8 Cavalry History

8th Cavalry Regiment

Information compiled and composed by William H. Boudreau

At the end of the Civil War, the ranks of the Regular cavalry regiments were thin indeed, as were those of the other Regular regiments. Of the 448 companies of cavalry, infantry, and artillery authorized, 153 were not organized, and few, if any, of those in being were at full strength. By July 1866 this shortage had eased since many of the members of the disbanded Volunteer outfits had by then enlisted as Regulars. By that time, however, it became apparent in Washington that the Army, even at full strength, was not large enough to perform all its duties. Consequently, on 28 July Congress authorized 4 additional cavalry regiments and enough infantry companies to reorganize the existing 19 regiments- then under two different internal organizations- into 45 regiments with 10 companies each. After this increase there were 10 regiments of cavalry, 5 of artillery, and 45 of infantry.

Cavalry companies accounted for 20 percent of the total number of company sized organizations. The Regular Army’s authorized strength of approximately 57,000 officers and men was then more than double what it had been at the close of the war. The whole arrangement was remarkable because it was the first time in the nation’s history that the Regular establishment had been increased substantially immediately after a war. Recruiting, to obtain the increase in man power force levels, began at once. Emphasis was placed upon securing Veteran Volunteers before they left the service. The officers were selected from both Volunteers and Regulars; each candidate was required to have had at last two years of honorable service in the Civil War.

The new cavalry regiments, numbered 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th, were organized under the same tables as the 6 already in existence. A regiment consisted of 12 companies formed into 3 squadrons of 4 companies each. Besides the commanding officer who was a colonel, the regimental staff included 7 officers, 6 enlisted men, a surgeon, and 2 assistant surgeons. Each company was authorized 4 officers, 15 noncommissioned officers, and 72 privates. A civilian veterinarian accompanied the regiment although he was not included in the table of organization.

By General Order No. 92, A. G. O., 1866, the first field officer who accepted an appointment was Colonel John I. Gregg, who joined the unit for duty at Camp Whipple, Arizona, in December, 1866, assuming command of the regiment and the District of Prescott, Arizona. The other field officers were Lieutenant Colonel Devin and Major Price, who joined the unit in January 1867.

The 8th Cavalry Regiment, currently represented in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Brigades of the 1st Cavalry Division, was constituted in the Regular Army on 28 July 1866. Company “A” (now the 1st Battalion) was organized on 21 September 1866 at Angel Island, located in San Francisco Bay. California under the command of Colonel John I. Gregg. On October 23 1866, Company “B” (now the 2nd Battalion) was activated at the Presidio of San Francisco, California. On 17 November, one month later “C” Company (mow the 3rd Battalion) along with the remainder of the regiment was organized on Angel Island, California.

As a sign of the extent of the western immigration of 19th century America, their first mission was to escort settlers and fight Indians in the Northwest. These troops were composed chiefly of men enlisted on the Pacific Coast, and included many of the class styled “Forty-niners”; men who had passed months or years in the mines and were typical specimens of the roving order of citizens. Many of them were wild characters who enlisted in the same spirit of adventure which led them to the frontier, and who could not generally adapt themselves to the restraints of a military life. Many desertions occurred; the percentage to the end of the year 1867, being 41.8 percent.

The early history of 8th Cavalry Regiment was closely tied to the movement of people and trade along the southwest and on the western plains.These routes, a result of perceived “manifest destiny”, extended the domination of the United States into the far reaches of a largely unsettled western plains and southwestern territories. More and more wagon trains loaded with settlers, rolling west, were being attacked by Indians. The Army, having large areas of territory to protect, established a number of military posts at strategic locations throughout the West.

The sound of the bugle and the cry of “Charge” sent the thundering hooves of the US Cavalry Troopers, many who had former service in the Civil War, to oversee and protect the western bound settlers in an era when Indians roamed the western frontier and pioneering settlers clung to their land with determination. The 1st, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th and 10th Cavalry Regiments (all eventually subordinate maneuvering units of the 1st Cavalry Division) clashed with the Sioux, Comanche, Arapaho, Apache and the Indian Nations during the Indian Wars.

The current capability of the 8th Cavalry Regiment has been developed in conjunction with the long history of the 1st Cavalry Division. It is the combination of the experienced training received by each dedicated member of the Team and adherence to the performance level and traditions of the past. Highlights of the many subsequent historical critical missions performed by members of the 8th Cavalry Regiment and the honors they achieved are summarized in the chapters that follow:

On 22 January 1921 the 1st Cavalry Division was constituted in the US Regular Army. On 13 September 1921, with the initiation of the National Defense Act, the 1st Cavalry Division was formally activated at Ft. Bliss, TX and Major General Robert Lee Howze, a Texas native from Rusk County and seasoned Veteran of then Frontier Indian Wars, Spanish American War, Philippines Insurrection, Mexican Expedition, World War I and recipient of the Medal of Honor, was selected as its first Division Commander.

Upon formal activation, the 7th, 8th and 10th Cavalry Regiments were assigned to the new Division. With almost a century of service behind the oldest of its regiments and sixty five years of service for its youngest, the units that had already ridden and fought its way into the pages of history were organized into the newly formed divisional structure. The four regiments were now to fight side by side. Other units initially assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division in 1921 included the 1st and 2nd Machine Gun Squadrons, Weapons Troops, 10th Light Tank Company, 13th Signal Troop, 15th Veterinary Company, 27th Ordnance Company, 43rd Ambulance Company, 82nd Field Artillery Battalion (Horse) and the 1st Cavalry Quartermaster Trains which later was redesignated as the 15th Replacement Company.

Later, on 18 December 1922, the 5th Cavalry Regiment was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, relieving the 10th Cavalry Regiment. It would not be until 03 January 1933 that the 12th Cavalry Regiment, organized in 1901, would join the 1st Cavalry Division, relieving the 1st Cavalry Regiment. and it was not until 15 October, 1957, when the 4th Cavalry Regiment joined with the 1st Cavalry Division as the 2nd Battle Group, 4th Cavalry, (an element) of the Pentomic Division in ceremonies held in Tonggu, Korea when the colors of the 24th Infantry Division were retired and replaced by those of the 1st Cavalry Division.

As of today, the 8th Cavalry Regiment is currently represented by the following active Units:
The 1st Battalion, organized as a Combined Arms Battalion, is assigned to the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.
The 2nd Battalion, organized as a Combined Arms Battalion, is assigned to the 1st Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.
The 3rd Battalion, organized as a Combined Arms Battalion, is assigned to the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.
The 6th Squadron, organized as an Armed Reconnaissance Squadron, is assigned to the 4th Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

The 8th Cavalry Regiment, constituted 28 July 1866 and organized on 21 September 1866 at Camp Reynolds, Angel Island, California, was one of four cavalry regiments by which the military peace establishment was increased by an Act of Congress dated July 28th of that year. By General Order No. 92, A. and General Order, 1866, the first field officer who accepted an appointment was Colonel John I. Gregg, who joined the unit for duty at Camp Whipple, Arizona, in December, 1866, assuming command of the regiment and the District of Prescott, Arizona. The other field officers were Lieutenant Colonel Devin and Major Price, who joined the unit in January 1867.
The enlisted personnel were composed chiefly of men enlisted on the Pacific Coast, and included many of the class styled “Forty-niners”; men who had worked months or years in the mines and were typical specimens of the roving order of citizens. Many of them were wild characters who enlisted in the same spirit of adventure which led them to the frontier, and typically had difficulty in adapting themselves to the conformity of a military life. Many desertions occurred; the percentage rose to 41 by the end of 1867.
The officers assigned to the regiment were all Veterans of the Civil War, and came to duty with the experience which that involved.

19 September: the first Company, “A” (now the 1st Battalion), was organized at the Presidio of San Francisco with 1st Lieutenant James H. Lord, 2nd Artillery, being assigned to command.
23 October, 1866; Company “B” (now the 2nd Battalion, was organized at the Presidio of San Francisco with 2nd Lieutentant S. A. Porter, 14th Infantry, being assigned to command.
27 October, 1866; Company “C” (now the 3rtd Battalion), was organized at Angel Island, California with 1st Lieutenant R. I. Eskridge, 14th Infantry, being assigned to command.
27 October, 1866; Company “D”, was organized at Angel Island, California with 1st Lieutenant O. I. Converse, 14th Infantry, being assigned to command.
27 October, 1866; Company “E”, was organized at Angel Island, California with 1st Lieutenant I. H. Gallagher, 14th Infantry, being assigned to command.
27 October, 1866; Company “F”, was organized at Angel Island, California with 1st Lieutenant C. B. Western,, 14th Infantry, being assigned to command.
27 October, 1866; Company “G”, was organized at Angel Island, California with 1st Lieutenant C. B. Western,, 14th Infantry, being assigned to command.
27 October, 1866; Company “H”, was organized at Angel Island, California with 2nd Lieutenant. C. Gillott, 2nd Artillery, being assigned to command.
12 November, 1866; Company “I”, was organized at Presidio of San Francisco, with 2nd Lieutenant. J. E. Eastman, 2nd Artillery, being assigned to command.
01 December, 1866; Company “K”, was organized at Presidio of San Francisco, with 2nd Lieutenant. Greenleaf Cilley, 1st Cavalry, being assigned to command.
01 February, 1967; Company “L” was organized at Angel Island, California with Captain E. V. Sumner, 1st Cavalry, being assigned to command.
01 February, 1967; Company “M” was organized at Angel Island, California with 1st Lieutenant. W. R. Parnell, 1st Cavalry, being assigned to command.

The early part of the year 1867, the Companies relocated to more permanent stations which they were to occupy for some time:
Headquarters, Camp Whipple, A. T., Colonel John I. Gregg, 8th Cavalry, commanding regiment and District of Prescott, Arizona Territory.
Company “A”, Camp Winfield Scott, Nevada; Captain Murray Davis, 8th Cavalry, commanding.
Company “B”, Camp Cadiz, California; 1st Lieutenant Charles Hobart, 8th Cavalry, commanding. A detachment of 20 men were stationed at Rock Springs.
Company “C”, Fort Vancouver, Washington Territory; Captain William Kelly, 8th Cavalry, commanding.
Company “D”, Fort Walla Walla, Washington Territory; 1st Lieutenant O. J. Converse, 14th Infantry, commanding.
Company “E”, Fort Lapwai, Idaho; 1st Lieutenant J. H. Gallagher, 14th Infantry, commanding.
Company “F”, Camp Logan, Oregon; 1st Lieutenant C. B. Western, 14th Infantry, commanding.
Company “G”, Camp Reading, California; Captain R. H. Chapin. 8th Cavalry, commanding.
Company “H”, Benicia Barracks, California; 2nd Lieutenant William K. Owen, 32d Infantry, commanding.
Company “I”, Benicia Barracks, California; 2nd Lieutenant J. E. Eastman, 2d Artillery, commanding.
Company “K”, Benicia Barracks, California; 2nd Lieutenant Greenleaf Cilley, 1st Cavalry, commanding.
Company “L”, Benicia Barracks, California; Captain E. V. Sumner, 1st Cavalry, commanding.
Company “M”, Benicia Barracks, California; 1st Lieutenant W. R. Parnell, 1st Cavalry, commanding.

During the year 1867, “B”, “I”, “K” and “L” Companies had been sent to posts in Arizona, and the Companies of the regiment remained separated at posts in Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, California, and Arizona, until 1870, when ordered to New Mexico. In the subsequent early years, the regiment performed escort missions for the western bound immigration of wagon trains and the frontiersmen who had ventured into the hidden rough country to search for gold. In carrying out its mission, the 8th Regiment established guard details at strategic locations throughout the Pacific Northwest, in areas beyond railroad communications.

