106th Cavalry Regiment

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106th Cavalry Group
106CavalryRegtCOA.jpg
106th Cavalry Regiment coat of arms
Active 1942–1945
2006 – present
Country United States
Branch Army National Guard
Type Cavalry
Role Reconnaissance and surveillance
Size Regiment
Motto Uteumque Ubique
Anywhere at Any Time
Colors yellow, red
Equipment Bantam jeep, M8 Greyhound, M5A1 Stuart, M24 Chaffee
Engagements World War II
Normandy
Rhineland
Ardennes-Alsace
Central Europe
Decorations Distinguished Service Cross (1)
Legion of Merit (1)
Legion of Honor (1)
Croix de guerre (16)
Silver Star (58)
Bronze Star Medal (519)
Battle honours 121st CRS: Fourragère
121st CRS: French Croix de guerre with Palm
106th Group: French Croix de guerre with Palm
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Colonel Vennard Wilson
Insignia
Distinctive unit insignia 106CavalryRegtDUI.jpg
U.S. Cavalry Regiments
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105th Cavalry Regiment 108th Cavalry Regiment

The 106th Cavalry Group (later reorganized as a regiment) was a mechanized cavalry unit of the United States Army in World War II. The 106th Cavalry Group had previously been known as the 1st Regiment Illinois Volunteer Cavalry during the Spanish American War and World War I and was constituted in 1921 as part of the Illinois National Guard. It underwent a number of reorganizations before World War II. Like other guard units during the inter-war years, the 106th held monthly drills and yearly training. Readiness for war in 1940 led to the mechanization of the unit and induction into Federal Service at Camp Livingston, Louisiana on 25 November 1940.

After the Pearl Harbor attack, the 106th trained at Camp Hood, Texas until the spring of 1944 when they deployed to Europe. Upon arriving in England, the group was reorganized into the 106th and 121st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadrons along with a Group Headquarters. After arriving in Europe, they were often in the lead of other units. Lightly armed, they scouted ahead to fix enemy locations. For the next year and a half, they fought through France, Luxembourg, Germany and Austria, earning five campaign streamers and the Croix de guerre from Charles de Gaulle, President of the Provisional French government. The Regiment lead the Allied advance across the Rhine, and were the first unit to attack a town south of the Siegfried Line or West Wall.

In late 2006, the 33rd Brigade Combat Team of the Illinois Army National Guard was formed and the 106th Cavalry Squadron was included in the reorganization.

Heraldry and colors[edit]

Coat of arms[edit]

Blazon

Shield Per fess dovetailed Or and Gules, in base four fleurs-de-lis, three and one, of the first.[1]

Crest That for the regiments and separate battalions of the Illinois Army National Guard: On a wreath of the colors Or and Gules upon a grassy field the blockhouse of old Fort Dearborn, Proper.[1]

Motto UTCUMQUE UBIQUE (Anywhere At Any Time).[1]

Symbolism

Shield The shield is divided per fess dovetailed Or and Gules (yellow and red), denoting that the organization has served as Artillery as well as Cavalry. Red and yellow, being the Spanish colors, also indicate Spanish-American War service within the continental limits of the United States. The fleurs-de-lis on the red portion symbolize the combat operations of the organization in Europe during World War I and World War II.[1]

Crest The crest is that of the Illinois Army National Guard.[1]

Background

The coat of arms was originally approved for the 106th Cavalry Regiment, Illinois and Michigan National Guard on 17 December 1930. The description wording was modified on 30 December 1932 to show the unit's correct period of service on the Mexican Border. The unit was redesignated as the 106th Heavy Tank Battalion, Illinois and Michigan National Guard on 3 October 1949. The shield was amended to delete the crest for organizations of the Michigan National Guard on 6 October 1949. Four years later, on 19 October 1953 the unit was redesignated as the 106th Tank Battalion, Illinois National Guard. The insignia was redesignated for the 106th Armor Regiment, Illinois National Guard on 13 December 1960. It was redesignated once again as the 106th Cavalry Regiment, Illinois Army National Guard on 7 January 1965. It was amended to change the symbolism of the shield of the coat of arms on 7 October 1969.[1]

Distinctive unit insignia[edit]

The unit device is a gold-colored metal and enamel device 1 1/32 inches (2.62 cm) in height overall consisting of a shield blazoned: Per fess dovetailed Or and Gules, in base four fleurs-de-lis, three and one, of the first.[1]

The shield is divided per fess dovetailed Or and Gules (yellow and red), denoting that the organization has served as Artillery as well as Cavalry. Red and yellow, being the Spanish colors, also indicate Spanish-American War service within the continental limits of the United States. The fleurs-de-lis on the red portion symbolize the combat operations of the organization in Europe during World War I and World War II.[1]

Pre-World War II[edit]

The 106th Cavalry was before World War II a National Guard unit based in Chicago, Illinois. Prior to World War I and the Spanish-American War it had been known as the 1st Illinois Volunteer Cavalry. The 106th underwent a number of different reorganizations until 1 September 1940, when it was redesignated the 1st Squadron, 106th Cavalry (Horse-Mechanized). The 106th was inducted into federal service on 25 November 1940 in Chicago. The Regiment moved to Camp Livingston, Louisiana on 3 January 1941 under command of V Corps.[2]

The Black Horse Troop[edit]

From 1929–1940, Troop E of the Regiment was known as The Black Horse Troop and participated in parades and ceremonies as a horse mounted unit.[3][4] Businessman Samuel Insull raised funds to outfit the Troop and their Mounted Band.[5] The Troop wore a dress uniform of blue shell jackets.[6]

World War II[edit]

Along with other National Guard units, the regiment was federalized in 1940.

