On December 1, 1917, Lieutenant Colonel Shedd was assigned to the 55th Regiment, Coast Artillery Corps and assisted in organizing and equipping it to served in France with French 155 mm longer-range guns. Three of its batteries and Supply company came from historic Massachusetts Coast Artillery National Guard, two batteries and Headquarters Company from Boston Harbor regulars, and one from Rhode Island Coast Artillery National Guard, 71 officers and 1716 enlisted men in all, sailed from New York March 25, 1918, on SS Mauritania.
The entire 55th regiment was awakened at 3:30 A.M. on Palm Sunday, March 24th, 1918 to begin their march to the New Jersey Northern depot at Cresskill and entrained for the trip to the Port of Embarkation. Finally the Regiment reached Cunard pier No. 54 where the H.M.S. Mauretania and H.M.S. Aquitania were docked. Within one hours time the entire Regiment was on board the Maurentania ready for the trip across the "big pond". After the other units that were to sail boarded the 55th Regiment waited for the ship to leave port. At 5:47 P.M. on March 25th 1918 the ship gave the signal with its steam whistle and she backed away from the pier into the Hudson River. Finally on April 2nd, 1918 at 3:00 P.M. The H.M.S. Mauretania was tied up to the quay in Liverpool, England.
Orders were received for the 55th to enter the line of battle along with the 56th Regiment. A race was on to see which Regiment could fire the first gun. The 56th Regiment entered the line on August 5th, 1918 while the 55th Regiment followed 24 hours later. But the 55th was in position sooner and at 12:03 P.M. on August 9, 1918 Sgt. Damon's gun, No. 1 of Battery A, the "Allie" had the honor of firing the first American shot with heavy artillery in battle. The target was a bridge across the Aisne River, far in the German rear, and over which they were expected soon to retreat. Subsequent aerial observation revealed that just five shots from the "Allie" were required to demolish the bridge.
The 55th was now with the new American 3rd Corps. The 31st Brigade consisted at that time of only two regiments, the 55th and the 56th Artillery. Owing to the danger from enemy bombers, all unnecessary noise was forbidden, even bugle-calls were discontinued. Until after November 11th there would be no more reveille, mess call or taps.
In October 1918 the 55th found the mud at Bois de Beuge a hard problem to overcome. Supplies and ammunition could not be brought up to the guns. Battery D tried to make a sled pulled by one of the tractors with little success. Battery C carried ammunition by hand and finally perfected a method where they used a tractor each night as a ferryboat to transport all kinds of stores. A bugler is said to have noticed the parallel between the nightly visits of the "ferry-boat tractor" and the trips of the Quartermaster boat in Boston Harbor, and one night to have greeted it by sounding "boat-call". The bugler had not foreseen that the familiar tones would arouse homesickness in the men, he had a narrow escape from being mobbed.
The regimental wireless intercepted a message at 5:40 am on November 11th that the armistice was signed. The honor of the last shot fired goes to Battery F. At 10:42 the "Alky" fired her last shot at Fritz. Battery F's target was interdiction fire at a crossroads at the entrance of the town of Malandry, behind the German lines.
January 9th, 1919 found the 55th Regiment (49 officers and 1,607 men on board the H.M.S. Cretic in Brest, France. One officer celebrated by throwing overboard the muddy "articles" which he had been compelled to wear constantly for the last three months. The Cretic was commanded by W. E. Ingham and the voyage home took 13 days. The Regiment upon landing in the States went to Camp Mills at Mineola, Long Island, New York where they were "deloused".
On January 29th the Regiment received the following telegram:
|"The Secretary of War has this day approved the recommendation of the Chief of Coast Artillery that the following brigades and regiments be not disbanded and that they be ordered to take stations as follows; 55th, 56th, 57th Regiments to the Coast Defenses of San Francisco."|
February 23rd, 1919 found the regiment at Fort Scott, California. The regiment was issued twenty-four 155mm GPF guns and tractors. The records of the 55th show that 13 men died during battle, 22 died of disease or accidents and 48 were wounded. The final tally of shots fired by the 55th Regiment was 32,678 rounds fired during the war. The "Floss" of Battery A set the high mark for the regiment by firing 2,011 shots.
