after 1700 hours on the following day - 26 December - the first elements of Combat Command R of the 4th Armored Division broke through the German encirclement from the south and relieved the siege. During the period 19 December to 31 December 1944, the 463rd fired over a 360 degree sector, expending a total of 7,676 rounds of ammunition on almost every kind of ground target.
Troopers Richetto, Tower, and Kummerer in a 1945 photo.
Note the Italian jump wings being worn on the left side of the Ike jackets.
When asked why these wings were worn,
Bud Tower replied "to impress the girls, what else"
The victim of anti-aircraft fire, this C-47 crashed in front
of the 463rd positions at Bastogne.
Before it touched down, its tailwheel is said to have
caught a 2 1/2 ton truck and spun it around.
The driver of the truck emerged at a full run.
After Bastogne, the 463rd returned to Mourmelon, France, with the 101st Airborne Division. It was there that orders were received transferring the 463rd to the 17th Airborne Division for the planned jump across the Rhine River. However, Major General Maxwell Taylor interceded to have the 463rd remain with the 101st, and it did so for the rest of the war, including the Rhineland Campaign. Their line of advance passed through Liege and Aachen to the Rhine River and then up the of, bank toward Frankfurt. On VE Day, they were camped in some hills about 30 miles from Munich.
The 463rd was inactivated on 30 November 1945 in Germany, but its history was not to end there. On 18 June 1948 it was redesignated (less Battery D) as the 516th Airborne Field Artillery Battalion, an element of the 101st Airborne Division (Battery D was concurrently converted and redesignated as Company K, 506th Airborne Infantry). On 6 July 1948 it was activated at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky and allotted to the Regular Army. Thereafter, its history was as follows:
-Inactivated 29 April 1949 at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky
-Activated 25 August 1950 at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky
-Inactivated 1 December 1953 at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky
-Activated 15 May 1954 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina
-Redesignated 1 July 1956 as the 463rd Airborne Field Artillery Bn. Inactivated 25 April 1957 at Fort Campbell, Kentucky
The 463rd Parachute Field Artillery Battalion is not generally thought to have had any cloth insignia, however, two quite different patches were designed and actually made during World War II, and one of them was "formally" adopted - albeit many years later by veterans of the unit. One of the two patches featured a howitzer under a parachute canopy and was intended to be worn on the shoulder. The other was a large and colorful jacket patch featuring Bugs Bunny under a parachute canopy, and it had the unit designation on an integral tab at the bottom. Very few of these patches were made, and the originals are extremely rare.
The above patches were conceived by members of the 463rd after the breakup of the 456th on 20 February 1944.
Understandably, the breakup was not well received by the men of the unit, and one of the commanding officers later referred to it as "the rape of a battalion" The 463rd came to think of itself as a "bastard" unit, and there was evidently a feeling that something was needed to give it an identity of its own. This thought is what motivated the design and creation of the two patches.
There is some evidence that the idea of a separate patch for the 463rd was viewed with disdain by a few of the troopers who had been with the 456th from its early days. They still considered the 463rd - particularly C and D Batteries to be a Johnny-come-lately outfit. The Battle of the Bulge largely abolished such divisiveness.
The design of this patch is straight-forward and almost elegant in its simplicity. One glance leaves no doubt as to what kind of unit it represents. The design was conceived by the battalion surgeon, Dr. John S. Moore, while he was an the Anzio beachhead.
Picture : Dr. John S. Moore in a 1945 portrait.
By this time, the 463rd Parachute Field Artillery was wearing the 101st Airborne Division patch.
After Anzio, he mailed a rough sketch to his parents who lived In Washington, D.C. The following are excerpts from letters Dr. Moore wrote to his parents (their responses were not preserved):
23 July 1944: "Do you know of some company in the States which makes insignias, patches? We have been thinking up a patch to wear on our sleeves. The 82nd Div. insignia, which we used to wear, was removed after leaving the Div.
Most other divisions and separate units, like ours, have their own patches. We would have to design one and get it approved by the War Dept. which would probably take 6 months. However, we might be able to get one made up in the meantime. If you know of a company, or could locate one, that would be fine. The design will probably have a small field-piece suspended beneath a parachute - the parachute white, the gun yellow, and background red. Red and yellow are artillery colors" (this letter evidently enclosed a sketch.)