During December 1867, and January 1868, the headquarters was en route from Camp Whipple, AZ, to Churchill Barracks, NV, which became the headquarters of the District of Nevada. In May, headquarters was moved to Camp Halleck, NV, where it remained till 05 May 1870, when it was moved to Ft. Union, NM, by rail, via Cheyenne and St. Louis, MO. In the Southwest, in the early 1870’s the Comanches and Kiowas longed for the old life and began to roam from their reservations. The inevitable clashes, killings, and raiding on travelers and settlers began to occur, and the army was directed to solve the problem.

The several troops took stations at Ft. Union, Ft. Craig, Ft. Selden, Ft. Wingate, Ft. Bascom, Ft. Stanton, in New Mexico, and Ft. Garland, in the Colorado Territory. The duties during this period were of almost continuous field service by troops or detachments, scouting after Indian depredators, furnishing guards and escorts.

From October 1870 to July 1874, “C”, “G”, “I” and “K” Companies of the 8th Cavalry were stationed at Ft. Selden, New Mexico, a territorial fort established on the Rio Grande at the present site of Radium Springs, New Mexico. Their primary mission was to protect the settlers and travelers of the Mesilla Valley and San Augustine Pass from the marauding Gila and Mescalero Apaches. The location of the fort was an ancient Indian campground and a crossing point for Spanish caravans headed across the Jornada del Muerto (“Journey of Death”). The commander of the post established several remote picket posts in order to extend the range and areas of surveillance. Covering the Northern Sector, one picket post was located at Aleman Station, a halfway point on the Jornada del Muerto, which served as a stage station, post office, and later a telegraph office. In the South-East Sector, another picket post was located at San Augustine Pass, a gap in the San Andres Mountains which linked Las Cruces and White Sands. The nearest town was a rough place called Leasburg (still existing) which had saloons, nice friendly ladies, and a bad reputation for violence. It was soon placed off limits to the Soldiers.

In parallel to the encampment at Ft. Selden, Regimental Headquarters and three companies of the 8th Cavalry were assigned to Ft. Union, New Mexico, under the command of Major William R. Price. A campaign was organized to enter the Llano Estacado, the Staked Plains area of the Texas Panhandle, a favorite haunt of the warring bands of Comanches and Kiowas. Departing into the field in August 1874, the 8th Cavalry campaigned into the early months of 1875 before the troops finally returned to garrison. The Southern Plains were finally considered free of Indian threat and Ft. Union, settling into a period of reservation watching, held its troops in readiness for future troubles. The regiment remained in New Mexico, then far beyond railroad communications, performing the same duties till July, 1875, when it marched to Texas.

On 08 January 1876 headquarters took station at Ft. Clark, TX, During the period between 1875 and 1888, the regiment remained in Texas, with troops at different times being stationed at posts and camps from Ft. Brown, TX, near the mouth of the Rio Grande, to Ft. Hancock, near El Paso, TX. Border patrolling was the main duty for the years that followed.

One of the permanent stations for the 8th Cavalry was at Ft. Concho, Texas which was established in 1867. Ft. Concho was located on 40 acres just across the Concho River from San Angelo, TX. Their mission was to protect stagecoaches and wagon trains, escort mail deliveries, and map the new territories between the United States and Mexican border towns of the New Mexico-Texas Territory. Ft. Concho is now a national historic landmark recognized as the largest and best-preserved US Army fort of the 19th century.

In May 1888, the regiment prepared for the longest march ever taken by a cavalry regiment. With the increased number of settlers moving to the Northwest United States, the regiment was ordered to march more than 2,600 miles to its new regimental headquarters located at Ft. Meade, South Dakota and station at Ft. Keogh, Montana. Some of its march was along the famous Santa Fe Trail in New Mexico, near which carvings on large boulders and trees still gives mute testimony of the troops on the longest of all trails.

Units of the regiment soon saw action again, in Arizona as well in Oregon. In December of 1890, the 8th Cavalry Regiment joined key regiments in the history and development of the 1st Cavalry Division, the 7th and 9th Cavalry Regiments, and the 6th Cavalry Regiment at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. On 29 December 1890, the last major campaign to put down the last great Indian uprising; The Ghost Dance War. was initiated. As the Indian campaigns concluded, the 8th Cavalry turned their attention to patrol the far southwestern frontiers.

At the outbreak of the Spanish-American war in 1898, the 8th Regimental Headquarters and six troops went by rail to Camp A. G. Forse, Alabama and sailed from Savannah, Georgia for the Island of Cuba for a four year tour of duty to secure the peace. Their duties were varied and included protection of American citizens and their property.

Returning to the States in 1902, the Regiment was transferred to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri and subsequently to Ft. Riley, Kansas, where it remained on duty for three years. Ft. Riley had been established in the fall of 1852 when a surveying party under the command of Captain Robert Chilton, First Regiment of Dragoons (the original cavalry unit to become the roots of the 1st Cavalry Division), who selected its location.

In 1905, the Regiment was ordered to the Philippines with the assignment of defending the islands from Philippines guerrillas terrorist activities. In addition, they patrolled supply and communications lines and sources of water on the islands of Luzon and Jolo.

In 1907, with the completion of the assignment to the Philippine Islands, the Regiment was ordered back to the United States. Headquarters, 1st and 3rd Squadrons took station at Ft. Robinson, Nebraska, Troops “E” and “H” were stationed at D. A. Russel, Wyoming and “F” and “G” Troops were stationed at Ft. Yellowstone, Wyoming. During 1907, 1908, 1909 and 1910 the regiment was spread all over Arizona, Nebraska and Wyoming.

In 1910, the 8th Regiment returned to the Philippines for their second tour of Pacific duty. This time the Troopers fought the rebellious tribesmen on the island of Mindanao and in the Sulu Archipelago. In the battle of Bansak Mountain in June 1913, a total of 51 members of the 8th Cavalry’s “H” Troop joined other Soldiers in a violent battle with hundreds of Moro warriors on Jolo. The American force, lead by John J. Pershing, killed an estimated 300 Moro while suffering only light losses. Oddly this lopsided victory assisted Pershing in his job as Governor of Moro Province. This helped lead to more peaceful times in that region of the Philippines.

In September 1914, the regiment returned to Camp Stotsenberg, Philippine Islands and performed the usual garrison duties. On 21 September it joined with the 7th Cavalry Regiment to form a Provisional Cavalry Brigade.

On 12 September 1915, the regiment returned to the States and was stationed at Ft. Bliss, Texas. Troops were dispatched along the border town for the purpose of subduing the activity of Mexican bandits who were giving the ranchers a great deal of trouble. Responding to a border raid at Columbus, New Mexico by Poncho Villa, an expedition lead by Pershing was launched into Mexico on 15 March 1916. Destiny rode with the punitive expedition in yet another way. One young cavalry officer at Pershing’s side was a man especially fond of pistols. First Lieutenant George Smith Patton, Jr. an officer of the 8th Cavalry Regiment, and a brash believer of action, had become one of Pershing’s aids-de-camp. Impatient with the slow progress of the expedition, Patton personally rode out in search of Villa. He did not find the elusive Mexican raider. However, he did track down Villa’s body guard, Julio Cardenas, in the town of Miguel and killed him in a shootout.

In mid 1917, Troopers of the 8th Cavalry Regiment were transferred to Camp Marfa in the big bend country of Texas. The mission sector encompassed four hundred and twenty miles of river line, divided into patrol assignments from forty five to sixty miles for each troop. It covered fourteen thousand square miles, an area greater than the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut together, with terrain features varying from rugged mountain peaks, of which one hundred ninety six ranged from 4,000 feet to 7,000 feet in elevation, to rolling grassy plains and scorching deserts. It was a routine mission to clash with bands of Mexicans that crossed the Rio Grande to steal cattle or create other problems. The 8th regiment, lead by Colonel George T. Langhorne, also skirmished with members of various Mexican Revolutionary groups that conducted raids across the border.

In one unusual occurrence that may have foretold the future of the 1st Cavalry Division, the Troopers of the 8th were called upon to quickly reinforce the garrison at Presidio, 68 miles away, after a large Mexican force had crossed the border. The cavalrymen climbed into automobiles driven by citizens of Marfa and covered the distance in a speedy three and a half hours. They came in sight of the fleeing raiders, followed them to Rim Rock in the automobiles and made them drop the larger part of their plunder.

On 13 September 1921, with the initiation of the National Defense Act, the 1st Cavalry Division was formally activated at Ft. Bliss, Texas. The first unit of the 1st Cavalry Division, the famous 1st Cavalry Regiment, had been preassigned to the 1st Division on 20 August 1921, nearly a month before the formal divisional activation date. Upon formal activation, the 7th, 8th and 10th Cavalry Regiments were assigned to the new division. Other units initially assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division in 1921, included 82nd Field Artillery Battalion (Horse), the 13th Signal Troop, the 27th Ordnance Company, Division Headquarters and the 1st Cavalry Quartermaster train which later became the 15th Replacement Company. Major Robert L. Howze was assigned as the first division commander. The 5th Cavalry Regiment was assigned on 18 December 1922, relieving the 10th Cavalry Regiment. In subsequent years, the 12th Cavalry Regiment would be assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division on 03 January 1933, relieving the 1st Cavalry Regiment.

In the fall of 1923 the 1st Cavalry Division assembled at Camp Marfa, Texas to stage its first divisional-level maneuvers since its organization. The maneuvers were held in the Marfa-Shafter-Alamito area of the Big Bend District, Texas. The line of march was Fabens, Ft. Hancock, Sierra Blanca, Hot Wells, Lobo Flats, and Valentine. The wagon trains, all drawn by four mules (no motorized vehicles yet), seemed endless. Terrain covering an area of 900 square miles was obtained through the generosity and public spirit of ranch owners. The enormous tract was mapped and marked by a detachment from the 8th Engineer Battalion.

The actual maneuvers consisted of both one-sided and two-sided problems with brigade against brigade and included the entire division as a whole. The 12th Obvervation Squadron participated in maneuvers with the Division. The use of aircraft allowed the maneuvers, in every detail, to conform with actual war conditions. (It was during this period, from 1922 to 1923, that Captain Claire Chennault, of later “Flying Tiger” fame, served with the 12t has aviation engineer officer.) Since this was the first major United States Army training exercise since WW I, the maneuvers were attended by representatives of several foreign governments.

Published results of the exercises of the 1st Cavalry Division attracted the interest of other cavalry organizations, nationally and international, which placed emphasis on the incorporation of additional realism in successive exercises. From a Time Magazine article dated Monday, 10 October 1927: “Not since the Civil War had US cavalry engaged in maneuvers on the scale of those conducted last week on 120 square miles of terrain in and about Marfa, Texas. Some 280 officers, 4,000 men, 3,200 horses and 1,500 mules were deployed over gulches, hillocks and sagebrush plains – the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (Fort Bliss) playing “Brown” army to the “White” army of the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (Fort Bliss) and 1st Cavalry Regiment (Marfa). Tanks, cannon, airplanes, Red Cross ambulances and every appurtenance of real war, right down to hot weather, secrecy and red tape, accompanied the show.”

The depression of the 1930’s forced thousands of unemployed workers into the streets. From 1933 to 1936, the 3,300 Troopers of the 1st Cavalry Division provided training and leadership for 62,500 people of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Arizona-New Mexico District. One of these workers significant accomplishments was the construction of barracks for 20,000 anti-aircraft troops at Ft. Bliss, Texas. When World War II broke out, many of those who had been in the CCC were well prepared for the rigors of military training.

The entire Army was expanding and acquiring new equipment. Faster and lighter medium tanks were assigned to both, cavalry and infantry units. The mobile 105mm howitzer became the chief artillery piece of the Army Divisions. There was also a new urgency being expressed by Washington. Japan, which had invaded Manchuria in 1931, continued to expand conquests into China and Nazi Germany had annexed Austria and was threatening to seize Czechoslovakia. In 1938, against the background of international tensions, the 8th Cavalry Regiment joined in with the 1st Cavalry Division at its second divisional maneuvers in the mountains near Balmorhea, Texas. New units, including the 1st Signal Corps, the 27th Ordnance Company and the 1st Medical Squadron joined the 1st Cavalry Division.

