7th 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.
Recruits for a regiment of cavalry were concentrated at Fort Riley, Kansas, in August, 1866. On 10 September, the work of organization was inaugurated by Major John W. Davidson of the 2nd Cavalry, and completed by Colonel Smith, on the 22d December. The new regiment was first designated in orders as the “Eighth Cavalry,” but the figure eight subsequently gave way to the cabalistic (mystic) number – “Seven”.
Andrew J. Smith, a Veteran of the Mexican War, who had been a distinguished cavalry leader in the Army of the West during the Civil War, promoted to colonel, took command of the new regiment. The 7th Cavalry Regiment was constituted in the Regular Army on 28 July 1866 at Fort Riley, Kansas and organized on 21 September 1866.
The early history of 7th 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 7th 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 7th 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 7th Cavalry Regiment is currently represented by the following active Units:
The 1st Squadron, organized as an Armored Reconnaissance Squadron, is assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division currently stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.
The 2nd Battalion, organized as a Combined Arms Battalion, is assigned to the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.
The 3rd Squadron, organized as an Armed Reconnaissance Squadron, is assigned to the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
The 5th Squadron organized as an Armed Reconnaissance Squadron, is assigned to the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
One could not write about the history of the 7th Cavalry Regiment without providing background information on one of the most influential figures which shaped the “Spirit of the 7th Cavalry Regiment”, General George Armstrong Custer
On 05 December 1839, Custer was born in New-Rumley, Harrison County, Ohio. He obtained a good common education, and after graduating engaged for a time in teaching school. In June 1857, through the influence of Honorable John A. Bingham, a member of Congress from Ohio, he obtained an appointment and was admitted to the United States Military Academy at West Point on 01 July. When Ft. Sumter was fired on, Custer, in the class of ’62, was graduated early on 24 June 1861 with standing of 34th in one of the brightest classes that had graduated to date.
Immediately upon leaving West Point he was appointed Second Lieutenant in “G” Company the Second United States Cavalry, a regiment which had formerly been commanded by Robert E. Lee. On 20 July, the day preceding the Battle of Bull Run, Custer reported to Lieutenant General Scott. The Commander in Chief gave him the choice of accepting a position on his staff or of joining his regiment, then under command of General McDowell in the field at Centreville, Virginia. Longing for an opportunity to see active service, and determined to win distinction, Lieutenant Custer chose the field assignment, and after riding all night through a country filled with people who were, to say the least, not friendly, he reached the headquarters of McDowell at daybreak on the morning of the 21st. Preparations for the battle had already begun, and after delivering his dispatches from General Scott and hastily partaking of a mouthful of coffee and a piece of hard bread he joined his company.
It is not necessary to recount the disasters of the fight that followed, but Custer’s company was among the last to leave the battle field. He rode at the rear of his company as it retreated that night in good order, bringing off General Heintzelman, who had been wounded in the engagement. The young officer continued to serve with his company, and was engaged in the drilling of volunteer recruits in and about the defenses of Washington, when upon the appointment of Phil Kearny to the position of Brigadier General, that lamented officer gave him a position on his staff. Custer continued in this position until an order was issued from the War Department prohibiting Generals of Volunteers from appointing officers of the regular Army to staff duty. He then returned to his company, not, however, until he had been warmly complimented by General Kearny upon the prompt and efficient manner in which he had performed the duties assigned to him.
Lieutenant Custer marched forward with that part of the Army of the Potomac which moved upon Manassas after its evacuation by the rebels. The cavalry was in advance, under General Stoneman and encountered the rebel horsemen for the first time near Catlett’s Station. The commanding officer made a call for volunteers to charge the enemy’s advance post. Lieutenant Custer was among the first to step to the front, and in command of his company he shortly afterward made his first charge. He drove the rebels across Muddy Creek, wounded a number of them, and had one of his own men injured. This was the first blood drawn in the campaign under McClellan. After this Custer went with the Army of the Potomac to the Peninsula and remained with his company until the Army settled down before Yorktown, when he was detailed as an Assistant Engineer of the left wing, under Sumner. Acting in this capacity he planned and erected the earthworks nearest the enemy’s lines.
He also accompanied the advance under General Hancock in pursuit of the enemy from Yorktown. Shortly afterward, he captured the first battle flag ever secured by the Army of the Potomac. From this time on he was nearly always the first in every work of daring. When the Army reached the Chickahominy he was the first man to cross the river; he did so in the face of the fire of the enemy’s pickets, and at times was obliged to wade up to his armpits. For this brave act General. McClellan promoted him to Captain and made him one of his personal aids. In this capacity he served during most of the Peninsula Campaign, and participated in all its battles, including the bloody seven days fight. He preformed the duty of marking out the position which was occupied by the Union Army at the battle of Gaines’ Mills. He also participated in the campaign which ended in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam. On 07 November 1862, General McClellan was relieved from the command of the Army of the Potomac. In loyalty to his former commander, Custer accompanied him back to Washington, and for a time was out of active service.
In November, Custer went home to Monroe to await further orders. There at a party on Thanksgiving Day, he met Elizabeth Bacon, who was to later become his wife. He was next engaged in the battle of Chancellorsville, and immediately after that fight he was made a personal aid by General Pleasonton, who was then commanding a division of cavalry. Serving in this capacity he took an active part in a number of hotly contested engagements and marked himself as one of the most dashing, some said the most reckless, officers in the service. When Pleasonton was made a Major General, his first pleasure was to remember the valuable services of his Aid de Camp. He requested the appointment of four Brigadiers to command under him, and upon his recommendation, indorsed by Generals. Meade and Hooker, on June 29, 1863, young Custer was promoted to Brigadier General and assigned to the command of the First, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Michigan Cavalry.
He did noble service at the battle of Gettysburg. He held the right of line, and was obliged to face Hampton’s division of cavalry, and after a hotly contested fight, utterly routed the rebels and prevented them from reaching the trains of the Union Army, which they hoped to capture. Custer had two horses shot under him in this fight. Hardly had the battle concluded when he was sent to attack the enemy’s train, which was trying to force its way to the Potomac. He destroyed more than four hundred wagons. At Hagerstown, during a severe engagement, he again had his horse shot under him. At Falling Waters, shortly after, he attacked with his small brigade the entire rebel rear guard. The Confederate commander General Pettigrew was killed and his command routed, with a loss of 1,300 prisoners, two cannons, and four battle flags.
For some time after this fight Custer was constantly engaged in skirmishing with the enemy, and during the Winter which followed in picketing the Rapidan between the two armies. He participated in the battle of the Wilderness in 1864, and on 09 May, under General Sheridan, he set out on the famous raid toward Richmond. His brigade led the column, captured Beaver Dam, burned the station and a train of cars loaded with supplies, and released 400 Union prisoners. Rejoining Grant’s Army on the Pamunkey, he took an active part in several engagements. After the battle of Fisher’s Hill, Custer was placed in command of the 3rd Cavalry Division on 30 September 1864. He saved the day at Dinwiddie Court House in March 1865. At the Battle of Five Forks on 01 April 1865, he picked up the fallen colors and leapt over the enemy earthworks with them in hand, overrunning Picket’s command.
