Great Little Cavalry Squadron Returns

Recently the army activated the 1st Squadron 38th Cavalry at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.    Even cavalry enthusiasts might ask….38th Cavalry????  Where did the army come up with that number?   You might be forgiven if you guessed … “Out of a hat?”  The 38th Cavalry did not fight at Gettysburg, or the Little Big Horn, and was not part of the 1st Cavalry Division –none-the-less, it is one of the most distinguished cavalry squadrons (not regiments) in army history.

The 38th Cavalry earned its spurs and its place in history in World War II during the 11 month campaign in Northwest Europe.  It was one of two squadrons attached to the 102nd Cavalry Group (New Jersey National Guard) operating under the control of the V Corps.  It was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Robert O’Brien, West Point Class of 1936.  The squadron was the first unit into Paris (ahead of the 1st French Armored Division).  It also had the distinction of successfully defending the town of Monschau Germany during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.  The defense of Monschau, the anchor of the northern shoulder of the bulge, earned the squadron the Presidential Unit Citation –the army’s highest combat award a unit can earn.

So… though it is not often enough, a tip of the hat goes to the army for recognizing the qualities and exceptional history of the WWII “little cavalry squadron that could,” the 38th Cavalry, and bringing that history back to inspire today’s soliders.

    See the complete WWII history of the 38th Cavalry at this link.
Commanders of the 102nd CG, LTC Robert OBrien, CO 38th CRS on right.

Commanders of the 102nd CG, LTC Robert O'Brien, CO 38th CRS on right.

 

 

Below is a short description of the 38th Cavalry action during the Battle of the Bulge:

At the northern point of the German attack into the Ardennes were the lines of V Corps’ 102nd Cavalry Group. The group’s southern squadron, the 38th CRS, defended near the corps’ boundary in the area of the town of Monshau. The 38th CRS, unlike the 18th CRS to the south, occupied an integrated squadron defensive position with the three cavalry troops dismounted and dug-in east of the town, and on the high ground to the north. The tank company was also dug-in the main line of defense, and E Troop was in support. The squadron was arrayed A, B, F, and C from north to south. There was no squadron reserve behind the seven mile long line. The squadron had been in the position for forty days before the enemy attacked and had spent considerable time preparing their positions including setting up two completely independent and buried wire communications nets. As part of their preparation they had managed to exchange the authorized troop 60mm mortars for the larger more effective 81mm mortars at a rate of three for two. Thus the squadron had in its possession eighteen 81mm mortars –a significant increase in its indirect fire capability.

The Germans attacked the squadron with a battalion of the 326 Volksgrenadier Division, Sixth Panzer Army on the morning of December 16th. The squadron repulsed the initial attack and a subsequent attack by German infantry early in the morning –inflicted heavy losses on the attackers. On the morning of December 17 the Germans attacked again, this time in Regimental strength. One battalion attacked the Troop C positions while the main attack hit Troop B in the squadron center. Troop C stopped the attack in their sector with machinegun, tank, mortar and artillery fire. The main enemy attack hit a seam between two Troop B platoons and used the dead space to penetrate into the troop’s rear. The enemy attacked the Troop B command post but were driven away by headquarters personnel. The squadron sent a platoon of combat engineers and two F company tanks to reinforce B Troop, and with these reinforcements the enemy was forced out of the Troop positions and the penetration eliminated. The squadron counted eighty-eight enemy dead in the rear area of Troop B. In the afternoon the 102nd Group reinforced the 38th CRS with a company of armored infantry and a platoon of medium tanks. After the attacks on December 17, the 38th CRS broke up several more attacks before they began with heavy concentrations of mortar and artillery fire. In total the German left more than 200 dead in front of the cavalry positions and lost 31 prisoners. The defensive position in Monshau was never again seriously threatened.

M5A1 Stuart Light Tank of the 102nd CG

M5A1 Stuart Light Tank of the 102nd CG

 For more information on the mechanized cavalry in WWII see my webpage here.

A photo album of the 102nd Cavalry Group featuring the 38th CRS is here:  102nd Album.

Click  here for my paper on mechanized cavalry doctrine.

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. My father was in the 38th Calv in Germany. He received a silver star for a battle on Dec 17, 1944. His name was James Benjamin Martin from Warren Texas. I have the original Citation from his silver star. Thought you might be interested.

  2. This is interesting. I thought that the only US-cavalry units in WWII were at the Philipines.

  3. Thirteen U.S. cavalry groups (regiments) and numerious seperate squadrons (battalions) served in Europe. All were converted from horse to “mechanized” prior to deploying from the U.S.