The staging of the third divisional maneuvers near Balmorhea, Texas was made even more memorable and intense by their timing. The starting of the maneuvers, 01 September 1939, coincided with the invasion of Poland by Germany, who used the most modern and deadly military force of its time. Failing to influence Hitler of the grave consequences of his actions, both Great Britain and France initiated a declaration of war on 03 September 1939.

Having returned to Ft. Bliss from the 3rd Army Louisiana readiness maneuvers in October 1941, the 8th Cavalry Regiment was trained and ready for action. Isolationist politics was still strong in Congress. Major priorities were placed on building up the industrial capacity to supply equipment to the Allies in Europe. Many officers and men took leave or returned to civilian life. Other, more dedicated, members of the 1st Cavalry Division began to prepare for battle. They had no way of knowing that their first combat engagement would not be for more than two and a half years.

On 07 December 1941, without warning, the Japanese destroyed the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. Although the 1st Cavalry Division was created as a result of a proven need for large horse-mounted formations, by 1940 many thought that the march of progress had left the horse far behind. All doubt was erased with the surprise of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Immediately Troopers returned to the 1st Cavalry Division from all over the United States. They outfitted their horses and readied their weapons and vehicles in anticipation of the fight against the Axis.

In February 1943, the entire 1st Cavalry Division was alerted for an overseas assignment. An impatient 1st Cavalry Division was dismounted and they were processed for movement to the Southwest Pacific theater as foot solders. In mid June 1943, the last troops of the division departed Fort Bliss, Texas for Camp Stoneman, California and later on 03 July, boarded the “SS Monterey” and the “SS George Washington” for Australia and the Southwest Pacific.

On 26 July, three weeks later, the division arrived at Brisbane and began a fifteen mile trip to their new temporary home, Camp Strathpine, Queensland, Australia. The division received six months of intense combat jungle warfare training at Camp Strathpine in the wilds of scenic Queensland and amphibious training at nearby Moreton Bay. In January 1944 the division was ordered to leave Australia and sail to Oro Bay, New Guinea. After a period of staging in New Guinea, it was time for the 1st Cavalry Division to receive their first baptism of fire.

On 27 February, Task Force “Brewer”, consisting of 1,026 Troopers, embarked from Cape Sudest, Oro Bay, New Guinea under the command of Brigadier General William C. Chase. Their destination was a remote, Japanese occupied island of the Admiralties, Los Negros, where they were to make a reconnaissance of force and if feasible, capture Momote Airdrome and secure a beachhead for the reinforcements that would follow.

Just after 8:00 on 29 February, the 1st Cavalry Troopers climbed down the nets of the APD’s and into the LCM’s and LCPR’s, the flat bottomed landing craft of the Navy. The landing at Hayane Harbor took the Japanese by surprise. The first three waves of the assault troops from the 2nd Squadron, 5th Regiment reached the beach virtually unscathed. The fourth wave was less lucky. By then the Japanese had been able to readjust their guns to fire lower and some casualties were suffered.

Following the invasion of Los Negros, the 8th Regiment departed from New Guinea as the part of the reinforcements for the Admiralty Campaign. On 09 March 1944, they landed at Salami Beach, Los Negros Island. By 10-11 of March, mop up operations were underway all over the northern half of Los Negros and attention was being shifted to a much bigger objective immediately to the west; Manus Island.

The Manus Island invasion commenced at dawn 15 March, with heavy shelling, naval bombardment and air attacks. Soon afterward, the 2nd Brigade, under the command of Brigadier General Verne D. Mudge, surprised the enemy by swarming ashore at two beaches near the Lugos Mission Plantation. By dusk the 1st Squadron of the 8th Cavalry regiment had advanced past snipers and scattered resistance and dug in on the western edge of Lorengau Airdrome, the last airfield controlled by the Japanese. 16 March was a day of heros – and casualties – as Troopers charged or crawled through heavy machine gun fire to wipe out the enemy positions. Lorengau Airdrome was captured the next day, after the 7th Cavalry moved up to relieve the weary 8th Cavalry fighters.

On 18 March, the 2nd Brigade crossed the river in force and drove the enemy from Lorengau Village. The objectives were Rossum, a small village south of Lorengau and Salsia Plantation. By 21 March, the 8th Cavalry had won control of most of the plantation, but the battle for Rossum was slowed by heavy jungle which the Japanese used to their advantage. After 96 hours of bitter combat the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry was relieved by the 1st Squadron, 8th Cavalry. The final push to Rossum was made behind heavy artillery fire and air bombardment. On 28 March, the battle for Los Negros and Manus was over, except for mopping up operations.

The Admiralty Islands campaign officially ended on 18 May 1944. Japanese casualties stood at 3,317 killed. Training, discipline, determination and ingenuity had won over suicidal attacks. The 8th Cavalry Troopers were now seasoned Veterans.

On 12 October 1944, Columbus Day, the 1st Cavalry Division sailed away from its hard earned base in the Admiralties for the Leyte invasion, Operation KING II. On 20 October, the invasion force must have appeared awesome to the waiting Japanese as it swept toward the eastern shores of Leyte. Held in Corps reserve, the 8th Cavalry Regiment moved into the fighting on 23 October. The 1st Squadron, 8th Cavalry drove up a highway leading northwest of Tacloban and the 2nd Squadron advanced along the southern shore of the Sab Jaunico Strait which sealed off the route and opened the way for the invasion of Samar on 24 October. On Samar, after many patrols and skirmishes, the war heated up for the 8th Cavalry Regiment. On 05 December, the regiment was ordered to seize the town of Wright and establish control over the southwestern portion of the island. The Barrio of Hinabangan fell on 07 December, the third anniversary of Pearl Harbor. The Troopers fought their way into Wright on 13 December, and by 21 December, the towns of Catbalogan and Taft fell and the Campaign of Samar officially came to an end.

With the last of the strongholds of Leyte eliminated, the division moved on to Luzon, the main island of the Philippines. Leyte had been the biggest campaign of the Pacific war, but the record was about to be shattered by the invasion of Luzon. On 26 January, conveys were formed and departed for the Lingayan Gulf, Luzon Island, the Philippines. Landing without incident on 27 January, the regiment assembled in an area near Guimba and prepared for operations in the south and southwest areas. One of the First Team’s most noted feats was accomplished during the fighting for Luzon.

On 31 January 1945, General Douglas MacArthur issued the order “Go to Manila! Go around the Japs, bounce off the Japs, save your men, but get to Manila! Free the internees at Santo Tomas! Take the Malacanan Palace (the presidential palace) and the legislative building!” The next day, the “flying column”, as the element came to be known, jumped off to slice through 100 miles of Japanese territory. The rescue column, led by Brigadier General William C. Chase was a high risk gamble from the beginning. The column was able to get around, over and past each obstacle in its path.

The “race” for Manila was now between the 37th Division and the 1st Cavalry Division, with the cavalry in the lead. Since the operation had begun, its units had been fortunate enough to find bridges and fordable crossings almost everywhere they went. The column was able to get around, over and past each obstacle in its path. The 37th Division, on the other hand, was slowed down by difficult crossings which forced it to either ferry its artillery and tanks across or wait for the engineers to build bridges. On 02 February, Chase’s flying column was dashing toward Manila, sometimes at speeds of fifty miles per hour, with individual units competing for the honor of reaching the city first.

On 03 February, elements of the 1st Cavalry Division pushed into the northern outskirts of Manila, with only the steep-sided Tuliahan River separating them from the city proper. A squadron of the 8th Cavalry reached the bridge just moments after Japanese Soldiers had finished preparing it for demolition. As the two sides opened fire on one another, the Japanese lit the fuse leading to the carefully placed explosives. Without hesitation, Lt. James P. Sutton, a Navy demolitions expert attached to the division, dashed through the enemy fire and cut the burning fuse. The way to Manila was now clear.

At 1835 hours, 03 February, the rescue column crossed the city limits of Manila. Troop “F” of the 8th Cavalry, under the command of Captain Emery M. Hickman, swept “like lightning” through the heavy sniper fire, of the Japanese, to the White House of the Philippines in time to take control of the Malacanan Palace and save it from the torches of the desperate Japanese. As the gates were opened, cheering Filipinos emerged and helped the cavalrymen set up a defense perimeter around the palace grounds.

As the sun set over the ocean behind the advancing Americans, a single tank named “Battling Basic” crashed through the walls surrounding Santo Tomas University, the site of a camp holding almost 4,000 civilian prisoners. The Japanese guards put up little resistance. By 2100 hours, the internment camp at Santo Tomas was liberated and the prisoners, many of whom had been incarcerated for nearly two years, were liberated. By 03 March 1945, organized resistance in Manila was finally wiped out. The Division was able to add its first “First” to its history; “First in Manila”!

The next assignment given to the First Cavalry was the difficult task of cracking the Shimbu Line, a few miles east of Manila, and securing a front from Taytay on the North to Antiplo on the South. The goal was to prevent Japanese reinforcements from reaching Manila. The First Cavalry fought regiments abreast as it destroyed the Southern flank of the Shimbu Line. From north to south, the units involved were the 5th, 7th, 8th and 12th Regiments. Once high ground had been taken, the Troopers were given a weeks rest before taking on a new assignment to help clear southern Luzon of organized Japanese resistance. On 30 June 1945, when the Luzon Campaign was declared finally completed, the First Cavalry was in Lucena, at the southern end of the Tayabas Province.

On 13 August, the 1st Cavalry Division was alerted that they were selected to accompany General Douglas MacArthur to Tokyo and would be part of the 8th Army in the occupation of Japan. On 02 September, the long convey of ships steered into Yokohama Harbor and past the battleship Missouri where General MacArthur would later receive the Japanese surrender party. At noon on 05 September 1945, a reconnaissance party headed by Colonel Charles A. Sheldon, the Chief of Staff of the 1st Cavalry Division, entered Tokyo. This embarkment was the first official movement of American personnel into the capital of the mighty Japanese Empire.

At 0800 hours on 08 September, a history making convey left Hara-Machida with Tokyo as their destination. Headed by Major General William C. Chase, commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division, the party included a Veteran from each troop of the division. Passing through Hachioji, Fuchu and Chofu, the Cavalry halted briefly at the Tokyo City Limits. General Chase stepped across the line thereby putting the American Occupational Army officially in Tokyo and adding another “First” to its name; “First in Tokyo”.

The first mission of the division was to assume control of the city. On 16 September, the 1st Division was given responsibility for occupying the entire city of Tokyo and the adjacent parts of Tokyo and Saitama Prefectures. The command posts of the 1st Brigade, 5th Cavalry and 12th Cavalry were situated at Camp McGill at Otawa, approximately 20 miles south of Yokohama. The 2nd Brigade maintained its command post at the Imperial Guard Headquarters Buildings in Tokyo, while the 7th Cavalry was situated at the Merchant Marine School. The 8th Cavalry occupied the 3rd Imperial Guard Regiment Barracks in Tokyo, which provided greater proximity to security missions at the American and Russian Embassies and the Imperial Palace grounds. Division Headquarters and other units were stationed at Camp Drake near Tokyo.

Over the next five years, until the outbreak of the Korean War, the regiment was able to perform many valuable duties and services that helped Japan reconstruct and create a strong, viable economy. On 25 March 1949, the reorganization which began in 1945, was completed by redesignating troops as companies.

It happened before dawn on 25 June 1950. Less than 5 years after the terrible devastations of World War II, a new war broke out from a distant land whose name means “Morning Calm”. The decision of the United States to send immediate aid to South Korea came two days after the fast moving North Korean broke through the ROK defenses and sent tanks into the capital city of Seoul. In addition to the Air Force, Navy an Marines, a 1,000 man battalion from the 24th Infantry Division, including many specialists and noncommissioned officers transferred from the 1st Cavalry Division, arrived 30 June with a promise that more help was on the way.

