In compliance with a War Department directive dated May 14, 1917, the 17th Field Artillery Regiment was activated by transferring a cadre of officers and enlisted men from the 8th Field Artillery to the new regiment as its nucleus. After five months of intensive training, the Regiment was ordered to the port of embarkation in New York. On December 14, 1917, the Regiment embarked on the U.S.S. Covington for Brest, France and after an uneventful voyage arrived at its destination on December 27th.
The Regiment reached the front on March 19 and 20, 1918, and went into positions near Rupt and Woimbey. The Regiment remained in the line until the cessation of hostilities. In recognition of its signal service in six campaigns, the Regiment was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Palm, Streamer embroidered AISNE-MARNE, the Croix de Guerre with Palm, Streamer embroidered AISNE-MARNE, the Croix de Guerre with Gilt Star, Streamer embroidered SOISSONS, and the Croix de Guerre which entitles the Regiment to wear the Fourragere.
December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day, and its aftermath found the 17th “raring to go.” The question was not IF, but when and where? Europe or the Pacific? The date and geographical location of the Regiment’s overseas assignment were well kept secrets until after August 6, 1942. On that date the Regiment embarked on the H.M.S. Orcades at the New York Port of Embarkation for Liverpool, England. For the most part the voyage was uneventful. The men never tired of watching other ships in the convoy which stretched in all directions as far as the eye could see. As the convoy neared its destination, it encountered a summer storm in the North Atlantic, and Neptune, being in a sportive mood, put on a show that none of the then uninitiated landlubbers will ever forget. However, no one aboard the Orcades believed that storms at sea or German subs could stay this convoy from its destination.
The H.M.S. Orcades docked at Liverpool August 17, 1942. The Regiment disembarked, entrained for Tidworth, England, and was billeted in the Royal Tank Corps barracks in nearby Perham Downs.
The Regiment spent the next three months in training, recreational trips and in getting to know our ally. The British Tommies welcomed the American GI’s with the utmost cordiality — any linguistic differences were more amusing than confusing. In no time at all the GI’s learned that a truck and a lorry were one and the same, and that a lorry was fueled with petrol instead of gasoline. It was transparently clear that the British people were totally committed to the war effort. Who could fail to admire their heroic resistance as they stood alone against the Nazi warlords?
On November 27, 1942, the Regiment embarked at Liverpool for Oran, Algeria. The Regiment was split up in such a way that not more than two batteries were aboard any one ship during this voyage. The H.M.S. Monarch of Bermuda and the H.M.S. Otranto were two of the many ships that made up this convoy. The first elements of the Regiment arrived at Oran, Algeria on December 6, 1942.
Early in February 1943, the 2nd Battalion was ordered to Tebessa, Algeria. On February 14th the Battalion, while in position at Faid Pass, Tunisia, was severely mauled by the German 21st Panzer Division. The Battalion lost approximately one-half of the officers and men and twelve 155mm howitzers. This humiliating defeat was quickly avenged. The 2nd Battalion was temporarily equipped with 105mm howitzers, and soon thereafter the Regiment went into position near El Guettar in support of the 1st U.S. Infantry Division. At 6:00am on March 23rd, the 110th German Panzer Division attacked in force with planes, artillery, tanks and infantry. The front line gave way. The enemy overran two friendly artillery battalion positions, but was stopped 1000 yards short of the 17th’s position. As a long line of German infantry attacked with the objective of penetrating the pass, a mass concentration of airbursts halted the attack and decimated the line as it thinned, wavered and fell back. The 17th repulsed three determined attacks by the enemy who sustained heavy losses in men and 32 tanks before withdrawing.
The Regiment remained in the line until May 9, 1943, when the Germans in North Africa surrendered. On July 13, 1943, the Regiment boarded LCI’s and LST’s at Tunis, Tunisia and landed at Gela, Sicily on July 14th. The campaign in Sicily was “nasty, brutish, and short” — a mere 38 days — and proved, among other things, that a soldier can survive for 388 days on a diet consisting solely of C rations.
On September 3, 1943, the Regiment supported the invasion of Italy by the British by firing an hour and forty-five minutes preparation across the Straits of Messina.
The 1st Battalion left Termini Imerse, Sicily on September 22, 1943 for Salerno, Italy and arrived September 23rd. Regimental Hq. Battery and the 2nd Battalion crossed the Straits of Messina into Italy on October 16th and joined the 1st Battalion in support of VI Corps north of the Volturno River.
On December 10, 1943 the Regiment was assigned the mission of supporting the C.E.F. (French Expeditionary Corps), and spent the winter months of 1943-44 south of Cassino pounding the strongly defended Gustav Line.