||Post card photo of a group of men from the 55th Regiment C.A.C. It reads "German dugout occupied by the 55 arty C.A.C., Oct 1918 Eppionville (Meuse) Argone Forrest France.|
|This photo was obtained with the above photo and I believe it is also of the 55th Artillery. This photo has this written on the back; "Gun Crew waiting for orders to fire. How they Camouflage the Arty. 155 mm gun's" In this photo you can see the netting that was used as camouflage while in firing positions at the front. Most all the men can be seen with their gas mask packs slung over their shoulders.||
||This photo shows the same gun crew as the above photo. This is a good example of how the gun was moved with the Holt tractors. These tractors were made by the Caterpillar Company and were tracked with one steering wheel in the front. In the original photo the Camouflage paint scheme can be seen. This gun is ready to move and the muzzle is covered with a canvas covering.|
Mr. Campbell enlisted into the United States Army, Coast Artillery Corps in 1916. He entered at Ft. Banks, Boston, Massachusetts. Was assigned to 12th Company Coast Defenses of Boston. The 12th Co. Boston Artillery has a very long and historical past. It's past can be traced back to March 22, 1784. That is the date that the "Old First" Massachusetts Regiment was organized. This makes the "Old First" the second oldest military body with continuous history in the United States and absolutely the oldest National Guard unit. The "Old First" has taken part in many engagements through out its history. During the Civil War the Regiment had 173 members killed. All twelve companies of the Boston Coast Defenses entered Federal service July 25, 1917, under command of Col. George F. Quinby, and were discharged from state service by the operation of the draft on August 5, 1917. The ultimate fate of the 12th Co. was as follows: 12th Co. disbanded November 13th, 1917 and records preserved by the 15th Co. C.A.C. (Coast Artillery Corps) U.S.A., Fort Andrews. Along with the large number of men transferred to the newly formed 55th Arty., four entire units were also incorporated, records and all. The 55th Arty. became reorganized as the continuation, in overseas service, of the Old First Massachusetts Regiment. Mr. Campbell is listed with the Roster of HQ. Co. 55th Arty., C.A.C. as: Campbell, Raymond F., 577834, Bugler, 10 Blakeland St., Lawrence, Mass. In December 1918 he was transferred into Battery A where among the Rosters of Battery A, his name also appears.
Among the men of the Old First it was common belief that it had fallen to their fate to be the slayers of General "Stonewall" Jackson, one of the severest blows to the Confederate cause during the entire war. During the night which intervened between may 2 and 3, 1863, the two days of the battle of Chancellorsville, two companies were on out post, when a party of Confederate horsemen rode down the Plank Road toward their lines; as a result of the volley then fired, General Jackson fell. The identification was rendered complete by Sgt. Charles F. Ferguson of Co. I, who was a prisoner-of-war for a few minutes, and happened to be close to the mounted officers when the fire was received; Ferguson made his escape in the ensuing confusion, and reported what he had seen. This event was merely an accident of warfare, and entirely unpremeditated. While others claimed to have been the agents of Jackson's removal, and although the Southerners say that their own men fired the fatal shots, still there is no good reason for rejecting the contention of the Old First, in fact the evidence seems conclusive that our claim is valid.
William J. Hough (some sources show him as Walter J. Hough) was born 22 July 1886 in Upper Sandusky, Ohio. At the time he entered the Army in 1917 he lived at 1345 Goodale Ave. in Toledo, Ohio. On 27 November 1917 he was promoted to 1st Lt. in the Field Artillery at Ft. Sheridan, Illinois. Lt. Hough sailed to France on 27 December 1917 possibly on the USS Pastores or the USS President Grant. Hough was promoted to Capatin on 21 October 1918. Captain Hough joined the 55th Artillery after the Armistace on 17 November 1918 and was the 1st Brigade Adjuant. Captain Hough returned to the States on the HMS Cretic with the 55th Artillery and was discharged at Ft. H.G. Wright on 8 February 1919.
