March 09, 2011
At the end of the summer of 1941, the 198th Regiment moved to Fort Ontario, N. Y., where it was stationed on Pearl Harbor day. Thirty six hours later, the 198th had packed and loaded equipment, drawn ammunition, made a motor march of 300 miles on icy roads, and had set up tactical positions to defend the Pratt and Whitney aircraft factory at East Hartford, Conn. It was a remarkable feat, and a tribute to the regiment's training.
The primitive accommodations and bitter cold of the first two weeks in Hartford were offset by the memorable Christmas dinner given the regiment by Pratt and Whitney and by the hospitality of the Hartford community.
Before permanent quarters could be constructed, however, word came that the regiment was to move overseas, and on Jan. 16, 1942, it left for Charleston, S. C., the port of embarkation. The 198th was the first United States unit to leave for overseas after the outbreak of war another tribute to its superb training and the high regard in which it was held.
The first station overseas was greeted with delight. After supposedly hastening off to war, the destination was a tropical island paradise, almost completely untouched by civilization. It was the island of Bora Bora in the French Society Island group, known for security purposes as "Bobcat Island." The regiment spent a year there, fortifying the island against the probability that the Japanese drive might not be slowed down before it reached the Society Islands.
In January, 1943, the 198th moved to Efate, in the New Hebrides, where it again prepared defensive positions. In October, however, it prepared to go into action against the enemy, and moved to Guadalcanal. There it became the only Army unit assigned to the Marine First Amphibious Corps, and participated in the assault landing on Mono Island in the Treasury group on Oct. 25.
The regiment as a unit came to an end in February 1944, when it was reorganized to take advantage of new concepts in using anti aircraft artillery. It became the 198th AAA Group, with the battalions becoming separate units, the 736th and 945th AAA Battalions, and the regimental band becoming the 287th Army Ground Forces Band. By the time of the reorganization, most of the original Delaware members of the regiment had returned to the United States to attend OCS, to train replacements, or to organize new units. More than one quarter of the regiment's enlisted men won commissions.
The 736th served in New Guinea and Luzon, and was returned to Camp Stoneman, Calif., where it was inactivated on Jan. 2, 1946.
The 945th also moved to New Guinea, then went on to Leyte and Japan, where it was inactivated on Feb. 28, 1946. Delaware's 261st Coast Artillery Battalion was a harbor defense unit, charged with defending the Delaware bay. Shortly after entering Federal service, it went into "temporary" bivouac on the sand dunes at Cape Henlopen.
Before the battalion was through, the bivouac had become the $20,000,000 Fort Miles, the most modern and best equipped coast defense installation on the Atlantic Coast, and the 261st played a major part in setting up and manning the fort. It also set new gunnery records while there.
As a unit, the 261st did not see action in World War II, but by late 1943, most of the original members had been transferred out to serve as cadre personnel for the many new field artillery units being trained for the invasion of Europe. Almost all of the men of the 261st saw overseas service as individuals before the war was over.