The 5th Armored Artillery Group was activated at Camp Young, California on the 5th of September 1942. The Division Artillery Command of the 5th Armored Division had been taken from the Division and redesignated 5th Armored Artillery Group, consisting of Colonel JOHN M. WILLEMS commanding, a staff of two officers, and an enlisted strength of seventeen. Since it was the first unit of its kind, it was an experiment by the War Department in the face of many difficulties not immediately apparent, which, however, began to appear very shortly after activation.
Originally the Group Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment was designed as a tactical unit only to be attached to subordinate battalions for administration, supply, and medical treatment. As such, organization was under the Table of Organization of the Armored Division Artillery Command, which had a strength of six officers and twenty-eight men. Following this principle the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment was attached to the 65th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, which had also been taken from , the 5th Armored Division and made a separate battalion. The 65th was assigned to Group.
On the evening of the 14th of December the 5th Field Artillery Group Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment entrained at lndio, California, for the trip to the staging area at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. From the 19th of December 1942 until the 12th of January 1943 the hustle, bustle, confusion, and usual Port of Embarkation activities occupied the time, with six and twelve hour passes into New York for all at least once during the period.
The Group boarded the SS JOHN ERICSSON on the 12th of January, the loading lasting until late into the night. The voyage was uneventful, the main problem being sweating out the chow line for the two meals each day. On the ship we received the first of a series of guide books that were issued with each entry into a new country and also our first V mail forms. The first photographed V mail was received in April.