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1ST Air Cavalry Division

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A HISTORY

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1ST CAVALRY ASSOCIATION

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1st Cavalry Division[1]
1st Cavalry Division - Shoulder Sleeve Insignia.svg
1st Cavalry Division shoulder sleeve insignia
Active13 September 1921 - Present
CountryUnited States United States
BranchRegular Army
TypeHeavy Division (Unit of Action)
Size16,700 soldiers
Part ofIII Corps
Garrison/HQFort Hood, Texas
PatronSt George
MottoLive the Legend
ColorsBlack & Yellow
MarchGarryowen
MascotHorse
EngagementsWorld War II
*Bismarck Archipelago
*Philippines Campaign
Korean War
Vietnam War
Operation Desert Storm
Global War on Terrorism
*Operation Iraqi Freedom
Commanders
Current
commander
Major General Daniel B. Allyn
Notable
commanders
Adna R. Chaffee, Jr.
Walter C. Short
Robert M. Shoemaker
Wesley K. Clark
George William Casey, Sr.
Eric K. Shinseki
Insignia
Distinctive Unit Insignia1st Cavalry Division - Distinctive Unit Insignia.svg

 

HERALDRY

Shoulder Sleeve Insignia

Description: On a yellow triangular Norman shield with rounded corners 5.25 inches (133 mm) in height overall, a black diagonal stripe extending over the shield from upper left to lower right and in the upper right a black horse's head cut off diagonally at the neck all within a 0.125 inches (3.2 mm) green border.

Symbolism: Yellow, the traditional cavalry color, and the horse's head refer to the division's original cavalry structure. Black, symbolic of iron, alludes to the transition to tanks and armor. The black diagonal stripe represents a sword baldric and is a mark of military honor; it also implies movement "up the field" and thus symbolizes aggressive elan and attack. The one diagonal bend, as well as the one horse's head, also alludes to the division's numerical designation.

Background: The shoulder sleeve insignia was originally approved 3 January 1921 with several variations in colors of the bend and horse's head to reflect the subordinate elements of the division. The current design was authorized for wear by all subordinate elements of the division on 11 December 1934 and previous authorization for the variations was canceled.

 

HISTORY

The history of the 1st Cavalry Division began in 1921 after the Army established a permanent cavalry division Table of Organization & Equipment on 4 April 1921. It authorized a Square Division organization of 7,463 Officers and Men, organized as follows:

  • Headquarters Element (34 men)
  • Two Separate Cavalry Brigades (2,803 men each)
  • Field Artillery Battalion (790 men)
  • Engineer Battalion (357 men)
  • Division Quartermaster Trains Command (276 men)
  • Special Troops Command (337 men)
  • Ambulance Company (63 men)

On 20 August 1921, the War Department Adjutant General constituted the 1st and 2d Cavalry Divisions to meet partial mobilization requirements, and authorized the establishment of the 1st Cavalry Division under the new TO&E on 31 August 1920. Since 1st Cavalry Division was to assemble from existing units, it was able to go active in September, 1920, even though the subordinate units did not arrive at their assigned stations completely until as late as 1922.

1st Cavalry Division was assigned to the VIII Corps Area, with its Division Headquarters and 2d Brigade located at Fort Bliss, Texas, and the 1st Brigade at Douglas, Arizona. The Headquarters facilities used by 1st Cavalry Division were those previously vacated by 8th United States Brigade when it was commanded by MG John J. Pershing in 1916, and the wartime 15th Cavalry Division, which had existed at Fort Bliss between 10 December 1917 and 12 May 1918.

Headquarters, 2nd Cavalry Brigade, had existed at Fort Bliss since 10 December 1917, when it was part of the wartime 15th Cavalry Division. Headquarters, 2nd Cavalry Brigade was deactivated in July 1919, and was reactivated at Fort Bliss on 31 August 1920.

