6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (HAWK)
6/56th ADA (CV) GERMANY

6th Battalion, 56th Air Defense Artillery (Chaparral/Vulcan), Air Base Air Defense, Federal Republic of Germany


  Air Defense Artillery Flag

“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.” Alan Cohen

 

The 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery was Redesignated 1 September 1971 as the 6th Battalion, 56th Air Defense Artillery. And Activated 13 September 1972 in Spangdshlem Air Force Base, Germany.

 

Once again the Battalion adapted new more sophisticated weapons for an old more sophisticated enemy the Warsaw pact.

 

The 6th Battalion, 56th Air Defense Artillery’s mission was Air Base Air Defense for Spangdahlem Air Base, Bitbug Air Base and Hahn Air Base.

 

Battalion battery locations:

 

a.       Battery A & Headquarters & Headquarters Battery, Spangdahlem Air Base

b.      Battery B, Bitburg Air Base

c.       Battery C, Hahn Air Base

 

Air Base mission

 

Spangdahlem Air Base had the Wild Weasel mission for USAFE and flew F4's and was just getting in F16's to supplement the F4's. Bitburg had an air superiority mission with their F15's and Hahn had a mixed missions with just F16's.

 

Battalion configuration

 

The Battalion was configured as a composite Chaparral-Vulcan battalion had the line Batteries organized with 2 Platoons of Chaparrals, 2 Platoons of towed Vulcans and 1 Stinger "Section" mounted in M151's. Each platoon had 4 weapon systems, or squads, and the Stinger section had 5 two man Stinger Teams. The HHB had the FAAR Platoon as well as the normal staff support elements. Each Battery had a barracks located on their Air Base as well as a Tactical Site (Tac Site) where motor pool, maintenance shops and usually platoon work areas were located. At Spangdahlem, the Tac Site was located on the Air Base but for Hahn and Bitburg the Tac Site was off the base on separate sites.

 

Base Exercises

During base exercises, a lieutenant from the battery would sit in the underground wing command post to coordinate the base air defenses. The eight Vulcan were located close around the runway, only several tens of meters off the runway in positions prepared only with the addition of a low wall of sandbags. The eight Chaparrals would deploy in a ring around the airbase at a distance of 3 to 5 km. (The exercise positions for the Chaparrals were different than the classified war positions.) Jay Willis assigned to 6th Bn, 56th ADA December 1973 to May 1977

6th Battalion, 56th Air Defense Artillery, Nondivisional Chaparral Vulcan

The 6th Battalion, 56th Air Defense Artillery (CV) headquarters was located at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany.  The mission of Chaparral Vulcan (CV) units is to provide air defense against the enemy’s low altitude attack aircraft. The difference in the mission of the nondivisional battalion from that of the division C/V battalion is the  nondivisional battalion is not tasked to defend the ground-gaining units but to defends the rear-area critical assets.

The 6th Battalion, 56th Air Defense artillery, because of its static defense mission did not  require the mobility of the division battalion, hence towed Vulcan and wheeled command vehicles were used.

The structural differences between the divisional C/V and the nondivisional C/V

Divisional  C/V

Nondivisional  C/V

4 firing batteries per battalion

3 Firing batteries per battalion

3 firing platoons per battery

4 firing platoons per battery

Each battery is either all Vulcan or all Chaparral

Each battery contains 8 Vulcans and 8 Chaparrals (complete)

The Vulcan is the M163A1 – self propelled

Vulcan is the M167A1 - towed

M113s used as command vehicles

Jeeps (M151) used as command vehicles

No organic direct support capability

Organic direct support unit for both Vulcan and Chaparral systems

Air Base Defense

         

The Chaparral systems are deployed away from the air base in order to engage attacking aircraft before the reach the bomb release line. Vulcans are deployed as gap fillers and to add defense in depth.

The men and eventy of the 3rd Platoon (Chaparral), Battery A, 6th Battalion, 56th Air Defense Artillery (C/V) Spangdahlem Air Base Germany 1984 to 1986 as seen the camera of Sp4 Lee Carrier

         
The men of the 3rd Platoon, 6th Bn, 56th ADA (C/V) on the beach in Crete Greece



The Platoon Leader 3rd Platoon (Chaparral), Battery A, 6th Bn, 56th ADA (C/V) Germany


A Battery, 4th Plt, 6th Battalion, 56th Air Defense Artillery (C/V), Spangdahlem, Germany. Live fire training (Chaparral Missile) at Crete, Greece July 1985.

