The 36th Division Archive
Corporal Arthur Potter
105mm Howitzer Crewman
C Battery, 132nd Field Artillery Battalion
Arthur Potter was born on 20 July 1911 in the growing town of Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Both his parents were born in Blackburn, England where they married in 1908, having one son before moving to the United States in 1910. First settling in Boston, the family moved to Fairhaven where Arthur’s father got a job as a boilermaker, and less than a year after their arrival Arthur came as their first son, and the first member of their family, to be born a citizen of the United States. He grew up watching his neighbors go and return from war and went through his education up to middle school. Rather than continue on, Arthur began making his own way and got a job with the New Bedford Dry Goods Company where he worked as a truck driver making deliveries and hauling stores across the region. In 1938 he married his wife, Elva, and before long watched as his country once again plunged into war.
He stayed in his work with New Bedford Dry Goods until he received his draft notice in the summer of 1943, officially enlisting that July. Trained as a 105mm howitzer crewman, he shipped overseas in January of 1944 and was assigned as a replacement to the heavily engaged 36th Infantry Division on February 11. Joining C Battery of the 132nd Field Artillery Battalion, Arthur was introduced to combat at the tail end of the devastating assault on Monte Cassino. Just a few days after he traveled up the mountains to join the battalion he and his comrades watched as the 500-year old monastery was turned into rubble by Allied bombers. The mountain fighting didn't stop there, however, and for the next month, the 132nd oversaw supporting fire for the 36th troops in the area, constantly receiving concentrations of mortar and AT gunfire from hidden German positions in random spots amongst the mountains.
From late March to early May the battalion spent training with its new unofficially attached regiment, the 142nd Infantry, and practiced more meaningful and accurate response fire to meet infantry regiment needs. In May the battalion went back on the line to support 85th ID operations on 11 May, firing over 6,500 rounds within three days to support their advance near Minturno. Afterward returning to the 36th, the rest of the month was spent supporting the assaults around Anzio before they landed there on 18 May. By this point, Arthur and the 132nd were primarily assigned to assisting the men of the 142nd IR with whatever supporting fire they needed. The move towards Rome was fast-paced and as the batteries followed the infantry, they often passed ruined or destroyed emplacements which they themselves recognized as their own prior targets.
At H+132 minutes on 15 August, Arthur and C Battery landed on the sandy beaches of Southern France in the vicinity of the 143rd IR. Much quieter than the Italian landings, the battalion quickly moved to support their de facto parent unit, the 142nd. The battles in the south and moving into France were much different from the mountain and valley fighting Arthur saw in Italy. Fighting was now fluid and the once oft-stationary battalion found itself on the move to seek and destroy German units rather than dislodge them. The Rhone Valley, however, proved more difficult and near Montelimar, the battalion let loose over 40 fire missions within two and a half hours to support 142nd and 143rd IR forces seeking to trap some cut-off German 19th Army units. At times firing less than 2,000 yards away from the enemy, the battalion had a devastating impact and was reported to have knocked out at least four Panzer VI King Tiger tanks with their precise fire. A few days later on 28 August the battalion singlehandedly obliterated a fleeing German column of over 500 vehicles, artillery pieces, and wagons seeking to escape in a bottleneck near Livron-Sur-Drone. Needless to say, Southern France saw the battalion at its finest.
The going only got rougher and on 15 September while Arthur and the other C Battery boys were sitting around their guns a large blast shook them and the 75mm round of a German Mark V Panther slammed into the ground beside them. The tank had been missed by the advancing infantry and fired from a concealed position in the woods beside them. With their howitzers pointed in the opposite direction and with no accessible anti-tank support, Arthur and his crewmates dove into the dirt and hoped for the best as the German armor continued firing rounds into their exposed position. Thankfully the Germans got nervous and left after a few minutes but not before wounding eight men, killing one, and damaging three of the battery’s guns.
The rest of the drive into deep France and Germany saw the battalion slow down as in the Italy days. The terrible mountain fighting at the Vosges turned the fast-paced advance into a slow-moving, ill-defined battle of lines with the snowy terrain holding up troops. Offensive fire missions turned into fire support as the T-Patchers worked their way through the German-laden bog. In early December the division began to emerge from the Vosges and the battalion performed supporting fire operations on the town of Selestat to support the 3rd Battalion, 142nd troops attacking there to cut off the supply route into the Colmar Pocket. Arthur and the battalion played an important role in the operation particularly in the defense of the town from a massive German counterattack on 12-13 December. The following months after Selestat saw the battalion push deeper into southern Germany and Arthur’s crew saw no more major targets, only performing smaller direct fire missions for various conflicts which popped up across the lines. In March they passed through the Siegfried line and a brief bout of German resistance yielded to the increasingly-common sight of mass surrenders. Even as a behind-the-lines supporting artillery battalion, Arthur’s battery was capturing groups of 10-15 soldiers by themselves every day who had been missed by the advancing infantry.
By the end of the war Arthur and his battalion were responsible for firing well over 130,000 rounds in support of the 36th Infantry Division and in the process he had earned four battle stars and an arrowhead for his participation in Southern France. As a 105mm crewman, he and his team played a critical role in the success of infantry operations throughout their journey. After some brief occupation duty Arthur was allowed to return home in December 1945 where he was discharged and went back to driving trucks rather than destroying them.