On 18 July the 1st Cavalry Division was ordered to Korea. Initially scheduled to make an amphibious landing at Inchon, it was redirected to the southeastern coast of Korea at Pohang-dong a port 80 miles north of Pusan. The North Koreans were 25 miles away when elements of the 1st Cavalry Division swept ashore to successfully carry out the first amphibious landing of the Korean War. The 8th Cavalry Regiment, reinforced by division artillery and other units, moved by rail, truck and jeep to relieve the 21st Regiment, 24th Division near Yongdong. By 22 July, all regiments were deployed in battle positions; in itself a remarkable logistical achievement in the face of Typhoon Helene that pounded the Korean coastline.

The 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment was deployed north of Taegu, now the temporary capital of South Korea and astride the direct line of enemy advance. In the meantime the 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment held positions on the road from Maju to the southwest. Their baptism of fire came on 23 July. The 8th Regiment was hit by heavy artillery fire and mortar barrage, and North Korean infantrymen swarmed toward their entrenched positions. The next day the Troopers suffered their first severe combat losses. For more than 50 days between mid July and mid September, the First team Troopers and the UN Forces performed the difficult, bloody task of holding on to the vital Pusan Perimeter.

The turning point in this bloody battle came on 15 September 1950, when MacArthur unleashed his plan to go around the advancing North Korean Army, Operation Chromite – an amphibious landing at Inchon, far behind the North Korean lines. In spite of the many negative operational reasons given by critics of the plan, the Inchon landing was an immediate success allowing the 1st Cavalry Division to break out of the perimeter and start fighting north. The routes North was heavily mined. Rather than have the engineering battalion methodically screen and dig up the mines, 17 tanks of “A” Company, 70th Tank Battalion were sacrificed to rapidly clear the mines along the routes. It was during this massive offensive that the 3rd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, “C” Company and the “I” & “R” Platoon of the 70th Tank Battalion made the historical mission of “Task Force Lynch”, the Pusan Perimeter Breakout through 106.4 miles of enemy held territory to link up with the 7th Infantry Division at Osan.

From 28 September to 03 October, major efforts concentrated on mopping up operations of the large sector assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division. By 04 October, the division had re-instated the Northern offensive movements. On 05 October, the 1st Cavalry Division advanced north of Seoul for the purpose of securing the US I Corps assembly area near the 38th Parallel. Led by “I” Company, the 5th Cavalry Regiment crossed to the north side of the Imjin River at Munsan-ni. On 07 October, the 16th Reconnaissance Company entered Kaesong, and that evening elements of the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, arrived there. By evening of 08 October the 7th and 8th Cavalry Regiments had secured the I Corps assembly area in the vicinity of Kaesong. Some of the troops were within small arms range of the 38th Parallel. On 09 October, the 1st Cavalry Division crossed the 38th Parallel. On 19 October, Troopers of the 1st Cavalry Division crashed into Pyongyang, capturing the capital city of North Korea. This event marked the third “First” for the division – “First in Pyongyang”.

In late October 1950, orders came from I Corps to saddle up the rest of the division and move north. The Korean war seemed to be nearing a conclusion. The North Korean forces were being squeezed into a shrinking perimeter along the Yalu and the borders of Red China and Manchuria. By now, more than 135,000 Red troops had been captured and the North Korean Army was nearly destroyed.

On 25 October 1950, the Korean War took a grim new turn. The sudden intervention of Communist Chinese forces dashed hopes of a quick end to the war. On 29 October, the 8th Cavalry Regiment and “B” Company, 70th Tank Battalion advanced North from Pyongyong to Sukchon, Sinanju and to the vicinity of Unsan, with the mission of relieving ROK elements of the I Corps in the area. Later in the day of the 29th, the 8th Cavalry received orders to attack all the way to the Yalu River. On 31 October, at about 1500 hours, the Chinese Communist Forces cut the main road South. Meanwhile, the 5th Cavalry Regiment, accompanied by “A” Company, 70th Tank Battalion was ordered North to cover the withdrawal of the 8th Cavalry Regiment. Meanwhile, the 7th Cavalry Regiment had been called up from Chinnampo to assist in the withdrawal. By 01 November, the 8th Cavalry Regiment had advanced to within 50 miles of the Red China border and the three battalions had moved up to relieve part of the ROK 1st Division.

Later in the morning of 01 November, patrols from the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 8th Cavalry, clashed with Soldiers clearly identified as Red Chinese. Contact with the Chinese had begun increasing that afternoon, starting in the sector of the 1st Battalion, north of Unsan, then spreading west into the sector covered by the 2nd Battalion. By 1200 hours 01 November, the Chinese had cut and blocked the main road six air miles south of Unsan with sufficient strength to turn back two rifle companies which had been strongly supported by air strikes during daylight hours. The CCF had set the stage for an attack that night against the 8th Cavalry Regiment and the ROK 15th Regiment. In the afternoon of 01 November, the CCF attack north of Unsan had gained strength against the ROK 15th Regiment on the east, and gradually it extended west into the zone of the 8th Cavalry Regiment. At 1700 hours, the first probing attacks, accompanied by mortar barrages, came against their right flank units, “A” and “B” Companies, 1st Battalion. There was also something new in the enemy fire, support-rockets fired from trucks.

When dusk fell that evening enemy Soldiers were on three sides of the 8th Cavalry – the north, west, and south. Only the ground to the east, held by the ROK 15th Regiment, was not in Chinese possession. At 2330 hours, the CCF launched an all out attack on the positions of the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry. As the battle grew, the attack of the CCF, well planned and executed in strength, broke through the ROK 15th Regiment. Following the issue of warning alerts of an impending withdrawal and armed with the most recent intelligence data, Colonel Holmes, Chief of Staff, 1st Cavalry Division, issued a final order for the 8th Cavalry Regiment to withdraw at 2400 hours. Soon afterwards, at about 0100 hours 02 November, the CCF cut the withdrawal route of the 1st and 2nd Battalions.

The 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry had expended its basic ammunition as well as the reserve which had been sent down from the Regiment. “A” Company had engaged in “hand-to-hand” combat on both flanks. The 1st Battalion Commanding Officer, Major Millikin requested additional issues of ammunition. Receiving the division withdrawal order at midnight, with the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 8th Cavalry in heavy contact, the Regimental Commander, Colonel Palmer ordered a withdrawal to the south. The plan was for the 3rd Battalion to cover the withdrawal. Meanwhile, the 5th Cavalry, along with “A” Company, 70th Tank Battalion was ordered north to cover the planned withdrawal of the 8th Cavalry. In addition, the 7th Cavalry was called from Chinnampo to assist in the withdrawal.

The entire rear areas were swarming with the CCF. With heavy close-in fighting, the convoys of the 8th Cavalry Regimental Command Post (RCP) along with the 1st and 2nd Battalions managed withdraw under fire and to break through the CCF lines. Mostly, the men withdrew in scattered groups or as individuals. Many of the groups were lost as well as critical equipment needed to support the withdrawal.

By 0200 hours, 02 November, the Chinese had blocked the last remaining road for a possible retreat overland. South of Unsan, the 3rd Battalion, commanded by Major Ormond, had dug in just north of the Nammyon River. By dawn, the entire 3rd Battalion was completely surrounded. The bulk of the 3rd Battalion was trapped by the Chinese. They formed into two islands of resistance. All day long fighter aircraft and bombers pounded the enemy positions. The battalion took heavy losses in its officers and enlisted men. The Commanding Officer, Major Ormond, was badly wounded and the staff were all wounded or missing in action.

The Troopers used the daylight respite gained from the air cover to dig an elaborate series of trenches and retrieve rations and ammunition from the vehicles that had escaped destruction. A L-5 plane flew over and dropped a mail bag of morphine and bandages. At dusk, a helicopter also appeared and hovered momentarily a few feet above the 3rd Battalion, intending to land and evacuate the more seriously wounded, but enemy fire hit it and it departed without landing. The battalion group was able to communicate with the pilot of a Mosquito plane overhead who said a relief column was on its way.

The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 5th Cavalry attempted a break through from the south, but the CCF on “Eagle Hill” could not be dislodged from their defensive positions. The 5th Cavalry, after receiving more than 350 casualties, pulled back.

Just after dark, a plane dropped a message to the 3rd Battalion with orders that they are to begin an orderly withdrawal. The withdrawal route indicated was the only one possible, east from the road fork south of Unsan, across the Kuryong River, and then by the main supply route of the ROK 1st Division to Ipsok and Yongbyon. Major Millikin, 1st Battalion Commanding Officer, telephoned Colonel William Walton, 2nd Battalion Commanding Officer, that he would try to hold Unsan until the 2nd Battalion cleared the road junction south of it. Then he would withdraw. The 3rd Battalion, south of Unsan, was to bring up the regimental rear.

At dusk on 02 November, the Troops who were able to fight were ordered to attempt to break through the surrounding enemy. Among thse troops, Father Kapauna, a chaplin with Headquarters Company, 8th Cavalry Regiment and also a World War II Veteran, sacrificed his own safety while the regiment was attacked by hostile forces as he moved among the wounded to provide medical aid and comfort.

After examining all the options, the remaining men of the 3rd Battalion decided to stand and fight even though they faced a full division of the CCF. The night brought a heavy bombardment of 120mm mortar fire and a mass attack by the CCF. Over a thousand enemy died outside the perimeter. With their own ammunition nearly spent, during the lull that followed, the men searched the battlefield around the perimeter to retrieve weapons and ammunition from the enemy dead.

On the morning of 03 November a three man patrol went to the former battalion command post dugout and discovered that during the night the Chinese had taken out some of the wounded. That day there was no air support. Remaining rations were given to the wounded. Enemy fire kept everyone under cover. The night of 03 November was a repetition of the preceding one, another barrage followed by a mass attack, with the Chinese working closer all the time. With their own ammunition almost gone, after each enemy attack had been driven back, the men would crawl out and retrieve weapons and ammunition from the enemy dead.

The morning of 04 November disclosed that there were about 200 men left able to fight. Casualties had risen to about 250 men. A discussion of the situation brought the decision that those still physically able to make the attempt should try to escape. The remaining forces of the battalion broke up into small groups and withdrew in an attempt to escape under the cover of darkness. Some were successful and many were not. Most of those men were either killed or captured that day, apparently in the vicinity of Yongbyon.
Father Kapaun however, remained behind to administer medical treatment and render religious rites wherever needed. Upon capture, Kapaun and other POWs were forced to walk more than 85 miles to the city of Pyoktong, North Korea. While forcibly walking this march through snow and ice, Kapaun assisted the wounded and encouraged other Soldiers to do the same.

On 05 November, the Eighth Army announced that “as a result of an ambush” the 1st Cavalry Division would receive all the new replacements until further notice. In the next twelve days, The Eighth Army assigned 22 officers and 616 enlisted men as replacements to the 1st Cavalry Division. Nearly all of them went to the 8th Cavalry Regiment.

This event would be the most painful chapter in the proud history of the 1st Cavalry Division. At approximately 1600 hours on the afternoon of 06 November, the action of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry, as an organized force came to an end. It died gallantly. At first, more than 1,000 men of the 8th Cavalry Regiment were missing in action, but as the days passed, some of them returned to friendly lines along the Ch’ongch’on. Eventually the estimate was revised to a count of more than 600 officers and men that were lost at Unsan, most of them from the 3rd Battalion.

The heroic 3rd Battalion commander, Major Ormond, was among the wounded captured by the CCF in the perimeter beside the Kuryong. He subsequently died of his wounds and, according to some reports of surviving prisoners, was buried beside the road about five miles north of Unsan. Of his immediate staff, the battalion S-2 and S-4 also lost their lives in the Unsan action. About ten officers and somewhat less than 200 enlisted men of the 3rd Battalion escaped to rejoin the regiment. There were a few others who escaped later, some from captivity, and were given the status of recovered allied personnel.