Headquarters, 1st Cavalry Brigade had previously existed at Fort Sam Houston, but their quarters had been vacated when 1st Cavalry Brigade deactivated in July 1919. These facilities passed to the 2nd Infantry Division when they returned from France. 1st Cavalry Brigade was reactivated on 31 August 1920 at Douglas, Arizona, occupying the facilities left vacant when Headquarters, 3rd Cavalry Brigade was deactivated in July, 1919.

First Cavalry Division’s Troop List was slowly assembled. The 1st, 7th, and 8th Cavalry Regiments had previously been assigned to the wartime 15th Cavalry Division until they were returned to the VIII Corps Area Troop List on 12 May 1918. 1st Cavalry Regiment remained so assigned until it was transferred to 1st Cavalry Division on 20 August 1921. The 7th, 8th, and 10th Cavalry Regiments were transferred on 13 September 1921, although the assignment of the 10th Cavalry Regiment to the 1st Cavalry Division was controversial because the transfer violated the Jim Crow laws. This controversy continued until 18 December 1922, when the 5th Cavalry Regiment, then on the VIII Corps Area Troop List, swapped places with the 10th Cavalry Regiment on the 1st Cavalry Division Troop List.

After establishing post-World War I divisions, the Army experienced a prolonged period of stagnation and deterioration. The National Defense Act of 1920 authorized a Regular Army of 296,000 men, but Congress gradually backed away from that number. As with the Regular Army, the National Guard never recruited its authorized 486,000 men, and the Organized Reserves became merely a pool of reserve officers. The root of the Army's problem was money. Congress yearly appropriated only about half the funds that the General Staff requested. Impoverished in manpower and funds, infantry and cavalry divisions dwindled to skeletal organizations.

Between 1923 and 1939 divisions gradually declined as fighting organizations. After Regular Army divisions moved to permanent posts, the War Department modified command relationships between divisional units and the corps areas, making division and brigade commanders responsible only for unit training. They were limited to two visits per year to their assigned elements-and that only if corps area commanders made funds available. Later, as a further economy move, the War Department reduced the number of command visits to one per year, a restriction that effectively destroyed the possibility of training units as combined arms teams.

The 1st Cavalry Division illustrated all of the aspects of the Army's dilemma between realism and idealism. In 1923 the 1st Cavalry Division held division maneuvers for the first time, intending to hold them annually thereafter. However, financial constraints made that impossible. Only in 1927, through the generosity of a few ranchers who provided free land, was the division able to conduct such exercises again.

In 1928 Maj. Gen. Herbert B. Crosby, Chief of Cavalry, faced with personnel cuts in his arm, reorganized the cavalry regiments, which in turn reduced the size of the 1st Cavalry Division. Crosby's goal was to decrease overhead while maintaining or increasing firepower in the regiment. After the reorganization each cavalry regiment consisted of a headquarters and headquarters troop; a machine gun troop; a Medical and Chaplain Element; and two squadrons, each with a Headquarters Element; and two Line troops. The cavalry brigades' machine gun squadrons were inactivated, while the responsibility for training and employing machine guns fell to the regimental commanders, as in the infantry.

About the same time that Crosby cut the cavalry regiment, the Army Staff, seeking to increase the usefulness of the wartime cavalry division, published new tables of organization for an even larger unit. The new structure summarized changes made in the division since 1921, which involved increasing the size of the signal troop (177), expanding the medical unit to a squadron (233), and endorsing Crosby's movement of the machine gun units from the brigades to the regiments (2X176). A divisional aviation section, an armored car squadron (278), and tank company (155) were added, and the field artillery battalion was expanded to a regiment (1,717). Divisional strength rose to 9,595. Although the new tables had little impact on the peacetime cavalry structure, the 1st Cavalry Division did eventually receive one troop of an experimental armored car squadron, and a field artillery regiment replaced its field artillery battalion.