Private Frederick A. Blais was Killed in Action on October 3, 1918 during the Battle of the Argonne Forest near Montfaucon, France. Battery A gun position was out in the open with no shelter whatever between September 28- October 5, 1918. Battery A lost Sgt. Long and Privates Blais and Gratz besides several wounded before they moved the gun to a more sheltered position on October 5. On the eastern slope of Montfaucon Hill was a more sheltered position and they emplaced the gun there. Today the Newell-Blais VFW Post No. 443 in North Attleboro, MA is co-named in his honor.
Pvrivate Frederick A. Blais, KIA October 5, 1918
John Souza Baptist entered (enlisted) in the Army at Fort Banks, MA on August 14, 1917 at 19 years of age and was Honorable Discharge, Fort Terry, NY on February 6, 1919. His home of residence was 35 Purchase St. in Taunton, MA., and he was the first born in the United States in his family. Marie Crossman who is John S. Baptist's granddaughter, was doing some genealogy research on her grandfather and happened to find his discharge papers, which stated he was a Pvt. 1cl in Battery "C" 55th Artillery C.A.C. The discharge papers also stated that he participated in the following engagements: Second Battle of Maine, Operations on Vesle and the entire Meuse Argonne Offensive.
In the photo below of John in uniform saluting on his left collar button it shows the cross cannons of the Coast Artillery Corps but more importantly it also shows the number 24, which is the 24th Company, Massachusetts Coast Artillery National Guard. The men from Battery C mostly came from the 8th Company, Boston but to fill out the entire 55th Regiment men were drawn from other Boston Coast Artillery Companies. These were the 16th Co., 17th Co., 24th Co. and the 31st Co. I believe that John Baptist was in the 24th Company at the time of the taking of the photograph in question and this must date this photo to before 1 December 1917, which is the formation day of the 55th Artillery and after he enlisted on 14 August 1917 at Ft. Banks, MA. The 24th Company was formed at Ft. Heath, MA in August of 1917 and was organized from men from the former 9th Company, MA Coast Artillery Corps National Guard. In December of 1917 as the 55th Artillery was being formed the 24th Co. was moved to Ft. Banks. So I feel that from the 24th Co. is how John Baptist entered into Battery C of the 55th Artillery.
Left; John Souza Baptist, Taunton, MA,
Center; C. J. McCarthy, Taunton, MA,
Right; E. J. Murphy, Holyoke, MA
|Pvt. 1cl John Souza Baptist, 576840, Battery C, 55th Artillery. Photo was taken in 1917.|
|John Baptist's torn and tattered WWI Victory Medal with 3 bars. Oise-Aisne, Meuse-Argonne, Defensive Sector||
Vernier Verdun Medal of John Baptist
Corporal Frederick Lawrence Dyer of Battery E, was accidentally killed with a hand grenade near Dravengy, France on September 5, 1918.
Of the enlisted men in Battery E there were at least 44 men who were from Providence, Rhode Island. These men would have known each other and some were related. The Dyer brothers Frederick L. and Frank C. were among the Providence men. Frederick who was a corporal was eight-years older than Frank who was a Private First Class. Frank’s Army Service number was 579909 and his brother Frederick’s was 579911.
Not much is known about Frederick’s death on September 5, 1918 which occurred near Dravengy, France. About the only fact was that it was caused by accident with a hand grenade. But a picture can be pieced back together of the events of the days prior to Frederick’s death… a death that his younger brother Frank may have witnessed or was very near when it took place.
During the night of August 24-25 two guns of Battery E, the “Lucky Evelyn” and the “Little Rhody” were moved by then Lt. George H. G. Campbell (later Captain), three kilometers farther north from their position into an area the men of Battery E affectionally called “Death Valley.” This was an area located three kilometers south of Fismes and extended to the west towards Chery-Chartreuve, and just south of St. Gilles. This was the last location toward the German lines that afforded any cover from the Germans at all.
During that move of the two guns, the moon was bright that night and the Germans had a few airplanes buzzing “Death Valley” and harassing the men of Battery E. But during the night there were only three casualties during the movement, which were not serious. The three men had said they were all save by “Providence” as all three men were from Providence, Rhode Island.