At the ever memorable battle of Cedar Creek his division was on the right, and not engaged in the rout of the morning, so that when Sheridan arrived on the field, after a twenty mile ride, he found at least one command ready for service. His immediate order was “Go in Custer!” The brave young General only waited for the word, he went in and never came out until the enemy was driven several miles beyond the battlefield. Nearly one thousand prisoners were captured, among them a Major General. Forty five pieces of artillery were also taken. For this service, in April 1865, Custer was promoted to Brevet (a commission giving a military officer higher nominal rank than that for which pay is received) Major General of Volunteers. Sheridan, as a further mark of approbation, detailed him to carry the news of the victory and the captured battle flag to Washington.
From this time on his fortune was made, and he continued steadily to advance in the esteem of his superiors and of the American people. When the rebels fell back to Appomattox, Custer had the advance of Sheridan’s command, and his share in the action is well described in the entertaining volume entitled; “With Sheridan in His Last Campaign”. The book in question says: “When the sun was an hour high in the west, energetic Custer in advance spied the depot and four heavy trains of freight cars; he quickly ordered his leading regiments to circle out to the left through the woods, and as they gained the railroad beyond the station he led the rest of his division pellmell down the road and enveloped the train as quick as winking. Custer might not well conduct a siege of regular approaches; but for a sudden dash, Custer against the world.” At Appomattox, Custer received Lee’s surrender. After the signing of the documents of surrender at Wilmer McClean’s house, General Sheridan paid twenty dollars for the table upon which the document was written, and gave it to Custer as a reward for his many years of service.
With the Civil War coming to an end, the necessity of pulling together a divided nation became a prime priority. Custer was given his first post war assignment to join General Sheridan in Texas who had been given command of the cavalry division of the Military District of the Southwest. Custer was charged with conducting an expedition to Texas 1): to force Confederate General Edmund Kirby-Smith to surrender, 2): to provide an occupation force in Texas and 3): to display a show of force against the French adventurers in Mexico. In May 1865, Custer departed Washington.
In addition to his wife (known to all as “Libbie”), the entourage was comprised of his Civil War Staff, including his brother, Tom, and his father. on the payroll as a forager. They traveled down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to Alexander, Louisiana, where Custer took command of his old volunteer division. They then proceeded to march into Texas. The first stop of the expedition was at Hempstead, Texas. Soon they moved on to Austin to establish a more permanent Headquarters for Custer and his staff. Custer readied his forces to march into Mexico to drive Emperor Maximilian and his cohorts out, but no orders were issued. Custer stayed in Texas solely to impose order.
At the end of the War, the need for command officers was no longer there and many, to stay in service, accepted demotions to a lower rank and paid the wages of rank now held, but was always given the respect and the title of the higher rank previously held. On 01 February 1866 Custer’s volunteer commission expired and he was reduced in rank to Captain, 5th Cavalry, He then entered the painstakingly slow promotion process that was customary in the small regular army. That’s why Custer was always referred to as “General Custer”. On 04 February 1866, Custer was recalled to Washington to present his official report to the Joint Committee on Reconstruction.
By the summer of 1866, 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.
On 28 July 1866. one of the new authorized cavalry units was constituted in the Regular Army as the 7th Cavalry Regiment. Recruits for the regiment of cavalry were concentrated at Fort Riley, Kansas, in August, 1866. On 10 September, the work of organization was inaugurated by Major John W. Davidson of the 2nd Cavalry.
With the organization of the new 7th Cavalry on 28 July 1866, Custer was offered a commission in the unit as Lieutenant Colonel. In August he was invited by President Johnson to accompany him on a tour around the nation. They made stops in Buffalo, Erie, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Springfield, St. Louis, and back to Washington.
On 21 September 1866 the 7th Cavalry Regiment was organized at Fort Riley, Kansas and Andrew J. Smith, a Veteran of the Mexican War, who had been a distinguished cavalry leader in the Army of the West during the Civil War, was promoted to colonel and assigned command. Meanwhile the party of President Johnson continued its tour and it was not until November 1866 that the picturesque cavalryman, George A. Custer, one of Sheridan’s most trusted division commanders, finally reported to Fort Riley to take up his new position as lieutenant colonel.
The senior major was a Soldier of the old school – Alfred Gibbs; the other majors were Wickliffe Cooper and Joel H. Elliott, both young officers of great promise, and with distinguished war records. Among the captains were, William Thompson, Frederick W. Benteen, Myles W. Keogh, Robert M. West, “Mike” Sheridan, Louis McLane Hamilton and Albert Barnitz. The roster of lieutenants also showed many well-known names, among them: “Tom” Custer, brother of the general; W. W. Cooke, H. J. Nowlan, A. E. Smith, “Tom” Weir, Owen Hale, “Sam” Robbins, Myles Moylan, James M. Bell and Henry Jackson.
The conclusion of the Civil War in 1865 emphasized the importance of Fort Riley, Kansas in providing protection to the railroad lines being built across Kansas. Evidence of this occurred in the summer and fall of 1866 when the Union Pacific Railroad reached Fort Riley and the 7th Cavalry Regiment was organized at the fort, commanded by Colonel Andrew J. Smith. The regiment’s ranks were filled with a hard bitten crew of trappers, Veterans from the Civil War and frontiersmen who presented an organizational challenge for Brevet Major General George Armstrong Custer, appointed to the vacant Lieutenant Colonel position, who had arrived in November to take charge of the new regiment.
In 1867, one of Custer’s first official acts with the Seventh Cavalry was to organize a regimental band. The reason that “Garryowen” was adopted as the regimental song, as the story goes – one of the Irish “melting pot” Troopers of the 7th Cavalry, under the influence of “spirits”, was singing the song. By chance Custer heard the melody, liked the cadence, and soon began to hum the tune himself. The tune has a lively beat, that accentuates the cadence of marching horses. Soon the tune was played so often that the 7th Cavalry became known as the “Garryowen” Regiment. “Garryowen eventually became the official song of the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas in 1981.
In March 1867, when Indian attacks became more and more violent in the high plains of western Kansas and eastern Colorado, Custer and the 7th Cavalry was given their first opportunity to see what fighting Indians was all about. Under the command of General Hancock, they marched from Fort Riley to Fort Larned, Kansas where they were joined by 6 infantry companies and a battery of artillery, creating a task force consisting of over 1,400 men.
