Random Recollections
by FQC Gardner

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37. IN COMMAND OF THE FOURTH AA COMMAND.

On December 18th, having been ordered to Headquarters, WDC at the Presidio, San Francisco, I was assigned to command of the Fourth Antiaircraft Artillery Command, which included all the AA troops in the Western Defense Command. Most of my staff at Camp Haan were also ordered to WDC Headquarters.

In the meantime the two Brigades had arrived at Seattle and at San Diego and were busily engaged in preparing plans for the AA defense of the Bremerton Navy Yard and the Boeing Airplane plant at Seattle and of the big airplane plant at San Diego.

As an example of the problems confronting these Brigade Commanders, the case of Gen. Curtis (a National Guard officer and an outstanding AA Brigade Commander) was typical.

He lived at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. One day he received telegraphic orders directing him to proceed to San Diego, California and assume command of the 33rd AA Brigade. He arrived at San Diego one afternoon and learned that the Brigade would arrive next morning. He had no staff of any kind, had never been in San Diego, and had no idea as to what installations there required AA protection, or as to what provision could be made for shelter for the troops or for emplacing the armament when it became available.

(As a matter of fact he was never furnished any sort of a plan for the AA defense of San Diego -- no such plan had ever been prepared.)

By inquiring at the hotel he ascertained that the only Army installation at San Diego was the Coast Artillery at Fort Rosencrans. About midnight he called up the Commanding Officer at Fort Rosencrans (Colonel Ottosen), explained the situation and asked if Colonel Ottosen knew of any plan that existed for the AA defense of San Diego. Colonel Ottosen told him that he believed that there was, in his safe at Headquarters, a study that had been made by some officer in the Officer's School a year or so ago. General Curtis went out to Fort Rosencrans and spent the remainder of he night conferring with Colonel Ottosen and some of his staff officers, and together they made up a rough plan.

Early next morning, the Brigade began to arrive. The trains were met by General Curtis and each unit was conducted, by an officer loaned by Colonel Ottosen, to its tentatively selected area. General Curtis did a remarkably efficient job of organizing a staff, preparing a complete War Plan, locating and installing all the guns, searchlights and communications, and providing for the shelter and supply of his Brigade, in large part before I arrived, after organizing the Fourth AA Command.

I established my Headquarters in the same building with the Fighter Command, in Oakland, California, in order to facilitate cooperation between the two commands. Fortunately, during much of the time thereafter Col. Kepner (then a Major General), who had commanded the Fighter Unit during the Joint Exercise in North Carolina with such success as to strengthen greatly the interest of the Air Corps in Fighters, was in command of the Fighter Command and our relations were most pleasant and the cooperation between the two commands was complete and effective.

All the Brigades were equipped with the old 3" AA guns, with some 37mm. guns and cal. 30 machine guns, and with searchlights and sound locators; there may have been a few 268 Radars that had very recently been received.

Balloons and Balloon Companies were, as soon as possible, made available for the defense of the Bremerton Navy Yard (they had previously been made available for the Naval and marine facilities, including a large dry dock, in the San Francisco area.)

I recall quite vividly an incident relating to the balloon installation in Seattle. General Marshall, Chief of Staff, was greatly concerned about the defense of the Bremerton Navy Yard, and as soon as the balloons were received he began pressing General DeWitt to expedite their installation in every way possible and he wanted daily reports as to the progress made. This pressure was, of course, transmitted to me, and by me to the 39th Brigade Commander at Seattle, with considerable amplification. The problem there was a most difficult one as the balloons had to be installed in a very rough area covered with very large trees. The Engineer Department, which was charged with the preparation of the balloon sites, was doing everything possible to speed up the work, but the progress was discouragingly slow. I was in daily telephone communication with the Brigade Commander and finally about midnight one day I got a report that the first balloon would be installed and put up before morning. I went to bed with a feeling of relief. Next morning, when I reached my office, I found awaiting me a message stating that one of these balloons had broken loose, dragging its steel mooring rope across both a 200000 volt transmission line and a 100000 volt line, putting out the power supply of Seattle and of the adjacent airplane factories, and that all passengers in elevators had been stuck in the elevators, between floors, for several hours, and that all power consuming industries in Seattle had been out of service for that period. In a short time dozens of telegrams began coming in from Senators, Congressmen, and the Chamber of Commerce, the airplane factories and every other conceivable agency or individual, protesting most strongly about the damage that had resulted from the balloons and demanding that their use be discontinued at once. This initial experience with balloons did not augur particularly well for the future installation of several hundred balloons in the Fourth AA Command. However, although we had practically nothing in the way of instructions or manuals for balloons, we learned things the hard way and there was never a repetition of this experience.

In the latter part of May General DeWitt told me confidentially that General Marshall, with one Staff officer, was arriving on a certain day on an unannounced and secret visit to the Western Defense Command, that he desired particularly to visit Los Angeles and San Diego and to inspect the AA defences there, and that he desired me to accompany General Marshall and himself on the trip.

This trip left a lasting impression on my mind and I believe you might be interested in learning something of it.