Two weeks after the Unsan action, tank patrols were still bringing in men wounded at Unsan and fortunate enough to have been sheltered and cared for by friendly Koreans. On 22 November, the Chinese themselves, in a propaganda move, turned free 27 men who had been prisoners for two weeks or longer, 19 of them captured from the 8th Cavalry Regiment at Unsan.

While he was held captive, Father Kapaun attended around to more than 200 men that were also captive to say prayers and give support. He also secretly moved able-bodied men out to the countryside at night, while avoiding guards, to get food and firewood to help keep the prisoners alive. At this point the other POWs had dubbed him the “good thief.” Kapaun was a Prisoner of War from 02 November, 1950 until he died from a blood clot 23 May, 1951. For his actions, he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross 18 August, 1951.

On 11 April 2013, the award of the Distinguished Service Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor by President Barrack Obama. At the ceremony, Major General Anthony Ierardi, commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division indicated “Father Emil Kapaun is an American hero who embodies the Medal of Honor’s ideals as our nation’s highest award for military service. “He distinguished himself with valor before his capture and continued to care for his fellow Soldiers at a great risk to himself while interned in a Prisoner of War Camp. Although Father Kapaun did not survive to be liberated along with hundreds of the prisoners he ministered to and assisted, his faith, honor and selfless devotion to duty reflects the finest tradition of the US Army, the 1st Cavalry Division and the Army Chaplain Corps.”

The citation for the Medal of Honor reads as follows: Rank and organization: Captain (Chaplain), US Army, 3d Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.  Place and date: Unsan, Korea, November 1-2, 1950. Entered service at: Kansas.

“For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 3d Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy at Unsan, Korea, from November 1-2, 1950. On 01 November, as Chinese Communist Forces viciously attacked friendly elements, Chaplain Kapaun calmly walked through withering enemy fire in order to provide comfort and medical aid to his comrades and rescue friendly wounded from no-man’s land. Though the Americans successfully repelled the assault, they found themselves surrounded by the enemy. Facing annihilation, the able-bodied men were ordered to evacuate. However, Chaplain Kapaun, fully aware of his certain capture, elected to stay behind with the wounded. After the enemy succeeded in breaking through the defense in the early morning hours of 02 November, Chaplain Kapaun continually made rounds, as hand-to-hand combat ensued. As Chinese Communist Forces approached the American position, Chaplain Kapaun noticed an injured Chinese officer amongst the wounded and convinced him to negotiate the safe surrender of the American Forces. Shortly after his capture, Chaplain Kapaun, with complete disregard for his personal safety and unwavering resolve, bravely pushed aside an enemy Soldier preparing to execute Sergeant First Class Herbert A. Miller. Not only did Chaplain Kapaun’s gallantry save the life of Sergeant Miller, but also his unparalleled courage and leadership inspired all those present, including those who might have otherwise fled in panic, to remain and fight the enemy until captured. Chaplain Kapaun’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 3d Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, the 1st Cavalry Division, and the United States Army.”

For its actions, the 3rd Battalion was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation, comparable to the Medal of Honor given individuals for Valor above and beyond the Call of Duty, along with the Republic of Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Chryssoun Aristion Andrias {Gold Bravery Medal of Greece}.

In order to execute their battle plan, the Chinese and the nearly beaten North Korean forces had a trio of powerful allies located half way around the world. Three Britons, two working in the British Embassy in Washington, DC and a third heading the American Department in London, were Soviet agents. The three spies; H.A.R. “Kim” Philby, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, had access to communications between MacArthur and the Pentagon because Great Britain had sent its Commonwealth Brigade to be part of the UN military forces in Korea. Copies of communications relative to military planning of UN military organizations was sent directly to Moscow and relayed to Peking.

A massive confrontation with the Chinese seemed inevitable. But the Chinese did the unexpected; they drew back into the frozen hills from which they had suddenly materialized. On 24 November, General MacArthur launched a counter attack of 100,000 UN troops. Taking a chance, General MacArthur believed it necessary to push the Chinese back across the border. On 25 November, the 1st Cavalry Division moved up to the Taedong River, positioning behind the front lines. On 26/27 November, the enemy shook off heavy casualties and threw great waves of troops at two battle weary ROK divisions. With reinforcements, the Chinese were stopped at Sinchang-ni on 29 November. The counterattack gave the UN time to set up new defensive lines and begin an orderly withdrawal from North Korea.

By 28 December, the true extent of the enemy buildup had become clear. There was at least 20 Red Chinese divisions poised for a drive on Seoul. Now there was almost a million and a half Chinese and North Korean troops on the Korean peninsula. The UN Command had less than less than 250,000 seasoned Soldiers to repulse this juggernaut.

The new year began unexpectedly quiet. The First Team defenders readied their weapons, shored up their defenses and waited in the bitter cold. This time there was no surprise when the Chinese artillery began pounding the UN lines in the first few minutes of 1951. The units forward of the 38th Parallel were hit by the Chinese crossing the frozen Imjin River. Ignoring heavy losses, the Chinese crawled through mine fields and barbed wire. The United Nations Forces abandoned Seoul and fell back to the Han River. The Chinese drive lost its momentum when it crossed the Han and a lull fell over the front.

On 25 January 1951, the First Team, joined by the revitalized 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry rebounding from its tragedy at Unsan, moved back into action. The movement began as a reconnaissance in force to locate and assess the size of the Red Army, believed to be at least 174,000. The Eight Army moved slowly and methodically, ridge by ridge, phase line by phase line, wiping out each pocket of resistance before moving farther North. The advance covered 2 miles a day, despite heavy blinding snowstorms and subzero temperatures.

On 14 February, heavy fighting erupted around an objective known as Hill 578, which was finally was taken by the 7th Cavalry after overcoming stiff Chinese resistance. During this action General MacArthur paid a welcome visit to the 1st Team. The First Cavalry slowly advanced though snow and later, when it became warm, through torrential rains. The Red Army was slowly; but firmly, being pushed back. On 14 March, the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry had crossed the Hangchon River and on the 15th, Seoul was recaptured by elements of the 8th Army. New objectives were established to keep the Chinese from rebuilding and resupplying their forces and to advance to the “Kansas Line”, which roughly followed the 38th Parallel and the winding Imjin River.

On 22 April, 21 Chinese and 9 North Korean divisions slammed into Line Kansas. Their main objective was to recapture Seoul. The First Cavalry joined in the defense line and the bitter battle to keep the Reds out of the South Korean Capital. Stopped at Seoul, on 15 May, the Chinese attempted a go around maneuver in the dark. The 8th Army pushed them back to the Kansas Line and later the First Team moved deeper into North Korea, reaching the base of the “Iron Triangle”, an enemy supply area encompassing three small towns.

From 09 June to 27 November, the 1st Cavalry took on various rolls in the summer-fall campaign of the United Nations. On 18 July, a year after it had entered the war, the 1st Cavalry Division was assigned to a reserve status. This type of duty did not last for long. On the nights of 21 and 23 September, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions, 7th Cavalry repulsed waves of Red Chinese with hand to hand fighting. But harder work followed when Operation “Commando”, a mission to push the Chinese out of their winter defense positions south of the Yokkok River, was launched.

On 03 October, the 1st Team moved out from Line Wyoming and immediately into Chinese fire. For the next two days; hills were taken, lost and retaken. On the third day, the Chinese lines began to break in front of the 7th Cavalry. On 05 October, the 8th Cavalry recaptured Hill 418, a flanking hill on which the northern end of Line Jamestown was anchored. On 10 – 11 October, the Chinese counterattacked; twice, unsuccessfully against the 7th Cavalry. Two days later, the 8th Cavalry took the central pivot of the line, Hill 272. The southern end of Line Jamestown, along with a hill called “Old Baldy”, eventually fell to the determined 8th Cavalry Troopers. The Troopers did not know it, but Line Jamestown would be their last major combat of the Korean War. By December 1951, the division, after 549 days of continuous fighting, began rotation back to Hokkaido, Japan. The final echelon of the 1st Team, the 8th Cavalry Regiment, left for Japan on 30 December. The First Team had performed tough duties with honor, pride and valor with distinction.

On 27 November, the advance party from the division, left Korea and by late January 1952, all units had arrived on Hokkaido, under the command of Major General Thomas L. Harrold. Arriving in the port of Muroran, each unit was loaded on trains and moved to the new garrison areas. Three camps were established outside Sappro, the Islands capital city. Division Headquarters and the 7th Cavalry Regiment were stationed at Camp Crawford. The 5th Cavalry was stationed at Camp Chitose, Area I. The 8th Cavalry, the last unit to leave Korea, was stationed at Camp Chitose, Area II. The division controlled a huge training area of 155,000 acres. The mission of the division was to defend the Island of Hokkaido and to maintain maximum combat readiness.

On 16 October 1952, the 8th Regiment began debarkation at Pohangdon, Korea. History had repeated itself on this date, for the 8th Cavalry, three years and two months earlier, had participated in the first amphibious landing of the Korean conflict. For the next two months the regiment performed security missions around the familiar cities of Pusan and Taegu, away from the main fighting. On 12 December 1952, the 7th Regiment, the 77th Field Artillery Battery and Battery “B”, 29th Antiaircraft Battalion sailed for Pusan to relieve the 8th Regiment. By 20 December, the 8th Cavalry Troopers were all back in Hokkaido in time to celebrate Christmas.

The Korean War wound down to a negotiated halt when the long awaited armistice was signed at 10:00 on 27 July 1953. A DeMilitarized Zone (DMZ), a corridor – 4 kilometers wide and 249 kilometers long, was established dividing North and South Korea. The nominal line of the buffer zone is along the 38th parallel; however, the final negotiations of the adjacent geographical areas, gave the North Korean Government some 850 square miles south of the 38th parallel and the South Korean Government some 2,350 square miles north of it.

In September 1954, the Japanese assumed full responsibility for defending the Island of Hokkaido and the former home of the 1st Cavalry Division was turned over to the Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces. The entire First Team was relocated to the main Island of Honshu. Headquarters, 1st Cavalry Division and the 5th Cavalry Regiment were moved to Camp Schimmelpfennig outside Sendai. The 7th Cavalry Regiment and the 29th AAA AW Battalion occupied Camp Haugen, near Hachinohe. The 8th Cavalry Regiment began a motorized transport to a seaport, boarded LSTs for a rough journey to the main island of Honshu, landing in Tokyo Bay. Undertaking a combined march and motorized transport of 65 miles, they ended up at Camp Whittington, an abandoned Japanese airbase, located near Koisumi, north of Tokyo. For the next three years the Division guarded the northern sections of Honshu until a treaty was signed by the governments of Japan and the United States in 1957. This accord signaled the removal of all US ground forces from Japan’s main islands.

On 20 August 1957, the First Cavalry Division, guarding the northern sections of Honshu, Japan was reduced to zero strength and transferred to Korea (minus equipment). On 23 September 1957, General Order 89 announced the redesignation of the 24th Infantry Division as the 1st Cavalry Division and ordered a reorganization of the Division under the “pentomic” concept. In ceremonies held on 15 October, the colors of the 24th Division were retired and the colors of the 1st Cavalry Division were passed to the Commanding General of the old 24th Division, Major General Ralph W. Zwicker. “The First Team” had returned, standing ready to defend Korea against Communist aggression. As part of the “pentomic” reorganization, the 1st Battle Group, 8th Cavalry was one of the twenty subordinate units which were activated, organized and assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division.

The 1st Cavalry Division took over the facilities of the former 24th Infantry Division who were stationed at a Headquarters Compound located in the western defense corridor located at Bong il Chong in the Paju City area. Previous tenants, the 1st Marine Division, had relocated the summer villa and converted the rice patties, at the entrance to the valley, into an attractive lake. By the time the 1st Cavalry Division arrived, they were able to be billeted in permanent Quonset huts which had been constructed during a major program to improve the troops living conditions.