With the arrival of the 1930s, serious work started on the testing and refining of new equipment and TO&Es for a mechanized and motorized Army. To facilitate this, 1st Cavalry Division traded 1st Cavalry Regiment for 12th Cavalry Regiment on 3 January 1933.

Taking into account recommendations from the VIII Corps Area, the Army War College, and the Command and General Staff School, the board developed a new smaller triangular cavalry division, which the 1st Cavalry Division evaluated during maneuvers at Toyahvale, Texas, in 1938. Like the 1937 infantry division test, the maneuvers concentrated on the divisional cavalry regiments around which all other units were to be organized.

Following the test, a board of 1st Cavalry Division officers, headed by Brig. Gen. Kenyon A. Joyce, rejected the three-regiment division and recommended retention of the two-brigade (four-regiment) organization. The latter configuration allowed the division to deploy easily in two columns, which was accepted standard cavalry tactics. However, the board advocated reorganizing the cavalry regiment along triangular lines, which would give it a headquarters and headquarters troop, a machine gun squadron with special weapons and machine gun troops, and three rifle squadrons, each with one machine gun and three rifle troops. No significant change was made in the field artillery, but the test showed that the engineer element should remain a squadron to provide the divisional elements greater mobility on the battlefield and that the special troops idea should be extended to include the division headquarters, signal, and ordnance troops; quartermaster, medical, engineer, reconnaissance, and observation squadrons; and a chemical warfare detachment. One headquarters would assume responsibility for the administration and disciplinary control for these forces.

Although the study did not lead to a general reorganization of the cavalry division, the wartime cavalry regiment was restructured, effective 1 December 1938, to consist of a headquarters and headquarters troop, machine gun and special weapons troops, and three squadrons of three rifle troops each. The special troops remained as structured in 1928, and no observation squadron or chemical detachment found a place in the division. With the paper changes in the cavalry divisions and other minor adjustments, the strength of a wartime divisional rose to 10,680.

In order to prepare for war service, 1st Cavalry Division participated in the following maneuvers:

  • Toyahvale, TX Maneuvers — 7 October through 30 October 1939.
  • Cravens-Pitkin Louisiana Maneuvers — 13 August through 24 August 1940.
  • Second 3rd Army Louisiana Maneuvers — 10 August through 4 October 1941.
  • VIII Corps Louisiana Maneuvers near Mansfield, LA — 27 July 1942 – 21 September 1942.

World War II to 1950

1st Cav soldiers during the Battle of Leyte
U.S. 1st Cavalry Division troops on the outskirts of Manila during the Battle of Manila

With the attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, the “great laboratory” phase for developing and testing organizations, about which Marshall wrote in the summer of 1941, closed, but the War Department still had not developed ideal infantry, cavalry, armored, and motorized divisions. In 1942 it again revised the divisions based on experiences gained during the great GHQ maneuvers of the previous year. As in the past, the reorganizations ranged from minor adjustments to wholesale changes.

1st Cavalry Division retained its square configuration after the 1941 maneuvers, but with modifications. The division lost its antitank troop, the brigades their weapons troops, and the regiments their machine gun and special weapons troops. These changes brought no decrease in divisional firepower, but placed most weapons within the cavalry troops. The number of .50-caliber machine guns was increased almost threefold. In the reconnaissance squadron, the motorcycle and armored car troops were eliminated, leaving the squadron with one support troop and three reconnaissance troops equipped with light tanks. These changes increased the division from 11,676 to 12,112 officers and enlisted men.