At the beginning of World War II, most of the members of the regiment were given the opportunity to enroll in officers school. A core group of about 60 men chose to stay with the unit. The Regiment was assigned to the Third Army on 12 January 1942, and to IV Corps on 1 May 1942. In spring 1942 the Regiment became fully mechanized.[7] The regiment participated in several maneuvers at Hineston, Kinisatchie, and Dry Creek, Louisiana; and in the Louisiana Maneuver Area through the beginning of November 1942.

They were assigned to XV Corps on 1 March 1943 and transferred to Burkeville, Texas, on 25 June 1943, after which it was sent to Camp Hood, Texas on 25 August 1943 under the Tank Destroyer Command. The Regiment staged at Camp Shanks, New York from 20 February 1944 until 27 February when it departed the New York Port of Embarkation for England.[8]

  • Constituted: 1921.
  • Activated: 25 November 1940.
  • Overseas: 1943–1945.
  • Campaigns: Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, Central Europe
  • Days of combat: 480.
  • Awards: Fourragère-1 French Croix de guerre with Palm-2, DSC-1; SS-58; BS-519.
  • Commander: Colonel Vennard Wilson, (25 November 1940 – 23 October 1945).
  • Casualties: KIA-194, MIA-4, Wounded-499
  • Returned to U.S.: 1 October 1945.
  • Inactivated: 23 October 1945.

Subordination[edit]

U.S. 1st Army, VIII Corps 27 June – 31 July 1944
U.S. 3rd Army, XV Corps 1 – 27 August 44
U.S. 3rd Army, XII Corps 28 August – 10 September 44
U.S. 7th Army, XV Corps 28 September 44 – 15 October 45

Campaign summary[edit]

The 106th served in the European campaign. The unit comprised approximately fifteen hundred men and was given various typical mechanized cavalry missions later recognized by the French nation with award of two Croix de guerre. The unit finished its wartime duty with the 7th Army, XV Corps.

As a forward cavalry force, the 106th provided the first American troops to enter Salzburg, Austria. The 121st Squadron of the 106th received information that the Germans were holding the King of the Belgians and his family prisoner in a chateau near Strobl, Austria. Captain Benning, the commander of B Troop of the 121st Squadron, led some cavalrymen of his unit, including those who spoke German, on a rescue party. The group later served as Honor Guards for the King of the Belgians and his consort. The 106th secured a truce from the defending German Army on 7 May, the day before the German High Command surrendered to the Allies on 8 May 1945.[2]

Organization and tactics[edit]

The 106th Cavalry Group's purpose was to act as the "eyes and ears" of a field army or army group, scouting ahead of slower and heavier-equipped armored and infantry formations to locate the enemy and shield friendly units from ground detection. Whenever enemy forces were found, the cavalry was designed to determine opposing size and positions using reconnaissance-by-fire tactics, and report this information to higher command. The group was too lightly armed to engage in sustained combat, and regular infantry or armor was utilized if the opposition proved beyond cavalry-group capabilities. Another routine aspect of its reconnaissance duties involved employment of the cavalry group to fill measurable gaps separating frontline Allied units. The cavalry group was also assigned missions requiring rapid movement to bypass enemy forces, if opportune weaknesses or uncovered terrain was discovered by mechanized reconnaissance methods.[9]

Equipment and armament[edit]

The Bantam Jeep came in many configurations. The 106th Bantam vehicles were equipped with .30 caliber machine guns or mortars.
The M8 Greyhound was equipped with a 37mm gun, three machine guns, and two powerful radios.
M5A1 Stuart Light Tank firing its 37mm gun.

The 106th Cavalry was lightly equipped to allow it to move quickly and deploy rapidly. They fought mounted in mobile Bantam Jeeps and M8 armored cars. Each squadron's complement of troops and vehicles consisted of a headquarters troop that included communication, administrative, mess, maintenance, transportation, and supply support, a medical detachment, a cavalry assault gun troop, and three reconnaissance troops, lettered A, B, and C. A squadron of about 760 men was about the equivalent of a typical Army battalion in numbers, though Cavalry units were typically smaller.[10]

The three reconnaissance troops were each equipped with Bantam jeeps with a bracket-mounted .30 caliber machine gun, manned by a soldier sitting in the front passenger seat. A second Bantam jeep was mounted with a 60mm mortar manned by two soldiers. Sometimes the Bantam was mounted with a .50 caliber machine gun.[10] Each troop was usually equipped with a mixture of the three vehicles. To maximize speed and maneuverability on the battlefield, the Bantams were not given extra armor protection.[2] The only modifications the 106th made was to add a wire cutter. They mounted a steel pole on the front bumper that extended above the driver's head because the Germans would sometimes stretch piano wire over roads with the intention of injuring or decapitating the driver.[11]:80