The redesignated and reorganized First Cavalry was assigned the mission of patrolling the “Freedom’s Frontier” (DMZ). In addition to their assigned duties of patrol along the southern border of the DMZ, training remained a number one priority for the Troopers and unit commanders. In January 1958, the largest training exercise in Korea since the end of hostilities, Operation Snowflake, was conducted. This exercise was followed by Operation Saber in May and Operation Horsefly in August. In June 1965, the 8th Cavalry Regiment began rotation back to the United States along with other units of the 1st Cavalry Division.

NOTE – Although fighting was stopped, in July 1953, by the armed truce, North and South Korea have remained officially in a state of war for forty-five years, signified by the fact that over 1,000 UN personnel have been killed in duty at the DMZ. As of today, because of communist obstructionist tactics, years have gone by and no peace treaty has ever been agreed to and signed. An ever present “alert” status is in effect, as evidenced by the presence of a North Korean military force of 1.1 million troops stationed within miles of the Demilitarized Zone facing the South Korean force of 660,000 troops supported by 37,000 American Soldiers stationed in the area.

The roots of the Vietnam War started in 1946 with the beginning of the First Indochina War. Vietnam was under French control at that time (as was Laos and Cambodia), and the Vietnamese, under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, wanted independence. So the Vietnamese and French fought each other in Vietnam. Eventually, in 1954, the Vietnamese defeated the French and both countries signed the Geneva Peace Accords, which, among other things, established a temporary division in Vietnam at the 17th parallel. The division of the country eventually led to the Vietnamese War.

The Geneva Accords stated that the division was to be temporary, and that national elections in 1956 would reunite the country. But the United States did not want to see Vietnam turn into a communist state, so the US supported the creation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, which provided defense for South Vietnam.

North Vietnam, then called the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, wanted a communist state, and South Vietnam, then called the Republic of Vietnam, wanted a non-communist state. In 1956, Ngo Dihn Diem, an anti-communist, won the presidential election in South Vietnam. But communist opposition in the south caused Diem numerous problems. And in 1959, southern communists decided to implement greater violence to try to oust Diem. This led to the formation of the National Liberation Front (NLF).

The NLF was a group of communists and non-communists who opposed diem and sought his ouster. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy sent a group to South Vietnam to determine what actions the US needed to take to assist them. When the group returned, they proffered recommendations in what became known as the “December 1961 White Paper” that indicated a need for an increased military presence; but many of the advisors of Kennedy wanted a complete pullout from the country.

In the end, Kennedy compromised and decided to increase the number of military advisors, but with the objective of not to engage in a massive military buildup. But in 1963, the government of Diem quickly began to unravel. The downfall began when Diem’s brother accused Buddhist monks of harboring communists — his brother then began raiding Buddhist pagodas in an attempt to find these communists.

The Buddhist monks immediately began protesting in the streets, and in Saigon on 05 October, 1963, one monk died by self-immolation. This incident caused international outrage and Diem was soon overthrown and killed. On 02 August, 1964, North Vietnam attacked an American ship in the Gulf of Tonkin that resulted in congress enacted the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which granted the president broad war powers.

Lyndon B. Johnson was the president at the time, and the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the resultant resolution marked the beginning of the major military build-up of America in the Vietnam War. In 1965, massive bombing missions by the US in North Vietnam, known as Operation ROLLING THUNDER, quickly escalated the conflict.

The 1st Cavalry Division went home in 1965, but only long enough to be reorganized and be prepared for a new mission. On 01 July 1965, the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) was officially activated. It was made up of resources of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) and brought to full strength by transfer of specialized elements of the 2nd Infantry Division. As a part of this reorganization, the 1st Battalion (Airborne) 188th Infantry was redesignated the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 8th Cavalry Regiment and the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 511th Infantry was redesignated the 2nd Battalion, (Airborne), 8th Cavalry Regiment. On 03 July 1965, in Doughboy Stadium at Fort Benning, Georgia the colors of the 11th Air Assault Division (Test) were cased and retired. As the band played the rousing strains of Garryowen, the colors of the 1st Cavalry Division were moved onto the field.

Within 90 days of becoming the Army’s first air mobile division, the First Team was back in combat as the first fully committed division of the Vietnam War. An advance party, on board C-124s and C-130s, arrived at Nha Trang between the 19th and 27th of August 1965. They joined with advance liaison forces and established a temporary base camp near An Khe, 36 miles inland from the coastal city of Qui Nhon. The remainder of the 1st Cavalry Division arrived by ship, landing at the harbor of Qui Nhon on the 12th and 13th of September, the 44th anniversary of the 1st Cavalry Division. In the Oriental calendar year of the “Horse”, mounted Soldiers had returned to war wearing the famous and feared patch of the First Cavalry Division. The First Team had entered its third war – and the longest tour of duty in combat history.

On 10 October 1965, in “Operation Shiny Bayonet”, the First Team initiated their first brigade-size airmobile action against the enemy. The ARVN 22nd Division was to make the initial contact and drive the Viet Cong toward the 3rd Brigade, deployed as a blocking action. The air assault task force consisted of the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 7th Cavalry, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry and the 1st Battalion, 21st Artillery. Rather than standing and fighting, the Viet Cong chose to disperse and slip away. Only light contact was achieved. The Troopers had but a short wait before they faced a tougher test of their fighting skills; the 35-day Pleiku Campaign.

On 23 October 1965, the first real combat test came at the historic order of General Westmoreland to send the First Team into an air assault mission to pursue and fight the enemy across 2,500 square miles of jungle. Troopers of the 1st Brigade and 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry swooped down on the NVA 33rd regiment before it could get away from Plei Me. The enemy regiment was scattered in the confusion and was quickly smashed.   During the fighting Troopers of “A” Company, 1-8th Cavalry made the first night air assault into a ‘hot” LZ on the evening of 3 November.  The 2-8th Cavalry fought the 33rd NVA Regiment near LZ Cavalarir on 4 November.  The 3rd Brigade joined the fighting on 09 November. Five days later, the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry air assaulted into the Ia Drang Valley near the Chu Pong Massif. Landing Zone X-Ray was “hot” from the start. At Landing Zone X-Ray, the Division’s first medal of honor in the Vietnam War was awarded to 2nd Lt. Walter J. Marm of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry. The fighting, the most intensive combat in the history of the division, raged for three days. When the 2nd Brigade surged into the melee, the North Vietnamese decided to cut their losses and flee from the Ia Drang Valley.

When the Pleiku Campaign ended on 25 November, Troopers of the First Team had killed 3,561 North Vietnamese Soldiers and captured 157 more. The Troopers destroyed two of three regiments of a North Vietnamese Division, earning the first Presidential Unit Citation given to a division in Vietnam. The enemy had been given their first major defeat and their carefully laid plans for conquest had been torn apart.

On 17 December, after a short rest, the 3rd Brigade went into action to conduct a four day operation known as “Clean House” in the vicinity of Binh Khe, in Binh Dinh Province’s Soui Ca Valley. From a position northeast of the valley, Troopers moved down from high ground to sweep through suspected VC areas. In the first 17 days of 1966, the 1st and 2nd Brigades were airlifted west of Pleiku and Kontum for Operation Matador.

On 25 January 1966, “Masher/White Wing”, which were code names for the missions of the 3rd Brigade, began in Binh Dinh Province. The mission ended 06 March 1966, with the enemy losing its grip on the Binh Dinh Province, however its name would be heard again and again during the next six years.

On 16 May, Operation Crazy Horse, another search and destroy mission began in the jungle hills between Suoi Ca and Vinh Thanah valleys. Initial contact was made by Company “B”, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry. Soon the entire 1st Brigade was involved in bitter engagements in tall elephant grass and heavily canopied jungle. Once the enemy was surrounded, all available firepower was concentrated on the area. The Viet Cong regiment was hit with artillery, aerial rockets, tactical air strikes by F-4s and bombs from high flying B-52s. Many of the enemy Soldiers, trying to flee the devastation, were cut down in Cavalry ambushes.

The Medal of Honor was bestowed upon Specialist Four David C. Dolby, a machine gunner in “B” Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry for actions above and beyond the call of duty on 21 May. After his platoon’s commander was mortally wounded, Dolby took command of the unit and covered its movement with his M-60. Repeatedly, he dodged fire from Viet Cong heavy machine guns and crawled forward close to enemy positions and hurled smoke grenades that market them as targets for aerial rocket artillery. He carried wounded Soldiers to safety and repeatedly wiped out Viet Cong machine guns until he and his men were ordered to withdraw.

When Crazy Horse was concluded on 05 June 1966, the bodies of 507 Viet Cong Soldiers were counted and another 380 were believed killed. Many important military documents, detailing the Viet Cong infrastructure in Binh Dinh, were discovered.

Thayer I was the largest air assault yet launched by the 1st Cavalry Division. Its mission was to rid Binh Dinh Province of NVA and Viet Cong Soldiers and the Viet Cong’s political infrastructure. On 16 September, Troopers of the 1st Brigade discovered an enemy regimental hospital, a factory for making grenades, antipersonnel mines and a variety of weapons. On 19 September, elements of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry traded fire with two NVA combat support companies east of Kim Song Valley in the Highway 506 Valley.

On 13 February 1967, Operation Pershing began in a territory which was familiar to many skytroopers, the Bong Son Plain in northern Binh Dinh Province. For the first time, the First Cavalry Division committed all three of its divisions to the same battle area. ARVN Soldiers familiar with the methods of the VC operations in the Bong Son Plain helped the skytroopers locate and eliminate the numerous caves and tunnels infiltrated by the enemy. For nearly a year the division scoured the Bong Son Plain, An Lao Valley and the hills of costal II Corps, seeking out enemy units and their sanctuaries. Pershing became a tedious, unglamorous mission that produced 18 major engagements and numerous minor skirmishes in the 11 month campaign.

The use of combat “call names” to improve radio communications originated in 1967, when several companies, working a single mission together, became confused by the rapid “chatter” which occurs during battle. “D” Company of the 2nd Battalion became known as “Angry Skipper”. The platoons were designated “White Skull”, “Rifle Range” and “Wild Cat”. The weapons/reconnaissance platoon became “Lethal Weapons”. These call names stayed with the units through the end of the Vietnam involvement in 1972.

The division began 1968, by terminating Operation Pershing, the longest of the 1st Cavalry’s Vietnam actions. When the operation ended on 21 January, the enemy had lost 5,401 Soldiers and 2,400 enemy Soldiers had been captured. In addition, some 1,300 individual and 137 crew weapons had been captured or destroyed.

Moving to I Corps, Vietnam’s northern most tactical zone, the division set up Camp Evans for their base camp. On January 31 1968, amid the celebration of the Vietnamese New Year, the enemy launched the Tet Offensive, a major effort to overrun South Vietnam. Some 7,000 enemy, well equipped, crack NVA regulars blasted their way into the imperial city of Hue, overpowering all but a few pockets of resistance held by ARVN troops and the US Marines. Within 24 hours, the invaders were joined by 7,000 NVA reinforcements. Almost simultaneously to the North of Hue, five battalions of North Vietnamese and Viet Cong attacked Quang Tri City, the capital of Vietnam’s northern province. The Cavalry went on the move with four companies of skytroopers from the 1st Battalions of the 5th and 12th Cavalry who arrived at the village of Thorn An Thai, just east of Quang Tri. Under heavy aerial rocket attack, the enemy quickly broke off the Quang Tri attack, dispersed into small groups and attempted to escape. Quang ri was liberated within 10 days.

Following fierce fighting at Thorn La Chu, the 3rd Brigade moved toward embattled city of Hue. The southwest wall of the city was soon taken after the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry overcome severe resistance and linked up with the 5th Battalion. At this point, the NVA and Viet Cong invaders were driven from Hue by late February. The Tet offensive was over. The NVA and Viet Cong had suffered a massive defeat, with 32,000 killed and 5,800 captured.

