The 687th Field Artillery Battalion A few months back I came across a grouping with documents and insignias that came from a Captain serving with the 687th Field Artillery Battalion during WWII. As the price was really good and the unit played quite an important part in the early days of the Bulge, fighting in the region my family originally comes from, I didn’t hesitate and bought the grouping! Since then I dug through my library, going through the many books I have on the subject and I’ve been doing some research on the web and in some local archives to fill in the gaps. I was lucky to get some After action reports as well as excerpts of the Battalion's Army Journal (Thanks to Mister Jeff Olson). So I thought I would do a little write up of what I found and post it in here! Every critique is welcome, please excuse my poor english, it's not my native tongue! Activation and the campaign in France The 687th Field Artillery Battalion was activated, respectively reorganized from the 2nd battalion of the 18th Field Artillery Regiment, at Fort Sill on the 8th of February 1943. At that time Fort Sill was home to the Field Artillery School and the Field Artillery Replacement Training Centre where the 18th FA Rgt had served as artillery demonstration and training regiment. The new Field Artillery Battalion was reorganized as a light FA Bn, and converted from 155mm truck drawn howitzers to 105mm truck drawn howitzers, with three four gun batteries and a service battery as well as a HQ battery. A DUI of the 18th Field Artillery Regiment coming from Captain Philip M.Turner. The battalion left the Zone of Interior through BPE (Boston Port of Embarkation) on the 11th of February 1944, to disembark in England on the 23rd of February 1944. The 687th entered the ETO on the 17th of July 1944 at Utah beach and was placed under the command of Middleton’s VIII Corps. It saw action in Normandy and Brittany. It was heavily engaged in the battle for Brest-Crozon where it was for a while under the command of the 174th FA Group, soon to be temporarily attached to the 2nd ID (from the 21st of August to the 11th of September), in order to support Task Force B on the Plougastel peninsula. This period was characterized by heavy fighting and acute shortage of artillery ammunition. On the 20th of September, after the fighting for Brest was concluded, the 687th FA Bn regrouped at Chateaulin to take quarters at a Rest Camp near Lesneven on the same day. There the men spent some days on well earned R&R, getting hot meals, trading rations for fresh food with the locals, taking hot showers. They also had time to check and do maintenance on their equipment and see some movies, as well in a theatre in town as in an outdoor theatre run by the 174th FA Grp. The soldiers and officers also described the souvenirs they bought from locals, mainly the crocheted scarves, gloves and jackets that are famous for the region. They also had the chance to visit USO shows and the customary Red Cross vans with donuts and hot coffee were omnipresent. On the 29th their time in “GI’s paradise” was up, the battalion started a 650 mile road march to Luxembourg via Paris. On the 29th of September they covered the stretch: • Morlaix • Guingamp • Saint-Brieuc • Dinan • Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier On the 30th of September their road took them through : • Fougères • Mayenne • Fresnay-sur-Sarthe • Alençon • Mortagne-au-Perche • Châteauneuf-en-Thymerais On the 1st of October they made it through: • Versailles • Le Bourget airfield • Compiègne • Noyon • Saint-Quentin • Guise On the 2nd of October they continued their road march crossing into Belgium and finally arriving in Luxembourg, in the vicinity of Wiltz: • La Capelle • Chimay • Givet • Dinant • Marche-en-Famenne • Bastogne • Schumann Crossroads The road march seems to have been rather uneventful, in the evenings the Battalion bivouacked in fields and meadows, it seems as there were quite many contacts with the local population, bartering food, playing with the kids, getting free drinks and food. One night they even took the village kids of Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier for Jeep rides, in Belgium the fresh and delightful local beer seems to have made quite an impression! The only noteworthy incident was the involuntary, or maybe not so involuntary, break up of the marching column and detour through the city-centre of Paris! As the Army Diary describes it: “…and were the women ever slickly dressed…”. Some evenings the march ended quite late and the pup tents had to be put up in the darkness before the chow truck served meals of a rather questionable quality. When they savoured a cool beer in the “Schumann’s Eck” Pub on the evening of the 2nd of October, after putting up their pup tents, none of the artillery men presaged, neither their own hard fighting nearby on the 19th of December 1944, nor any of the horrible slaughters that were to take place at the Schumann crossroads in January 1945!