October 1944. "Thanks for getting (a family friend) to go to so much trouble. The drawings came the other day, but were not quite what we had in mind. I am enclosing a rough, color diagram. The view is head-on and resembles our howitzer. Of course, it never dropped as such, but the officers seem to like it this way rather than just the tube. The parachute could, perhaps, be a bit larger.
The suspension lines would be better if white instead of black as I have them. The red background is too dull a red. It should be a brighter red. The yellow of the cannon should be more of a golden yellow. The border of black around the cannon is there for contrast. The black border around the whole should be about as wide as I tried to make it. The whole design may seem a bit large but it is just about the size we want it. They seem to think it better without the number. If you could get (the same family friend) to improve on this and touch it up, fine. We made it as simple as possible, partly because we want it simple and partly because it would be easier to run off. Chances are we may never get a chance to have it approved or wear it, though; we have been shifted around so much of late."
28 October 1944: "(Your) letter contained the patch that Father has made up. I have not as yet had a chance to show it to the officers but will do so later. They have already expressed more interest in the other design, however, which you may have received by now."
20 November 1944; "Here is one of (family friend's) designs that I am returning. I have modified it a bit. The lines should be white, and not black as I have drawn them, but they should not come to central knot. I made the wheels a bit larger, and the shoulders a bit more square. The background should be a deep red and the piece a golden yellow. The ink lines I put on the 'chute are meant to represent the way the white threads should run. There are four panels, with what would look like a sort of part between them, as a part on a head of hair. That is the way that most of the parachute patterns are made. (My sister's) design was kept here because they want to get official approval on it."
17 December 1944: "About the insignia: I hope you had one of the new type made up as I would like to see it. However, we are attached to another unit, and if we wear any it will probably have to be theirs. Please have one made up, however. There should be no black outlining the parachute and no black along the suspension lines either."
28 February 1945: "Father's two letters containing the patches arrived last week. I turned one of them over to the battalion commander and kept one for myself. They are fine but we will not wear them because the unit to which we are assigned has its own insignia, which we have to wear."
Two steps in the evolution of the shoulder patch conceived by Dr. John S. Moore.
The final design is on the right. The construction of these patches is quite different,
suggesting that they were made by different manufacturers.
From the above correspondence, it would appear that one of the suggested designs incorporated the battalion number. The patches which are pictured herein are those which Dr. Moore received from his father on 28 October 1944 and 28 February 1945. It is thought that only one or two of each of these were manufactured. They are very different in construction and were probably produced as samples by different manufacturers. Dr. Moore believes that his father had them made by a firm or firms in the Washington, D.C. area.
The officers club (a medical tent draped with parachute canopies)
at Mourmelon, France, after the Battle of the Bulge.
A party was given in celebration of a visit by movie actress Marlene Dietrich, seen here signing her autograph.
Second from the right is Major John T. Cooper, CO of the 463rd.
The large colorful Bugs Bunny patch was the joint creation of two men, Sergeant William A. Kummerer and PFC Albert J. "Bud" Towar (rhymes with power). These men were assigned to D Battery, and shared the same foxhole in the Maritime Alps. During several discussions, they agreed upon the desirability of a patch and considered a number of different possible themes. Finally, they decided upon Bugs Bunny because, despite the indomitable hare's penchant for getting into trouble, he always managed to get out of it: and they were personally committed to having the 463rd and themselves endowed with the same ability! In a letter Bud Towar wrote to Bill Kummerer, dated 18 June 1982, he referred to this aspect of their idea by writing: " .. but still think the 'Bugs Bunny' patch is indicative of the 463rd - even to this day he has never lost a battle. If you recall, we picked him for that reason! In all his cartoons, he always starts out in serious trouble, but he always comes out of it the winner!"
Designed by Sergeant W. A. Kummerer and PFC A. J. Towar
while sharing a foxhole in Southern France, approximately 100 of these large
and colorful Bugs Bunny patches were made in 1944.
Kummerer and Towar made a crude sketch of their patch and mailed it to Towar's mother, Mrs. Mackie D. Towar, who lived in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.
