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1st Battalion

5th Cavalry Regiment

Unit History





World War II and the Pacific Theater



On 7 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 Powers. In February 1943, the entire 1st Cavalry Division was alerted for an overseas assignment. Impatient soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division dismounted and 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 3 July, boarded the "S.S. Monterey" and the "S.S. 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.



Island Combat

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 in force and if feasible, capture Momote Airdrome, and secure a beachhead for the reinforcements that would follow. Just after 0800 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 readjusted their guns to fire lower and some casualties were suffered. Troops under the command of LTC William E. Lobit of Galveston, Texas, dispersed and attacked through the rain. They quickly fought their way to the Momote airfield and had the entire facility quickly under control in less than two hours. The United Press would hail the Los Negros landing as "one of the most brilliant maneuvers of the war." The Associated Press would call it "a masterful strategic stroke." Shortly after 1400 on 6 June 1944, General MacArthur inspected and praised the Cavalry troops actions and accomplishments. He then ordered General Chase to defend the airstrip at all costs against Japanese counterattacks. He finally headed back to the beach where he presented the Distinguished Service Cross to Lieutenant Marvin J. Henshaw, 5th Cavalry, of Haskell, Texas. Lieutenant Henshaw had been the first American to land on Los Negros in the first wave, leading his platoon ashore through the narrow ramp of a Higgens boat. Nightfall was coming and an evening enemy counterattack ensued. At approximately 0200, the enemy counterattacked in force. In the darkness the Japanese maneuvered into the 5th Cavalry's perimeter. Hand to hand fighting broke out near some foxholes. Tough fighting raged the next day and through the night. Japanese pressure on the invasion force remained desperate and intense. The music of the old cavalry charge could almost be heard when the rest of the 5th Cavalry reinforcements moved toward the beach in LST's and other landing craft. In a coordinated action, the 40th Naval Construction Battalion (Seabees) landed on Los Negros Island in support of the 5th Cavalry. Their mission was to reconstruct the Momote Airfield. Assigned to defend a large portion of the right flank, the 40th suffered heavy casualties while defending the airfield with the soldiers of the 5th. Along with the 40th, the consolidated 5th Regiment soon secured the entire Momote airfield and spent the long night of 2 March repulsing suicidal attacks from the north and northwest sectors of the perimeter. On 3 March, the third day on Los Negros, the 5th Cavalry recognized its 89th anniversary. There was little time for celebration; the fresh well equipped Imperial Marines were counterattacking and the worse was yet to come. Combat raged through the night of 3 March and the morning of 04 March. At one point the Japanese penetrated several hundred yards inside the defense parameter near "G" Troop. The infantrymen rallied and they destroyed their attackers. It was during this fierce night fighting that a member of "G" Troop, 5th Cavalry, won the Division's first Medal of Honor. Staff Sergeant Troy A. McGill, of Ada, Oklahoma was in charge of a defensive position of foxholes dug into a revetment about 35 yards in front of the main defensive belt. Suddenly Sergeant McGill and his men found themselves in the center of a swarming, alcohol induced Banzai attack by 200 Japanese soldiers. All but one of McGill's men were killed or wounded. McGill ordered the survivor to drop back, and gave him covering fire. When his weapon failed, McGill charged the enemy and clubbed as many as he could before he was killed. The next morning, 146 enemy dead were found in front of his position. More reinforcements arrived shortly before noon on the 4th of March and quickly went into action. The 2nd Squadron, 7th Cavalry relieved the 5th Cavalry who had been in continuous combat for four days and nights. On 6 March, the 5th Cavalry went back into action to occupy Porolka and the first American airplane landed on the SeaBee repaired Momote airstrip. The next day the 5th penetrated south and overran Papitalai Village after a short amphibious landing assault. By 10 - 11 March, consolidation and reorganization 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. With attention focused on the opening of new operations at Hauwei Island, the 12th and the 5th Regiments worked their way south of Papitalai Mission through the rough hills and dense jungles in hand to hand combat. Tanks sometimes would give welcome support, but mostly the troopers had to do the dangerous job with small arms and grenades. Two final attacks wiped out the remaining resistance on Los Negros Island. On 22 March, two squadrons from the 5th and 12th Regiments overran enemy positions west of Papitalai Mission. Once again it was tough fighting with the terrain, overgrown with thick canopies of vines, favoring the Japanese. On 24 March, the 5th and 12th Regiments overcame fanatical resistance and pushed through to the north end of the island. On 28 March, the battles for Los Negros and Manus were effectively over. The Admiralty Islands campaign officially ended on 18 May 1944. Japanese casualties stood at 3,317 killed. The losses of the 1st Cavalry Division were 290 dead, 977 wounded and four missing in action. Training, discipline, determination, and ingenuity had won over suicidal attacks. The 5th Cavalry Troopers were now seasoned veterans. On Columbus Day, 12 October 1944, the 1st Cavalry Division sailed away from its hard earned base in the Admiralties for the Leyte invasion, OPERATION KING II. On October 20, the invasion force appeared awesome to the waiting Japanese as it swept toward the eastern shores of Leyte. Precisely at H-hour, 1000, the first wave of the 1st Cavalry Division assaulted the beach. The landing at "White Beach" was between the mouth of the Palo River to the south and Tacloban, the capital city of Leyte. Troopers of the 5th, 7th, and 12th Cavalry Regiments quickly fanned out across the sands and moved into the shattered jungle against occasional sniper fire.