The third vehicle used was the six-wheeled, light-weight M8 Greyhound armored car, mounted with a 37 mm gun in a movable turret that could swing a full 360 degrees. It also featured a .30 caliber coaxial machine gun that could move independently of the turret. The M8 was equipped with powerful FM radios to enable battlefield communications.[citation needed]

E Troop, the Squadron's mobile artillery, was the Cavalry Assault Gun Troop and consisted of three assault gun platoons. Each platoon was equipped with assault guns, short-barreled 75 millimetres (3.0 in) howitzers in an open turret on an M8 chassis. They also utilized two halftracks to carry their headquarters unit and an ammunition section. Two gun sections used an M8 Greyhound.[10]

The new M24 Chaffee light tank that was issued to the 106th Cavalry in February 1945. Its 75 mm gun was vastly superior to the Stuart tank.

F Troop consisted of five light tank companies. Early in the war, each company had three light tank platoons, consisting of five 37mm M5A1 Stuart light tanks. While fast and maneuverable, the Stuart's armor plating and its cannon were soon found to be no match against the German tanks. In February 1945, they were replaced with the more heavily armed 75 mm M24 Chaffee light tank.[10]

The M5 Stuart light tank was capable of speeds up to 36 mph (58 km/h) on the road, while the M24 Chaffee could travel at speeds up to 37 mph (60 km/h) on paved surfaces. The M8 armored car was capable of speeds of up to 50 mph (80 km/h), while the Bantams could exceed 70 miles per hour (110 km/h). The officers usually rode with their enlisted men in the Bantams, while the squadron's support troops used a variety of vehicles including the Bantams, military trucks, and armored halftracks. At times, the men would dismount from their light vehicles and take on infantry roles, digging in to create a stronger defensive line.[citation needed]

Patrols were undertaken both on foot or mounted as the circumstances dictated. In this capacity, the cavalrymen would go into combat with M1 rifles and carbines, hand grenades, Thompson machine guns, and newly developed bazookas. When facing heavily fortified enemy positions or, later in the war, against the heaviest German tanks, the 106th was accompanied with supporting units, usually in the form of a small number of tank destroyers. However, the mission of reconnaissance units was not to kill all of the enemies encountered, but to summon the slower moving and better equipped infantry and armored units whose job it was to fix and destroy the heavily armored enemy.[2]

The headquarters, maintenance, mess, supply and medical units were equipped with a variety of military trucks, M8 Armored cars, halftracks, and Bantam jeeps.[citation needed]

Arrival in England[edit]

The regiment arrived at Glasgow, Scotland on 9 March 1944, was moved to Doddington Hall camp in England, and six days later was reorganized as the HHT 106th Cavalry Group (Mechanized), comprising the 106th and 121st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadrons along with a Group Headquarters. Half of its officers and non-commissioned soldiers formed the basis of the newly created 121st Cavalry Squadron. The 33rd Aviation Battalion of the Illinois National Guard was reorganized as Troop A.[12] After three months of training, the 106th sailed for France on 29 June 1944. While crossing the English Channel to Europe, the Squadron was transported on two Liberty ships. The Liberty ship carrying A Troop of the 121st Squadron hit a mine shortly after leaving England. Fortunately, a Red Cross LST came quickly alongside and all the men were safely evacuated back to England for another 19 days before new transportation to France could be found.[citation needed]

European operations[edit]

The cavalry group served in the European campaign and at various stages screened the advance of the US Third Army, US Seventh Army and US Sixth Army Group. The 106th as a scouting force provided the first American troops to enter Salzburg, Austria and accepted its surrender.[13]

Normandy[edit]

M5A1 Stuart Light Tank passes through the wrecked streets of Coutances.

The 106th Cavalry Group arrived in France under the command of Colonel Vennard Wilson, a Regular Army officer. They were first committed to combat on 2 July 1944 with the VIII Corps. Its first mission was to assist in the reduction of German forces previously isolated during the VIII Corps advance in the Normandy Peninsula. The next mission was an offensive screening mission, which led from Normandy south through St. James, Isigny, La Haye-du-Puits, Manche, Basse-Normandie, Coutance, and Avaranches, to Rennes.[14] With the quick advance, gaps appeared between VIII and XV Corps, and General George S. Patton plugged the gap between Louvigne and Rennes with the 106th Cavalry Group.[15]:369

When VIII Corps turned west to mop up and secure the Brittany Peninsula, the 106th Regiment was reassigned once again to XV Corps. As the XV Corps raced east towards Le Mans, the 106th provided reconnaissance and a screening force. Members of the 106th were among the first to enter Le Mans on 8 August. The German front in the Battle of Normandy had collapsed, and the XV Corps turned north to help close the Falaise Pocket and the 106th provided flank screening security.

