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History of the
55th Artillery, C.A.C.
During WWI


On December 1, 1917, Lieutenant Colonel Shedd was assigned to the 55th Regiment, Coast Artillery Corps and assisted in organizing and equipping it to served in France with French 155 mm longer-range guns. Three of its batteries and Supply company came from historic Massachusetts Coast Artillery National Guard, two batteries and Headquarters Company from Boston Harbor regulars, and one from Rhode Island Coast Artillery National Guard, 71 officers and 1716 enlisted men in all, sailed from New York March 25, 1918, on SS Mauritania.

The entire 55th regiment was awakened at 3:30 A.M. on Palm Sunday, March 24th, 1918 to begin their march to the New Jersey Northern depot at Cresskill and entrained for the trip to the Port of Embarkation. Finally the Regiment reached Cunard pier No. 54 where the H.M.S. Mauretania and H.M.S. Aquitania were docked. Within one hours time the entire Regiment was on board the Maurentania ready for the trip across the "big pond". After the other units that were to sail boarded the 55th Regiment waited for the ship to leave port. At 5:47 P.M. on March 25th 1918 the ship gave the signal with its steam whistle and she backed away from the pier into the Hudson River. Finally on April 2nd, 1918 at 3:00 P.M. The H.M.S. Mauretania was tied up to the quay in Liverpool, England.

Orders were received for the 55th to enter the line of battle along with the 56th Regiment. A race was on to see which Regiment could fire the first gun. The 56th Regiment entered the line on August 5th, 1918 while the 55th Regiment followed 24 hours later. But the 55th was in position sooner and at 12:03 P.M. on August 9, 1918 Sgt. Damon's gun, No. 1 of Battery A, the "Allie" had the honor of firing the first American shot with heavy artillery in battle. The target was a bridge across the Aisne River, far in the German rear, and over which they were expected soon to retreat. Subsequent aerial observation revealed that just five shots from the "Allie" were required to demolish the bridge.

The 55th was now with the new American 3rd Corps. The 31st Brigade consisted at that time of only two regiments, the 55th and the 56th Artillery. Owing to the danger from enemy bombers, all unnecessary noise was forbidden, even bugle-calls were discontinued. Until after November 11th there would be no more reveille, mess call or taps.

In October 1918 the 55th found the mud at Bois de Beuge a hard problem to overcome. Supplies and ammunition could not be brought up to the guns. Battery D tried to make a sled pulled by one of the tractors with little success. Battery C carried ammunition by hand and finally perfected a method where they used a tractor each night as a ferryboat to transport all kinds of stores. A bugler is said to have noticed the parallel between the nightly visits of the "ferry-boat tractor" and the trips of the Quartermaster boat in Boston Harbor, and one night to have greeted it by sounding "boat-call". The bugler had not foreseen that the familiar tones would arouse homesickness in the men, he had a narrow escape from being mobbed.

The regimental wireless intercepted a message at 5:40 am on November 11th that the armistice was signed. The honor of the last shot fired goes to Battery F. At 10:42 the "Alky" fired her last shot at Fritz. Battery F's target was interdiction fire at a crossroads at the entrance of the town of Malandry, behind the German lines.

January 9th, 1919 found the 55th Regiment (49 officers and 1,607 men on board the H.M.S. Cretic in Brest, France. One officer celebrated by throwing overboard the muddy "articles" which he had been compelled to wear constantly for the last three months. The Cretic was commanded by W. E. Ingham and the voyage home took 13 days. The Regiment upon landing in the States went to Camp Mills at Mineola, Long Island, New York where they were "deloused".

On January 29th the Regiment received the following telegram:

"The Secretary of War has this day approved the recommendation of the Chief of Coast Artillery that the following brigades and regiments be not disbanded and that they be ordered to take stations as follows; 55th, 56th, 57th Regiments to the Coast Defenses of San Francisco."

February 23rd, 1919 found the regiment at Fort Scott, California. The regiment was issued twenty-four 155mm GPF guns and tractors. The records of the 55th show that 13 men died during battle, 22 died of disease or accidents and 48 were wounded. The final tally of shots fired by the 55th Regiment was 32,678 rounds fired during the war. The "Floss" of Battery A set the high mark for the regiment by firing 2,011 shots.

