Criswell, Buster (P2, C2, L8)
Private Buster Criswell, 23, of Cedar Hill, Owen County, Kentucky was killed while serving on federal active duty with his unit on 4 June 1945. According to notes quoting the book “Dog Battery, Its Hidden History” by Dwight Tipton it is believed that he died in an accident near Mallersdorf, Germany. The German forces had officially surrendered on May 7th nearly a month before his death. One newspaper account refers to him as Ralph “Buster” Criswell Jr but all the other information found about him only lists his name as Buster to include his military documents.
Criswell attended Cedar Hill School in Owen County. Cedar Hill is a small community between Monterey and Owenton in Owen County. Criswell joined the Kentucky National Guard’s Troop A, 123rd Cavalry at Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky, on 15 October 1940. He listed his occupation as farmer. His unit was re-designated, Battery A, 103rd Coast Artillery Battalion (Anti Aircraft) in 1940. He entered federal service with his unit on 24 February 1941.
Criswell is buried in Plot E Row 8 Grave 15 in the Lorraine American Cemetery, St. Avold, France.
Cedar Hill Boy Dead
News Herald June 28, 1945
Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Criswell, Cedar Hill, received word Thursday that a son, Pvt. Ralph Jr. "Buster," 23, died June 4 in Germany. The War Department message, which came through the Red Cross, didn't contain any details. Buster had written them in April that he suffered a wound in his right hand and had been in a French hospital about a month. their last letter from him was received Saturday wee, and he was OK when he sent the message. Overseas more than three years, he had fought in seven major campaigns in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. He was also stationed in Ireland with his famous anti-aircraft unit. Surviving besides his parents are five sisters, Mesdames Porter Yance and Bill Fitzgerald and Misses Pear, Lou Ann and Patsy, and a brother, Don all of Cedar Hill.
Photo and additional information provided by Jennifer Nippert
History of the 103rd Coast Artillery Battalion
The reorganization ordered by the United States War Department shortly before World War II eliminated one of the oldest of military divisions: the Cavalry. Kentucky’s 123rd Cavalry was disbanded in 1940. Half of the 123rd became the 103rd Coast Artillery Battalion (Separate) (Antiaircraft) and the other half became the 106th Coast Artillery Battalion (Separate) (Antiaircraft). Inducted into federal active service on February 24, members of the 103rd reported to their home armory in Frankfort and on March 4 began training at Fort Sheridan, Illinois.
On 29 January 1942, the 103rd was assigned to the War Department, where it remained until February 14, when it was attached to the Fifth Army Corps. Receiving movement orders on April 11, the 103rd left Fort Sheridan on April 21, arriving in New York two days later. On April 30, the 103rd’s ship embarked from New York, arriving in Northern Ireland on May 15. It remained in the United Kingdom until orders issued on November 24 transferred it to North Africa. The 103rd arrived on December 8 and was assigned to the 34th Coast Artillery Brigade (Anti-aircraft).
On 2 July 1943, the 103rd left North Africa and went to Sicily. The battalion participated in the Sicily Campaign from July 9 to August 17, 1943. On November 13, the 103rd was reorganized and redesignated the 103rd AAA Automatic Weapons Battalion, relieved from assignment to the North African Theater of Operations, and reassigned to the European Theater of Operations. Departing Sicily on November 17, the 103rd arrived in Scotland on December 9. From December 1943 to September 1944, the 103rd was stationed in England.
Effective 14 August 1944, the 103rd was reorganized. On September 29, it was stationed at Belgium, remaining there until October 22. Effective 25 November, the 103rd was assigned to the 1st US Infantry Division. From October 1944, to 28 April 1945, the 103rd was assigned to the 3rd US Infantry Division in Germany. Between April 28 and May 6, the 103rd was in Czechoslovakia. The 103rd arrived in Nieder Leyern, Germany, on May 6 and departed in September of 1945. On 20 November 1945, the USS BARDSTOWN VICTORY embarked from Marseilles, France, arriving at New York November 30. On December 1, the 103rd AAA AW was inactivated.
The 103rd AAA AW Battalion was awarded battle credit for its participation in the following campaigns: Normandy, from June 6 to July 24, 1944; Northern France and Rhineland, from September 15, 1944, to March 21, 1945; Ardennes and Central Europe; and was cited twice to the Order of the Day of the Belgian Army and awarded the “Fourragere 1940” for outstanding performance of duty in action. The 103rd was also credited with participation in the amphibious assault landing in Sicily.