When we arrived at Los Angeles we went directly to the Airplane Plant. General Marshall sent his card up to the President of the company, with the word that he desired to see him on a matter of great importance. In a short time we were escorted up to the President's office. General Marshall introduced himself and said that he would like very much to have the chief officials of the company assembled so that he could talk to them, that he thought this would save considerable time in the long run, and that time was of the utmost importance. When the group, of perhaps half a dozen men, was assembled he said, in substance: "Gentlemen, I am going to tell you some things that are not known to more than half a dozen men in Washington. For reasons that I shall explain in a moment it is absolutely essential to the safety of the United States that no word that I have been here or of what I shall say shall be repeated to anyone whatever at the present time, and I shall rely upon you to take all steps to assure that this is done.

We have information of the greatest reliability that two forces of the Japanese fleet have just left Japanese ports. We know the composition of each of these forces, and we know the nature of the cargoes on each vessel. We know, for instance, that some 200000 Incendiary bombs are being carried. This would indicate that an attack on a land installation is contemplated. We do not know what the objective of either of these forces is. It seems likely that at least one of these forces is intended to attack the Pacific coast, and it is for this reason that I am here.

At the present time our Naval forces in the Pacific are widely scattered. In the aggregate they are considerably weaker than the Japanese forces now in route. As the result of a most careful consideration of all phases of the matter by the highest officials in the Government it has been decided to assemble every suitable ship we have in the Pacific, in the vicinity of Midway Island, and to intercept and attack the Japanese Fleet in a decisive engagement. This concentration is now under way and it is estimated that the engagement will take place in about ten days. If we do not decisively defeat the Japanese in the battle the likelihood of an attack on this coast is great, and the airplane plants on the coast would undoubtedly constitute the targets of primary importance.

You have parked in your lot a considerable number of B52 Bombers that are practically completed but that are awaiting some finishing touches of a relatively minor nature. A successful air attack on your plant would almost certainly result in the destruction of these planes. These planes constitute our most potent weapon in the Pacific, and their loss would set back this war by at least one year. It might even result in our defeat.

If it should become known to the Japanese that we have this information about their fleet, our source of information would undoubtedly be destroyed. Hence the imperative need for secrecy.

I want every one of these planes that can possibly fly to be flown within the next twenty four hours to safe Flying Fields in the Interior, and for this purpose I shall make available to you enough Air Corps pilots to enable this to be done."

General Marshall's words were received with the greatest attention. He was assured that the company would do everything in its power to assist in carrying out the plan indicated by General Marshall, and after a brief discussion our party left and proceeded to San Diego, where the same procedure was followed. The plan was carried out as per schedule, and General Marshall's words and his presence were kept profoundly secret by all concerned.

That night, in our hotel, General Marshall had a conference with General DeWitt and myself in which I was questioned as to the nature and adequacy of the AA defenses. I outlined the nature of the existing defense and pointed out that its greatest weakness lay in its comparative ineffectiveness at night. I further stated that, in my opinion, the most effective defense against night attack would be a balloon barrage. In reply to General Marshall's searching questions I told him that I understood that there were two partially trained and equipped Battalions of Balloon troops under training at the Balloon Training Center in Tennessee and that, if made available at once, they would enable a reasonably effective night defense to be established at Los Angeles and San Diego. He immediately got on the phone, talked to his office, in Washington, and had orders issued directing that these two Battalions proceed at once to Los Angeles.

There remained little more than a week to install a complete Balloon barrage at each of these localities. This involved finding suitable sites for the balloon beds and installations and preparing these sites for use.

Again the Engineers did a splendid job, with the assistance of details of enlisted men from the AA Artillery Batteries in the area, who, I learned later, worked continuously until many of them fainted.

I had no information as to just what items of equipment might be short, but felt, from previous experience, that certain items essential for the operation of the balloons would not accompany the Battalions. So I had drawings and specifications prepared for these items and the Engineers again came to the rescue and had them made and delivered by the time they were needed.

When the trains got in the troops disembarked and unloaded the freight cars, the materiel was sorted into piles each containing the equipment for one balloon, and each Balloon crew, with its equipment was transported, by vehicles from the AA troops, directly to its own site.

I was very glad indeed to be able to report to General Marshall, before the Battle of Midway, that the balloon barrages to defend all the important Naval, Marine, and Aviation facilities on the Pacific coast were completely installed.

However the AA defence proper was seriously inadequate and inefficient. We still had the old 3" guns, a few 37 mm. guns, some 30 caliber machine guns with only a limited amount of ammunition, and only a few of the 268 radars. While it is true that in about a year later we had received 90 mm. guns, 40 mm. guns, caliber 50 machine guns and ammunition, and a few 547 radars, at the time of the Battle of Midway neither the AA nor the Air Corps defenses of the Pacific coast were sufficiently equipped to repell a Japanese air attack, particularly at night, and I have always thought that if they had made such an attack immediately after Pearl Harbor, or up to the time of the Battle of Midway, it would, in all probability, have resulted in the destruction of the greater part of our B52 producing plants.