The last of the 1st Cavalry Division's mounted units permanently retired their horses and converted to infantry formations on 28 February 1943. However, a mounted Special Ceremonial Unit known as the Horse Platoon - later, the Horse Cavalry Detachment - was established within the division in January 1972. Its ongoing purpose is to represent the traditions and heritage of the American horse cavalry at military ceremonies and public events.[4]

The Division shipped out equipped as an Augmented Light Infantry Division. 1st Cavalry Division reported for its Port Call at Camp Stoneman, CA as follows:

  • UNIT STAGED DEPART ARRIVED
  • HHT, 1st Cavalry Division 21 June, 26 June, 11 July
  • HHT, 1st Cavalry Brigade 21 June, 3 July 24 July.
  • HHT, 2nd Cavalry Brigade 18 June, 26 June, 11 July.
  • 5th Cavalry Regiment 20 June, 2 July – 24 July.
  • 7th Cavalry Regiment 18 June, 26 June, 11 July.
  • 8th Cavalry Regiment 18 June, 26 June, 11 July.
  • 12th Cavalry Regiment 20 June, 3 July – 24 July.
  • HHB, 1st Cavalry Division Artillery (DIVARTY)
  • 61st Field Artillery Battalion 3 July – 24 July.
  • 82nd Field Artillery Battalion 4 June – 23 June.
  • 99th Field Artillery Battalion 23 May, 23 June.
  • 8th Engineer Squadron 23 May, 18 June.
  • 1st Medical Squadron
  • 16th Quartermaster Squadron
  • 7th Cavalry Recon Squadron 26 June, 11 July.
  • 1st Antitank Troop
  • 1st Signal Troop

The 1st Cavalry Division arrived in Australia as shown above, continued its training at Strathpine, Queensland, until 26 July, then moved to New Guinea to stage for the Admiralties' campaign 22–27 February 1944. The Division saw its first combat in the Admiralty Islands, units landing at Los Negros on 29 February 1944. Momote airstrip was secured against great odds. Attacks by fanatical Japanese were thrown back, and the enemy force surrounded by the end of March. Nearby islands were taken in April and May. The Division next took part in the invasion of Leyte, 20 October 1944, captured Tacloban and the adjacent airstrip, advanced along the north coast, and secured Leyte Valley, elements landing on and securing Samar Island. Moving down Ormoc Valley (in Leyte) and across the Ormoc plain, the Division reached the west coast of Leyte 1 January 1945. The Division then invaded Luzon, landing in the Lingayen Gulf area 27 January 1945, and fought its way as a "flying column" to Manila by 3 February 1945. More than 3,000 civilian prisoners at the University of Santo Tomas, including more than 60 US Army nurses (some of the "Angels of Bataan and Corregidor") were liberated,[5] and the 1st Cavalry then advanced east of Manila by the middle of February before the city was cleared. On 20 February the Division was assigned the mission of seizing and securing crossings over the Marikina River and securing the Tagaytay-Antipolo Line. After being relieved 12 March in the Antipolo area, elements pushed south into Batangas and Bicol Provinces. They mopped up remaining pockets of resistance in these areas in small unit actions. Resistance was officially declared at an end 1 July 1945. The Division left Luzon 25 August 1945 for occupation duty in Japan, arriving in Yokohama 2 September 1945 and entering Tokyo 8 September, the first United States Division to enter the Japanese capital.

  • World War II casualties
  1. 734 Killed in Action
  2. 3,311 Wounded in Action
  3. 236 Died of Wounds.

Occupation duty in Japan followed for the next five years.

Korean War

In the summer of 1950, North Korea attacked South Korea, and the 1st Cavalry Division was rushed to Korea to help shore up the Pusan Perimeter. After the X Corps attack at Inchon, a breakout operation was launched at the Pusan Perimeter. The 1st Cavalry Division remained in the line until it was relieved by the 45th Infantry Division from the United States Army National Guard in January 1952. Following the relief, the division returned to Japan. 1957 saw the division back in Korea, where it remained until 1965.

