2nd Chemical Battalion (United States)

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2nd Chemical Battalion
2 Chem Bn CoA.png
Coat of arms
Active 1918 - 19 (1st activation)
1929 (2nd activation)
1942 – 46
1949 – 55
1958 – 73
1981–present
Country United States of America
Branch United States Army
Type Chemical
Role smoke generation (deactivated) mass casualty decontamination, hazardous materials response, and CBRNe reconnaissance
Garrison/HQ Fort Hood, Texas
Nickname Red Dragons
”Hell Fire Boys” (1st Gas Rgt)
Equipment 4 inch Stokes Mortar
Engagements Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne Offensive
Insignia
Distinctive unit insignia 2 Chem Bn DUI.png

The 2nd Chemical Battalion is a United States Army chemical unit stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, United States, and is part of the 48th Chemical Brigade. The battalion can trace its lineage from the 30th Engineer Regiment (Gas and Flame) and has served in World War I, World War II, Korean War, Operation Desert Storm, and Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.[1]

The 2nd Chemical Battalion consisting of the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 44th Chemical Company, and 181st Chemical Company at Fort Hood, Texas, and the 21st Chemical Company and 101st Chemical Company at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

History[edit]

Formation[edit]

Originally constituted as the 30 Engineer Regiment (Gas and Flame) which was activated on 15 August 1917 at Camp American University, Washington, D.C.[2] The general staff of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) decided to establish a Gas Service, part of which would be an offensive gas regiment. Born out of this decision was War Department General Order 108, dated 15 August 1917, which authorized and established the offensive gas regiments, the first of which was designated the 30th Engineer Regiment.[3] Shortly thereafter, General Order 31 from the General Headquarters of the AEF officially activated the Gas Service Section with Colonel Amos Fries in command.[3]

World War I[edit]

The 30th Engineer Regiment served in France during World War I equipped with the 4 inch Stokes Mortar. On 13 July 1918, it was redesignated as the 1st Gas Regiment and following the end of World War I, the regiment was disbanded on 28 February 1919 at Camp Kendrick, New Jersey. Later reraised on 24 February 1920 at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, it was redesignated on 5 February 1929 as the 1st Chemical Regiment and deactivated in 1935 and disbanded on 12 March 1942. The men and equipment were transferred to the 2nd Separate Chemical Battalion, which was activated on 13 March, excluding B and C companies as well as a medical detachment. Those companies were officially activated at Fort Bragg, North Carolina on 1 April 1942. The battalion arrived at Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation, Virginia on 4 June 1943 for transport to North Africa.[1]

The 30th Engineer Regiment was activated on 15 August 1917 at Camp American University, Washington, D.C.[2]

On 30 August 1917 Captain Earl J. Atkisson was assigned the task of raising and training the fledgling gas regiment. Atkisson then set out acquiring officers, enlisted men, equipment and information.[3] Beginning on 19 October 1917, the influx of enlisted personnel into the regiment was "near continuous".[4] The regiment's first enlisted man was an F.C. Devlin. Devlin applied for enlistment in Pittsburgh, enlisted at Washington Barracks and reported for duty at Camp American University on 19 October.[4]

Before deploying to France in 1917, many of the soldiers in the 30th Engineer Regiment (Gas and Flame) spent their time stateside in training that did not emphasize any chemical warfare skills.[5] Much of the training stateside for the members of the army's only chemical unit focused on drill, marching, guard duty, and inspections.[5][6] Despite the conventional training, the public perceived the 30th as dealing mainly with "poisonous gas and hell fire".[6] By the time those in the 30th Engineers arrived in France, most of them knew nothing of chemical warfare and had no specialized equipment.[5] Once in Europe, troops with the 30th spent weeks digging trenches before finally receiving instruction in chemical warfare skills, including firing smoke and gas, and gas mask skills.[5]

A few companies from the 1st Gas Regiment participated in combat during the 1918 Battle of Saint-Mihiel, but even then only fired smoke. Thus, even at the outset of the late-1918 Meuse-Argonne Offensive, none of the army's chemical soldiers had actually fired chemical weapons in combat.[5]

1st Gas Regiment and interwar period[edit]

About two weeks after the United States Army Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) was created, on 13 July 1918, the 30th Engineers was re-designated as the 1st Gas Regiment.[2] The regiment was the first complete fighting unit of the new CWS and was entirely self-contained, including manufacturing and research facilities.[7]

Following World War I, the 1st Gas Regiment was deactivated, reactivated and re-designated several times. The 1st Gas Regiment was demobilized on 28 February 1919 at Camp Kendrick in New Jersey. Less than one year later, on 24 February 1920 the regiment was reconstituted at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland. Nine years later, on 5 February 1929 the unit was once again re-designated, this time as the 1st Chemical Regiment. The 1st Chemical was deactivated in 1935, once again at Edgewood, and finally disbanded on 12 March 1942.

World War II[edit]

Arriving in North Africa on 22 June 1943 for the upcoming Allied invasion of Sicily and arrived in Sicily on 10 July and was then redesignated on 20 August or 7 September 1943 as the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion, Motorized before participated in the Allied invasion of Italy on 9 September 1943. The battalion also participated in operations in Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno, Ardennes-Alsace, Southern France, Central Europe, and the Rhineland and 31 December 1944, the battalion was redesignated the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion. The unit was disbanded in July 1946 while in Germany.[1] The battalion lost a total of 54 men during World War II.

