2nd Chemical Battalion (United States)

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2nd Chemical Battalion
2 Chem Bn CoA.png
Coat of arms
Active1918 - 19 (1st activation)
1929 (2nd activation)
1942 – 46
1949 – 55
1958 – 73
1981–present
CountryUnited States of America
BranchUnited States Army
TypeChemical
Rolesmoke generation (deactivated) mass casualty decontamination, hazardous materials response, and CBRNe reconnaissance
Garrison/HQFort Hood, Texas
Nickname(s)Red Dragons
”Hell Fire Boys” (1st Gas Rgt)
Equipment4 inch Stokes Mortar
EngagementsAisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne Offensive
Insignia
Distinctive unit insignia2 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 Iraqi Freedom.[1]

The 2nd Chemical Battalion currently (June 2019) consists of the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment (Hellfire), 68th Chemical Company and 181st Chemical Company (Double Dragons) at Fort Hood, Texas, the 172nd Chemical Company (Gladiators) at Fort Riley, Kansas and the 63rd Chemical Company (Dragon Masters) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. The unit is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the "2D CBRN Battalion" where CBRN stands for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear. However the correct designation for the unit is "2D Chemical Battalion (CBRN)."[2] [3]

History[edit]

Formation[edit]

Shortly after the U.S. entered World War I, 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 an offensive gas unit designated as the 30th Engineer Regiment (Gas and Flame.)[4] Shortly thereafter, General Order 31 from the General Headquarters of the AEF officially activated the Gas Service Section with Colonel Amos Fries in command.[4] Because its lineage traces directly back to the 30th Engineers, this timeline means that not only is the 2D Chemical Battalion the first and oldest unit in the Chemical Corps, but it is also older than the Chemical Corps itself.

On 30 August 1917 Captain Earl J. Atkisson was assigned the task of raising and training the fledgling gas regiment which was stationed at Camp American University, Washington, D.C.[5]. Atkisson set out acquiring officers, enlisted men, equipment and information.[4] Beginning on 19 October 1917, the influx of enlisted personnel into the regiment was "near continuous".[6] 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.[6]

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: [7]

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."

In reality training consisted mostly of close order drill, marching, inspections and guard duty. The U.S Army had no men with chemical warfare experience, no weapons or agents to train for offensive chemical warfare, and no gas masks or other protection to train for defensive chemical warfare. [8] On 24 December 1917, the first two companies of the Regiment deployed to Europe as part of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), still with no equipment or training for chemical warfare. [9]

World War I[edit]

Once in Europe, companies A and B reported to the British Special (Chemical) Brigade and received training in offensive chemical warfare with Livens projectors and Stokes mortars. Five platoons completed a five-week training course and began offensive operations under supervision of the Special Brigade on 2 March, only 93 days after formal organization. [10] During this period the 30th Engineers participated in the largest gas attack of the war, consisting of 4,000 Livens projectors. [11] On 22 May 1918, the Regiment began combat operations as an independent American unit. [12]The 30th Engineers won three campaign streamers – Flanders 1918, Lys, and Lorraine 1918 which are still carried on the battalion colors today. [13]

On 13 July 1918 the Regiment was re-designated as the 1st Gas Regiment. [14] In its first campaign (Aisne-Marne) the front was very fluid. Gas weapons were considered static and of little use when positions were changing frequently. Therefore the Regiment was assigned to road repairs and the men performed this task with such excellence that they were praised by the I Corps Commanding General for “maintaining practically the entire line of communication upon which the advancing Divisions were dependent” which was “of first importance” to the success of the campaign. [15] Meanwhile officers and picked weapon squads demonstrated to American combat commanders the effectiveness of their gas weaponry. [16] This began a tradition still demonstrated by the Red Dragons today: gaining trust and confidence by excelling at onerous, off-mission work, and using persuasion and education to ensure their chemical capabilities are used most effectively.

For their second campaign (St. Mihiel) they were assigned all along the American front, supporting eight infantry divisions. Confounding the view that gas weapons were static, members of the Regiment began carrying their Stokes mortars along with the advancing infantry to assist by taking out enemy machine gun positions and other strong points. [17] At times their heavy 4-inch gas mortars were in action ahead of the infantry’s own 3-inch mortars, firing combinations of gas, smoke, and thermite. [18]

The 1st Gas Regiment won battle streamers for Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, and the Meuse-Argonne. [19] During six campaigns seventy-five members of the Regiment made the ultimate sacrifice while supporting the AEF. [20] After the Armistice, the Regiment redeployed to Camp Kendrick, Lakehurst, New Jersey where it was demobilized on 28 February 1919. [21]

Between the Wars[edit]

On 24 February 1920 the1st Gas Regiment was reconstituted at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland which remained its home station until 1953. [22] Duties at Edgewood were mostly routine for more than a decade. The men maintained the grounds, polished their equipment, and drilled. They conducted demonstrations with Stokes mortars and Livens projectors and taught the Chemical Warfare Course for all Army officers. Being trained with tear gas, their responsibilities included crowd control and periodic field exercises were conducted to practice this mission as well as combat operations. The standard transportation was the hand-drawn mortar cart. A 45-page manual, War Department Publication "TM-415.20 Technique of Chemical Weapons," dealt extensively with “cart drill”. In each training period, the squads devoted hours to pulling their carts into ranks, columns and squares as sergeants called the numbered counts for each change of position. Troops conducted firing demonstrations by the numbers, precisely lined up in high boots and pressed uniforms, as if on parade. [23]