In April 1867, a meeting was held between the Army and a few chiefs of the Plains Indians. Due to a misunderstanding, when the Army moved their troops closer to the Indian encampment, the Indians feared an attack and they fled under the cover of night. Custer and the 7th Cavalry, given the task of tracking the Indians down, spent the entire summer in the attempt to find them. The only contact they made with the Indians were with small war parties which constantly harassed the troops.
During this campaign, Custer later left his command in the field and traveled back to Fort Riley to visit his wife. Upon arrival there, Custer was placed under arrest for being Absent With Out Leave. On 15 September 1867, Custer was court-martialed and found guilty. He was sentenced to one year suspension from rank and pay. He went home to Monroe, Michigan where he waited out his suspension.
On 24 September 1868, Custer’s court martial was remitted and he rejoined his troops on Bluff Creek (near present day Ashland, Kansas.). Almost immediately upon his arrival, the Indians attacked the camp. Custer and his Troopers gave chase and followed the Indians’ trail back to Medicine Lodge Creek, but found no Indians. Custer returned to his camp on Bluff Creek where, he and General Sheridan planned a Winter Campaign. Then heavy snows of winter would slow down the warriors, and their ponies would be weak and could not travel far. If the Indian villages were hard hit and their supplies destroyed, the Indians would have to return to the reservation or starve. They knew that during the winter months, the Indians would stay at one location which had good water and a source of firewood for heat; all they had to do was – to find it!
Sheridan’s plan involved three columns: Colonel Andrew W. Evans with six troops of the 3rd Cavalry and two companies of the 37th Infantry were to travel down the South Canadian River. The second column consisted of seven troops of the 5th Cavalry under the command of Major Eugene A. Carr. They marched southeast from Fort Lyon, Colorado, and connected with Captain William H. Penrose and his column of five troops of cavalry. Then they scouted at Antelope Hills, along the North Fork of the Canadian River. The third column was to march from Fort Dodge under the command of General Sully and George A. Custer.
General Sheridan selected the 7th Cavalry, commanded by George Armstrong Custer, to take the lead. They were to move southward, and engage the Indians. This column was made up of eleven troops of the 7th Cavalry and five companies of the 3rd Infantry. Setting out in a snowstorm, Custer followed the tracks of a small Indian raiding party to a Cheyenne village on the Washita River. At dawn he ordered an attack. It was Chief Black Kettle’s village, well within the boundaries of the Cheyenne reservation. Nevertheless, on 27 November 1868, nearly four years after the battle of Sand Creek, Custer’s troops charged, and this time Black Kettle could not escape. In a subsequent battle of the Winter Campaign, the 3rd Cavalry under the command of Colonel Andrew W. Evans, struck another Comanche village at Soldiers Spring on Christmas Day. The Winter Campaign had been waged successfully against the Cheyenne in the Oklahoma Territory. The scattered remnants of the Cheyenne were decisively defeated.
Afterwards, most of the Cheyennes, Comanches and other tribes still on the plains returned to the agencies. In March 1869, the Comanche-Kiowa agency was relocated to Fort Sill, a new fort constructed in the Indian Plains Territory, and the Cheyenne-Arapaho agency was relocated to Darlington. Only the Kwahada were still on the Staked Plains. The Kiowa and other Comanches were on the reservation, but by the fall of 1869 small war parties were occasionally leaving to raid in Texas.
In September 1871, the 7th Cavalry was distributed by squadrons and company over seven Southern States to enforce federal taxes on distilleries and suppress the activities of the Ku Klux Klan. Custer was assigned to Elizabethtown, Kentucky where his chief duty was to inspect and purchase horses for the Army.
In February 1873, Custer got the good news that the 7th Cavalry was being reunited and being sent north to Fort Rice in the Dakota Territory. His mission was to protect settlers in the region and the engineers of the Northern Pacific Railroad who were surveying a rail route across the Yellowstone River from the Sioux Indians.
In the last week of March 1873, the 7th Cavalry assembled at Memphis, Tennessee where they boarded steamboats for Cairo, Illinois. At Cairo, the regiment changed to overland rail and headed into the winter weather of the northwest. On 09 April 1873, traveling on the Dakota Southern Railroad from Sioux City, Iowa, the Seventh Cavalry Regiment arrived at Yankton, the Dakota Territorial Capital. They camped at Yankton, three miles south, on the Santch Creek for a number of weeks while preparing for their long march north to Fort Rice.
During their encampment in Yankton, a ball was given in honor of the general and his officers. The leader of the band was a lithe, trim, thirty-nine year old Italian named Felix Vinatieri, a Civil War Veteran, who led the band with gusto. General Custer thought the music sophisticated for a wilderness town and asked to meet the band leader. The General quickly took a liking to Felix Vinatieri and that night, offered him the position of Chief Musician of the 7th Cavalry Regiment.
On 07 May 1873, the Regiment rode out of Yankton for Fort Rice. On a lead horse, was a proud Felix Vinatieri. The journey to Fort Rice was completed in a 300 mile march, arriving on 10 June 1873. Following his arrival at the fort, Felix Vinatieri travelled to St. Paul, Minnesota, to enlist for a three year period as Bandleader of the Seventh Cavalry Regiment.
The completion of the overland railroad link provided an easy means of transportation for gold seekers and farmers to come to the area. As the migration continued, trouble with the Sioux increased. On 20 June 1873 an expedition was ordered to move into the Black Hills of Dakota to provide protection for railroad construction parties. The expedition consisted of 1,451 Troopers, 79 officers, and 275 wagons. As a focal point of scouting activities, a permanent encampment was established at Fort Abraham Lincoln in the Yellowstone Territories. From 1873 to 1876, Custer commanded the Seventh Cavalry at Fort Abraham Lincoln south of Mandan. In 1874, he led his troops south into the Black Hills, which six years earlier had been set aside as part of the Great Sioux Reservation. When Custer reported finding gold, the government offered to buy the land from the Sioux, but they refused to sell. The Army then allowed gold prospectors to come into the Reservation’s hills by the thousands. The Army’s action prompted many Sioux to leave their North Dakota reservations and join with other Sioux in Montana led by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, who were resisting white government control.
In 1875, the regiment escorted a railroad survey party into the Yellowstone Valley. This expedition brought the regiment into regular contact with the Indian raiding parties, however no serious battles or encounters occurred until the fateful expedition of 17 May 1876. General Alferd H. Terry was in overall command of an Army campaign to relocate the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians from the open plains to reservations. The 7th Regiment rode out of Fort Lincoln on 17 May 1876, with Custer along with the Arikara and Osage scouts leading the way, followed by 1,200 men and 1,700 horses and mules. The 7th Cavalry Band played “The Girl I Left Behind Me”.