Post card photo of a group of men from the 55th Regiment C.A.C. It reads "German dugout occupied by the 55 arty C.A.C., Oct 1918 Eppionville (Meuse) Argone Forrest France.
This photo was obtained with the above photo and I believe it is also of the 55th Artillery. This photo has this written on the back; "Gun Crew waiting for orders to fire. How they Camouflage the Arty. 155 mm gun's" In this photo you can see the netting that was used as camouflage while in firing positions at the front. Most all the men can be seen with their gas mask packs slung over their shoulders.
This photo shows the same gun crew as the above photo. This is a good example of how the gun was moved with the Holt tractors. These tractors were made by the Caterpillar Company and were tracked with one steering wheel in the front. In the original photo the Camouflage paint scheme can be seen. This gun is ready to move and the muzzle is covered with a canvas covering.

The Regimental Muster

As I find names of men who sailed this ship I will add them here with what I know of each. If you know additional facts about these men or others who were crew of the 55th Artillery, please e-mail them to: Joe Hartwell

Bugler, Raymond Francis Campbell, 577834, HQ Company:

Mr. Campbell enlisted into the United States Army, Coast Artillery Corps in 1916. He entered at Ft. Banks, Boston, Massachusetts. Was assigned to 12th Company Coast Defenses of Boston. The 12th Co. Boston Artillery has a very long and historical past. It's past can be traced back to March 22, 1784. That is the date that the "Old First" Massachusetts Regiment was organized. This makes the "Old First" the second oldest military body with continuous history in the United States and absolutely the oldest National Guard unit. The "Old First" has taken part in many engagements through out its history. During the Civil War the Regiment had 173 members killed. All twelve companies of the Boston Coast Defenses entered Federal service July 25, 1917, under command of Col. George F. Quinby, and were discharged from state service by the operation of the draft on August 5, 1917. The ultimate fate of the 12th Co. was as follows: 12th Co. disbanded November 13th, 1917 and records preserved by the 15th Co. C.A.C. (Coast Artillery Corps) U.S.A., Fort Andrews. Along with the large number of men transferred to the newly formed 55th Arty., four entire units were also incorporated, records and all. The 55th Arty. became reorganized as the continuation, in overseas service, of the Old First Massachusetts Regiment. Mr. Campbell is listed with the Roster of HQ. Co. 55th Arty., C.A.C. as: Campbell, Raymond F., 577834, Bugler, 10 Blakeland St., Lawrence, Mass. In December 1918 he was transferred into Battery A where among the Rosters of Battery A, his name also appears.

Among the men of the Old First it was common belief that it had fallen to their fate to be the slayers of General "Stonewall" Jackson, one of the severest blows to the Confederate cause during the entire war. During the night which intervened between may 2 and 3, 1863, the two days of the battle of Chancellorsville, two companies were on out post, when a party of Confederate horsemen rode down the Plank Road toward their lines; as a result of the volley then fired, General Jackson fell. The identification was rendered complete by Sgt. Charles F. Ferguson of Co. I, who was a prisoner-of-war for a few minutes, and happened to be close to the mounted officers when the fire was received; Ferguson made his escape in the ensuing confusion, and reported what he had seen. This event was merely an accident of warfare, and entirely unpremeditated. While others claimed to have been the agents of Jackson's removal, and although the Southerners say that their own men fired the fatal shots, still there is no good reason for rejecting the contention of the Old First, in fact the evidence seems conclusive that our claim is valid.

Captain William J. Hough:

William J. Hough (some sources show him as Walter J. Hough) was born 22 July 1886 in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. At the time he entered the Army in 1917 he lived at 1345 Goodale Ave. in Toledo, Ohio. On 27 November 1917 he was promoted to 1st Lt. in the Field Artillery at Ft. Sheridan, Illinois. Lt. Hough sailed to France on 27 December 1917 possibly on the USS Pastores or the USS President Grant. Hough was promoted to Capatin on 21 October 1918. Captain Hough joined the 55th Artillery after the Armistace on 17 November 1918 and was the 1st Brigade Adjuant. Captain Hough returned to the States on the HMS Cretic with the 55th Artillery and was discharged at Ft. H.G. Wright on 8 February 1919.

Pvt. Frederick A. Blais, 577096, Battery A, KIA October 3, 1918

Private Frederick A. Blais was Killed in Action on October 3, 1918 during the Battle of the Argonne Forest near Montfaucon, France. Battery A gun position was out in the open with no shelter whatever between September 28- October 5, 1918. Battery A lost Sgt. Long and Privates Blais and Gratz besides several wounded before they moved the gun to a more sheltered position on October 5. On the eastern slope of Montfaucon Hill was a more sheltered position and they emplaced the gun there. Today the Newell-Blais VFW Post No. 443 in North Attleboro, MA is co-named in his honor.