  4. I am the editor of the newsletter “The SPUR” of the 117th Cavalry Association. I see that you have visited our web site and have linked it for the WWII history of the 38th CAV, which I edited and had posted. I am very pleased that you have done this and invite you to read the next issue of The SPUR “Special Edition 2010” which will include more about the “new” 38th CAV.

    As you may know, the “Lucky Little 38th” replaced the 2nd Squadron of the 102nd Cavalry Regiment when it was sent to North Africa in 1943 and became the 117th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mecz).

    Happy New Year!

    Phil Notestine

  5. My uncle raymond brauchli was a member of the Essex Troop cavalry out of west orange ,nj.He played polo for the troop before the war .He went to war and came out a Major .I believe he was in the 117th but not sure .He was in north Africa ,sicily ,italian campaigns and the Germany /austria .He is now deceased .Anyone know him then?

  6. My platoon–3rd Platoon, B-Company: 146th Engineer Combat Bn–and a platoon of the 2nd Ranger Bn were attached to a Troop of the 38th Cavalry Squadron for much of the time after we entered Paris 25 August 1944, and the Bulge. We were often among or east of the retreating Germans. This 38th Cavalry Troop was aggressive to the point of being scary! The Cavalry and Rangers did the necessary fighting as we cleared Tellermine roadblocks and abatis. Their activities are spelled out in my book “146 Engineer Combat Battalion–ESSAYONS” REALLY A GREAT OUTFIT the 38TH!

  7. In my research of the 38th Cav Recon Squadron, I have had the grand opportunity to talk to three members of C-Troop. Their separate detailed descriptions of their D-Day experiences contradict the information in the booklet written Aug 8, 1944 by Maj. Charles E. Rousek, Exec. Officer of the 38th. Maj. Rousek was NOT correct regarding the D-Day landings of the Troop landings, as all three described arriving Third Wave D-Day plus 15 hours under fire onto a bloody body littered Omaha Beach. The Headquarters’ Troop with all the officers, including Maj. Rousek, and F and E Troops, arrived D-Day plus 6 Days dry sod as he describes in the booklet. The valiant troops of the 38th Cav Recon, Troops A, B, C and the Med Unit have not gotten proper recognition for their brave participation in the D-Day landings due to Rousek’s inaccurate information and a mix up that fateful day that caused the bulk of the 38th to arrive on the beach early. I whole-hearted agree with the previous post, the Lucky 38th were an aggressive brave group of men. If anyone has 38th Cav Recon Sqd information or stories, please contact me at webwitz@pacbell.net.

  8. Hello. I read the entry on March 26, 2011 about the D-Day + 1 landings by some in the 38th Cav. I am operating on a thread concerning my father’s experiences. My father went to the ETO as a replacement and joined some group for D-Day plus 1, being later permanently assigned to a different group.

    I have been trying to find someone who describes D-Day +1 as did the 3 men Patrick Witz interviewed. My father described “dead bodies floating in the water” and being fired upon when the front of the landing craft opened.

    Have you ever seen an APO of 1028? Were the men who spoke about D-Day replacements or part of the 38th?

    Thank you very much. It is very difficult to find stories about D-Day + 1 because all the literature makes it seem that we were in control after June 6th.

    Sincerely,
    Louise
    daughter of Alfred N. Endres

  9. My father John Russell (Jack) Condit joined the 102nd Calvary Regiment Essex Troop on June 15, 1937, at the age of 17. He was commissioned a private. After they were federalized in January of 1942 he traveled with them to Ft. Jackson, S.C. He was sent to the Ft. Monmouth signal corps OCS and got seperated from the 102nd, serving in N. Africa, Sicily, Italy, & southern France with a special amphibious assault group, the 74th Signal Corp Special. After the war he rejoined the N.J. National Guard. Did anybody know him or have any pictures from that time frame?

  10. Hello everyone, I’m updating my March 26, 2011 at 7:14 pm post… I went back and re-listened to one of the recorded interviews with a Sergeant of the 38th Cavalry Recon, Troop-C, 3rd Platoon. He indicated that there was a HUGE mess-up mistake on D-Day and that ONLY a small part of the 38th Cav Reconn Troop-C landed “ON” D-Day plus 12 to 15 hours, which matches the same description and actions as the other two brave soldiers. I’d like to know how to confirm this information… any suggestions would be greatly appreciated… I’d like to give these men the honor and distintion for their brave actions. Please contact me at webwitz@pacbell.net. Thank you.


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