The intent of General Terry was to trap the Indians between Custer and Major General John Gibbon in the Little Big Horn Valley. Custer had been ordered to move a band of Indians toward the large cavalry force. Custer was to pass all the way down the Rosebud Creek and cross over to the Little Big Horn Valley and move north, in a blocking maneuver to prevent the Indians from escaping south. Custer marched with approximately 700 Soldiers, moving south for several days, identifying Indian camp signs all along the way. After making visual contact with the Indians on 23 June, Custer ordered the column to turn west and march toward the Little Big Horn Valley. On 24 June, the Arikara and Osage Indian scouts identified a party of Sioux following them. The Sioux fled when approached and Custer did not want any of the members of the Sioux encampment to escape. On the evening of 24 June, Custer outlined the battle engagement plan for the next day.
When the Custer’s regiment reached the Sioux encampment on 25 June 1876, he made a decision to attack and fight the Cheyenne and Sioux Indians. One of the most chronicled tragic battles in the military history of the American West was the famous Battle of the Little Big Horn, otherwise known as Custer’s Last Stand. Traveling up Rosebud Creek, at 12:07 Custer split his command into three battalions. Major Reno, in command of companies “A”, “G”, and “M”, was directed to attack the southern most end of the village in the valley. Captain Benteen, in command of companies “D”, “H”, and “K”, was directed to explore the area in a southwesterly direction and to “pitch into anything that he might find”. Captain McDougall was assigned with “B” Company to guard the pack train. Custer took the five companies of “C”, “E”, “F”, “I”, and “L” to make a frontal attack on the encampment.
Within a short period of time, Custer and his troops were annihilated by the full might of an estimated 5,000 Sioux Indians who were led by Chief Sitting Bull and Chief Crazy Horse. Four days later, the other two battalions of the regiment were rescued by supporting cavalry troops under the command of Generals Terry and Gibbon.
In the search for survivors of Custer’s forces, not one of the 264 Troopers under Custer’s command was found alive. Five members of the Custer Family were killed at the Battle of the Little Big Horn; the General, his brother Captain Tom Custer, brother-in-law Captain James Calhoun, younger brother Boston, and nephew Autie Reed. Both Boston and Autie were civilians. Only one horse, with seven arrows in his body, was found in a thicket. The horse, named Comanche, was a gelding ridden by Captain Keogh, one of Custer’s officers.
The sixteen members of the band were spared, as Custer had left orders with band leader, Felix Vinatieri, that the band was not to engage in battle, but to remain on the supply steamboat, “Far West”, moored on the Powder River. Subsequently, the Far West served as a floating hospital with all of the band members assisting in transporting and loading the wounded on the boat. They served as medics as the Far West turned around and headed back for the fort at Bismarck, making the journey in fifty-four hours.
(Author’s Note) – There has always been some speculation as to the names of the participants (supporting and engaged) in the Battle of the Little Big Horn. The roster of Troopers and civilian personnel assigned to the 7th Cavalry Regiment, as of 25 June 1876, has been researched and compiled by James W. Savage, 7th Cavalry Regiment. The results of his study be viewed “on-line” at The 7th US Cavalry (Garryowen) Home Page.
In the subsequent campaigns of 1876, Troopers of the 5th Regiment rode after the Sioux to avenge the death of their comrades. While Sitting Bull was pursued into Canada, Crazy Horse and the Cheyennes traveled about, comparatively undisturbed. In July 1877, he was finally prevailed upon to come to Fort Robinson, Nebraska on the distinct understanding that the government would hear and adjust their grievances, many of which are still unresolved today.
The 7th Cavalry soon had a new foe, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians. Known by his people as In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat (Thunder coming up over the land from the water), was best known for his resistance to the US Government’s attempts to force his tribe onto reservations. In 1855, Chief Joseph’s father, Old Joseph, signed a treaty with the U.S. that allowed his people to retain much of their traditional lands. In 1863, another treaty was created that severely reduced the amount of land, but Old Joseph maintained that this second treaty was never agreed to by his people. A showdown over the second “non-treaty” came after Chief Joseph assumed his role as Chief in 1877. After months of fighting and forced marches across hundreds of miles of territory, Chief Joseph too, finally surrendered in 1877. Many of the Nez Perce Indians were sent to a reservation in what is now Oklahoma.
On 24 November 1890, troops of the 7th Regiment left Fort Riley and traveled by rail to join key regiments in the history and development of the 1st Cavalry Division, the 8th Cavalry the 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 was concluded, the Cavalry continued to patrol the far western frontiers.
On 22 December 1892, a significant agreement which allowed troops to cross the international border in pursuit of savage Indians was made with the Mexican Government. In support of the southwest missions, in 1895, the majority of the 7th Cavalry changed their stations to Fort Bayard, New Mexico and the Arizona Territories. Scouting missions were directed at bands of Indians who continued to terrorize the areas.
Implications of the political intervention in Cuba in 1898, caused the Governor of Arizona to request Washington to place a special emphasis on security of the Arizona border to protect the infiltration of Mexicans who sympathized with the Spanish Government. However this action did not impact the departure of elements of the 7th Cavalry who departed Savannah, Georgia on the transport “Manitoba” on the 13 and 19 January 1899, for Havana, Cuba. Permanent stations were taken at Camp Columbia. Their duties included scouting and the maintenance of security throughout the island. In April 1902, the withdrawal from Cuba was initiated by the 1st Squadron changing stations to Chickamunga National Park, Georgia.
General Order No. 176, 1904 ordered the regiment for its first tour of duty to the Philippines. On 02 May, the advanced group of the 7th Regiment left San Francisco, California and arrived in Manila on 01 June. After a series of temporary stations, a permanent duty station was established at Camp McGrath, Batangas Province. The first tour of duty ended in 1907, allowing the regiment to return to their original station, Fort Riley, Kansas were they were stationed for the next three years.
Picking up again, the troops left for San Francisco to initiate a second tour of duty in the Philippines. On 04 March 1910, the regiment disembarked at Manila and settled in camp at Fort William McKinley, Rizal. On 30 March, the 7th and 8th Regiments were designated as “Colonial Regiments” for services in the Philippines. In November 1915, the regiment began to pack in preparation for return to the United States.
Arriving in the States, the regiment returned to the southwest and on 23 December 1915, was stationed at Camp Henry J. Jones, Arizona. In 1916 the regiment joined the Mexican Punitive Expedition to battle Pancho Villa’s Villistas following his raid on Columbus, New Mexico on 09 March. Recent findings of historians indicate that Villa may have initiated the raid for financial support of the Mexican revolution from German agents operating in Mexico who wanted to keep tensions high between Mexico and the United States. Germany did not want the United States to side with the allies in the war. Joining the 10th Cavalry Regiment under the command of General Pershing, the Expedition crossed the Mexican border at 0:30 hours 16 March, and marched 25 miles in the dark to Geronimo Rock. In the most significant action of the Mexican Punitive Expedition, the 7th Cavalry led by Colonel George A. Dodd, surprised and inflicted heavy losses on a group of Villistias.
