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We Aim to Hit
The 251st Coast Artillery Regiment (Anti-Aircraft)
 
World War II
 
Mobilization: 16 September 1940
 
In the years immediately preceding the onset of WWII, the five Batteries of the 1st Battalion of the 251st Regiment trained in an Armory in San Diego's Balboa Park; one building now houses an automotive Museum, another houses the new Aerospace Museum. Meanwhile, the Batteries of the Regiment's 2nd Battalion trained in their Armories in the Long Beach and San Pedro areas.
During 1940, the Regiment participated in the Army-Navy joint maneuvers held in the San Francisco area, and also in the Fourth Field Army. Maneuvers in the Chehalis, Washington, sector
 
On September 16th, 1940, the 251st C.A. (AA) was inducted into Federal Service for a period of one year by Executive order 8530. This one-year period of active service was later extended for an additional year by only one Congressional vote on August 12th, 1941.
 
At the time of mobilization into Federal Service, the regiment was composed of the 1st Battalion (3-inch Guns) in San Diego and the 2nd Battalion (37mm Guns) from Long Beach. In November of 1940, following staging in Ventura, around 1200 Guardsmen of the Regiment left the Port of Los Angeles for duty oh the island of Oahu, Hawaii.
 
Part of this contingent sailed as first-class passengers aboard a civilian luxury ship, the SS Washington. Others sailed on a second and less luxurious vessel, the USS Leonard Wood.
 
Upon arrival on Oahu, the regiment trained for two months at Fort Ruger and at Fort Shafter Then it moved to its permanent Hawaiian Department location at Camp Malakole where it began its ritual of spending half a day on the firing line, and the balance of the day constructing its own camp.
 
The Malakole Saga

The following article, quoted in its entirety, appeared in the Honolulu Advertiser on January 21, 1941 under the title of "The Saga of the 251st C.A.":

"This is the interesting account of the wandering of Southern California's own Coast Artillery Regiment during the year 1940. With these figures, the regiment makes its bid for the title of the most "Travelingest Regiment in the United States Army".

From January 14th to the 24th, this Regiment participated in the Army-Navy joint maneuvers in the San Francisco-Monterey area covering a distance of approximately 1400 miles by truck. On this occasion, the Regiment was honored by being one of the two National guard units participating.
On August 3rd, the Regiment entrained for an extended Annual Field Training Encampment of three weeks at Chehalis, Washington. This involved a trip by train of about 3000 miles for the round trip. While in Washington, the Regiment was very active in the Fourth Field Army Maneuvers and added at least 300 miles to the total of miles covered under orders.

The Day-of-Days dawned on September 16th (1940), on a life that the citizen-soldiers never thought would come to them. Uncomplainingly and cheerfully, they answered the call of their President and Country. They left their homes, their loved ones, their jobs, their classrooms, to obey the order that was to add to their already impressive total. One hundred and ninety miles bought them from their home stations in San Diego, Long Beach and San Pedro to their training camp at Ventura. There they entered Army life eager to learn and do their part to keep the American flag the symbol of peace on earth.

During the first part of November; the Regiment started on the voyage to Hawaii. On the 17th of November, the last of the Regiment left its native soil by way of San Pedro and added 2345 miles by the time it arrived at Fort Shafter in Honolulu on the island of Oahu. The next stop was a short move to its new home in a kiawe grove 25 miles from Ft. Shafter Here, the men fell-to with a will to clear away the tenacious kiawe or algaroba as it is called on the mainland. The men were building their own quarters amid the hardships of inadequate toilet and water facilities with little complaint. These sons of California are proud to uphold the tradition of a proud Regiment whose motto is"We Aim to Hit".

The mileage covered by the end of the year totalled 7260 miles and was done in 138 days of service. This was an average of 52.6 miles for each day of service under Federal orders. If this mileage was computed at five-cents per mile and given to a man, he would have $363.00 in his pocket and would still be at home with his loved ones instead of working for a dollar a day and leading a monastic life on this barren kiawe infested coral reef.