Return to the Philippines

The fighting near the beaches was ongoing as General MacArthur and Philippines President Sergio Osmena waded ashore in ankle deep water. MacArthur soon broadcast his famous message to the Philipinos:

"People of the Philippines: I have returned. By the grace if Almighty God, our forces stand again on the Philippine soil - soil consecrated in the blood of our two peoples... Rally to me! Rise and strike!"

To the Philippine guerilla forces and the 17 million inhabitants, it was the news they had long awaited. The missions of the 1st Cavalry Division in late October and early November included moving across Leyte's northern coast, through the rugged mountainous terrain and deeper into Leyte Valley. The 1st Brigade endured severe fighting in severely restrictive difficult terrain when the 5th and 12th Cavalry secured the central mountain range of Leyte. By 15 November, elements of the 5th and 7th Regiments pushed west and southwest within a thousand yards of the Ormoc Pinamapoan Highway.

By 11 January 1945, the Japanese losses amounted to nearly 56,200 killed in action and 389 had surrendered. Leyte had indeed been the largest campaign in the Pacific War, but the record was about to be shattered during the invasion of Luzon.

With the last of the strongholds eliminated, the division moved on to Luzon, the main island of the Philippines. On 26 January, convoys 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. On 31 January 1945, General Douglas MacArthur issued the order:

"Go to Manila! Go around the Japs, bounce off the Japs, save your men, but get to Manila! Free the internees at Santo Tomas! Take the Malacanan Palace (the presidential palace) and the legislative building!"

The next day, elements of the 5th Regiment joined the "flying column", as the mobile units came to be known, penetrated through 100 miles of Japanese territory. The rescue column, led by Brigadier General William C. Chase was a high risk gamble from the beginning. The column was able to get around, over and past each obstacle in its path. At 1835 on the 3rd of February the rescue column crossed the city limits of Manila. By 2100 the internment camp at Santo Tomas was liberated and the prisoners were freed.

On 7 February, the 37th Infantry Division relieved the 5th Regiment, who immediately joined in the fight to free southern sections on Manila. The First Team was; "First in Manila".

On 12 April, the 5th Cavalry Regiment began a drive southeastward down the Bicoi Peninsula to clear it of Japanese and link up with the 158th Regimental Combat Team. The two forces finally converged at Naga on 29 April, after "B" Troop, 5th Cavalry and a group of engineers made an amphibious assault across the Ragay Gulf at Pasacao. On 30 June 1945, the Luzon Campaign was declared completed.


Surrender of Japan

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 2 September, the long convoy of ships steered into Yokohama Harbor and past the battleship Missouri, where General MacArthur would later receive the Japanese surrender. At noon on 5 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.


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