Meanwhile in Washington, a major who years later would become a key figure in the combat history of the 1st Cavalry Division was issuing press releases on the progress of Pershing’s expedition. Douglas A. MacArthur had a long special affinity for the cavalry. Years later, in World War II and Korea, he would repeatedly single out the 1st Cavalry Division for important assignments.
With rising political pressure on both sides of the border, Pershing was ordered to turn the force around in January, after leading his men 400 miles into Mexico. Returning from Punitive Expedition the 7th Regiment completed a 215 mile march from Mexico, arriving at Fort Bliss on 24 May 1917. Throughout the remainder of the year the troops performed garrison duty, outpost and patrol duty along the Rio Grande with occasional penetration into Mexico to search for bandits.
Cavalry units saw minimal action in World War I. The only units assigned to the massive American Expeditionary Force for action overseas was a provisional squadron of 4 Troops – the “B”, “D”, “F” and H”, of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment under the command of Lt. Col. O.P.M. “Happy” Hazzard.
The regiments that were soon to become part of the 1st Cavalry Division were far from idle. Troopers were getting into frequent, small scaled combats with raiders, smugglers and Mexican Revolutionaries along the Reo Grande River. In one skirmish in June 1919, four units, the 5th and 7th Cavalry Regiments, the 8th Engineers (Mounted) and 82nd Field Artillery Battalion (Horse) saw action against Pancho Villa’s Villistas. On 15 June, Mexican snipers fired across the Rio Grande and killed a Trooper of the 82nd who was standing picket duty. In hot pursuit, the Troopers and the horse artillery engaged a column of Villistas near Juarez. Following a successful engagement, the cavalry expedition returned to the United States side of the border.
On 13 September 1921, with the initiation of the National Defense Act, the 1st Cavalry Division was formally activated at Fort 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. The 12th Cavalry Regiment would join the 1st Cavalry Division on 03 January 1933, relieving the 1st Cavalry Regiment.
Shortly after the new division was organized, the War Department issued a directive for submissions of possible designs for the 1st Cavalry’s “shoulder sleeve”. The regulations for the submission required; 1) that the patch could only have 2 colors 2) that it be easily recognizable sign around which men could reassemble during or after battle and 3) it would bring men together in a common devotion. The design chosen, a distinctive bright-yellow Norman knight’s shield with a diagonal stripe and a horse’s head, was submitted by Colonel and Mrs. Ben H. Dorcey. At the time, Colonel Dorcey was commander of the 7th Cavalry regiment at Fort Bliss, Texas. His wife, Gladys Fitch Dorcey, later would be hailed as the “official mother” of the 1st Team.
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.”
In the following years, the missions of the division were largely a saga of rough riding, patrolling the Mexican border and constant training. Operating from horseback, the cavalry was the only force capable of piercing the harsh terrain of the desert to halt the band of smugglers that operated along the desolate Mexican border.
On 16 June 1926, a Provisional Squadron (Headquarters Detachment, Troops “C”, “E” and “F”) from the 7th Cavalry Regiment departed Ft. Bliss by rail for the Crow Indian Agency, Montana to participate in the Semi-Centennial celebration of the Battle of Little Big Horn. The Provisional Squadron returned to Ft. Bliss on 01 July, having traveled 1,800 miles.
On 09 April 1929, advance parties of the 7th began transitioning to the south and southwest area as part of the 8th Corps Area Troop Order to protect the Mexican border. Temporary quarters were established at Camp Henry J. Jones near Douglas, Arizona to await the remainder of the regiment. On 25 April the entire regiment moved to Naco, Arizona to establish a permanent base of operations. On 14 May, with the cessation of local border problems the regiment returned to Fort Bliss. There they continued the mission of border patrol, maintenance of training and extensive maneuvers around the Fort Bliss area.
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 Fort 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 7th 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 Fort Bliss from the 3rd Army Louisiana readiness maneuvers in October 1941, the 7th 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 as a dismounted unit. 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. At 8:00 hours 04 March 1944, 7th Regiment, as a part of the combat reinforcements of the Admiralty Campaign landed, unopposed, in the Los Negros Islands at the northeast corner of the Momote Airdome. Their first significant resistance was encountered on 05 March. By 10 – 11 March, mop up operations were underway all over the northern half of Los Negros Island and attention was being given 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 Airdome 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. The losses of the 7th Cavalry Regiment included 43 dead, 17 wounded and 7 died of non battle injuries. Training, discipline, determination and ingenuity had won over suicidal attacks. The 7th Cavalry Troopers were now seasoned Veterans.
After a period of 5 months in rehabilitation and extensive combat training, the 7th Cavalry Regiment received instructions on 25 September, to prepare for future combat operations. On 20 October, the regiment began the assault of Leyte Island. The first wave landed at White Beach at 10:00. The 7th Cavalry was assigned the mission of securing the Taeloban Airstrip. During the Leyte Campaign, the regiment suffered 52 killed, 204 wounded while inflecting 1,390 losses on the enemy. On 02 January 1945, the evacuation of Villaba began. Upon arrival in Tunga, the entire regiment devoted its time to establishing a camp, re-equipping and rehabilitation.
With the last of the strongholds eliminated, the division moved on to Luzon, the main island of the Philippines. 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. From 23 February to 11 March, the entire regiment concentrated in breaking the strongly held Japanese line west of Antipolo. 02 April, second phase of the Luzon Campaign began. On 28 July, the final elements of the regiment closed in Sariaya and the Luzon Campaign was officially ended at 2400 hours on 30 June. The regiment suffered 145 killed, 37 died of wounds, 603 wounded and 2 were reported missing while inflicting 3,146 losses on the enemy.
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 8:00 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 Cavalry 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 Cavalry Brigade had 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.
Troops of the 7th Cavalry Regiment were assigned to guard the American Embassy where General MacArthur had taken up residence. 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 5th Cavalry Regiment Combat Team marched quickly toward Taejon. 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 baptism of fire came on 23 July. The 8th Cavalry was hit by a heavy artillery and mortar barrage and North Koreans swarmed toward their positions. As the space between the battalions became increasingly threatened, the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry moved into the gap to absorb some of the pressure. Elements were also sent to help the 8th Cavalry. The next day, the Troopers suffered their first severe combat losses. Company “F”, 5th Cavalry moved to assist the 1st Battalion of the 5th on its right flank. Company “F”, and Company “B”, 5th Cavalry were hit by overwhelming numbers of North Korean Infantry. Only 26 men from the relief units managed to escape and return to friendly territory.
The 7th Cavalry Regiment, initially held in 8th Army defenses at Pohangdong, was released to the 1st Cavalry Division on 25 July, and began moving up to join the 5th Cavalry Regiment. During the next few days a defensive line was formed at Hwanggan with the 7th Cavalry moving east and the 5th Cavalry replacing the 25 Infantry Regiment. On 01 August, the First Team was ordered to set up defensive position near Kumchon on the rail route from Taegu to Pusan. For more than 50 days between late July and mid September, First Team Troopers and UN Soldiers performed the bloody task of holding on the vital Pusan Perimeter.
