Veterans Share Their Memories: Robert L. Santistevan, May 27, 2004
There is very little known about the action and the activities that were done by the members of the 495th AAA Gun Battalion during World War II. Our battalion spent 15 months in Iceland as air defense against the German bombers, JU 88s and other German types, at Selfoss, Iceland. Our battalion went to Iceland in August of 1942 and went to England in October of 1944. June of 1945 we went into France (D-Day Plus 20) [sic]. We were assigned to the 9th Air Force Command, a ground support unit, and we wore their patch. After, we went to Belgium.
Our primary job was anti-aircraft and our secondary job was anti-tank, anti-personnel and also coast artillery. In 1944 we were stationed outside of Brighton, England, and asked if we could shoot down German buzz bombs. Our battalion commander asked our battery commander if he thought we could shoot down the buzz bombs that were coming over England headed towards London. Our battery commander answered, "We'll give it a try." So our radar crew used SCR 584 radar, which aimed our four 90 mm guns, and the next buzz bomb that came through, we were alerted and given the order to fire. We brought that sucker down. People thought that it was just a lucky shot. And so they asked us to try it on the next three buzz bombs that came across. We brought those three down. The buzz bombs were coming in from Germany, and that became our primary mission during the war through Europe. We were stationed at various places in Europe after we went in to France D-Day Plus 20. We spent three months in Paris. And from Paris we went to Belgium. The town we were stationed in was Westwhazel [?], Belgium; we were there five and a half months shooting down buzz bombs. Two gun crews manned our guns 24 hours a day and we were shooting down three to four, sometimes five buzz bombs an hour. Our battalion (495th) accounted for close to, as I was told, 10,000 of these buzz bombs. Of this number, our battery accounted for just over 5,000. Our battery was stationed in second position so that we had first shot at the buzz bombs headed toward Paris, Antwerp, and London.
The buzz bomb was a German weapon that flew a distance, depending upon the amount of fuel, without a pilot. A pilotless, airborne bomb. We were fortunate that none of these bombs that we shot ever reached their target. Most of them were exploded in the air, and those that didn't landed in fields around our gun batteries and never reached their targets.