In July of 1957 the Third Infantry Division was in the midst of re-activation at Fort Benning Georgia. Its mission would be first line defense against the Soviet Union in the event of an invasion in Europe. The division was being formed using the pentomic concept.(Pentagon analysts had concluded that the introduction of tactical nuclear weapons to the battlefield left the familiar World War II-style structure too vulnerable to enemy action, and arranged to make use of the latest advances in technology. The nine maneuver battalions of infantrymen would be replaced by five battle groups, each containing a headquarters, a combat support of four rifle companies and a 4.2 Mortar Company. They would be backed up by artillery battalions employing rockets and three different caliber's of howitzers, plus helicopters, medium tanks and upgraded support troops.
To smooth the transition and preserve old histories based mostly on regiments, the branches of infantry, armor, cavalry and artillery, the latter a merger of previously separate field and antiaircraft arms, placed their battle groups, squadrons and battalions together on paper to form "parent regiments" under the Combat Arms Regimental System (CARS). )
Until that time 4.2 mortars were fired by members of the heavy gun company of an infantry regiment. The army entered into an experiment to use trained artillery officers and non-coms for that mission and renamed the heavy gun companies in the infantry regiments to MORTAR BATTERIES. Members of the mortar batteries were trained along with the 105 howitzer batteries. During the 3 year experiment the mortars were used traditionally and were also mounted in armored personnel carriers to be fully mobile.
The first battle group of the 15th Infantry was setting up shop in the Sand Hill section of Fort Benning in early summer. Captain Percy Hare a veteran of WWII and an artillery officer was chosen as battery commander for the battle groups Mortar Battery. M/Sgt. Howard Wiseman was to be the units First Sergeant. By mid September the officers and Non-Coms of the unit were in place and by early October the unit had organization. All it lacked were the grunts to staff it. They began arriving in late October and by November 1st basic combat training was under way. What was unique about the re-organization of the 3d division was that each unit would provide basic training to those recruits who would eventually staff it. Basic training was completed in time for Christmas leave. On January 2d 1958 Advanced Individual Training started. The future cannoneers, truck drivers, clerks, cooks, forward observers, fire direction controllers had 14 weeks to learn their new assignments before shipping out to Germany. It was all accomplished by April 15th and after a 10 day leave at home, the battery along with the rest of the battle group headed for the port of Savannah and the USS General A. Patch for the trip to Germany. The unit arrived at Warner Barracks on May 16 1958. On May 17th 1958 The 15th Infantry officially started their duties. During its tour of duty in Germany the battery under the able command of Captain Hare received the coveted 7th Army BEST BY TEST award on 3 occasions and proved that an artillery unit could be successfully integrated into an infantry regiment. In March of 1960 the mortar battery experiment was over and the remaining members were assigned to other units throughout the army or discharged if thier enlistment was nearly up. For the past 40 years the majority of the 100 or so members of the battery have kept in touch through the efforts of its Battery Clerk Don Wilcox who issues a twice yearly newsletter. As we get older the ranks become thinner as the grim reaper takes his toll. There are 34 deceased members as far as we know. In 1998 the battery held its first ever reunion at Fort Benning GA. The second reunion was held in April of 2000 and it too was a rousing success. A third reunion took place at Benning in May 2004, anotyer success. We look forward to the fourth reunion which will be held at Benning or at Ft. Stewart in the spring of 2006. So in spite of its official deactivation over 40 years ago, MORTAR BATTERY 1/15, lives on and it stillCAN DO.
check our final roster from 1957-1961 incl. READ The Draftees go home!
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