The History of the Dragon Brigade
Like all Air Defense Artillery units, the 35th ADA Brigade traces its lineage back to the American Coastal Artillery. On 1 June 1918, the 35th Coast Artillery Brigade was organized and constituted at Fort Hunt, Virginia in defense of the Potomac River. With the United States entering the Great War in Europe, however, it was only a matter of weeks before soldiers of the 35th were shipped across the Atlantic as part of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF).
The brigade arrived in France in September of 1918, just in time to participate in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The 35th fell in on European artillery pieces and helped the Allies overcome the German will to continue on with the war.
Artillerymen of the 35th Coast Artillery load a 14-inch rail gun during the Meuse-Argonne offensive in World War 1
With peace in Europe, the U.S. Army did not need to maintain its wartime strength. That following year, the 35th Coast Artillery was inactivated at Fort Totten, on the banks of Long Island, New York.
But peace was short-lived, and by 1942, the United States was once again headed to Europe and to war. During the interwar period, no military innovation witnessed a more extensive development than that of air power. The Axis Powers of Germany, Italy, and Japan were using aviation technology to their advantage, with the Allies struggling to catch up. From this came the need to create and field units capable of shooting down the enemy airplanes.
In January of 1942, the U.S. Army reactivated as 35th Coast Artillery Brigade at Camp Stewart, Georgia. The new anti-aircraft artillerymen trained rapidly on the 40mm Bofors cannon. Then, in April of 1943, the 35th sailed for North Africa, with the mission of providing anti-aircraft defense for the Fifth U.S. Army, recently activated in Morocco.
On 9 September 1943, the 35th Coast Artillery was part of the Allied invasion force that assaulted Salerno beachhead as part of Operation Avalanche. In doing so, the 35th became the first Allied Anti-Aircraft outfit to set foot on the European mainland during World War II.
Anti-Aircraft Artillerymen with 5th Army in Italy following the Salerno landings.
To address its new mission, the 35th Coast Artillery was renamed the 35th Anti-Aircraft Brigade and moved to England to prepare for the Allied assault on Hitler’s Atlantic Wall. During Operation Overlord in June of 1944, the 35th participated in the invasion of southern France where it achieved 406 confirmed and 286 probable kills on German Luftwaffe aircraft. This greatly assisted the Allied invasion force as it broke through the Nazi defensive line and liberated France. Less than a year later, the war in Europe would be over.
AA gunners on the coast of France following the Normandy Invasion.
After the conclusion of WWII, the 35th Brigade returned to the United States and was inactivated at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.
Over a 25 year period during the Cold War and Vietnam Era, the 35th Anti-Aircraft Brigade was reactivated at Fort Bliss, Texas and moved to Fort Meade, Maryland were it assumed the mission of providing anti-aircraft defense for the nation’s capitol. The focus of Air Defense during this period was to counter the threat of long range bombers targeting the United States. In 1957, the brigade set an Air Defense milestone by becoming the first Nike Ajax guided missile command, a weapons system that not only served as the face of the branch, but the military and geopolitical tensions of the time. During the height of the Cold War, Nike Ajax sites were established around the nation’s largest cities to defend against bomber attack. When the Ajax system was upgraded to the Hercules system in 1958, the 35th Artillery Brigade (Air Defense) oversaw the establishment of the nation’s third Nike Hercules site in Davidsonville, Maryland, the first such site on the east coast. As with previous conflicts of the century, the end of the Vietnam War would bring another inactivation for the Brigade, which took place at Fort Meade on 4 June 1973.
Army Vice Chief of Staff Lyman Lemnitzer marks the activation of the Nike Hercules site at Davidsonville, Maryland on 4 September 1958. The insignia on the podium is that of the U.S. Army Air Defense Command (ARADCOM).
It would be another twelve years before the brigade colors were raised again, this time as the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade at Fort Lewis, Washington on 1 June 1985 with the mission of supporting US Army I CORPS. At the time of this activation, the 35th Brigade was the only Corps ADA Brigade in the U.S. Army.
In six years, the members of the 35th ADA Brigade were back in combat, this time as part of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. 3-2 ADA, the “Eagles Dare” Battalion, deployed from Fort Lewis to Saudi Arabia to assist in the campaign to liberate Kuwait. Soldiers from 3-2 assumed a myriad of different missions in support of US and UN Forces.
Patriot Launcher site in the Saudi Desert during Operation Desert Storm
Following the attacks of September 11th, 2001, Air Defense Artillery branch answered the call to defend the homeland from future terrorist attacks. Elements of the 35th Brigade helped plan and execute Operation Clear Skies, which served as a component of the larger Joint Operation Noble Eagle designed to protect the National Capitol Region against aerial threats. While in Washington DC in 2003, Soldiers from the 35th Brigade helped in the development of tactics, techniques, and procedures that would be used for future Homeland Defense missions.
An Avenger Team defends the National Capitol in support of Operation Noble Eagle in 2003
When the US Army began to reshape the posture and design of its force in 2003, Air Defense Artillery was at the forefront of the transition. In addition to MTOE changes and new missions for a number of battalions within the branch, Air Defense also repositioned its assets around the globe to address the greatest Air and Missile threats. A key part of this repositioning was the movement of the 35th ADA Brigade from Fort Bliss, Texas to the Republic of South Korea which began in the summer of 2004. By the end of that year, the brigade was fully operational on the peninsula, with its headquarters at Osan Air Base, 48 miles south of Korea's Demilitarized Zone. This move made the newly named “Dragon Brigade,” the U.S. Army’s only forward-stationed ADA brigade. The brigade then oversaw the reshaping and expansion of the ADA defense design in theater that was highlighted by the addition of a second Patriot battalion, thereby establishing a battalion presence in both the northern and the southern sectors of the peninsula and greatly increasing the Air and Missile Defense capability for United States Forces Korea (USFK.) The two Patriot battalions were serving one year temporary change of station from CONUS. 2009 marked the end of the battalion rotations, with the 6-52 Air and Missile Defense Battalion and the 2-1 Air Defense Artillery Battalion permanently stationed under the 35th ADA Brigade.
Soldiers of the 35th ADA Brigade mark their arrival at Osan Air Base, Korea
Patriot Launchers watch the skies over Suwon Air Base, ROK
Over a proud history that stretches nearly a century, from the Meuse-Argonne, to Salerno and Normandy, to the Persian Gulf, and finally to the Land of the Morning Calm, the Soldiers of the 35th Brigade have always led the way in the mission of protecting the skies. To this day, the Dragon Brigade remains at the forward edge of Air Defense, facing down the most substantive air and missile threats to the United States military and its allies. Constantly on alert, well-trained, and proud of its distinguished history of service to the nation, the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade stands Ready in Defense.