26 August 2013

Iowa Cavalry Frees WWII Paris, Moves Out Like Ninjas

According to the "Today in National Guard History" website [link now broken], August 25 is the anniversary of U.S. citizen-soldiers arriving in 1944 to liberate Paris. Notably, that includes troopers of the 113th Cavalry Regiment (113th Cav.), whose historical lineage is maintained in modern time by the Iowa National Guard's 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment (1-113th Cav.).

The 1-113th Cav. is headquartered in Sioux City, Iowa, and is part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34th BCT). (Coincidentally, August 25 is also the 1917 birthday of the "Red Bull" division.)

The regiment's World War I nickname of "Red Horse" pre-dates the division's World War II "Red Bull" moniker. Deployed to Eastern Afghanistan's Parwan Province in 2010-2011, the 1-113th Cav. operated as "Task Force Redhorse."

In World War II, the division had been the first to arrive in the European theater, but saw action in North Africa and Italy. The 113th Cav. took a different route in the war, however, finding itself assigned and reorganized to the XIX Corps in Europe. The 113th Cav. started the war as a combination horse and mechanized units, then converted entirely to the use of armored vehicles.

Cavalry soldiers enjoy a reputation for hard- and fast-charging action, whether on the battlefield or at the local bar. They also cultivate a constantly moving culture of irreverent humor, out-of-the-box thinking, and a "now you see us, now you don't" approach to their fighting and free-time.

Cavalry soldiers, in other words, are ninjas with cowboy hats.

To this day, cavalry soldiers celebrate their historical connections to their horse-mounted ancestors by wearing Stetson hats. There is even a tradition of awarding gold or silver spurs to soldiers, after they successfully complete a series of physical challenges called a "spur ride." The phrase "If you ain't Cav ... you ain't s---" is a cavalry motto throughout the Army.

Cavalry soldiers like to brag, but they can often back it up. Often loudly.

On the Iowa National Guard website, Army Chief Warrant Officer David L. Snook writes this about the 113th Cav. mission in World War II:
Throughout the month of August, Allied forces drove rapidly northeastward from Normandy toward Paris. During the advance, the 113th Cavalry had a dual mission – screening for the 30th Infantry Division and maintaining contact with VII Corps on the Division’s right and the 2nd Armored Division on the left. Division orders to the 113th read like something from the old horse cavalry days: "Fan out ahead of the advance in a fast bold run, keeping well ahead of our skirmish lines." [Emphasis added]
The Iowa unit's "first in Paris" claim is shared with members of a New Jersey National Guard unit, according to the National Guard's online historical calendar:
"Dammit colonel, I'm looking up at Notre Dame!" became the battle cry of an on-going feud between two former Guard units as each claim the bragging rights as to which American unit was the first to actually enter the city of Paris just as the Germans abandoned it. The statement was made by Captain William Buenzle, a New Jersey Guardsman, commanding Troop A, 38th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron to his commander, Colonel Cyrus Dolph III, commander of New Jersey's 102nd Cavalry Group, the famous "Essex Troop" to which the 38th was assigned.

The 38th was organized in 1942 from former Guardsmen of Iowa's 113th Cavalry Regiment. After the 38th was assigned to the 102nd in England it gained some New Jersey Guardsmen (including Buenzle) too. The other half of the 102nd Groups' compliment was it's own 102nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, also from New Jersey. [Emphasis added]

Ever since landing on Omaha Beach on June 8th (D+2 after "D-Day") the Group had been an important part of the scouting 'eyes' of the Allied advance through Normandy. On this date each squadron was scouting ahead for major components of the Allied armies. The 38th was patrolling for the 4th U.S. Infantry Division and the 102nd scouting for the French 2nd Armored Division. Both entered Paris at about the same time by two different routes. While Buenzle's statement gives strength to the 38th's claim, and the veterans of each claim to this day that their squadron was the "first," its safe to say that Guardsmen were indeed the "first in Paris."
A detail of note, however, is contained in a caption that accompanies the historical photo at the top of this blog post:
An M-8 "Greyhound" armored scout car of Troop B, 102nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron marches in the "Liberation Day" parade in Paris held on August 29th. Troop A of the 102nd, along with Troop A, 38th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron each claimed to be the "first in Paris" on this date. While the 102nd marched in the parade, the 38th missed it as it was dispatched north of the city in the continuing pursue of the Germans. [Empahsis added]
The Iowa cavalry troopers, in other words, had already moved on.

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