X B Cox, Jr, CO, 81st Airborne AA Battalion
1942 - 1945
Holland, France, Belgium
81st Airborne AA Battalion
The 81st Airborne AA Batallion was formed in August
1942 when the 82nd Infantry Division was divided into the 101st
Airborne Division and the 82nd Airborne Division.
Most of the personnel in the 81st Batallion came
from the 1st Batallion, 327th Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Infantry
Division. The Batallion was composed of six Batteries, a Headquarters
Det and a Med Det. Each Battery was composed of seventy one men
and three officers, as per the Table of Organization.
Battery A, B & C were anti-tank Batteries, with each Battery
having eight 57 mm. guns. After arriving in England, these guns
were replaced with the British 6 pound guns, which were the same
caliber, but the gun mount fit into our CG4A gliders better than
the American guns. Battery D, E and F each had twelve 50 calibre
machine guns, with M3 mounts, suited to firing at aircraft.
After Normandy, ground mounts were secured so that the guns could
be used more effectively for ground fire. At no time did the Batallion
fight as a Unit but Batteries were assigned to support the Infantry
Regiments of the 101st Division. Our fire power was much stronger
than any weapons which they had.
Our Combat Action
Batteries A and B went by glider into Normandy, France, landing
about 4:00 a.m. on 6 June 1944. Battery C came in over Utah Beach
at 14:30 p.m., 6 June 1944 from ships.
Batteries D, E and F were transported by ship and landed on Utah
Beach at 6:15 a.m., 6 June 1944, with the assault wave of the Engineers
of the 4th Division and set up the first AA protection on the beach.
Headquarters Det and part of the Med Det that did not go in with
the Batteries came in over Utah Beach D+3.
The Batallion returned to England in July. We were taken back to
Basildon Park, Berkshire, England where we had been for the year
prior to D Day.
The Bn. went into Holland on 19 September 1944 to Son, for Operation
Market Garden. There were 81 gliders of the 81st Bn towed by C-47
planes. Batteries A, B and C were in gliders and Batteries D, E
and F joined us in Holland by sea and/or land.
Shortly after take off it became very foggy. I could not see the
tow plane (300 feet ahead of us) or the gliders to the side. We
were flying in columns of four and as the visibility was so bad,
the tow plane pilots drifted out of formation, for safety reasons.
I do not know how long we were in the fog but it seemed like two
or three hours (was probably one hour). Over Belgium or Southern
Holland we received rifle fire, from the ground. I had several rifle
bullets hit my glider but no real damage was sustained.
Our landing field was just west of Zon. My glider made a rough landing,
as most of the gliders did. However, no injuries to myself, the
two glider pilots (because I was a C.O. I had two pilots), my S-2
Lt. George McCormack, or my driver Julian Heaton. We were sitting
in my jeep as though we were driving down the road. I am enclosing
a copy of a picture of my glider after the landing.
After landing, and going to the edge of Zon, and
assembling we had only 46 gliders accounted for. Six gliders went
down in the English Channel and were rescued. Six could not find
the landing zone and the planes took them up to about 5,000 feet
and returned to England. Because there was no insulation in the
gliders and the soldiers did not have heavy clothing they almost
froze. These gliders and men were brought back to Holland several
days later to join us.
Several gliders went down in Belgium. My Bn Medical
Officers glider landed south of Antwerp, where the Germans
were holding the north side of town. He and others with him joined
us a few days later. A glider carrying my supply section fell and
all aboard were killed. My S-1, Capt. T. E. McGraths, glider
did a loop and landed safely, not far from the supply section crash.
He and his crew were able to assist in burying those of the crash
before coming on to join us in Holland.
I have a very clear memory of 23 September 1944.
I went into the advance Hdqs of the Division. It was located in
a large house, on the south side of Veghel, to the east side of
the highway. I had been there only a few minutes when General Anthony
McAuliffe came to me and said, Word has just come in that
the highway north of town has been cut and tanks have been heard.