On 09 August, the North Koreans hurled five full divisions at the Naktong defenders near Taegu. They gained some high ground – but not for long. the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry moved against them, hitting their flanks with coordinated artillery and air strikes. In seizing hill 268 known as “Triangulation Hill” the Troopers accounted for 400 enemy dead. With added reinforcements, Pusan became a staging ground and depot for United Nations supplies and Soldiers from all around the world. Solders of the United Nations forces became First Team Troopers, the gallant Greek battalion (GEF) was attached to the 7th Cavalry Regiment and fought along side of them. The defenders now outnumbered the attackers and they had the equipment and firepower to go on the offensive.
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 Pusan Perimeter and start fighting north, crossing the 38th parallel on 09 October 1950. The 7th Cavalry rounded up 2,000 prisoners. In one of the ironic moments of the war, Troopers took into custody a small North Korean cavalry unit and all its horses. The Troopers of the 1st Cavalry crashed into Pyongyang, capturing the capital city of North Korea on 19 October 1950. 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 24 November, General MacArthur launched a counteroffensive of 100,000 UN troops. The 1st Cavalry and the ROK 6th Divisions moved up from their reserve positions and slammed into the attack. The Chinese penetrated the front companies of 1st and 2nd Battalions, 7th Cavalry and tried to exploit the gap. At 0200 hours they were hit by elements of the 3rd Battalion reinforced by tanks. Red troops were stopped and retreated back into an area previously registered for artillery fire. Enemy losses were high and the shoulder was held.
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 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. On 18 December 1951, the 7th Cavalry left for Japan. 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 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 who had previously rotated back to Korea. On 10 February 1953, the 5th Cavalry Regiment, 61st Field Artillery Battalion and Battery “A”, 29th AAA AW Battalion, departed from Otaru, Japan for Pusan and Koje-do, Korea to relieve the 7th Cavalry. All elements of the 7th Cavalry returned to Hokkaido by 20 February.
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 responsibility for defending Hokkaido and the First Team returned to the main Island of Honshu. 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters and the 5th Cavalry Regiment were located at Camp Schimmelpfennig. The 7th Cavalry Regiment and the 29th AAA AW Battalion occupied Camp Haugen, near Hachinohe. The 8th Cavalry Regiment was stationed at Camp Hachinohe. 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. As part of the “pentomic” reorganization, the 1st Battle Group, 7th Cavalry was activated, organized and assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division. 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 to Korea, standing ready to defend the country against Communist aggression.
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 7th 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 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry was redesignated the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment and the 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry was redesignated the 2nd Battalion, 7th 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 costal 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 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.
On 09 November, after the completion of the search of the 1st Brigade throughout the operational area, the 3rd Brigade took control of Operation SILVER BAYONET. Five days later, on 14 November, the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, reinforced by elements of the 2nd Battalion, air assaulted into the Ia Drang Valley near the Chu Pong Massif. During the insertion, with only two of the rifle companies on the ground, they were attacked by North Vietnamese regulars. Suddenly LZ X-Ray was “hot” from the start and only by heroic efforts of the lift ship pilots from the 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion were the remainder of the battalion and the first reinforcements from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry able to land, At LZ X-Ray, the fighting was the most intensive combat in the history of the Division, from bayonets used in hand-to-hand combat, to artillery and tactical air support. During the engagement of the first day, the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry was reduced to approximately 340 officers and men; none missing. NVA casualties were much higher due to the awesome American fire support; six enemy are captured and evacuated.
On 14 November, the first day of battle at LZ X-Ray in Ia Drang Valley, that Edward W. Freeman, while serving in the grade of Captain and flight leader and second-in-command of a helicopter lift unit at LZ X-Ray, Alpha Company, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) performed conspicuous acts of gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life and beyond the call of duty. As a flight leader and second in command of a 16-helicopter lift unit, he supported a heavily engaged American infantry battalion at Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley, Republic of Vietnam. The unit was almost out of ammunition after taking some of the heaviest casualties of the war, fighting off a relentless attack from a highly motivated, heavily armed enemy force. When the infantry commander closed the helicopter landing zone due to intense direct enemy fire, Captain Freeman risked his own life by flying his unarmed helicopter through a gauntlet of enemy fire time after time, delivering critically needed ammunition, water and medical supplies to the besieged battalion. His flights had a direct impact on the battle’s outcome by providing the engaged units with timely supplies of ammunition critical to their survival, without which they would almost surely have experienced a much greater loss of life. After medical evacuation helicopters refused to fly into the area due to intense enemy fire, Captain Freeman flew fourteen separate rescue missions, providing lifesaving evacuation-of an estimated thirty seriously wounded Soldiers, some of whom would not have survived had he not acted. All flights were made into a small emergency landing zone within one hundred to two hundred meters of the defensive perimeter where heavily committed units were perilously holding off the attacking elements. Captain Freeman’s selfless acts of great valor, extraordinary perseverance and intrepidity were far above and beyond the call of duty or mission and set a superb example of leadership and courage for all of his peers. Captain Freeman’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself; his unit and the United States Army. For his valiant action, Captain Edward W. Freeman received the Medal of Honor.
On the same day and battle, Major Bruce P. Crandall, while serving with “A” Company, 229th Assault Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), was lifting troops for a search and destroy mission from Plei Me, Vietnam, to Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley. On the fourth troop lift, the airlift began to take enemy fire, and by the time the aircraft had refueled and returned for the next troop lift, the enemy had Landing Zone X-Ray targeted. As Major Crandall and the first eight helicopters landed to discharge troops on his fifth troop lift, his unarmed helicopter came under such intense enemy fire that the ground commander ordered the second flight of eight aircraft to abort their mission. As Major Crandall flew back to Plei Me, his base of operations, he determined that the ground commander of the besieged infantry battalion desperately needed more ammunition. Major Crandall then decided to adjust his base of operations to Artillery Firebase Falcon in order to shorten the flight distance to deliver ammunition and evacuate wounded Soldiers. While medical evacuation was not his mission, he immediately sought volunteers and with complete disregard for his own personal safety, led the two aircraft to Landing Zone X-Ray. Despite the fact that the landing zone was still under relentless enemy fire, Major Crandall landed and proceeded to supervise the loading of seriously wounded Soldiers aboard his aircraft. Major Crandall’s voluntary decision to land under the most extreme fire instilled in the other pilots the will and spirit to continue to land their own aircraft, and in the ground forces the realization that they would be resupplied and that friendly wounded would be promptly evacuated. This greatly enhanced morale and the will to fight at a critical time. After his first medical evacuation, Major Crandall continued to fly into and out of the landing zone throughout the day and into the evening. That day he completed a total of 22 flights, most under intense enemy fire, retiring from the battlefield only after all possible service had been rendered to the Infantry Battalion. His actions provided critical resupply of ammunition and evacuation of the wounded. Major Crandall’s daring acts of bravery and courage in the face of an overwhelming and determined enemy are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army. For his valiant action, Major Bruce P. Crandall received the Medal of Honor.