 

 
6th Battalion, 56th Air Defense Artillery (C/V), Spangdahlem, Germany Pass in Review 1985

  

Video tape courtesy Lee Carrier

U.S. Army Air Defender
First to Fire on Target


Video tape courtesy Lee Carrier

Home Sweet - Home the barracks of Btry A, 6th Bn 56th ADA, Spangdahlem Air Base Germany. A time to rest.

"ALERT" "ALERT" "ALERT" No rest for the Air Defenders of the 6th Battalion, 56th Air Defense Artillery.

The Last Line of Defense

The soldiers of the 6th Battalion, 56th Air Defense Artillery (CV) realizes that there are no defenses behind them. They are the final hope in defending and enemy air attack. They are indeed the last line of defense.

Interlocking Defense

During exercises and evaluations the Battalion would practice their primary mission of defending the three airbases with our tri-base interlocking defense coverages. The Battalion normally would conduct training for "off base" missions where we would convoy 30 - 100 KM's and assume secondary air defense missions. Brad Bishop, Bn StaffOfficer/Battery Commander 1985 to 1989

The 2nd most important first strike target in Europe for the Warsaw Pact

I was assigned to A Battery, 6/56 Air Defense Artillery, APO 09123, Spangdahlem AB, FRG, from December 1973 to May 1977. At the time, Spangdahlem was a USAF strike base hosting the 52d Tactical Fighter Wing flying F4 Phantoms in Wild Weasel hunter/killer teams going after Warsaw Pact air defenses and delivering nuclear weapons.  We were told, and even in retrospect I think it likely true, that we were probably the second most important first strike target in Europe for the Warsaw Pact.

The battalion was a composite Chaparral/Vulcan organization. Each battery had two platoons of towed Vulcan guns (1st and 2d platoons, four guns per platoon, towed by Gamma Goats) and two platoons of Chaparral tracks (3d and 4th platoons, four tracks per platoon). I served as a Chaparral platoon leader, Systems Maintenance Officer, briefly as the battalion S-2, as the platoon leader for both Vulcan platoons, and as the battery executive officer.

During base exercises, a lieutenant from the battery would sit in the underground wing command post to coordinate the base air defenses. The eight Vulcan were located close around the runway, only several tens of meters off the runway in positions prepared only with the addition of a low wall of sandbags. The eight Chaparrals would deploy in a ring around the airbase at a distance of 3 to 5 km. (The exercise positions for the Chaparrals were different than the classified war positions.)

Prior to my arrival, I don’t think the battery had ever conducted an overnight field exercise. I believe they limited themselves to daytime forays for the Chaparrals, only, assuming the airbase was truly our base of tactical operations. But since the base was one of the highest priority targets in Europe, and likely early to be contaminated with chemical agent or under attack from spetnaz forces, we started trying to get the unit completely deployed off the base on occasion. We didn’t have sufficient organic vehicles to move all our ammo at once. (Of course, the Vulcans would have stayed on base, and they represented the most serious problem with moving ammunition. Their consumption of 20mm ammo was such that we likely would have been borrowing from the airbase stocks, if the balloon really went up.) I did calculations for indirect Vulcan fire in support of the Chaparral war sites.

The motor pool was located on the north side of the runway, near the west end. The tactical vehicle park and battery ammo storage area was on the south side of the runway, between the base ammo storage area and the coal storage. At first, all the vehicles and ammo conexes were stored on bare ground or gravel. The guard shacks were flimsy plywood affairs, and there were two small Quonset huts in the vehicle park for shelter from the cold for the crews. Heating was by small coal stoves. Later, the base’s coal dump was placed on concrete, which was a sore point with us, since we still had to deal with the mud. Eventually, a small maintenance building was erected near the vehicle park so that we could perform maintenance on one or two vehicles at a time out of the weather. I worked on designs for shelters for the weapon systems, but they had not been built by the time I left. I believe they eventually were.

Toward the end of my tour we started to get the ALL-Volunteer Army (VOLAR) folks, and they were a better crop in general, though there were always many truly outstanding young men dedicated to their job. The NCO’s were very professional, as a rule, though the Army's institution of physical fitness tests and weight standards took some unprepared. Virtually all the NCOs were Vietnam vets, and I had a Korean War vet as my first platoon sergeant. I liked the organizational structure, which closely resembled a standard infantry unit. (Later assigned to a Hawk unit in Korea, I came to appreciate even more the cohesion offered by the squad/platoon/battery organization.)

We suffered from the fuel shortages of the mid-1970's, and several times had to forego exercises because of it.