On May 11, 1944 the American 5th and the British 8th Armies launched an attack against the Gustav Line with 2000 guns which was reinforced at dawn by the full weight of the Tactical Air Force. The Allies successfully breached the Gustav Line, and after much heavy fighting, liberated Rome on June 4th. After the fall of Rome, the Allied offensive lost none of its steam, and continued its steady advance into northern Italy.
The Regiment was reequipped with 155mm howitzers, M-1, in October 1943. Early in February 1944, the 2nd Battalion was reorganized and reequipped with 8″ howitzers, and on February 14th it was redesignated the 630th F.A. Battalion. Regimental Headquarters Battery and the 1st Battalion were reorganized and redesignated the 17th F.A. Group and the 17th F.A. Battalion, respectively, effective March 1, 1944. Thus the 17th F.A. Regiment ceased to exist as such and became a field artillery group headquarters and two separate field artillery battalions.
On July 25, 1944 the 17th F.A. Group and the 17th F.A. Battalion, while in position in the vicinity of Sienna, Italy, were ordered to proceed to Orbetello, Italy for rest, maintenance of equipment, and reassignment to southern France. The Group sailed from Naples, Italy September 2, 1944, aboard the U.S.S. Dorthea L. Dix, and landed near Cavalarie, France on September 4th. The Battalion left Naples September 6th aboard the U.S.S. Samuel Chase and landed at St. Tropez, France on September 9th.
Upon arriving in southern France, the Group and the Battalion were attached to the American VI Corps, which was then located so far inland that a five-day road march was necessary to reach the front lines. The Group went into position at Besancon, and the Battalion fired its first round in France September 21st in the vicinity of Girancourt.
During the winter months of 1944-45, both of these units were active in the bitter fighting through the Voges Mountains and on the Alsation plains. The Group crossed the Rhine River at Worms on March 29th and the Battalion crossed the Rhine at Mannheim on March 31st. Both the Group and the Battalion participated in the rapid drive across Germany. On VE day the Group was in position at Augsburg, Germany and the Battalion was in position near Imst, Austria.
From March 1942 to May 1945, the Battalion participated in eight campaigns, and expended a total of 150,014 rounds of ammunition. During this period it had been attached to eight field artillery groups, and had supported fourteen American and five French divisions. It served under five Army Corps — American, British and Canadian.
The Group and the Battalion received numerous decorations, including the French Croix de Guerre with Silver-Gilt Star, Streamer embroidered SOME-ARNO, and the Croix de Guerre with Palm, Streamer embroidered VOGES.
During the Korean conflict, the 1st Battalion, 17th Field Artillery fought as part of the 8th Army within the Pusan perimeter. The Battalion participated in 10 campaigns and was in almost constant combat from the beginning to the end of the hostilities. The Battalion was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation (Navy)), Streamer embroidered WONJU-HWACHON, a Navy Unit Commendation, Streamer embroidered PANMUNJOM, and the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation, Streamer embroidered KOREA.
The 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery served in Vietnam from 1965 to 1971. Battery A was split into what was known as “A Battery Rear” and “A Battery Forward.” The Battalion was equipped with 105mm howitzers with the exception of C- Battery which had (1) each 105mm for beehive and (4) each 155mm howitzers until early in 1970 when they were reequipped with the 102 light weight airborne model.
In 1969 the Battalion was a part of the 52nd Artillery Group, and in 1970 it became a part of the Provisional Artillery Group. Among the units it supported were the 1st Cavalry Division, 4th Infantry Division, the 23rd Infantry Division (S.F.), 101 Airborne Division, Tiger Division S. Korean, and 5th Special Forces. The Battalion also coordinated the fire of the battleship New Jersey while it was off shore.
The Battalion participated in thirteen campaigns and was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation (Army), Streamer embroidered PLEIKU PROVINCE, and The Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, Streamer embroidered VIETNAM 1965-1971.
The 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery was reactivated as part of III Corps Artillery at Fort Sill in July 1986. In September 1990, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd battalions were deployed to Saudi Arabia after Iraq invaded Kuwait, once again demonstrating that they were prepared for war supporting the 24th Infantry Division and allied forces in the liberation of Kuwait from January through March 1991.
Upon return to the United States, the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery continued training and maintaining a high state of readiness in case it was called upon once again to perform its wartime mission. June 5, 1996, the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery returned to the Republic of Korea with the re-designation of the 8th Battalion, 8th Field Artillery to the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery. In the summer of 1997, the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery fielded the U.S. Army’s most technologically advanced howitzer system, the M109A6 Paladin. Today, the battalion serves as the most forwardly deployed battalion of the Army’s largest Field Artillery Regiment. The 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery continues to train to the day and stands ready to repeat its historical deeds in the republic of Korea and around the world, whenever and wherever duty calls. The 1st Battalion is currently at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.