The events of this night were said to have happen when both of the guns were being hauled down a road by the tractors with the “Little Rhody” gun in the lead. At a point where they were about to cross a stream a German shell burst quite close by and fragments from the burst hit the tractor hauling “Little Rhody” The tractor’s gas tank was punctured by a shell fragment which sent the flammable gas across the hot engine. Almost instantly the tractor of “Little Rhody” was a blaze with a bright orange fireball. This of course gave notice to the German battery where they were and soon enough hot German steel was flying in all directions. Soon after the first volley of shells came Gas shells. Two-hours passed and the German’s had cooled their attack enough that the tractor from “Lucky Evelyn” was able to come up and help the other gun and with considerable effort had pulled both guns into their new positions. This was where the injuries occurred, by gassing with mustard gas, by the men who had stated they were saved by “Providence.” In reality it was the well-disciplined reaction to the gas alarm that saved the men, which was in stark contrast to an infantry company who were right next to the spot where the two guns were shelled, who lost 16-men to this same gas attack.
Sgt. Riback, the gun commander of “Little Rhody” reported that his gun took two shell fragments to the gun itself. But they revenged this when they made a direct hit on a German gun and put it down for the rest of the war. For the rest of that night both guns fired all the while wearing gas masks.
But ten-days later on the night of September 4-5 again the same two guns of Battery E were once again working under a cloud of German Gas and were firing back at them wearing gas masks. The men of Battery E fired for the next two-hours until the German battery was out of commission and destroyed. For this attack and the previous attack 10-days earlier the Battery received a commendation from the Colonel of the 55th. During this second attack on the 4-5 September was likely where Cpl. Dyer’s accident with the hand grenade took place and he lost his life.
It is not known how long Cpl. Dyer’s body would have remained on the battlefield. He was likely taken to a casualty station and was identified and then buried in a temporary cemetery in that area. His body would remain buried in French soil until June of 1921.
It was at that time that the U. S. Government began to remove her honored soldiers and bring their bodies back home. On June 19, 1921 Cpl. Frederick L. Dyer Service No. 579911 of Battery E, 55th Artillery, CAC was loaded aboard the USAT Wheaton at Antwerp, Belgium and steamed home to America. The Wheaton arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey on July 2 and offloaded her many flag covered caskets she had carried home. It was presumed that Corporal Dyer’s casket was taken to a cemetery in or near Providence for burial.
Frederick L. Dyer’s life story begins at his birth in May of 1891. His exact day of birth is not recorded. Frederick was the eldest of three sons born to Mary L. Perry (1871-) and Frederick C. Dyer (1866-1934) of Providence, Rhode Island. The three sons were Frederick born in 1891, Charles born in 1896 and Frank Chester born in June of 1898.
In the summer of 1900 the Dyer family lived on Williams Street in Providence, RI where Frederick C, the father worked as a tool maker to support his family. Frederick C. and Mary had become divorced sometime after 1900 and Frederick C and Charles moved away. Mary had by 1910 been re-married to John F. Lyons who worked as a nurse. Frederick L. and his brother Frank C. lived with their mother Mary in John Lyons home that was located on Conduit Street in Providence. Frederick L. at the time was 18-years old and had a job as a salesman in a jewelry store.
Frederick L. Dyer sometime about late 1914 met and fell in love with Ethel M. Reed (1892-). They did not marry but on February 14, 1915 had a daughter together who they named Dorothy Reed Dyer.
By late 1916 Frederick was working as a street car conductor for the Providence City Railway. As April of 1917 came forth and America entered into the war in Europe, Frederick felt he should serve his Country in wartime. On June 1, 1917 before the first call up of the draft, Frederick Lawrence Dyer enlisted into the Army. He enlisted into the Coast Artillery Corps branch of the Army as a Private serving in either the 9th Company or the 26th Company Rhode Island Coast Artillery National Guard. These two Companies served at Ft Adams and Ft. Wetherill, Rhode Island.
Over in Boston during the summer of 1917, the Coast Artillery units there were ordered to form the 55th Artillery Regiment for duty in France. They were all from the Coast Defenses of Boston, but Battery E came from the men of the 9th Company Rhode Island Coast Artillery National Guard and that was how Pvt. Dyer came to be in Battery E of the 55th Artillery.