After shattering the enemy’s dreams of a Tet victory, the 1st Cavalry Division “Sky-Troopers” initiated Operation Pegasus to relieve the 3,500 US Marines and 2,100 ARVN Soldiers besieged by nearly 20,000 enemy Soldiers. On 01 April 1968, the 3rd Brigade, making a massive air assault within 5 miles of Khe Sanh, were soon followed by the 1st and 2nd Brigades and three ARVN Battalions. Company “A”, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry led the way, followed by “C” Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry. After four days of tough fighting, they marched into Khe Sanh to take over the defense of the battered base. Pursing the retreating North Vietnamese, the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry recaptured the Special Forces camp at Lang Vei uncovering large stockpiles of supplies and ammunition. The final statistics of Operation Pegasus were 1,259 enemy killed and more than 750 weapons captured.

On April 19 1968, Operation Delaware was launched into the cloud-shrouded A Shau Valley, near the Laotian border and 45 kilometers west of Hue. None of the Free World Forces had been in the valley since 1966, which was now being used as a way station on the supply route known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The first engagement was made by the 1st and 3rd Brigades. Under fire from mobile, 37 mm cannon and 0.50 caliber machine guns, they secured several landing zones. For the next month the brigades scoured the valley floor, clashing with enemy units and uncovering huge enemy caches of food, arms, ammunition, rockets, and Russian made tanks and bulldozers. By the time that Operation Delaware was ended on 17 May, the favorite Viet Cong sanctuary had been thoroughly disrupted.

In late 1968, the Division moved and set up operations in III Corps at the other end of South Vietnam. In February 1969, Operation Cheyenne Sabre began in areas northeast of Bien Hoa. The year 1969 ended in a high note for the 1st Cavalry Division. The enemy’s domination of the northern areas of III Corps had been smashed – thoroughly.

On 01 May 1970, the First Team was “First into Cambodia” hitting what was previously a Communist sanctuary. President Nixon has given the go-ahead for the surprise mission. Pushing into the “Fish Hook” region of the border and occupying the towns of Mimot and Snoul, Troopers scattered the enemy forces, depriving them of much needed supplies and ammunition. On 08 May, the Troopers of the 2nd Brigade found an enemy munitions base that they dubbed “Rock Island East”. Ending on 30 June, the mission to Cambodia far exceeded all expectations and proved to be one of the most successful operations of the First Team. All aspects of ground and air combat had been utilized. The enemy had lost enough men to field three NVA divisions and enough weapons to equip two divisions. A years supply of rice and corn had been seized. The Troopers and the ARVN Soldiers had found uncommonly large quantities of ammunition, including 1.5 millions rounds for small arms, 200,000 antiaircraft rounds and 143,000 rockets, mortar rounds and recoilless rifle rounds. The sweeps turned up 300 trucks, a Porsche sports car and a plush Mercedes-Benz sedan.

The campaign had severe political repercussions in the United States for the Nixon Administration. Pressure was mounting to remove America’s fighting men from the Vietnam War. Although there would be further assault operations, the war was beginning to wind down for many Troopers.

Although 26 March 1971 officially marked the end of duties in Vietnam for the 1st Cavalry Division, President Nixon’s program of “Vietnamization” required the continued presence of a strong US fighting force. The 2nd Battalion of the 5th Regiment, 1st Battalion of the 7th Regiment, 2nd Battalion of the 8th Regiment and 1st Battalion of the 12th Regiment along with specialized support units as “F” Troop, 9th Cavalry and Delta Company, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion helped establish the 3rd Brigade headquarters at Bien Hoa. Its primary mission was to interdict enemy infiltration and supply routes in War Zone D.

The 3rd Brigade was well equipped with helicopters from the 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion and later, a battery of “Blue Max”, aerial field units and two air cavalry troops. A QRF (Quick Reaction Force) – known as “Blue Platoons”, was maintained in support of any air assault action. The “Blues” traveled light, fought hard and had three primary missions; 1) to form a “field force” around any helicopter downed by enemy fire or mechanical failure; 2) to give quick backup to Ranger Patrols who made enemy contact; and 3) to search for enemy trails, caches and bunker complexes.

“Blue Max”, “F” Battery, 79th Aerial Field Artillery, was another familiar aerial artillery unit. Greatly appreciated by Troopers of the 1st Cavalry, its heavily armed Cobras flew a variety of fire missions in support of the operations of the 3rd Brigade. The pilots of “Blue Max” were among the most experienced combat fliers in the Vietnam War. Many had volunteered for the extra duty to cover the extended stay of the 1st Cavalry Division.

Most of the initial combat for the new brigade involved small skirmishes. But the actions became bigger and more significant. On 21 April 1971, “D” Company, 2nd Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment (“Angry Skipper”) became engaged in a very sharp action just north of FSB, Fanning near Gia Rai Mountain. They hit a NVA rear service unit holed up in a bunker complex. which was protected by a heavy security force. During the initial battle, four Troopers were killed in action and eighteen wounded, including all of the leadership of the 2nd platoon, commanded by 1st LT Bill Bott. After three days of fighting by the remaining company forces and using a combination of ground probes, heavy artillery and air strikes, they were finally able to enter and capture the bunker complex. During this action by “D” Company, “A” Company was inserted into blocking positions and were able to kill and capture a significant number of the enemy who were trying to escape the bunker complex.

Two additional engagements in May of 1971, were typical operations. On 12 May, the third platoon, Delta Company, 2/5th tangled with enemy forces holed up in bunker complexes. With help from the Air Force and 3rd Brigade Gunships, the Troopers captured the complex. Fifteen days later, helicopters of Bravo Troop, 1/9th received ground fire while conducting a reconnaissance mission over a large bunker complex. Air strikes were called in and the Troopers overran the complex.

The efforts of the 8th Cavalry Regiment were not limited to direct enemy engagements but also, using the experiences gained during the occupation of Japan and Korea, encompassed the essential rebuilding of the war torn country of South Vietnam. As a result of its’ gallant performance, the regiment was awarded two presidential Unit Citations and the Valorous Unit Citation.

By 31 March 1972, only 96,000 US troops were involved in the Vietnam combat operations. In mid June 1972, the stand-down ceremony for the 3rd Brigade was held in Bein Hoa and the colors were returned to the United States. The last Trooper left from Tan Son Nhut on 21 June, completing the division recall which had started on 05 May 1971. With the 3rd Brigade completing their withdraw, the 1st Cavalry had been the first army division to go to Vietnam and the last to leave.

“Firsts” had become the trademark of the First Team.

On 27 January 1973, a cease-fire was signed in Paris by the United States, South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the National Liberation Front (NLF), the civilian arm of the South Vietnam Communists. A Four-Party Joint Military Commission was set up to implement such provisions as the withdrawal of foreign troops and the release of prisoners. An International Commission of Control and Supervision was established to oversee the cease-fire.

On 05 May 1971, after 28 years, the colors of the 1st Cavalry Division, minus those of the 3rd Brigade, were moved from Vietnam to Texas, its birthplace. Using the assets and personnel of the 1st Armored Division, located at Fort Hood, Texas the 1st Cavalry Division was reorganized, reassigned to III Corps and received an experimental designation of the Triple-Capability (TRICAP) Division. Its mission, under the direction of Modern Army Selected Systems Test, Evaluation and Review (MASSTER) was to carry on a close identification with and test forward looking combined armor, air cavalry and airmobile concepts. The new 1st Cavalry Division consisted of the 1st Armored Brigade, the 2nd Air Cavalry Combat Brigade (ACCB) the 4th Airmobile Infantry Brigade, which the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, formally the 2nd Battalion, 52nd Infantry, was assigned. Division Artillery provided the fire support and Support Command provided normal troop support and service elements.

TRICAP, an acronym for TRIple-CAPability, was derived from combining the ground (mechanized infantry or armor) capability, airmobile infantry and air cavalry or attack helicopter forces. TRICAP I was held at Fort Hood, Texas beginning in February 1972. The purpose of TRICAP I was to investigate the effectiveness and operational employment of the TRICAP concept at battalion and company levels when conducting tactical operations in a 1979 European mid-intensity warfare environment. The exercise consisted of six phases; movement to contact, defense and delay, exploitation, elimination of penetration, rear area security and night elimination of penetration in an adjacent area.

On 26 June 1972, the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry along with the 3rd Brigade (Separate) was brought back to the United States, completing the last stage of the “Vietnam recall” for the 1st Cavalry Division which had started over a year earlier on 05 May 1971. On 28 June, the 2nd Battalion was inactivated at Fort Hood, Texas. Their period of inactivation was short lived. On 20 April 1974, the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment was reactivated, redesignated 2nd Battalion, (Armor), 8th Cavalry and reassigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas where it has been to the present.

The main body of the 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, under the direction of MASSTER, continued to test future concepts of mobility and flexibility on the battlefield. The tests continued for three and a half years were very demanding. It was concluded that the employment of the TRICAP concept at the battalion level appeared to have application in some tactical situations, but employment at company level appeared to be feasible only for short periods of combat and for special missions. Evaluation also indicated that air cavalry would normally be controlled above the company level. The battalion task force encountered no combat support problems directly attributable to the TRICAP concept.

On 21 February 1975, the end of TRICAP evaluations, the mission of airmobile anti-armor warfare was transferred to the 6th Cavalry Brigade (Air Combat) co-located at Fort Hood, Texas and the 1st Cavalry Division was reorganized and redesignated to become the newest Armored Division in the Army, essentially the battle configuration it retains today. It would not be until the end of the Gulf War and subsequent reorganization of 29 November 1992, when the 1st Battalion, 67th Regiment, 2nd Armored Division would be reflagged as the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment and assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, filling out the present organization structure.

In 1980, as part of the continuous Force Modernization and Preparation for combat of the unknown enemies of the future, the division was chosen to field test the new XM-1 tank. At the same time the division shed the battle weary M551 Sheridan armored reconnaissance airborne assault vehicles for M60 tanks. Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment and supporting troops of the 8th Cavalry Regiment were deployed to Germany as part of the Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercise to put together a combat ready tank battalion using stored (prepositioned) equipment. This mission lead to the formation of the annual autumn exercises to become known as REturn of FORces to GERmany (REFORGER).

In September 1982, the division’s first National Training Center (NTC) rotation at Fort Irwin, located in the High Mojave Desert of California, kicked off a long on-going series of tough, realistic desert battles which enables the division to stay on the leading edge of warfare technology of today. The first units to attend were the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry and 3rd Battalion, 10th Cavalry of the 2nd Brigade. The Division now conducts three NTC rotations per year.

The opening ceremonies for the new 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters Building were held in July. A modern brick, 124,000 square-foot facility replaced the original World War II structures, enabling the housing of the Division Staff under one roof. Major General William C. Chase (Retired), who commanded the Division in the final days of World War II through the occupation of Japan, participated in the ribbon cutting which was held during the 36th reunion of the Association.

In the fall of 1983, the division deployed to Europe for the annual REFORGER exercises. This deployment was consistent with the contingency plans for its NATO reinforcement role. REFORGER ’83 was the largest deployment of the division since Vietnam. A real test of war equipment repositioned stocks, REFORGER also marked the first time the exercise was lead by the Dutch.

Four years later, the 1st Cavalry Division deployed on REFORGER ’87 with the 2nd Armored Division. With the decline of the role of the Warsaw Pact, the sizes of subsequent REFORGER deployments were reduced, but command and control elements continued to evaluate the need for equipment types and repositioning of “war stocks” along with development of contingency plans to ensure the reliability and effectiveness of combat readiness, should deployment become necessary.

At Fort Hood, the division through deliberate planning, evolved into the combat unit which would be eventually assigned a major role in the Gulf War. Along with the constant training of personnel, equipment was updated. The XM-1 tank, renamed the M1 Abrams, was accepted and issued, along with the BFV (Bradley M2 Infantry) and CFV (M3 Cavalry) fighting vehicles. New technology was fielded in the MLRS (Multiple Launched Rocket Systems) and the AH-64 Apache helicopter with its “Hellfire” guided missile. The old reliable Jeep bowed to the HEMTT (Heavy Expanded Multi-purpose Tactical Truck), capable of hauling fuel, ammunition and various cargos, and the HMMWV (High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle, configured as troop/cargo carrier, light armored personnel carrier, communications equipment carrier and ambulance, – both of which proved to be invaluable in the Gulf War.

