Evolution of the Artillery Branches

Regular Army artillery can trace its history back to the Revolutionary War. Known as the Artillery Corps, it was authorized in 1834 to display crossed cannons as its branch insignia. By 1898 there were seven regiments of artillery. Except in mission there was no distinction by designation between artillery which supported ground troops and that which defended America’s ports and coastlines.On 13 February 1901 the Artillery Corps was split into two components, the Coast Artillery and the Field Artillery, in recognition of the divergence in the two missions. Fourteen separate batteries of Field Artillery and eighty-two companies of Coast Artillery were organized and activated.

On 25 January 1907 the Artillery Corps designation was dropped and Coast Artillery and the Field Artillery became separate branches of the U.S. Army. The field artillery batteries were consolidated and expanded into six field artillery regiments.

During WW I thirteen additional regiments of coast artillery were constituted, activated and sent to France to serve as heavy artillery at corps and army level for the American Expeditionary Force. The regiments were equipped with either railroad-mounted naval guns, British 8-inch howitzers or French 155mm howitzers. The Regular Army and National Army field artillery expanded to some fifty regiments equipped with the 75mm field gun or the 155mm howitzer.

In 1921 and 1922 in recognition of the growing threat of air attack, two coast artillery regiments were activated as antiaircraft artillery. (One was the current 62nd Air Defense Artillery whose 1st Battalion served with the 25th Infantry Division from 1972-2005.) On 1 July 1924 the separate coast artillery companies were consolidated into the 1st through 7th Coast Artillery Regiments and the companies were redesignated batteries. In WW II the Coast Artillery continued to conduct harbor and coastal defense, but by 1942 antiaircraft artillery had became the Coast Artillery’s primary function.

At the start of WW II both of the artillery branches began to inactivate their regiments and move to an organizational structure of separate battalions under command of a division artillery or a separate group headquarters. Both field and antiaircraft artillery groups were assigned at army and corps level but would routinely place battalions in support of, or attached to, combat divisions. With the change to the group and separate battalion organization there was a significant loss of historical regimental identification as former battalions of famous regiments often received new triple-digit battalion designations.

The Army Reorganization Act of 1950 consolidated the Coast Artillery and Field Artillery branches into the Artillery Arm with plain crossed cannons as the Arm’s insignia.

During the Korean War era the Army for the first time, assigned an antiaircraft automatic weapons battalion to the division artillery of the infantry, airborne and armored divisions. In Korea the infantry division artillery primarily used the battalion in a ground support role.

The group and separate battalion organization was continued until 1957 when the Army reorganized for the atomic battlefield. As part of this reorganization, the Artillery Arm was redesignated as the Artillery Branch. The new branch insignia was crossed cannons surmounted with a missile.

Also beginning in 1957, all artillery units were assigned to eighty-one parent artillery regiments under the Combat Arms Regimental System (CARS) (see our Regimental System page) which for the artillery was designed in part to restore the designations, lineages and honors lost when regiments were broken up in WW II. The 1st through 7th Artillery Regiments were reconstituted by merging the 1st through 7th Field Artillery and Coast Artillery (AAA) battalions. Both field artillery and air defense artillery units were assigned to these regiments. (One of these units, the 9th Battalion, 1st Artillery served with the 25th Div Arty as a 105mm howitzer battalion from 1961-63.) The remaining seventy-four regiments exclusively deployed either field artillery or air defense artillery elements. As part of this reorganization the antiaircraft artillery battalions were withdrawn from the combat divisions.

By 1968 the Army recognized that with evolving technologies the divergence of missions was too great to maintain one branch and the Air Defense Artillery Branch was established. On 1 September 1971 the artillery regiments were redesignated as either field artillery or air defense artillery regiments. The 1st through 7th Field Artillery Regiments and the 1st through 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiments were reestablished. Once again the plain crossed cannons became the Field Artillery branch insignia while the crossed cannons with the surmounted missile was adopted as the branch insignia of the Air Defense Artillery.

Beginning in 1972 each combat division was once again assigned an air defense artillery battalion. Unlike the Korean War era, the battalion did not come under the command of the division artillery but served as a separate divisional battalion.

In 2004 the Army began a modular reorganization of the ten Active Component Divisions. The objective of the reorganization was to increase the number of cohesive deployable units by moving from a division-centric force to a brigade-centric force. Transforming to a modular designed force, the Army standardized its combat, combat support and combat service support unit designs.

The transformation had a major impact on how the divisional field artillery was organized as well as removing the air defense artillery battalion from the division. In the case of the field artillery the headquarters and headquarters battery of the division artillery of each division was inactivated. No longer would division field artillery battalions be in direct support of divisional maneuver brigades. Instead, a field artillery howitzer battalion would be assigned by Department of the Army to each brigade combat team and would furnish direct support to the maneuver battalions of that brigade.

The Army established four types of brigade combat teams. In the heavy brigade combat team the field artillery battalion consists of a headquarters and headquarters battery (HHB), and two firing batteries of self-propelled 155mm howitzers. In the Stryker brigade combat teams the field artillery battalion consists of a headquarters and service battery and three firing batteries of towed 155mm howitzers. In the infantry and airborne brigade combat teams the battalion consists of a HHB and two firing batteries of towed light 105 mm howitzers.

Above the brigade combat team echelon the transformation to a modular force called for a total of six Active Component Fires Brigades (formally designated field artillery brigades) composed of a total of some fifteen general support howitzer and rocket field artillery battalions.

The active component of the Air Defense Artillery will consist of a modular force of two Army air defense missile commands and four air defense artillery brigades. The four brigades are composed of a mix of fourteen Active Component and six National Guard air defense artillery battalions equipped with the Patriot or Avenger/Sentinel air defense missile systems.

While the Field Artillery and Air Defense Artillery will remain separate branches of the Army, the Air Defense Artillery School will move to Fort Sill, Oklahoma the home of the Field Artillery School where in FY 2008-09 the two schools will form the U.S. Army Net Fires Center.