It was during the battle at LZ X-Ray that “A” Company, 7th Cavalry was moving through the valley to relieve a friendly unit surrounded by an enemy force of estimated regimental size. First Lieutenant Walter J. Marm led his platoon through withering fire until they were finally forced to take cover. Realizing that his platoon could not hold very long, and seeing four enemy Soldiers moving into his position, he moved under heavy fire and annihilated all four. Then, seeing that his platoon was receiving intense fire from a concealed machine gun, he deliberately exposed himself to draw its fire. Locating its position, he attempted to destroy it with an antitank weapon. Although he inflicted casualties, the weapon did not silence the enemy fire. Disregarding the intense fire directed on him and his platoon, he charged thirty meters across open ground and hurled grenades into the enemy position, killing some of the eight insurgents manning it. Although severely wounded, when his grenades were expended, and armed with only a rifle, he continued the momentum of his assault on the position and killed the remainder of the enemy. For his valiant action, First Lieutenant Walter J. Marm was awarded the Medal of Honor.
The next day, 15th November, the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry marched into LZ X-Ray from LZ Victor, located two miles east. Joining in with the main body of “C” Company, 7th Cavalry, the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry continued on unopposed to rescue their cut-off platoon. They brought the platoon back with all wounded and dead. Of the twenty-nine man platoon, nine were killed and thirteen were wounded. Survivors of “C” Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry was replaced on line by the fresh “B” Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry. The battalions formed a strong perimeter and prepared for more action in the night.
On 16th November, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, having seventy-nine men killed and one hundred-twenty one wounded was ordered back to the rear for reorganization. The battle continued for two more days. With the help of reinforcements and overwhelming firepower, the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry and 1st and 2nd Battalions, 7th Cavalry forced the North Vietnamese to abandon their attack and withdraw back into Cambodia.
By 1500 hours, the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry turned over LZ X-Ray to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry and 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry. After helping clear the area, the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry and the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry, less “A” Company were airlifted to the Camp Holloway airfield at Pleiku City.
On the morning of 17 November, with the close out of action at LZ X-Ray, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry, with “A” Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry attached, walked out of LZ X-Ray and headed for a location, identified as LZ Albany, to set up blocking positions to reinforce the exhausted skytroopers and prepare for extraction from the battle area and get out of the area targeted for an impending B-52 strike.
As the Troopers moved safely out of the area, the new weapon, Operation ARC LIGHT, introduced to support the US Ground Forces, struck terror into the hearts of even the most hardened enemy Soldier. Shortly after noon, a large area suddenly erupted with hundreds of thunderous explosions. The B-52 bombers had struck the area of the NVA withdrawal. The big bombers systematically worked over large areas of the Chu Pong Massif.
Early in the afternoon of 17 November, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Command Group and “A” Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry reached LZ Albany. The column was 550 yards long. “C” Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry and “A” Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry put out flank security. Not known at the time, NAV Soldiers of the fresh 8th Battalion, 66th Regiment (which had not seen action) deployed down the northeast side of the column. Survivors of the 33rd NAV Regiment deployed at the head of the 2nd Battalion column. As they drew near LZ Albany, the exhausted Troopers was ambushed by the NVA units.
At 1320 hours mortar rounds exploded in the clearing and down the length of the column followed by a violent assault which fragmented the column into small groups. When the firing began, the Troopers drop into the tall elephant grass where it is impossible for the Soldiers of either side to identify friend or foe except at extremely close range. Within minutes, the situation becomes a wild melee, a shoot-out, with the gunfighters killing not only the enemy but sometimes their friends just a few feet away.
For the next two hours, the battle roared. Douglas A-1E Skyraiders were brought in to drop napalm and 250 pound bombs which slowed down enemy actions. Artillery was brought in. By dark, “B” Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry had landed to reinforce LZ Albany. There was a small perimeter at LZ Albany and one at the tail of the column. In between Troopers were being hounded and killed throughout the night. Also, in the night, a few isolated Troopers escaped trying to make it to the artillery position at LZ Columbus.
On 18 November daylight broke over a quiet and tense battlefield. Survivors began the grim task of recovering the dead from the intermingled bodies of both sides. By the 19th of November, evacuation of the wounded and dead was complete. On 20 November, after 3 days and nights on that bloody, hellish, haunted battleground, the survivors of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry were airlifted out. The casualties for the NVA was reported as 403 dead and 150 wounded. Total First Team casualties at LZ Albany were reported as 151 killed, 121 wounded and 4 missing in action. Nearly half of the 300 men killed in the Pleiku Campaign died at LZ Albany.
When the Pleiku Campaign of SILVER BAYONET ended on 25 November, Troopers of the First Team had paid a heavy price for its success, having lost some three hundred Troopers killed in action. However, they 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 awarded 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.
The 1st Cavalry Division returned to its original base of operations at An Khe on Highway 19. Soon, the intelligence sections recommended a return to the Western Highlands early in 1966 in hopes of encountering the enemy reassembling in the unpopulated jungles. However a new threat emerged in the Province of Binh Dinh, a region of abrupt mountains and populated costal plains. The ARVN 22nd Division, responsible for that area, was spread thin in trying to keep Highway 19 open and secure. The intelligence staff of the 1st Cavalry Division had confirmed that the Vietcong Main Force 2nd Regiment and North Vietnamese 18th and 19th Regiments were operating in the area. These three regiments comprised the NVA Division, known as the “Sao Vang” Division.
On 25 January 1966, following the truce for the Tet holiday and Lunar New Year, “Masher/White Wing”, which were the code names for the missions of the 3rd Brigade in Binh Dinh Province, began. The 3rd Brigade gathered their gear and weapons and began to move by highway and air to staging areas in Eastern Binh Dinh Province. The opening of phase of the mission included the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 12th Cavalry Regiment as well as the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry – a reconnaissance unit of helicopter gunships. The 1st Squadron, 9th Regiment reconnoitered ahead of the convey and along both sides of the road, searching for potential ambushes.
On 28 January, Operation “Masher”, the first phase, began, The 3rd Brigade assaulted North of Bong San and LZ Dog and soon encountered heavy resistance by the NVA. Contact by the enemy diminished in the first two days of February as the North Vietnamese continued their withdrawal to the North and West. In the first week of combat, the division had lost 77 Troopers and the enemy losses amounted to an estimated 1,350 KIA. Two Battalions of the NVA 22nd Regiment had been rendered ineffective.