During the Korean War, there were disparaging rumors about the 1st Cavalry Division's fighting abilities, including a folk song of the time called "The Bug-Out Ballad".[6] It was also rumored that the series of engagements that gave rise to the song were due (at least partly) of the myth that the Division lost its unit colors[7]. Other Army and Marine units disparagingly described the division shoulder insignia as representing 'The horse they never rode, the river they never crossed, and the yellow speaks for itself'. Another version goes: "The shield they never carried, the horse they never rode, the bridge they never crossed, the line they never held, and the yellow is the reason why." The incident that apparently gave rise to this false rumor appears to be the Unsan Engagement which took place on 1 and 2 November 1950 at Unsan, Korea. In that battle, the 8th Cavalry, a component of the 1st Cavalry Division, was pushed back from positions in and around the town of Unsan by vastly superior Chinese forces. The regiment was severely battered, suffering heavy casualties and losing a considerable amount of equipment. This was one of the first major Chinese operations in the Korean War and, like the Changjin (Chosin) Reservoir Battle of this same period, it took the United Nations Command by surprise. Considering the circumstances, the 8th Cavalry fought very well, and it has never been criticized for its conduct in this operation.[7]

On 28 October 1950, Gen. Walker relieved the 1st Cavalry Division of its security mission in P’yongyang. The division’s new orders were to pass through the ROK 1st Division’s lines at Unsan and attack toward the Yalu River. Leading the way on the twenty-ninth, the 8th Cavalry departed P’yongyang and reached Yongsan-dong that evening. The 5th Cavalry arrived the next morning, with the mission to protect the 8th Cavalry’s rear. With the arrival of the 8th Cavalry at Unsan on the thirty-first, the ROK 1st Division redeployed to positions northeast, east, and southeast of Unsan; the 8th Cavalry took up positions north, west, and south of the town. Meanwhile, the ROK 15th Regiment was desperately trying to hold its position east of the 8th Cavalry, across the Samt’an River.

During the afternoon of 1 November the Chinese force’s attack north of Unsan gained strength against the ROK 15th Regiment and gradually extended to the right flank of the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry. At nightfall the 1st Battalion controlled the northern approaches to the Samt’an River, except for portions of the ROK 15th Regiment’s zone on the east side. The battalion’s position on the left was weak; there were not enough soldiers to extend the defensive line to the main ridge leading into Unsan. This left a gap between the 1st and 2d Battalions. East of the Samt’an the ROK 15th Regiment was under heavy attack, and shortly after midnight it no longer existed as a combat force.

The ordeal of the 8th Cavalry now began. At 1930 on 1 November the Chinese attacked the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, all along its line. At 2100 Chinese troops found the weak link in the ridgeline and began moving through it and down the ridge behind the 2d Battalion, penetrating its right flank and encircling its left. Now both the 1st and 2d Battalions were engaged by the enemy on several sides. Around midnight the 8th Cavalry received orders to withdraw southward to Ipsok.

As of 0130 on 2 November there were no reports of enemy activity in the 3d Battalion’s sector south of Unsan. But as the 8th Cavalry withdrew, all three battalions became trapped by Chinese roadblocks south of Unsan during the early morning hours. Members of the 1st Battalion who were able to escape reached the Ipsok area. A head count showed that the battalion had lost about 15 officers and 250 enlisted men. Members of the 2d Battalion, for the most part, scattered into the hills. Many of them reached the ROK lines near Ipsok. Others met up with the 3d Battalion, the hardest hit. Around 0300 the Chinese launched a surprise attack on the battalion command post. Hand-to-hand fighting ensued for about half an hour before the enemy was driven from the area. The disorganized members of the 3d Battalion formed a core of resistance around three tanks on the valley floor and held off the enemy until daylight. By that time only 6 officers and 200 enlisted men were still able to function. More than 170 were wounded, and there was no account of the number dead or missing. Attempts by the 5th Cavalry to relieve the beleaguered battalion were unsuccessful, and the 3d Battalion, 8th Cavalry, soon ceased to exist as an organized force.

The enemy force that brought tragedy to the 8th Cavalry at Unsan was the Chinese 116th Division. Elements of the 116th’s 347th Regiment were responsible for the roadblock south of Unsan. Also engaged in the Unsan action was the Chinese 115th Division.