Northern France[edit]

The XV Corps then turned north towards the Seine and Paris. With the pocket closed, the 106th reconnoitered east through Alençon, Sarthe, Nogent, and Mantes-Gassicourt. On 15 August they covered the 50-mile (80 km) to Dreux, just west of Paris, in a single day.[15]:369 They remained there covering the XV Corps' flank until 27 August. This mission helped protect XV Corps against German remnants attempting to escape the Falaise Pocket.[14] The advance east from Auxerre to Gondrecourt was very fast against diminishing German resistance. Their screening mission took them along a 90-mile (140 km) front from the left to the right flank of the Third Army.[2][14]

The group was then transferred under the command of and assigned to protect the right flank of XII Corps for twelve days carrying out reconnaissance as that corps advanced east. In mid-September it was reassigned to XV Corps at Joinville. This marked a two-month and 400-mile (640 km) trek across France as they moved in to protect the right flank of U.S. Third Army during their rapid advance from Joinville au Marne to Charmes au Moselle. During this advance, the 106th along with the 2nd French Armored Division assisted in eradicating the effective combat power of the German 16th Infantry Division.[2][16]

The 106th's commanding officer, Colonel Vennard Wilson, later described the unit's action:

We used five of our six troops to contain those Germans, slipped around to their north, delivered our infantry on their objective at five in the afternoon after a fifty-mile advance. I wish to pay special tribute to B Troop 106th Squadron and their gallant troop commander, Captain Park, in this operation. This troop was one hundred miles in rear of us when the advance was ordered, came up during the night, arrived at the starting point after the other troops had departed, kept moving as rear troop during the day, and were sent into action late in the afternoon after I had committed the five other troops. Captain Park used one of his platoons on side blocking and reconnaissance missions, and when I arrived at Charmes we had only Captain Park, two platoons, and a platoon of tanks. It was enough to do the job.[14]

Eastern France[edit]

In late September, the U.S. Army transferred the XV Corps from General Patton's Third Army, 12th Army Group to Seventh Army, 6th Army Group. Reassigned with the XV Corps, the 106th—without moving positions—switched from guarding the Third Army's right flank to guarding the Seventh Army's left flank and maintaining contact between the Third and Seventh Armies.[2]

The 106th was then tasked with reconnaissance in front of the XV Corps. They led the XV Corps from the Moselle River to Lunéville, and supported by the 813th Tank Destroyer Battalion,[17] attacked northeast into the wooded Forêt de Parroy, northeast of Lunéville, France. For two months they fought as infantrymen, dismounted alongside the 79th and 44th Infantry Divisions, enduring winter weather and minefields. Major General Wade H. Haislip characterized Forêt de Parroy as being "in reality a jungle."[15]:392

During what was said to be the worst winter in 30 years, the 1500 men of the 106th held up to 125-mile (201 km) of the front. Staying in contact with the XII Corps right flank to its north was difficult because its lines were so thinly spread. Maintaining relatively static lines from 20 September through 5 November, they took the opportunity to rotate the two squadrons in and out of the line as trench foot took its toll on the soldiers. On several occasions the 106th was ordered to counter German probing attacks. The 121st Cavalry Squadron was later awarded the Croix de guerre with Palm for its combat participation during this extended period.[2][16]

When the XV Corps' infantry attacked the German defensive line, the 106th, once again supported by the 813th Tank Destroyer Battalion,[17] preceded the 2nd French Armored Division in maneuvering through the Vosges Mountains to within 1-mile (1.6 km) of the Rhine River. The 106th screened the north advance, leading the attack on Sarrebourg and then advancing 16-mile (26 km) to the east to seize the Saverne Gap. Once through the Gap, the 106th guarded the northwest flank near Sarrebourg as the rest of the Corps advanced east another 33 miles (53 km) to capture Strasbourg.[16]

On the American's Thanksgiving Day, 23 November 1944, one of the most élite units in the entire German army, the well-rested and refitted Panzer-Lehr-Division counterattacked, trying to recapture the Saverne Gap and cut off the XV Corps from its supply lines. The 106th was forced back (militarily credited with the usual propaganda of "completing a brilliant delaying action") but the retreat gave XV Corps Commander Major General Wade H. Haislip enough time to reinforce and the counter German advance.[16]

Two weeks later, on 16 December 1944, the Germans launched the Ardennes Offensive (Battle of the Bulge). The 106th was placed in a dismounted (infantry) patrol mode north of Sarrebourg to scout German forces.[16]

On 23 December the Group relieved the 6th Cavalry Group of Third Army in its zone to the north. The 106th Squadron relieved the 28th Squadron near St. Avold and the 121st Squadron relieved the 6th Squadron near Freyming-Merlebach. The 106th Cavalry Group maintained position on the shoulder of the bulge, helping maintain contact with Third Army and check the German attack.[16]

Ardennes offensive[edit]

As the Ardennes Offensive faltered, the Germans launched Operation Nordwind just before midnight on New Year's Eve to try to relieve pressure on its troops in the Ardennes. They once again sought to recapture the Saverne Gap and join up with the German 19th Army, enveloping seven American divisions along the Rhine River. The Germans attacked the right center of the Regiment and the group temporarily withdrew. The bitterly cold winter weather made fighting more difficult, but the 106th finally forced the Germans to retreat.[16]