Mrs. Towar forwarded the sketch to Warner Bros. in Hollywood where it was placed in the hands of Mr. Friz Freleng (Freleng was one of several people who originally created the cartoon character of Bugs Bunny). With the deft touch of a professional, Freleng finalized the design and sent an artist's rendering to Mrs. Towar. She then took the drawing to the Webber Knitting Mills located on Gratiot Avenue near 14th Street in Detroit and had approximately one hundred patches manufactured. These were put in a box and mailed to PFC Towar, reaching him about one week before the Ardennes offensive. Towar was not expecting the patches and initially thought that the box contained a cake. The patches were passed out, primarily to the men in D Battery, but also to others in the battalion who wanted them (it was always intended that the patch represent the entire battalion and not just D Battery). The ensuring German offensive in the Ardennes diverted attention from the patch, as well as all other extraneous things.
It is certain that the howitzer design was never worn as a patch. However, it was painted on a large board which was used as a decoration in the battalion officer's club. Some of the Bugs Bunny patches were sewn on field clothing. In a note to the author, Bud Toward wrote: "Although I am unable to find a picture of anyone actually wearing 'Bugs' during the war, I remember sewing one on my field jacket at Mourmelon. I also remember a direct order ... (through channels)... to remove it instantly! I remember not doing so at once, and perhaps that was one reason, out of many others, that I remained a PFC." In another recollection, it was mentioned that the Bugs Bunny patches were a little too large for the pockets of either the jump jacket or the newer field jacket. However, while the 463rd was attached to the FSSF, General Frederick arranged for the artillerymen to receive the same special clothing that the Forcemen were issued. Some of the FSSF parkas were still being worn in France, and these provided a larger area over the chest on which the patches could be sewn.
Back home in 1945.
On the far left is Bud Towar; on the left is Bill Kummerer.
These men designed the Bugs Bunny patch.
There is an epilogue to the Bugs Bunny patch story. In 1982, almost forty years after the end of World War II, the question of an "official" insignia was put to the members of the 463rd Veterans' Association. The matter was addressed in their newsletter and in the Static Line newspaper column, and various ideas were suggested. Finally, at the Chicago Convention held in August 1982, a vote was taken, and Bugs Bunny won.
A letter was written to Warner Bros. Inc., requesting permission to use the design, and Warner formally authorized it in a Copyright License Agreement. Small enameled pins and reproduction patches (reduced in size and differing in details) have since been made up, and the design is utilized by the Association in other appropriate ways.
Neither the 456th nor the 463rd had a distinctive insignia during World War II. Later, however, in a Quartermaster Activities letter dated 18 July 1956, submitted through the Commanding General of Third Army to the Commanding Officer of the 463rd at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, it was advised that the coat of arms originally approved for the 516th Airborne Field Artillery Bn, was redesignated for the 463rd Airborne Field Artillery Bn. The blazonry and description were given as follows:
SHIELD: Gules, in pale a winged cannon barrel muzzle to base or, each wing charged with three gunstones, in chief on a bezant, a fleur-de-lis azure.
MOTTO: Satis Superque (Enough and More)
DESCRIPTION: The colors red and yellow are used for Artillery. The winged cannon barrel - muzzle to "earth" - suggests artillery from the "skies" and alludes to the airborne nature of the organization. The six gunstones represent six battle honors awarded the unit for service during World War II; the yellow disc and fleur-de-lis for service in Europe, also referring to the battalion's two decorations, the fleur-de-lis being blue for the Distinguished Unit Citation.
Originally approved for the 516th Airborne Field Artillery Battalion,
this coat of arms was redesignated for the 463rd in 1956.
Its basic colors are red and yellow. It was worn as a DI.
The record further indicates that samples of the distinctive insignia were approved by letter dated 26 May 1955, and the insignia was manufactured by N. S. Meyer, Inc. in New York City.
For the information and photographs contained in this article, the author is particularly indebted to the following persons, all of whom are veterans of the 456th/463rd: Mr. William A. Kummerer, Dr. John S. Moore, Mr. Albert J. Toward, Mr. Kenneth Hesler, Colonel Hugh A. Neal, Colonel John T. Cooper, Jr., Mr. Joseph W. Lyons, and Mr. Douglas M. Bailey. Any errors should be ascribed to the author.