4th Missile Bn
517th Artillery
Canal Zone





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The 4th Battalion, 517th Artillery provided air defense for the Panama Canal Zone from the late 1950s through early 1970.  This web site is dedicated to 4th/517th veterans.

Palette Of Dummy Hawks In 4th Of July Parade  Balboa, CZ - 1965   (R.Doninelli)

M-42 Dusters In 4th Of July Parade, Balboa, CZ - 1965 (R. Doninelli)

M-42 Duster (Al Garrett)


The 517th Air Defense Artillery (ADA) was one of the regiments organized during 1957-1959 under the Army's Combat Arms Regimental System (C.A.R.S.).  It has not yet been determined which pre-existing Canal Zone AAA units were combined to form 4th Battalion, 517th Artillery. It is speculated that components of the 903rd AAA Battalion serving in the Canal Zone may have been incorporated into the 4/517th.  Sp4 Bobby J. Kinniard was assigned to Battery D, 746th AAA Battalion, Flamenco Island, in February 1957.  This Battery was equipped with 120 mm guns.  He reports that shortly after his arrival this became Battery D, 4th Gun Battalion, 517th Artillery.

Information from veterans indicates that in 1959 the 4/517th consisted of two batteries of 90mm guns and two of 120mm guns.  It was sited as follows.  Battery A with four 90mm guns was situated on a hill along the road to Ft. Sherman about 3 or 4 miles (est.) from the Gatun locks.  Battery B was located at Ft. Davis and had 120mm guns.  Batteries C and D had the same weaponry as A and B and along with Headquarters & Headquarters Battery were located on the Pacific side.

In 1960 the existing batteries of 90mm and 120mm guns were replaced by M-42 40mm "Duster" self propelled guns and Hawk missiles (The Panamanian Government objected to the placement of Nike Missiles.) and became the 4th Bn (Hawk-AW) 517th Artillery.    Brent Crawford, Battery A 1959-61, has reported that in 1960 Battery A (90mm guns) became Battery A (M-42 40mm Dusters).   Col. Lee Lewis (Ret.), 1st CO Battery D Hawk, tells us that in September 1960 Battery F 67th Arty. and Battery F 55th Arty. arrived in the Canal Zone to become batteries C and D (Hawk) of the 4th/517th.  Battery D 4th/517th was the Army's first operational Hawk battery.  It is not known which of the original gun batteries became Battery B (M-42 40mm Dusters) nor what became of the other two gun batteries.  In the final configuration (mid 1969 to early 1970), the battalion was reduced to the two batteries of M-42 Dusters.   It was then designated the 4th Battalion (AW-SP) 517th Artillery.  

The material presented here is mostly representative of the era from the arrival of the Hawks in 1960 until deactivation of the 4/517th in 1970.  During this period Headquarters, Headquarters Battery, the Army Air Defense Command Post, Battery B, an ammunition dump and the motor pool supporting these components were located at Fort Clayton near the Miraflores Locks.  Battery A was located at Ft. Davis on the Atlantic side but one platoon was detached and quartered near Ft. Sherman.  Battery D was quartered at Fort Sherman on the Atlantic side.  The Atlantic Radar was located on a hilltop above the road to San Lorenzo.  Battery C was located at Fort Grant on Flamenco Island in the Bay of Panama.  The Pacific Radar was quartered on Taboga Island some miles out in the Bay of Panama.  A storage and repair facility for the battalion's Hawk missiles, etc. was located at Corozal.


 View the locations of the 4/517th's components using Google Earth. 

Some locations are approximate.

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This site is maintained by Frederick (Bill) Cole (Sp5, HHB, Nov. 1968 - Apr. 1970) and is a work in progress.  It wouldn't be possible without the submission of photos, reminiscences, etc. by many 4/517th veterans.  Anyone with material, corrections, etc. please e-mail Bill Cole.


This  web site is dedicated to the memory of Lt. Warren Kirbo (2010) and SGM (Ret) Albert N. Garrett III (2014) for their input, encouragement and assistance.   Without them this web site would never have come into existence


We Sweep The Sky


Last Updated 05/28/2019