When the Ardennes Offensive was stopped, the Seventh Army and the French First Army resumed the offensive on 29 January 1945. The 106th continued to patrol until 11 February 1945, when it was relieved by the 101st Cavalry Group. The regiment moved outside of Merlebach for rest, refitting, and equipment maintenance. They were outfitted with the new M-24 'Chaffee' light tank with its improved 75 mm gun mount, a huge improvement over the M5A1's 37 mm gun.[16] Upon receiving the tanks in mid-February 1945, soldiers said, "The light tank companies of both squadrons turned in their 37mm gun-toting M5A1's and drew the new M24's Armed with a 75 mm cannon and twice the size of the precursors, these tanks seemed beautiful to us. Our tankers itched to try them out. On 15 March, they got their chance. We were back in the line."[18]:14

Rhineland[edit]

American soldiers cross the West Wall or Siegfried Line.

After just over a month's break, the 106th Cavalry Group returned to the front lines. From 15 to 26 March it led XV Corps' offensive through the Siegfried Line near Saarbrücken. Leading the advance across the Rhine were A and B Troops of the 121st Squadron, the first to attack a town south of the West Wall.[19] Finally reaching the Rhine River, on 27 March 1945 the 106th crossed the river and cleared and secured Salzbach. The Group then covered the advance of XV Corps to Aschaffenburg am Main. The 106th secured the Corps' left flank and maintained contact with the 44th and 45th Infantry Divisions and the 2nd Cavalry Division.[16]

From 1 to 5 April, the regiment assisted the 2nd Cavalry Group, advancing north to Bad Orb, Germany and secured an Allied Prisoner of War camp. The Regiment's 121st Squadron was then charged with reconnoitering the main road to Neustadt.

In the next eight days, the group moved northeast into Germany, rapidly cleared the towns of Alsberg, Siedensroth, Steinau, Schlüchtern and Flieden. From 5 to 13 April, the regiment cleared the enemy eastward to the Main River, a tributary of the Rhine River, covering the advance of the 45th Infantry Division into Lauda-Königshofen and then on 20 April the capture of Nuremberg.[16]

On 21 April A Troop of the 106th Squadron was charged with leading the 2nd Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division about 160-mile (260 km) south to the Danube River, and to secure and hold a crossing near Neuberg.

During the next two days, the 106th Cavalry Group fought its final major engagement. From Neuberg, the unit attacked southward towards Augsburg. Leading the 45th Infantry Division rapidly east 60 kilometres (37 mi) down the autobahn towards Munich as it tried to locate the rapidly retreating Germans, Troop C along with two light tanks from Company F, drew a concentrated attack from German forces only 5.6-mile (9.0 km) from their objective. The German self-propelled guns, tanks, and small arms fire left four dead and destroyed four armored M8 vehicles and four Bantams.

On 29 April, during the assault towards Munich, the 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Division liberated the Dachau Concentration Camp. The 45th Infantry Division for which the 106th had reconnoitered for several months, battled diehard Nazi troops and took Munich on 30 April 1945.[20]:441 After helping to capture Munich, the 106th lead the XV Corps into Austria. On 2 May, they received orders to capture Salzburg. En route, they captured the remnants of the Hungarian 9th Infantry Brigade, about 8,800 men, who were retreating eastward, fighting the advancing Soviet Marshall Rodion Malinovsky's 2nd Ukrainian Front. Salzburg surrendered on 4 May, and the local German commander offered a truce.[16][20]:441

Austria[edit]

The group's final mission involved the release of the King of Belgium Held in internal exile by the Germans since his small nation had withstood a German attack for three weeks in May 1940, German-speaking members of a small recon party of the 106th learned while searching the towns of St. Wolfgang and Strobl that King Leopold was under guard in a villa in Strobl. Travelling in a six-wheeled Mercedes previously owned by Germany's Foreign Minister Von Ribbentrop,[21] the troops located the villa. The S.S. Guards were still present, and the men of the 106th disarmed them without any resistance, freeing King Leopold.[16]

Decorations[edit]

Croix de guerre 1939–1945
Croix-de-guerre-contraste-IMG 0949.jpg
French Croix de guerre of World War II with one gilt palm
Awarded by France Flag of France.svg
Type Medal
Awarded for Military duty during World War II mentioned in Despatches

Colonel Vennard Wilson was awarded the Legion of Merit, Legion of Honor, and Croix de guerre for his outstanding leadership of this unit. Lieutenant Benjamin S. Hill of the 121st Squadron was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.[14]

The 121st Cavalry Squadron was awarded the Fourragère. For its action at Lunéville, the 121st Cavalry Squadron was recognized with the Croix de guerre with Palm, and the Croix de guerre with Palm was awarded to entire 106th Cavalry Regiment for their gallantry and action at Caen-Falaise.[14]

General Charles de Gaulle's citation praised the 106th Cavalry Group's action fighting alongside the 2nd French Division into the Vosges Mountains:

A magnificent Regiment, whose brilliant achievements, during the time in which it fought with and in support of the 2nd French Armored Division, from 20 August 1944 to 10 February 1945, command the highest admiration.