  • Korean War Casualties
  1. 3,811 Killed in Action
  2. 12,086 Wounded in Action
  • Korean War Honors
  1. 8 Medal of Honor recipients:
5th Cavalry Regiment: Lloyd L. Burke (28 October 1951), Samuel S. Coursen (12 December 1950), and Robert M. McGovern (30 January 1951).
8th Cavalry Regiment: Tibor Rubin (23 July 1950, to 20 April 1953), James L. Stone (21 November and 22 November 1952) Bryant E. Womack (12 March 1952) (9 october 1950) Robert H. Young
16th Reconnaissance Company: Gordon M. Craig (10 September 1950).

Vietnam

The division next saw combat during the Vietnam War. No longer a conventional infantry unit, the division had become an air assault division as the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), commonly referred to as the 1st Air Cavalry Division, using helicopters as troop carriers. The division's colors and unit designations were transferred to the 11th Air Assault Division (Test), then at Ft. Benning, Georgia, in July 1965, and began deploying to Camp Radcliffe, An Khe, Vietnam that month. The division, along with the 101st Airborne Division perfected new tactics and doctrine for helicopter-borne assaults over the next five years in Vietnam. All aircraft carried insignia to indicate their battalion and company, as shown here

The unit's first major operation was the Pleiku Campaign. During this action, the division conducted 35 days of continuous airmobile operations. The opening battle, the Battle of Ia Drang Valley, was described in the book We Were Soldiers Once...And Young which was also the basis of the subsequent Mel Gibson film We Were Soldiers. The unit also earned the first Presidential Unit Citation (US) presented to a division during the Vietnam War.

Most of 1967 was spent in Operation Pershing. This was a large scale search of areas in II Corps which saw 5,400 enemy killed and 2,000 captured. The division re-deployed to Camp Evans, north of Hue in the I Corps Tactical Zone, during the 1968 Tet Offensive, involved in recapturing Quang Tri and Hue. After intense fighting in Hue, the division then moved to relieve Marine Corps units besieged at the Khe Sanh combat base (Operation Pegasus) in March 1968. The 1st Cavalry Division next conducted major clearing operations in the A Shau Valley from mid-April through mid-May, 1968. From May until September 1968 the division participated in local pacification and "MedCap" (Medical outreach programs to offer medical support to the Vietnamese local population) missions I Corps.

In the autumn of 1968, the 1st Cavalry Division relocated south to the III Corps Tactical Zone northwest of Saigon, adjacent to a Cambodian region commonly referred to as the "Parrots Beak" due to its shape. In May, 1970, the division was among U.S. units participating in the Cambodian Incursion, withdrawing from Cambodia on 29 June. The division thereafter took a defensive posture while the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam continued. The bulk of the division was withdrawn on 29 April 1971, but its 3rd Brigade was one of the final two major U.S. ground combat units in Vietnam, departing 29 June 1972. Its 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, as the main unit of Task Force Garryowen, remained another two months.

  • Casualties in Vietnam
  1. 5,444 Killed in Action
  2. 26,592 Wounded in Action

Cold War CENTCOM service

In the aftermath of Vietnam, the 1st Cavalry Division was converted from the air-mobile role into a triple capabilities or TRICAP division. The unit received an infusion of mechanized infantry and artillery, in order to make it capable of missions needing three types of troops; armored, air-mobility, and air cavalry. However, the TRICAP concept was short-lived and by 1975, the division was equipped as a heavy armored force.

The division participated in numerous REFORGER exercises, and was used to test new doctrinal concepts and equipment, including the XM-1 tank. The unit assignment and structure changed significantly, notably when 1/9 Cavalry, the division's most famous unit was removed from service. The 13th Signal Battalion fielded Mobile Subscriber Equipment (MSE) a secure digital communications system for the 21st century for Corps and below units. B company 13th Signal Battalion was first to provide MSE communications to SWA Theater of Operations 1990.

 

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