Cold War and beyond[edit]

Reactivated on 1 February 1949 at Army Chemical Center, Maryland by absorption of the men and equipment of the recently deactivated 91st Chemical Mortar Battalion. With the outbreak of the Korean War, the unit arrived at San Francisco Port of Embarkation, California, on 19 September 1950 and arrived in Pusan, South Korea on 8 October 1950. Equipped with the 4.2 inch mortar, and served with the Eighth Army, supporting six United States divisions, eight Republic of Korea divisions, and the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade. In 1953, the men and equipment were redesignated as 461st Infantry Battalion (Heavy Mortar), while the unit became the 2nd Chemical Weapons Battalion (Headquarters Company).[1] During the Korean War, the battalion served 1,007 consecutive days in action without relief and lost 62 men.

The headquarters company was disbanded on 16 January 1955 at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah. On 7 January 1958 the unit was again reactivated, this time as the 2nd Chemical Battalion, with A, B, and C companies being disbanded about three years later and the headquarters detachment inactivated on 19 December 1973 at Fort McClellan Alabama.[1]

On 1 September 1981 the 2nd Chemical Battalion was activated at Fort Hood, Texas.[1] The 2nd Chemical Battalion consists of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, the 44th Chemical Company, the 46th Chemical Company, the 63rd Chemical Company, and the 181st Chemical Company and deploys to designated theaters of operations providing command and control over chemical units conducting nuclear warfare, biological warfare and chemical warfare (NBC) operations in support of US forces. The 2nd Chemical Battalion served in Iraq from March 2003 through February 2004. They were responsible for seeking out weapons of mass destruction, conducting detainee transport, fire suppression, and recon.

Campaign participation[edit]

During World War I, as the 30th Engineer Regiment, the unit participated in campaigns at Flanders, Lys and Lorraine in 1918. Once reconstituted as the 1st Gas Regiment the unit was awarded additional battle streamers for combat participation at Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.[2]

Unit commendations[edit]

Through its cycle of activations, deactivations and reactivations and re-designations several manifestations of the original 1st Gas Regiment have been awarded five different unit commendations or citations. For action in Korea, at Kumhwa, the regiment was awarded the Army Presidential Unit Citation, and a Navy Presidential Unit Citation for Wonju-Hwachon. The unit received the Army Meritorious Unit Commendation for participation in Southwest Asia. Two other unit awards were bestowed for action in Korea, a Navy Unit Commendation for action at Panmunjom and the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation for the defense of Korea.[1]

Traditions[edit]

Early on the 30th Engineer Regiment became known as the "Hell Fire Battalion", and its soldiers as the "Hell Fire Boys". A 15 November 1917 story in the Baltimore Evening Star stated:[6]

If His Satanic Majesty happened to drop around at the American University training camp to-day, he would see the "Hell Fire Battalion" at work and might blush with envy. On the War Department records the battalion is known as the "Gas and Flame Battalion of the Thirtieth Regiment Engineers." Throughout the Army they are known as the "Hell Fire Boys".

Notable members[edit]

See also[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Lineage and Honors Information: Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment 2d Chemical Battalion", U.S. Army Center of Military History, 2 April 1997, (entire paragraph reference), accessed 17 October 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d Eldredge, Walter J. Finding My Father's War: A Baby Boomer and the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion in World War II, (Google Books), PageFree Publishing, Inc., 2004, p. 246, (ISBN 1-58961-202-7).
  3. ^ a b c Addison, pp. 1–2.
  4. ^ a b Addison, p. 7.
  5. ^ a b c d e Lengel, Edward G. To Conquer Hell: The Meuse-Argonne, 1918 (Google Books), Macmillan, 2008, p. 77-78, (ISBN 0-8050-7931-9).
  6. ^ a b c Addison, p. 10-11.
  7. ^ Harber, Ludwig Fritz. The Poisonous Cloud (Google Books), Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 135. (ISBN 0-19-858142-4).

References[edit]

  • Addison, James Thayer. The Story of the First Gas Regiment, (Google Books), Houghton Mifflin Co., 1919.
  • Eldredge, Walter J. Finding My Father's War: A Baby Boomer and the 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion in World War II, PageFree Publishing, Inc., 2004, p. 246, ISBN 1-58961-202-7 (Google Books (online version))

Further reading[edit]

  • History of 2nd Cml Mortar Bn in WWII, by Bob Ladson
  • First Shot in Anger, 2nd Cml Mortar Bn in Sicily, by Walter J. Eldredge
  • My Army Service in World War II, by Craft Harrison
  • US Army Command Reports, Sep 1950 through Aug 1951 (declassified official reports)
  • History of 2nd Cml Mortar Bn in Korean War, by Richard L. Slick, 1st Sgt, Co B, 2nd Cml Mortar Bn
  • A Soldier's Diary, by Carl H. Hulsman, 2nd Cml Mortar Bn, Korean War
  • Sometimes it was rather cool, by Carl H. Hulsman, 2nd Cml Mortar Bn, Korean War
  • A Commander's Reflections, by Benjamin G. Moore, Col, USA (ret), CO of 2nd Cml Mortar Bn in Korea
  • Gunners help turn the tide at Kap'yong, by New Zealand historian Ian McGibbon