This Regiment conducted aggressive and extended reconnaissance form east of the MOULDRE towards CRESPIERRES as far as the MOSELLE at CHARMES, where it established and held a bridgehead without reinforcements; then near LUNEVILLE and BACCARAT engaged in protective and advanced guard missions, first at ANDELOT, then from the MARNE to the MOSELLE. In the MORTAGNE sector, the Regiment seized the town of MONT, overran VOUCOURT, and reached the line EMMERSVILLER-GEISLAUTERN-WADGASSEN, where it held stubbornly in the face of the strong German counter-attacks of 31 December 1944 and of 1 January 1945.

In the conduct of these operations the 106th Cavalry Group, U.S.A., showed a tenacity and vigor worthy of the greatest praise. Never allowing itself to be cut off even when it was engaged with a determined enemy force superior in numbers to its own, successfully accomplishing all the missions assigned to it, persistently seeking contact when the enemy concealed himself, this Regiment has proven itself possessed of the highest military attributes and of a combat proficiency without equal.[22]

Address from Colonel Vennard Wilson, Troop Commander at End of War[edit]

Headquarters 106 Cavalry Group (Mech.) St. Wolfgang, Austria Address to Members of 106 Cavalry Group Memorial Day, 30 May 1945 by Vennard Wilson Colonel, Cavalry Commanding

"This is our National Memorial Day. It is fitting that we set aside a few moments to pay honor to our comrades who, by their supreme sacrifices, have made possible the triumph of our forces. It is our custom on this day to pay honor to all the dead of all the wars of the American Armies. We salute them.

Yet this is also a special occasion for those of us who have just completed a long and arduous campaign, and who by the accidents of chance still live to tell the story of those who are no longer with us. We cannot but feel a special reverence for those comrades whom we knew intimately, whom we saw while their blood was still warm, men who did not let us down in a fight.

Let me briefly review our accomplishments. Our regiment, approximately fifteen hundred men, rather small as a major combat unit, has carried its full share of the action from Normandy to Austria. We landed in Normandy on 2 July 1944, learned combat in the famous hedgerow fighting there, learned to make swift advances in the initial breakthrough to Avranches. Then came our first open runs, from Avranches to the Seine. We were ready, and took up the gallop for fifty- and sixty-mile runs, leading the pack all the way. When the Third Army paused for supplies, we covered its right flank for a length of one hundred and fifteen miles.

The advance began again and we were told to lead the XV Corps from the vicinity of Neufchateau to Charmes. That, from a tactical standpoint, was one of the most interesting and successful of our accomplishments. An entire German division—the 16th Infantry Division—was in front of us. Our communications and technique were then developed to such a high standard that our infantry following us hardly lost an hour.

We used five of our six troops to contain those Germans, slipped around to their north, delivered our infantry on their objective at five in the afternoon after a fifty-mile advance. I wish to pay special tribute to B Troop 106th Squadron and their gallant troop commander, Captain Park, in this operation. This troop was one hundred miles in rear of us when the advance was ordered, came up during the night, arrived at the starting point after the other troops had departed, kept moving as rear troop during the day, and were sent into action late in the afternoon after I had committed the five other troops. Captain Park used on of his platoons on side blocking and reconnaissance missions, and when I arrived at Charmes we had only Captain Park, two platoons, and a platoon of tanks. It was enough to do the job.

Our next phas was the advance to Luneville. The Corps paused a few days at Charmes, on the Moselle. Our technique was so well developed that we were already in contact on the objective when the advance started.

Then came the foot-slogging days of the Forest of Parroy. We became infantry for a solid month, and slugged it out alongside the 79th Division. That was far from a pleasant campaign.

Then the days of the Vosges Mountains, the fight with the 130th Panzer (Lehr), the best fighting Germans we have ever fought against. The fight at Wimmenau, not one of our best. The winter campaign at Ludweiler, where we lost two hills but still retained the position. We were not at our top form then, far from it. But we rebuilt the outfit without withdrawing from combat, and the attack at Schaffhausen by A Troop 106th Squadron smacked them over like professionals.

Then the rest at Merlebach, the arrival of the new tanks, the finest present a man could have, and we were ready again. When the advance was begun to the Siegfried Line, I think that this outfit was absolutely at its top form. It was ferocious. I went in with A Troop 121st Squadron when it and B Troop 121st Squadron attacked the first town south of the Siegfried Line. Never could a man be prouder than to feel the weight of such an attack as you put on then. I know that nothing could possibly stop you.

Next, the advance to and across the Rhine, to the Main, to Nurnburg, to the Danube, to Munich, and finally to Austria. During this period, we worked with two of the finest fighting divisions of the American Army, the 3rd and 45th Infantry Divisions. They are both fast-moving and hard-hitting. We gained their respect and admiration.