Four days after Dyer enlisted into the Army, the first call up for the Federal Draft took place. Dyer who had already enlisted registered. At the time, on June 5, Dyer was living at 360 Thurbers Ave. in Providence. Today this address is a parking lot but in 1917 was likely a three-story apartment house as there are many such buildings near this address. On the Draft form Dyer listed himself as single but it was likely that Ethel and Dorothy were living in the same apartment on Thurbers Ave. He listed his birth day of May 30, 1892 and that he was working as a street car conductor in Providence. Dyer was a short medium built man with brown eyes and brown hair. He also listed that he had already enlisted into the Coast Artillery corps four-days previously. Frederick L. Dyer was not the only Dyer to serve in Battery E, his younger brother had also enlisted and was serving in the same Battery E as his older brother Frederick.
Frederick and Ethel began to understand that he would be sent to France and there was likely the late night talks of if he went “over there” there would be the possibility he might not make it back as the newspapers told of the high cost to lives this war had already cost, and it was sure the cost would be even higher once the Americans were fully engaged in the battle. So, with this likely on their minds Pvt. Frederick L. Dyer and Ethel M. Reed on August 15, 1917 were married in Rhode Island.
Orders came for the 55th Artillery to go to France, and so, on or about March 24, 1918 at the Dyer home in Providence it was time to say goodbyes. Frederick was photographed in his uniform kneeling to speak with his daughter Dorothy outside while a blanket of snow covered the ground. The girls little black puppy dog scampers about her feet as father and daughter say their goodbyes. This would be the last time Dorothy would look into her father’s brown eyes and feel the kiss of a loving father upon her forehead.
Photo taken on or about March 24, 1918 as father and daughter say goodbye.
This would be the last time Dorothy would ever see her father again.
On March 25, 1918 the two Dyer brothers of Battery E walked up the gangway onto the deck of the RMS Mauretania, the great English passenger liner. Frederick and Frank likely both felt they would make the return trip but fate only had one ticket for a return trip for one of the two brothers. They, at that moment, could not have known that Frederick the eldest brother would not make the return trip. Frederick at the time had been advanced to Private First Class, and while in France, Dyer would again be advanced to his last and final rank of Corporal.
Corporal Frederick Lawrence Dyer of Battery E, was accidentally killed with a hand grenade near Dravengy, France on September 5, 1918. His brother Frank had survived the war and when it came time for the 55th Artillery to return back home only one Dyer brother made the trip. Frank boarded the SS Cretic on January 22, 1919 and saw the coast line of France fade away with the body of his brother buried in her soil.
Back home Frederick’s wife Ethel and daughter Dorothy carried on their lives as best as they could. Little Dorothy grew up without a father and lived until she passed away in 1991. Frank after the war married and he passed away in 1974.
|Photo taken at the Dyer home likely on or about March 24, 1918, the day before Dyer left for France.||Frederick L. Dyer, pre-war photo.|
Photo likely taken before the 55th Artillery was formed of men on Mess Duty taken in the States before they sailed to France. Frederick Dyer is seen third from the right with the white apron on.
Captain Chester Eaton Dodge was the Commanding Officer of the Headquarters Company and Battery F of the 55th Artillery, CAC during WWI.
Chester Eaton Dodge was born on May 11, 1887, in Somerville, Massachusetts, to Fannie Gertrude Clark and John Albert Dodge. On October 22, 1907 Chester Dodge married Edna Davis Locke in Manchester, New Hampshire. Chester and Edna made their home at 63 Dana Street in Cambridge, MA. Before the war, Chester went to college and graduated as a structural engineer.
As the American Army was in need of educated men to fill its growing officer corps, Chester E. Dodge put his college degree to use in the Army. Chester joined the Army’s Coast Artillery Corps and because he had a college degree he was selected to become and officer and went to Officers Candidate School, November 27, 1917. Upon graduation he served at the rank of Captain and reported to the 55th Artillery, CAC on January 24, 1918.
