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US Army

Preview of a F.A.O.B.

Preview of a F.A.O.B.
After basic training with a 105mm howitzer unit and after being released from ASTP (Army Specialized Training Program) at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, I received orders to report to the 16th Field Artillery Observation Battalion at Camp Picket, Virginia, in February 1944. 
I had no idea what an observation battalion was.  During basic training, I saw Piper Cub planes flying above us and I assumed that this was what I was headed for.  After arriving at Picket, I found out what an observation battalion’s duties involved. 
But first I must explain why I was sent to the 16th.  Late in 1943, men were taken from the 16th to form two platoons to be sent to the Pacific Theater.  So, I and other men from the ASTP program were sent to fill out the deployed vacancies. 
The duty of an FOB unit is to locate enemy artillery when they fire on our troops.  This is by listening for the sound or seeing the flash of the enemy guns when they are discharged. 
If you can picture tossing a stone into a pond and seeing the circles formed on the surface, then you can visualize that the sound creates the same pattern.  Thus, by locating microphones in an arc at an equal distance apart, the sound can be detected and plotted.  This requires a machine that prints an oscillograph that print when the sound hit the microphones.  Everything is activated when the forward observer presses a button to start things happening. 
An observation battalion is made up of a sound section or a flash section each with a surveying team and a wire team who accurately position the forward observers and microphones. 
After the forward observer push the activating button, the readings are scanned and plotted on a map and the coordinates of the enemy’s gun location are sent back to battalion headquarters for their use to direct answering artillery.  The flash unit operates similarly except the location is done visibly.
Our battalion entered combat shortly after D-Day and saw its first action in France on the Crozon Peninsula near Brest.  After this pocket was cleared, the unit was trucked across France and into Germany where we set up operations in the town of Auw until 16 December 1944 when the head of the German Bulge came through our sector.  We put up defenses until we were ordered to move out.  Unfortunately, some of our OP personnel couldn’t be retrieved from the field and were taken prisoner and suffered extreme hardship at the hands of the Germans.
The next month and a half while the Bulge was being contained and eliminated, we spent moving and setting up operations in various places. 
The battalion ended up in Czechoslovakia.  After a period of time before VJ-Day, we were transferred to the 217th FOB in preparation for shipment to the Pacific theater.  We all breathed a sigh of relief when peace was declared.
The battalion fought in the following campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe.
Source: Bulge Bugle August 2007



"A" Battery (Sound)

16th Field Artillery

Observation Bn


Battle of the Bulge,