One of the most interesting advances was the one on to Salzburg, and beyond. We were attached to the 3rd Division at the time. There was only one road available, and no room for us. The 3rd Division leading elements were delayed by a blown bridge some ten kilometers forward of Salzburg. The 121st Squadron was halted some forty kilometers west of Salzburg in read of a bad by-pass. During the night, the Division Commander gave me permission to use a northern road, and the Squadron took off at midnight. Led by B Troop 121st Squadron, with its troop commander, Captain Benecke, on the point bantam, it accepted the surrender of Salzburg early in the morning, beating the infantry by a very short time. When I informed the Division Commander of what you had done, his comment was "Fine, I didn't think you could do it!" He did not know you men as well as I did.

I have mentioned four troops merely because they happened to fit into the story. The others have also had their day. There was C Troop 106th Squadron in a brilliant final drive to Munich, there was C Troop 121st Squadron which played the major share in the Ludweiler Campaign, the assault gun troops who supported us constantly, and those tankers, God bless them, who made the most of our fights successful, those supply men who fed us, those mechanics who kept us rolling, those medics who saved many of us, make us feel that every man played his part.

I feel a pride in this regiment. It is always a proud feeling to belong to an outfit which can take its place with the best, which is definitely placed by its Corps Commander and by the infantry commanders with which it has worked, as a first-class fighting unit.

Those exploits of ours were not without cost. You cannot whip the enemy unless you take your share of the losses. They were accomplished through the willingness of our comrades to get out and feel his fire, to give back plenty of it, and to make the necessary sacrifice to dominate him. To our fifteen hundred men, there have been 1,195 Purple Hearts issued, and 194 of these will never again go into combat. They are our honored dead who lie buried on foreign soil; the men to whom we pay special tribute today.

We owe a certain debt to these dead. They have aided us in the defeat of a powerful, savage, warlike nation. We must so conduct ourselves in the future that their victory will be complete, that the peace for which they died will be permanent."

(address followed by a reading of the Honor Roll by Troop Commander)

Kappelman photographic collection[edit]

T/5 Glenn Kappelman was among replacements who joined the unit on 1 February 1944, and he was able to take about 750 pictures of the unit's action during the remainder of the war. Against orders, Kapplelman had secreted a Kodak 616 camera in his gas mask during embarkation inspection in New York. Because he was a common soldier and not a professional photographer, and since cameras and film were rare among troops in combat, the photographs depict a soldier's everyday experience and are relatively unique among war photography.[11]

Traveling in an M8 armored car, he stashed film in empty ammunition boxes, shooting nearly 100 rolls of film. On one occasion during the winter of 1945 near Lunéville, his M8 was damaged and his squadron was forced to hastily retreat. Unable to carry his boxes of film, he hid them in a nearby home under a table covered by a long tablecloth. He returned two days later to find the ammunition boxes undisturbed.[11]

Fifty years later, he began to produce large format prints of selected images and donated copies to the United States Cavalry Museum at Ft. Riley, Kansas, and other collections. He also gave a set to the King of Belgium who had been 15 years old when he was rescued by Kappelman's unit from German captivity in 1945. Kappelman and fellow 106th veteran Art Barkis narrated a largely self-financed video documentary titled Through My Sights: A Gunner's View of WWII of the photographic collection in 1999. In 2003 he followed that with a book of the same name featuring a large number of the photos interspersed with his personal recollections 50 years later, along with excerpts from his wartime letters and diaries.[11]

Kappelman reprinted the unit's 1945 history, "The 106th Cavalry Group in Europe 1944-1945" in 1999. He added additional information to the captions of some photographs.

Occupation duty[edit]

The 106th remained in Austria as an occupation force until October 1945. Part of their responsibility were acting as an Honor Guard for King Leopold. The King was at the time a controversial figure because of his stand during the war and refusal to flee and set up a government in exile, but surrendered to the Germans. The 106th were billeted in Pension Appesbach next door to the King's chateau. They assisted with Military Police duties but otherwise relaxed, playing sports, swimming, boating, and sightseeing.[11]:112 Ironically, one member of B Troop, T/5 Myron Ricketts, having survived the war, died in a drowning accident during occupation duties.[23]

In a speech to the Cavalry Group on Memorial Day, 30 May 1945, commanding officer Colonel Vennard Wilson described the Group's and specifically Troop B's accomplishments:

Our regiment, approximately fifteen hundred men, rather small as a major combat unit, has carried its full share of the action from Normandy to Austria. We landed in Normandy on 2 July 1944, learned combat in the famous hedgerow fighting there, learned to make swift advances in the initial breakthrough to Avranches. Then came our first open runs, from Avranches to the Seine. We were ready, and took up the gallop for fifty- and sixty-mile runs, leading the pack all the way. When the Third Army paused for supplies, we covered its right flank for a length of one hundred and fifteen miles.

The advance began again and we were told to lead the XV Corps from the vicinity of Neufchateau to Charmes. That, from a tactical standpoint, was one of the most interesting and successful of our accomplishments. An entire German division—the 16th Infantry Division—was in front of us. Our communications and technique were then developed to such a high standard that our infantry following us hardly lost an hour.