Pvrivate Frederick A. Blais, KIA October 5, 1918

Pvt. 1cl John Souza Baptist, 576840, Battery C:

John Souza Baptist entered (enlisted) in the Army at Fort Banks, MA on August 14, 1917 at 19 years of age and was Honorable Discharge, Fort Terry, NY on February 6, 1919. His home of residence was 35 Purchase St. in Taunton, MA., and he was the first born in the United States in his family. Marie Crossman who is John S. Baptist's granddaughter, was doing some genealogy research on her grandfather and happened to find his discharge papers, which stated he was a Pvt. 1cl in Battery "C" 55th Artillery C.A.C. The discharge papers also stated that he participated in the following engagements: Second Battle of Maine, Operations on Vesle and the entire Meuse Argonne Offensive.

In the photo below of John in uniform saluting on his left collar button it shows the cross cannons of the Coast Artillery Corps but more importantly it also shows the number “24”, which is the 24th Company, Massachusetts Coast Artillery National Guard. The men from Battery C mostly came from the 8th Company, Boston but to fill out the entire 55th Regiment men were drawn from other Boston Coast Artillery Companies. These were the 16th Co., 17th Co., 24th Co. and the 31st Co. I believe that John Baptist was in the 24th Company at the time of the taking of the photograph in question and this must date this photo to before 1 December 1917, which is the formation day of the 55th Artillery and after he enlisted on 14 August 1917 at Ft. Banks, MA. The 24th Company was formed at Ft. Heath, MA in August of 1917 and was organized from men from the former 9th Company, MA Coast Artillery Corps National Guard. In December of 1917 as the 55th Artillery was being formed the 24th Co. was moved to Ft. Banks. So I feel that from the 24th Co. is how John Baptist entered into Battery C of the 55th Artillery.

Left; John Souza Baptist, Taunton, MA,
Center; C. J. McCarthy, Taunton, MA,
Right; E. J. Murphy, Holyoke, MA
Pvt. 1cl John Souza Baptist, 576840, Battery C, 55th Artillery. Photo was taken in 1917.
John Baptist's torn and tattered WWI Victory Medal with 3 bars. Oise-Aisne, Meuse-Argonne, Defensive Sector
Vernier Verdun Medal of John Baptist


55th Artillery, the "Peace Years" in Hawaii

During the 30's the 55th Artillery was active on the Island of Oahu as part of the defenses of Hawaii. "Buck" Wilmer of Battery "A" was kind enough to share his story with me during the peace years of the 30's. On the following web page is his story and photos of his experiences with Battery A, 55th Artillery.

World War II, Cold War, and the Vietnam Years

Bob Schnack and 3 others closed out the Headquarters Company of the 55th Artillery Battalion (NIKE) then at 150 Rocky Hill Road, New Britain CT. in December of 1964. The 55th had been designated as an Air Defense Battalion and assigned to the Hartford/Bridgeport Defense sector.

During WW II The 55th COAST ARTILLERY REGIMENT (155 mm Gun) (Mobile) was activated on 22 May 1943 in Hawaii--Inactivated 31 May 1944, except the 2d Battalion which was sent to Saipan in June 1944 and later inactivated there. This comes from the WW II Order of Battle.

In 1951 selected Coast Artillery Regiments (Inactive) were designated as Anti-Aircraft Gun (90mm) Battalions and in 1954 as the NIKE Anti-Aircraft Missile system came in the units were Re-designated as Artillery Battalion (NIKE). The 55th was one of these and was placed in the Hartford/Bridgeport Defense Area under the 56th Artillery Brigade Air Defense. It turned over its equipment less the personnel to the CT National Guard in December 1954 and retired its colors.

Bob found in a publication on the NIKE program "RINGS OF SUPERSONIC STEEL", it lists the following 55th Artillery Battalions and their stations:

Battalion Station Activated Inactivated
1/55 New York Defense Sept. 1958 26 July, 1960
2/55 Hartford Defense Sept. 1958 24 Dec. 1964
3/55 Detroit Defense Sept. 1958 23 Dec. 1960
4/55 Thule (Greenland) 1 Sept. 1958 20 Dec. 1965

Battery G, 55th Artillery in Vietnam

Acording to Bob Schnack who found in the Vietnam Order of Battle, Battery G, 55th Artillery, .50 cal. Machinegun (Quad .50 Mounted) was attached to the 23d Infantry Division. They Arrived in Country on 26th February, 1968 and departed Vietnam on 31 January, 1971.

Bob Schnack

My name is John Healy and I was with the original group that went to Vietnam. We trained at Ft. Bliss, TX and left on January 31, 1968. We flew to Long Beach, CA and from there took a ship MSTS Upshaw (I think that was the name) to Vietnam. We arrived there in nam during the last few days of February.

John Healy


This page is owned by Joe Hartwell ©2004. This page was last updated on: 2/12/11

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