I have wondered why the Japanese high command did not make the most of the favorable situation for them immediately after Pearl Harbor and for some months afterwards.

The strength of the Fourth AA Command at times exceeded 40000 officers and enlisted men.

Among the problems that developed during its existence may be mentioned:

(a) The entire command was maintained on a 24 hour alert continuously for more than two years. This resulted in a serious morale problem, and special effort was made to keep the enlisted men occupied. This was one reason why much attention was given to the camouflaging of all installations. The men took much pride in their camouflage, and they were encouraged to exercise their ingenuity and to spend much of their time in maintaining and in modifying it.

(b) AA regiments were frequently withdrawn from the command and sent to the Pacific area or to Alaska. The AA defense is essentially an interlocking defense, and each withdrawal of one or more regiments required that the remaining regiments be redeployed to close the resultant gap in the AA defense. This involved a great deal of time and work.

(c) Several negro regiments were at times assigned to the command, with consequent problems in training and in morale.

(d) Chemical troops (negros) were assigned to all Brigades, and it was necessary to develop plans for the installation and use of smoke producing apparatus in heavily populated areas.

(e) The provision of shelter, messing facilities, communications and ammunition storage facilities in metropolitan areas involved many new and difficult problems.

(f) The fact that practically all commissioned and enlisted personnel of the Brigades was replaced by limited service men (in order to make the original personnel available for overseas duty) required that new recruits be trained to replace all specialists and all noncommissioned officers, and that practically all officers had to be trained before they could take over their duties. The morale of the limited service men was very high. They seemed to be very proud of the fact that they had been given an opportunity for active service, many of them were well educated and quick to learn, they were eager to learn and they worked arduously and uncomplainingly at the task.

(g) The fact that this was the first time that balloons in large numbers had ever been installed in this country necessitated that the tactics and technique of their emplacement and employment had, to a very large degree, to be developed as the result of experience.

(h) In view of the limitations of the materiel available at the time it was necessary to develop a method of conducting fire at unseen targets.

(i) When 40 mm. guns were received it became necessary to develop doctrine covering their technical and tactical employment, including the design and location of towers upon which to install them.

(j) It was necessary to develop doctrine covering the location and employment of the radar equipment as it became available.

My relations with the Air Corps (Fighter Command) were, at all times, cordial and the full cooperation that existed was satisfactory to all concerned. The local Fighter Commander exercised Operational Control over the AA defenses -- that is he decided when it was safe to them for the AA to open fire; he exercised no command over the AA.

The Air Corps Headquarters in Washington had for some time been conducting an active campaign to take over all the AA Artillery.

Early in 1944 this matter came to a head, and the Commanding General, Western Defense Command, (Major General Emmons -- incidentally formerly a prominent officer in the Air Corps) was called upon to submit his recommendations.

The paper was referred to me, and I made a full discussion of the matter, setting forth the reasons why I considered that such a transfer would be detrimental to the AA Artillery and of no material advantage to the Air Corps. General Emmons concurred ion my views and strongly recommended against the transfer. The transfer was disapproved by the War Department.

At the time General Leslie McNair, Commander of the Army Ground Forces, was in Europe. General McNair, a classmate of mine, was one of a small group of Field Artillery officers who had, for many years, been running the Filed Artillery, and who had been very bitter against the Coast Artillery ever since its separation from the Field Artillery in 1907. He was, however, a brilliant and efficient officer, and he exerted a great influence on General Marshall, the Chief of Staff. Shortly after the War Department had acted on the paper he returned, from his trip, to the United States. At the instigation of the Air Corps he promptly rescinded the action previously taken by the War Department, and orders were issued by the War Department placing the Antiaircraft Artillery under the command of the Air Corps.

The Commander of the Fourth Fighter Command at the time was Maj. Gen. Lind. He was much younger than me. In Hawaii, when we had both been on a Joint Air Corps - Coast Artillery Board, he had been a Major while I was a Major General. I did not care, under all the circumstances, to serve under his command and I requested that I be relieved from command of the Fourth Antiaircraft Command and be ordered to other duty.

My relief was effective April 24th, 1944, and I was ordered to report to the Commanding General, Eastern Defense Command, for duty as Commanding General, Northeast Sector.

During the time I was in command of the Fourth AA Command, Perry was, in 1942, ordered to San Diego with an 8" Railway Battery.

Shirley (with two other young brides) drove from Fort Hancock to Riverside, California to be with your grandmother; Mary Katharine Eubank was born on October 5th, 1942 at the Community Hospital at Riverside.

Later Perry was assigned to the AA Artillery and ordered to the AA School; and your grandmother, mother and Kitty went to Summerville, where they spent the remainder of the War.

Your grandmother, during this period, had the old slave's quarters, in the yard, near the house, rebuilt into the present Cabin, which she rented, at a nominal price, to young officers and their wives having small babies, who were unable to find habitable quarters elsewhere.

Milan Weber, who had been my Aide ever since I was promoted to Brigadier General, was assigned to the 4th Army in September, 1943, and later went overseas, where he served, with distinction, with the Antiaircraft Artillery Section of the Army Headquarters.


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