HHB was also on Spangdahlem. B Battery was at Bitburg AB, whose airbase mission was air superiority. C Battery was at Hahn AB, whose airbase mission was generally close air support.

While I was there, we participated in Vulcan annual service firings at Todendorf on the North Sea in March (I attended in 1976 and 1977), and Chaparral annual service firings at Crete in June (I attended in 1974). We participated in battalion field exercise Whirlygig in 1975 (during which we airlifted a Vulcan and its Gamma Goat, I believe the battalion's first field exercise in Germany) and Reforger in October 1976.

Terrorist Threat

Around 1975 we were assigned a secondary mission of providing emergency ground support to a local Nike Hercules battery. In the event of a terrorist threat, we were to deploy a platoon of soldiers and one or two Vulcan guns. The mission was taken very seriously, with a 30-minute reaction time to depart from the unit. We had to maintain the ammunition already loaded in magazines in the barracks area, along with atropine and the "gold" label gas mask filters.

We were in the French occupation zone, and during my years there had at least a token presence at one of the French caserns during Bastille Day celebrations.  We also had an occasional working relationship with the British brigade air defense forces.  I took a Vulcan and some maintenance folks up to a British casern near Dortmund on my way up to Todendorf on year, and I participated as the battalion liaison to a Thunderbird unit (36th Regiment?) during a field exercise (possibly Reforger). Our cooperation with the German forces was not intimate.  I can only recall using their small arms range for our annual individual weapons familiarization training.

Our individual weapons were the M16A1, with the exception of the battery commander (.45) and the crew of the tracked recovery vehicle (M3 grease guns).  Each of the Vulcans had a first generation large night vision scope and a 10x rifle scope for ground support fire. By Jay Willis

First Air Defense Soldiers to go through the French Commando Course

Thirty-seven soldiers of the 6th Battalion, 56th Air Defense Artillery (CV), spent 14 days going through the tough, demanding training of the French Commando Course in Breisah, West Germany alongside soldiers from the French Army. This marked the first time air defense soldiers have ever participated in the course.
Maj. Gen James C. Cercy, Air Defense Artillery Jan - Feb 1988


             
                       A/6/56th ADA (CV) parade at  Spangdahlem AB, Photo by Jay Willis

  Chaparral firing by 3d Platoon, A Battery, 6/56 ADA                   Vulcan firing 1st & 2nd Plt A Btry 6th Bn 56th ADA (CV)    

The 6th Battalion, 56th Air Defense Artillery ( Chaparral/Vulcan) Activated in Germany

The 7th Battalion, 61st Air Defense Artillery was reflagged the 6th Battalion, 56th Air Defense Artillery (CV) on 13 September 1972 in Germany.

                   Changed to 13 September 1972


The 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery (CV) INACTIVATEDOn 16 March 1988 the 6th Battalion, 56th Artillery cased her colors for the fith time in the units history in Germany. The history of the battalion will forever live on in the military’s combat report, lessons learned reports, books and other documents. But the true history of the battalion lives on in the blood they shed in war and the sweat they shed in times of peace and training for war. And the hearts of the officers, soldiers and love ones of this great battalion.

 

   

6th Battalion, 56th Artillery - Timeline

Map of US Army Air Defense Unit Locations in Germany, Effective May 1984

Status of the former Air Bases in Germany of the 6th Battalion, 56th Air Defense Artillery (C/V)

Bitbury Air Base, Bitbury Germany

Location: Located 2 miles southeast of Bitburg, 20 miles north of Trier, and 135 miles west of Weisbaden, Federal Republic of Germany.

Date Established: September 1, 1952

Changes in Status: Closed 1994, Base was Decommissioned on October 1, 1994

Hahn Air Base, Germany

Location: Located 1 mile north of Lautzenhausen, 60 miles west of Wiesbaden, and 1 mile south of Hahn, Federal Republic of Germany.

Date Established: September 8, 1952

Changes in Status: Closed September 30th 1993, Base was decommissioned on September 30, 1993

 

Spangdahlem Air Base

Location: Located 1 mile northwest of Spangdahlem, 20 miles north of Trier/Mosel, and 10 miles east of Bitburg AB, Federal Republic of Germany.

Date Established: September 1, 1952

Changes in Status: Primary installation, 1 Sep 1952; off-base installation as half of the "twin-bases" of Spangdahlem and Bitburg Air Bases (controlled by Bitburg), 15 Sep 1969; primary installation, 1 Jan 1972



M167 Vulcan Gun Towed Firing (YouTube Video)


Chaparral Forward Area Air-Defense System (FAADS)
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