Go see what you can find out.
I left the house and went to the street, some
30 to 50 yards in front of the house. As I got to the street, which
was packed bumper to bumper with British trucks, one of my Btry
B jeeps and AT gun was slowing making its way up the street. In
the jeep were Btry B CO Capt A. G. Gueymard, driver Rogie Roberts
and another enlisted man. I jumped in the jeep and we proceeded
along the side of the street lined with stalled trucks.
About half way through Veghel a Lt., standing
in a building doorway, asked if he could help. I said, yes
and he got on the jeep too. Just as we passed the last building
on the north side of Veghel, we heard a tank to the north of us.
It sounded as if it was coming toward us, so we stopped the jeep,
unhooked the 6 pounder Anti Tank gun, we used a British 6pounder
gun because the trails fit into the gliders better than the American
57mm did, turned it toward the noise, and spread the trails on the
tarmac. By then, the tank was in sight, some 200 to 300 yards away
and was turning to its right. I do not know, but I thought that
maybe the gun turret was not working properly and they were turning
the tank so they could fire in our direction.
Just as the tank was broadside to us, Rogie Roberts
fired our gun, with Capt Gueymard sighting. Since our guns
trails were not dug in, or weighted down, the gun jumped from the
pavement and broke Roberts knee. His shot had hit the tank
in the belly, just between the tracks. The tank burst into flames
and some one came out of the top. Gueymard jumped across the trails
and fired two more rounds, each hitting the side of the tank.
The Lt., we had picked up was a glider pilot.
He had taken in some of the 82nd Div. and was working his way back
toward England. Many years later he was able to locate me and I
found out who he was. His name was Lt. Thos. Berry. At the time
of the battle, we were too busy to ask questions or introduce ourselves.
Now, I do not know if the tank was an M4 or M5.
I know there has been some debate about this action.
The 327th Glider Inf. had people on the west side of the highway
and were manning a 37 mm gun. The holes in the tank, as was confirmed
when I saw it later, were 57 mm holes. I know there were paratroopers
on the east side of the road, as I went there soon after the tank
was knocked out and I was able to quickly get everyone to stop firing.
All was quiet as there were no other enemy attacking.
I returned to Div Hdqs and told Gen. McAuliffe
that we had gotten the tank and the road was open. I think I had
been gone about an hour. That was a favorite story of the General
long after the war was over.
On 19 December 1944 the Batallion moved to Bastogne, Belgium with
the Division. Again the Batteries gave support to the Infantry Regiments,
except for a period of some five days when the AA Batteries were
again used against night bombing of Bastogne. After leaving Bastogne
there was limited action until the war ended. At that time, the
Batallion was assigned occupation duty in the Tamsweig area of Austria,
southeast of Berchestgaden.
After a month in this area, the Division and the Batallion moved
to Auxerre, France to receive replacements for men who had enough
service points to allow them to be sent home. After Japan surrendered
the Division was deactiveated. When the 101st AirborneDivision was
reactivated as the 101st Air Assault Division, the 2nd/44th Artillery
Regiment took their history from the 81st Airborne AA Batallion.
Submitted by Col. X B Cox, Jr., CO of 81st Airborne AA Batallion
from 25 March 1944 until November 1945, having been in the Batallion
since it was organized at Camp Claiborne, LA. in August of 1942.
Lt. Colonel X. B. Cox in Austria 1945
Map of the location of the tank incident in Veghel, Holland
Picture of a British 6 Pounder Anti Tank Gun used in the incident.
A newspaper clipping of XB's hometown describing what happened.
German tank Mark-V similar to the one in the incident described
I want to make it clear, in connection
with the newspaper clipping, that
I DID NOT SHOOT THE GUN!
That was an error but Mr. Cronkite
did not interview me personally. I do not know where he got the
information unless it came from the Division Headquarters but it
is not correct.
I certainly want Gueymard
and Roberts to get the credit they so justly deserve.