On 07 February, Operation “White Wing” began the second phase of the “search and destroy” mission, On 16 February, following heavy enemy engagement, the battle weary 3rd Brigade, returned to the division’s home base of An Khe and was replaced in the field by the 1st Brigade. While the 1st Brigade took patrolling in the valleys around LZ Bird, the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 5th Cavalry and 2nd Battalion, 12th, of the 2nd Brigade encircled the “Iron Triangle”, the regimental headquarters of the NVA. Aided by artillery and air support, the three battalions continued fighting for four days against a tenacious enemy defense that finally collapsed after a B-52 strike.
On 02 August, Operation “Paul Revere II” was commenced for the purposes of denying areas of the rich rice fields to the famished Viet Cong. Significant contact with the enemy did not occur until 08 August, at LZ Juliett. Company “A”, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry came under heavy fire from a reinforced enemy battalion. In several hours of intense fighting, Alpha Company turned back repeated mass attacks. Timely artillery and air strikes eliminated the opportunity for the enemy to surround the Skytroopers. The roar of helicopters from two companies from the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry arriving at LZ Juliett frightened the enemy, causing them to flee.
On 08 August, the advance party of the 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry had departed Peterson Field, Colorado and arrived Qui Nhon on 11 August. The main body of the 5th Battalion departed Fort Carson on 06 August and arrived Qui Nhon on 19 August 1966, joining the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 7th Cavalry, 3rd Brigade in Vietnam.
On 15 August, Operation “Paul Revere II” ended at the battle of Hill 534, on the southern portion of Chu Pong Massif near the Cambodian Border. The Operation had began on 02 August, after Company “A” 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry suddenly ran into a North Vietnamese battalion and Company “B”, 2nd Battalion began slugging it out with enemy troops in bunkers. A total of two battalions of Skytroopers were committed to the fight. When it ended the next morning, 138 NVA bodies were counted.
At the end of Paul Revere II, which had killed a total of 861 of the enemy, a task force of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry was organized for Operation “Byrd”. The task force was dispatched to Binh Thaun Province, at the southern area of II Corps, to support the Revolutionary Development Program and to bring the long months of Operation “Byrd” to a productive finish.
At that time the heavily populated province of Binh Thaun was almost totally under the power of two Viet Cong Battalions. The South Vietnamese government controlled little more than the provincial capital, Phan Thiet, a costal town known for its fishermen and its fish sauce manufacturing industry. In 16 months the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry had fanned out from Phan Thiet and cleared the enemy from the populous “triangle” area that stretched North and West of Phan Thgiet. They also cleared provincial roads that had been closed by the Viet Cong. Most significantly, the Troopers reopened Highway 1, an action the brought commerce back to life between Phan Thiet and Saigon.
On October 25, Operation “Thayer II” continued the drive to pacify the Binh Dinh Province. On 01 November, Troopers of the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry became engaged in a sharp fight with the 93rd Battalion and the 2nd Viet Cong Regiment. The action took place in the vicinity of National Route 1 and Dam Tra-O Lake south of the Gay Giep mountains. In Thayer II the enemy suffered a punishing loss of 1,757 killed.
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 brigades to the same battle area.
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.
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. “A” Company, 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 VC 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 occupied the towns of Mimot and Snoul. Troopers deprived the enemy of much needed supplies and ammunition, scattering the enemy forces. The Cambodian Operation 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 were utilized. 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.
The efforts of the 1st Cavalry Division 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.
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 Rocket 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. Two 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.
Early in June, intelligence detected significant enemy movement toward the center of Long Khanh Province and its capital, Xuan Loc. On 14 June Delta Company of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry ran into an ambush in heavy jungle and engaged a company-sized enemy unit. The Troopers were pinned down in a well-sprung trap. Cavalry field artillery soon pounded their North Vietnamese positions and heavy Cobra fire from Blue Max, “F” Battery of the 79th Aerial Rocket Artillery, swept down on the enemy positions keeping pressure on the withdrawing North Vietnamese throughout the night. The Brigade’s timely movements had thwarted the enemy build up north of Xuan Loc.
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 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry 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 1st Battalion, 7th 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 22 August, the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry was inactivated at Fort Hood, Texas. Their period of inactivation was short lived. On 06 June 1974, the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment was reactivated as a M60A1 Tank Battalion and assigned to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
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. In September 1978, the division also received the mission for testing the Division Restructure (DRS) concept, used to determine the most effective use of manpower and weapons systems for the battlefields of the future.
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.
On 16 October 1986, the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry furled its colors and assumed a new role as the 1st Battalion, 32 Armor and remained assigned to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. In the same divisional organization change, the colors of the 1st Squadron (Reconnaissance), 9th Cavalry were removed from service and the unit was redesignated 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry. For the first time since 1943, the 1st Squadron was conducting missions as a true cavalry unit. At that time, the unit consisted of one ground troop and two air troops, with a combat power of 20 M3A1 Bradleys, 8 AH-1P Cobra Attack Helicopters and 12 OH-58C observation helicopters.
On 16 January 1987, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry was relieved from assignment from the 1st Cavalry Division and assigned to the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado. It would not be until the end of the Gulf War and subsequent reorganization of 11 August 1993, when the 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry, 2nd Armored Division would be reflagged as the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment and assigned to the 3rd “Greywolf” Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, filling out the present organization structure.
In the summer of 1987, 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 the United States CENTCOM is to: (1) Support US and free-world interests by assuring access to Mideast oil resources. (2) Help friendly regional states maintain their own security and collective defense. (3) Maintain an effective and visible US military presence in the region. (4) Deter threats by hostile regional states. (5) Project a military force into the region if necessary.
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 Sortm 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 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. The time spent near KKMC was short and the division once again picked up its 17,000 Soldiers, who were now accustomed to “jumping”. The Division moved north toward the juncture of the Saudi, Iraq and Kuwait borders through a series of defensive positions designed to thwart any preemptive attack along the Wadi. Meanwhile, the air war began and other Allied ground forces began to reposition for the offense.
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.
Desert Storm’s “First” major ground encounter was on 19/20 February 1991, when the division’s 2nd (Blackjack) Brigade attacked 10 miles into Iraq, confirming and destroying enemy positions. On the opening of the ground war, the Blackjack Brigade, supported by the Aviation Brigade Apache helicopters, moved into Iraq on a “reconnaissance in force”. The Brigade broke contact after penetrating enemy obstacles, taking fire and causing the enemy to light oil fire trenches. They withdrew south to join the division for the subsequent series of final attacks.
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.
In the early afternoon of 24 February 1991, Operation Deep Strike was initiated. The 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, reinforced by “A” Battery, 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 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 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 1st Cavalry Division crossed the line of departure and hit 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 27 February, the 1st Cavalry Division made good progress going through the 1st Infantry Division breach and up the left side of VII Corps’ sector. By mid-afternoon, 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.
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