Along with the hardware technology changes, communication innovations made possible quantum leaps in command and control operations by the fielding of MSE (Mobile Subscriber Equipment) which, essentially cellular telephones for both fixed sites and mobile vehicles, provides secure mobile voice/data and facsimile service. The MSE is augmented by SINGARS, the Single Channel Ground to Air Communication System, which provides unprecedented security using frequency hopping technology.

All of this new equipment saw hard operational use at Fort Hood and by the deployment of brigades to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, located in the High Mojave Desert of California. This facility encompasses 1,000 square miles for maneuver training against the best trained opposing force in the world. The mission of Fort Irwin is to provide tough, realistic combined arms training at battalion task force level using both live fire and opposing forces. To carry out this mission, the National Training Center has a computerized, live-fire complex with sophisticated targetry, a full-time opposing force, a state-of-the-art range instrumentation system that monitors training battles and full-time combat trainers who observe and control units during exercises.

This effective training could have not come at a more opportune time in the history of the First Team. On 07 August 1990, a deployment order for the Southwest Asia operations was issued. Plans calling for the division to deploy by 15 September extended the work day to 14, 16 and in some cases 24 hours. On schedule, by mid September over 800 heavy loaded vehicles were loaded at the Fort Hood railhead to make the trip to the seaports of Houston and Beaumont. An additional 4,200 vehicles formed road conveys that left every two hours, around the clock.

On 16 September, in the final drama, Soldiers assembled for roll call, answering their name as called on the manifest. They were ready as the moment came; busses pulled up and were loaded for the trip to the airfield, The time for future memories had begun as a US Air Force C5A Galaxy, carrying the advanced party of headquarters staff, left Fort Hood, Robert Gray Army Airfield, heading to their rendezvous with destiny.

The United States Army Forces Central Command (ARCENT) – Kuwait, a major subordinate command of the United States ARCENT of Ft. McPherson, Georgia. and the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) of Tampa, Florida, is the operational unit of the US Army in Kuwait.

The mission of US ARCENT, Kuwait is to acquire, maintain and protect a heavy brigade (reinforced) equipment set, to plan, direct and support all joint training exercises with the Kuwaiti Armed Forces and, in concert with the Government of Kuwait, to establish and maintain the contingency plans for the security of Kuwait. The center of Central Command operations is at Camp Doha, twenty miles north of Kuwait City. Doha is a large logistics base with a working population of over two thousand personnel – US Soldiers and airmen, and both US and Kuwaiti contract personnel.

On 02 August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. In the background of this invasion there were three basic causes for this action. First, Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman Empire from the 18th century until 1899 when it asked for, and received, British protection in return for autonomy in local affairs. In 1961 Britain granted Kuwait independence. Iraq revived an old claim that Kuwait had been governed as part of an Ottoman province in southern Iraq and was therefore rightfully part of Iraq. This claim led to several confrontations over the years and continued hostility.

Second, rich deposits of oil straddled the ill-defined border and Iraq constantly claimed that Kuwaiti oil rigs were illegally tapping into Iraqi oil fields. Middle Eastern deserts make border delineation difficult and this has caused many conflicts in the region. Iraq also accused Kuwait of producing more oil than allowed under quotas set by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), thereby depressing the price of oil, the main source of money for Iraq.

Finally, the fallout from the First Persian Gulf War between Iraq and Iran strained relations between Baghdad and Kuwait. This war began with an Iraqi invasion of Iran and degenerated into a bloody form of trench warfare as the Iranians slowly drove Saddam Hussein’s armies back into Iraq. Kuwait and many other Arab nations supported Iraq against the Islamic Revolutionary government of Iran, fearful that Saddam’s defeat could herald a wave of Iranian-inspired revolution throughout the Arab world. Following the end of the war, relations between Iraq and Kuwait deteriorated due to a lack of gratitude and acknowledgement of the Baghdad government for financial assistance and help in logistic support provided by Kuwait during the war and the reawakening of old issues regarding the border and Kuwaiti sovereignty.

On 07 August, President George H. W. Bush ordered the organization of Desert Shield. The order prepared American troops to become part of an international coalition in a war against Iraq that would be launched as Desert Storm in January, 1991. This was a decision to deploy US forces on a massive scale to eject the Iraqis from Kuwait and protect Saudi Arabia. The lead unit for this deployment was the VII Corps from Germany.

In August 1990, the 1st Cavalry Division was alerted for deployment to Southwest Asia as part of the joint forces participating in Operation Desert Shield. The focus at that time was the defense of Saudi Arabia against potential Iraqi attack. The First Team Soldiers flew from Robert Gray Army Airfield to Dhahran International Airport via Paris, France and Cairo, Egypt. There, they settled into warehouses and tents to await the arrival of their equipment. As soon as their equipment arrived, they moved to the remote Assembly Area Horse (AA Horse) in the Saudi desert 160 miles west of the airport.

By the end of three months intensive training, the 1st Cavalry Division was one of the most modern and powerfully equipped divisions in the Army. The first glimpse of their capability came in December 1990, on the division’s Pegasus Range which had been built up from the sands of the Saudi desert. Every tank and Bradley crew test fired their new weapons as part of the new equipment transition training. Throughout this period, leaders of the division were planning and rehearsing the First Team’s role as the theater counterattack force – the force that would defeat any Iraqi attack into Saudi Arabia.

In January 1991, the division was attached to VII(US) Corps and the focus of the First Team clearly began to shift toward offensive action. The division moved its 17,000 Soldiers who were now accustomed to “jumping”, 500 kilometers to another assembly area near King Khalid Military City (KKMC) in northern Saudi Arabia. This repositioning put the division in a key strategic location covering the historic Wadi al Batin approach into Saudi Arabia and threatening Iraq along the same avenue into western Kuwait, completing defensive preparations along the Tapline Road. The 1st Brigade tied in with the 6th (French) Light Division to the left and the 2nd Brigade along with the 101st Airborne Division to the right.

The First Team began a calculated war of deception along the Saudi border. The goal was to lure Saddam Hussein into believing the main ground attack of the Allies would come up the Wadi al Batin, a natural invasion route, causing him to reposition additional forces there. The deception consisted of three major thrusts: (1) The First Team’s Multiple Launched Rocket Systems (MLRS) repeatedly lit the sky, battering targets deep in Iraq. (2) Cannon batteries fired Copperhead rounds (computer controlled, rocket assisted projectiles) and thousands of high explosive along with improved conventional munitions into Iraq. (3) The Aviation Brigade flew obstacle reduction and serial reconnaissance missions, identified, screened and designated targets for destruction by the division’s artillery units.

During 07 – 20 February, the offensive lines of the 1st Cavalry Division have crept north and are now just below the border. Both of the 1st and 2nd Brigades and supporting artillery conduct reconnaissance, artillery raids, and “Berm Buster” obstacle reduction missions. Desert Storm’s “First” major ground encounter was on 19/20 February 1991, when the division’s 2nd (Blackjack) Brigade conducted Operation Knight Strike I, 10 kilometers into Iraq, confirming and destroying enemy positions.

After thirty-eight days of continuous air attacks on targets in Iraq and Kuwait, the commander of the Allied Forces, General Norman Schwarzkopf unleashed all-out attacks against Iraqi forces very early on 24 February 1991. On that day, the mission of the 1st Cavalry Division was to conduct a “feint” attack up the Wadi al Batin, creating the illusion that it was the Allies main ground attack. Meanwhile, far to the west, the VII Corps and the XVIII Airborne had already began a deep strike into Iraq.

On the opening days of the ground war, 24 – 25 February, the Blackjack Brigade, supported by the Aviation Brigade Apache helicopters, in Operation QUICK STRIKE, moved into Iraq on a “reconnaissance in force”. The 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, reinforced by Battery “A”, 21st Field Artillery Multiple Launched Rocket Systems (MLRS) laid down heavy fire in support of the 2nd “Blackjack” Brigade’s “feint” attack up the Wadi al Batin. The Blackjack Brigade broke contact after penetrating enemy obstacles, taking fire and causing the enemy to light oil fire trenches. They withdrew south to rejoin the division for the subsequent series of final attacks.

The enemy reacted as anticipated. Iraqi divisions focused on the coalition threat in the Wadi, and the First Team froze them. The deception worked, in that it tied down four Iraqi divisions, leaving their flanks thinned and allowed the VII Corps to attack virtually unopposed, conducting a successful envelopment of Iraqi forces to the west.

Having fulfilled their assigned mission of deception, the following day, General Norman Schwarzkopf issued the command “Send in the First Team. Destroy the Republican Guard. Let’s go home”. In the approximate center of the allied line, along the Wadi al Batin, Maj. Gen. John H. Tilelli, Jr.’s 1st Cavalry Division swung west at noon the 26 of February, conducting refueling on the move, crossing the 1st Infantry Division breach sites and moving up the left side of VII Corps’ sector by late 26 February, and attacked north into a concentration of Iraqi divisions, whose commanders remained convinced that the Allies would use the Wadi al Batin and several other wadies as avenues of attack.

The first enemy encountered was the Iraqi 27th Infantry Division. That was not their first meeting. General Tilelli’s division had actually been probing the Iraqi defenses for some time. As these limited thrusts continued in the area that became known as the “Ruqi Pocket”. The 1st Cavalry found and destroyed elements of five Iraqi divisions, evidence that they had succeeded in their theater reserve mission of drawing and holding enemy units.

By mid afternoon 27 February, after a high-speed 190 mile (305 Km) move north and east, slicing into the enemy’s rear, General Tilelli’s brigades joined in with the 24th Division across the VII Corps’ boundary. The dust storms had cleared early in the day, revealing the most awesome array of armored and mechanized power fielded since World War II. In a panorama extending beyond visual limits 1,500 tanks, another 1,500 Bradleys and armored personnel carriers, 650 artillery pieces, and supply columns of hundreds of vehicles stretching into the dusty brown distance rolled east through Iraqi positions, as inexorable as a lava flow.

By 28 February 1991, when the cease-fire ordered by President Bush went into effect, the Iraqis had lost 3,847 of their 4,280 tanks, over half of their 2,880 armored personnel carriers, and nearly all of their 3,100 artillery pieces. Only five to seven of their forty-three combat divisions remained capable of offensive operations. In the days after the cease-fire the busiest Soldiers were those engaged in the monumental task of counting and caring for an estimated 60,000 prisoners.

1st Cavalry Division units setup defensive positions where the cease fire had stopped the attack, then in its final mission, expanded north to “Highway 8” clearing bunkers and looking for enemy equipment and Soldiers. The 1st (Ironhorse) Brigade stretched through the historic Euphrates River Valley. Within 2 weeks, the 1st Cavalry moved south into Saudi Arabia and the new assembly area (AA) Killeen. There on the plain of the Wadi al Batin – the Cavalry began to prepare for redeployment home.

Upon return to the United States, The first of a series of reorganizations were initiated in the period, May 1991 to August 1993, which resulted in a contingency force, ready to deploy anywhere in the world on a moments notice.

More to follow:

Highlights - CTA

Ghosts of Fallujah

Ghosts of Fallujah (written by Coley D. Tyler) is a first person account of the Second Battalion, Seventh Cavalry’s participation in the Second Battle of Fallujah, the largest single engagement of the Iraq War and the largest urban battle since Hue in 1968. A First Marine Division operation, it was spearheaded by one of the […]

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Need to request a Division asset: the Band, Horse CAV Detachment, or Honor Guard? Fill out the provided DD Form 2536 and email it to: SFC Kristin M. Chandler at usarmy.hood.1-cd.mbx.1cd-division-comrel@mail.mil.  If you have any questions about filling out the form call SFC Chandler at 254-288-2601. DD2536 Asset Request Form