On 5 February 1929 the 1st Gas Regiment was redesignated the 1st Chemical Regiment. The men in ranks hardly noticed, as the idyllic environment at Edgewood continued unchanged. The daily schedule of events was standard, with weekends free after Saturday morning inspections. One battalion commander decided there was no reason not to have the whole weekend off, and held his inspections on Friday. Officers coming back from overseas duty brought trees and flowering shrubs,and planted them with descriptive labels. In the shade of native Maryland hardwoods you might see a blossom from Hawaii or the Philippines. There was fishing and crabbing in the Gunpowder River. The men and officers chipped into a battalion fund to pay for social occasions and recreationalequipment, including small boats that could be signed out for fishing expeditions. From the parade ground at retreat each day, the men could look across the Gunpowder River and see the lights of the little town of Magnolia blink on across the dusky water. When dark fell, it wasn’t uncommon for a group to take one of the boats over and roam the town’s bars and fleshpots for a few hours. [24]

Change was more noticeable after 15 April 1935 when the 1st Chemical Regiment was disbanded. The next day the 2nd Separate Chemical Battalion was activated, receiving all personnel and equipment from the disbanded regiment. With supplies and equipment in short supply, soldiers began to refer to the new unit as the “2nd Desperate Chemical Battalion.” [25] The battalion began training with the new 4.2-inch chemical mortar, developed from the 4-inch Stokes mortar. The new weapon had a rifled barrel that give it unprecedented accuracy, and a firm base structure that allowed firing up to 20 rounds per minute. [26] With a 25-pound shell a company of mortars had the firepower (although not the range) of a full battalion of 105mm howitzers. [27] In late 1941 the 2nd Separate Chemical Battalion participated in the North Carolina maneuvers. Its performance was rated excellent in spite of a severe lack of necessary equipment and materials. They were returning from the maneuvers, bivouacked for the night of December 7, when all were roused at 2 AM. As they stood shivering their commander, Egbert F. Bullene, told them about Pearl Harbor. [28]

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.[29] 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. Company B had to abandon its vehicles temporarily under heavy Chinese fire during the Battle of Kapyong in April 1951.[30] 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).[29] 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.[29]

On 1 September 1981 the 2nd Chemical Battalion was activated at Fort Hood, Texas.[29] 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.[5]

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.[29]

Traditions[edit]

Notable members[edit]

See also[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ U.S. Army Center of Military History https://history.army.mil/index.html Updated June 19, 2008 Accessed June 15, 2019
  2. ^ U.S. Army Center of Military History https://history.army.mil/index.html Updated June 19, 2008 Accessed June 15, 2019
  3. ^ Army Regulation AR 220-5 paragraph 2-3 (d) 15 April 2003
  4. ^ a b c Addison, pp. 1–2.
  5. ^ a b 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).
  6. ^ a b Addison, p. 7.
  7. ^ Addison, James Thayer, Story of the First Gas Regiment, p 10
  8. ^ Addison, James Thayer, Story of the First Gas Regiment, p 11
  9. ^ Addison, James Thayer, Story of the First Gas Regiment, p 13
  10. ^ Addison, James Thayer The Story of the 1st Gas Regiment, p.22
  11. ^ Moore, William, “Gassing the Gassers”, American Legion Weekly, Vol 4, No 43, October 27 1922 p.3
  12. ^ Addison, James Thayer The Story of the 1st Gas Regiment, p.37
  13. ^ Lineage and Honors, Center for Military History, https://history.army.mil/html/forcestruc/lineages/branches/chem/002cmbn.htm
  14. ^ Lineage and Honors, Center for Military History, https://history.army.mil/html/forcestruc/lineages/branches/chem/002cmbn.htm
  15. ^ Addison, James Thayer The Story of the 1st Gas Regiment, p.58-59
  16. ^ Addison, James Thayer The Story of the 1st Gas Regiment, p.60
  17. ^ Addison, James Thayer The Story of the 1st Gas Regiment, p.139
  18. ^ Langer, William, Gas and Flame in World War I, p.64
  19. ^ Lineage and Honors, Center for Military History, https://history.army.mil/html/forcestruc/lineages/branches/chem/002cmbn.htm
  20. ^ 30th Engineers and 1st Gas Regiment Roll of Honor, Bronze plaque in Chemical Corps Memorial Grove, Fort Leonard Wood, MO
  21. ^ Lineage and Honors, Center for Military History, https://history.army.mil/html/forcestruc/lineages/branches/chem/002cmbn.htm
  22. ^ Lineage and Honors, Center for Military History, https://history.army.mil/html/forcestruc/lineages/branches/chem/002cmbn.htm
  23. ^ Eldredge, Walter J., Finding My Father’s War, 2004, p 18
  24. ^ Eldredge, Walter J., Finding My Father’s War, 2004, p 18
  25. ^ Eldredge, Walter J., Finding My Father’s War, 2004, p 18-19
  26. ^ Army Technical Manual "TM 3-320 4.2-inch Chemical Mortar M1A1," p.3
  27. ^ Eldredge, Walter J., Finding My Father’s War, 2004, p 18-19
  28. ^ Eldredge, Walter J., Finding My Father’s War, 2004, p 26
  29. ^ a b c d e 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.
  30. ^ Ian McGibbon, New Zealand and the Korean War, Vol. II, 126.

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