On March 1, 1918 Captain Dodge was assigned as the 2nd Battalion Adjutant until March 21, 1918 when he was assigned as the Commanding Officer of Headquarters Company, 55th Artillery, CAC. Captain Dodge was on April 18, 1918 assigned to be the Adjutant of the 3rd Battalion, 55th Artillery for a short time and then was sent to the Heavy Artillery School located in Mailly, France. Captain Dodge graduated this course and was reassigned back to the 55th Artillery as the Commanding Officer of Battery F.
During the period that the 55th Artillery was taking its training in May of 1918 before going up to the Front Lines, Captain Dodge served as a range officer at the target range the 55th was using. Firing the 155mm GPF gun was not as simple as loading her up with powder and shell and giving a yank on the lanyard. There were many problems to be solved mathematically in order to put a live shell onto ones intended target. All these problems were solved with absolute precision under the roughest of conditions that they would face at the front lines. Many of the battery Commanders were very speedy at solving these logarithmic problems and it was said that Captain Dodge was the fastest problem solver in the entire 55th.
At 8 P.M. on September 25, 1918 Captain Dodge was in Command of Battery F, and he would go into combat for the first time as Commanding Officer. The 4 guns of Battery F had 1,200 rounds at the ready where at 02:45 in the morning they would let loose on their assigned target, that being a rail-yard located at Mezieres, and also counter-battery work in taking out the enemy artillery batteries located in the areas of Montfaucon, Epinonville, and Cierges. At 02:30 only one battery of the 55th opened up with gas shells, and then at 02:45 the other batteries of the 55th opened up on the Germans. Battery F was also assigned to fire on targets called in from an airplane when it observed targets that were in need of some hot steel. Captain Dodge put his lightening quick math skills to good use that day. This was the opening day of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. By September 27 the Germans had moved back to the extreme range of the guns of the 55th Artillery, and so it was necessary for the 55th to move in pursuit of the enemy.
By October 31 Battery F was again going into the firing line in combat but Captain Dodge was sick and Battery F was temporarily under the command of Lt. Vickers for this shoot.
Once Captain Dodge regained his health later in December after the war had ended he would rejoin the Headquarters Company of the 55th Artillery. Once the 55th Artillery had returned back to the States Captain Dodge was Honorably Discharged at Fort H. G. Wright on February 15, 1919.Back in Civilian life Chester and Edna Dodge would raise two children in Dover, New Hampshire. Chester E. Dodge at the young age of 47-years would pass away on January 3, 1935, and was buried in Lexington, Massachusetts.
Bob Schnack and 3 others closed out the Headquarters Company of the 55th Artillery Battalion (NIKE) then at 150 Rocky Hill Road, New Britain CT. in December of 1964. The 55th had been designated as an Air Defense Battalion and assigned to the Hartford/Bridgeport Defense sector.
During WW II The 55th COAST ARTILLERY REGIMENT (155 mm Gun) (Mobile) was activated on 22 May 1943 in Hawaii--Inactivated 31 May 1944, except the 2d Battalion which was sent to Saipan in June 1944 and later inactivated there. This comes from the WW II Order of Battle.
In 1951 selected Coast Artillery Regiments (Inactive) were designated as Anti-Aircraft Gun (90mm) Battalions and in 1954 as the NIKE Anti-Aircraft Missile system came in the units were Re-designated as Artillery Battalion (NIKE). The 55th was one of these and was placed in the Hartford/Bridgeport Defense Area under the 56th Artillery Brigade Air Defense. It turned over its equipment less the personnel to the CT National Guard in December 1954 and retired its colors.
Bob found in a publication on the NIKE program "RINGS OF SUPERSONIC STEEL", it lists the following 55th Artillery Battalions and their stations:
|1/55||New York Defense||Sept. 1958||26 July, 1960|
|2/55||Hartford Defense||Sept. 1958||24 Dec. 1964|
|3/55||Detroit Defense||Sept. 1958||23 Dec. 1960|
|4/55||Thule (Greenland)||1 Sept. 1958||20 Dec. 1965|
My name is John Healy and I was with the original group that went to Vietnam. We trained at Ft. Bliss, TX and left on January 31, 1968. We flew to Long Beach, CA and from there took a ship MSTS Upshaw (I think that was the name) to Vietnam. We arrived there in nam during the last few days of February.