Of course, all this travel and expense is necessary .to properly train the Regiment to be an efficient unit of anti-aircraft defense. However; a careful check finds that the Regiment has spent since entering Federal Service last September the enormous total of 18 days in Infantry Drill. The rest of the time has been spent in making camps and moving.

When duty calls and America needs defense from enemy aircraft, this Regiment will gallantly defend with hammers, saws and squares to the last nail and stick of lumber for "We Aim to Hit".

Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941

While the "Malakole Saga" article portrays some of the frustrations, it does not depict the high level of morale nor the outstanding record achieved by the 251st Regiment in direct competition with regular army troops during periods of field testing within the Hawaiian Department.

During daily training and firing on Oahu, the Regiment received its quota of draftees bringing it to full strength level of 2400 troops.

As the potential of an impending conflict became increasingly clear; the Regiment was ordered on full alert in the field whenever sight of the Japanese Fleet was lost. Batteries of the Regiment were assigned defensive positions around the west shore of Pearl Harbor and the perimeter of Schofield Barracks, providing an anti-aircraft defense coordinated with the Navy and other Army units.

However, on December 7th, 1941, the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; all carefully rehearsed procedures were of no avail.- the Regiment was at Camp Malakole having just returned from a full alert in the field. After the standard Saturday morning inspection, half of the Regiment on that infamous Sunday were either sleeping or away form the Camp on weekend pass. Even so, the Regiment is officially credited with downing two enemy aircraft.

The First Casualties in the Attack on Pearl Harbor

Battery F, 251st Coast Artillery Regiment

Sergeant Henry C. Blackwell
Corporal Clyde C. Brown
Sergeant Warren D. Rasmussen
 
The 251st was on full war alert on Saturday, December 6, 1941 but were told that the Japanese fleet was spotted off Taiwan. They were then given Sunday off, so while some slept in that morning, three soldiers got up early and went to John Rodgers field and rented two Piper Cubs airplanes. They were licensed pilots and took off along the Ewa Coast to practice their flying skills.
 
They ran directly into attacking Zeros and were shot down, becoming the first American casualties of the Pearl Harbor attack.

 

Pacific Campaigns

During May of 1942, the Regiment, which was originally scheduled for the Phillipines, left Hawaii for futher duty in the Pacific Theatre. As part of a lonely two ship convoy (the SS MORMAC STAR and the SS MORMAC SEA), it slowly weaved and sailed to VitiLevu in the Fiji Islands where it established the anti-aircraft defense for the islands' single critical airfield. All weapons and the housing of troops was artfully hidden under thatched native huts, called bures.

As the Pacific Theatre progressed, the regiment began "island hopping" according to the following sequence:

 Location

 Dates
 Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands  November-December 1943
 Bougainville, Solomon Islands  December 1943-December 1944
 Luzon, Philippine Islands  December 1944-December 1945

On March 1, 1944 the regiment was officially broken up to form the 251st Antiaircraft Artillery Group with the Regimental Headquarters becoming the Group Headquarters and the 1st Battalion forming the 746th Antiaircraft Artillery Gun Battalion and the 2nd Battalion forming the 951st Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion. The Regimental Band was redesignated as the 288th Army Band and separated from the group. The two battalions were to remain together under the 251st AAA Group, thus maintaining the "regiment"

After the end of the war, the 251st Antiaircraft Artillery and its two battalions were returned to California and were inactivated at Camp Stoneman in Pittsburg during December 1945 and January 1946. The 251st having been in the combat zone for the entire war received credit for the following campaigns:

Central Pacific
Northern Solomons
Leyte
Luzon (with arrowhead signifing an assault landing)
Southern Philippines
 
Philippine Presidental Unit Citation.

Distinctive Unit Insignia 251st Coast Artillery


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