We used five of our six troops to contain those Germans, slipped around to their north, delivered our infantry on their objective at five in the afternoon after a fifty-mile advance. I wish to pay special tribute to B Troop 106th Squadron and their gallant troop commander, Captain Park, in this operation. This troop was one hundred miles in rear of us when the advance was ordered, came up during the night, arrived at the starting point after the other troops had departed, kept moving as rear troop during the day, and were sent into action late in the afternoon after I had committed the five other troops. Captain Park used one of his platoons on side blocking and reconnaissance missions, and when I arrived at Charmes we had only Captain Park, two platoons, and a platoon of tanks. It was enough to do the job.[14]

Post World War II[edit]

The 106th Cavalry Regiment departed Austria for the United States on 1 October 1945 via New York and was inactivated in Urbana, Illinois on 24 October 1945.[2][12] In 1952 Companies A and C of the 106th Tank Battalion were headquartered at Camp Lincoln in Illinois.[12]

Modern era[edit]

Reorganized[24] 1 February 1968 to consist of Troop E, an element of the 33d Infantry Brigade. Troop E 106 Cavalry was constituted as a scout element for the 33rd Separate Infantry Brigade, in Streator, IL, as a unit of the Illinois Army National Guard. Unit won several best unit citations during annual training with the 33rd SIB in the late 1980s. It served with distinction during a call up for Mississippi River floods in 1993. Deactivated in 1995 and reconstituted as an air defense artillery unit.

In late 2006, the 33rd Brigade Combat Team of the Illinois Army National Guard was formed. A, B, and C Troops of 106th Cavalry Squadron along with its Headquarters Troop were included in the reorganization, forming the 33rd's Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition squadron. Like their predecessors, they are responsible for reconnaissance, engaging the enemy with scout vehicles and anti-armor weapons, identifying and reporting enemy locations and activity, and providing enemy targeting information.[12][25]

On 2 and 16 August 2008, about 100 Soldiers of the Headquarters and Headquarters Troop and Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry were honored in a deployment ceremony prior to their deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, to Afghanistan. As part of the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, they acted as mentor teams. They trained both the Afghan Army and Afghan National Police, conducting patrol and security missions.[26] This deployment was a part of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix VIII.[citation needed]

Current units[edit]

The Squadron currently consists of a Headquarters Troop and three cavalry troops:

Notable personnel[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "106th Cavalry Regiment". Archived from the original on 23 June 2008. Retrieved 30 November 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "World War II History". Archived from the original on 19 October 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2008. 
  3. ^ "Armor". The Cavalry Journal 48: 93. 1939. 
  4. ^ Elting, John R. (1988). Military Uniforms in America: The Modern Era from 1868. Presidio Press. p. 92. 
  5. ^ Barnhart, Bill (1999). Kerner: The Conflict of Intangible Rights. Schlickman, Eugene F. University of Illinois Press. p. 45. 
  6. ^ Military and Historical Memorabilia. p. 156. 
  7. ^ "Cavalry Histories". Archived from the original on 6 January 2010. Retrieved 1 December 2009. 
  8. ^ Stanton, Shelby, World War II Order of Battle: An Encyclopedic Reference to U.S. Army Ground Forces from Battalion through Division, 1939–1946, Stackpole Books (Revised Edition 2006), p. 317
  9. ^ Stanton, Shelby, World War II Order of Battle: An Encyclopedic Reference to U.S. Army Ground Forces from Battalion through Division, 1939–1946, Stackpole Books (Revised Edition 2006), p. 23
  10. ^ a b c d "The United States Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Mechanized". Archived from the original on 1 August 2008. Retrieved 2 December 2008. 
  11. ^ a b c d e Glenn L. Kappelman (2003). Through My Sights: A Gunner's View of WWII. Sunflower Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9704764-1-8. 
  12. ^ a b c d "Illinois Army National Guard Units". Archived from the original on 28 June 2008. Retrieved 30 November 2008. 
  13. ^ Stanton, Shelby, World War II Order of Battle: An Encyclopedic Reference to U.S. Army Ground Forces from Battalion through Division, 1939–1946, Stackpole Books (Revised Edition 2006), p. 310
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Donald C. Williams. "106th Cavalry Group". Retrieved 29 November 2008. 
  15. ^ a b c Matthew Darlington Morton (18 March 2004). "Men on "Iron Ponies", The Death and Rebirth of the Modern U.S. Cavalry. Chapter 11: The Arrival of the Cavalry Groups, D-Day to the West Wall" (PDF). 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Louis DiMarco. "106th Cavalry Group". Retrieved 27 November 2008. 
  17. ^ a b "Tank Destroyer Battalion Histories". Archived from the original on 3 January 2010. Retrieved 1 December 2008. 
  18. ^ Zaloga, Steve (2003). M24 Chaffee Light Tank 1943–85: 1943–1985. Jim Laurier, illustrated by Jim Laurier. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-540-2. 
  19. ^ "Address to Members of 106 Cavalry Group Memorial Day, 30 May 1945". Retrieved 29 November 2008. 
  20. ^ a b Matthew Darlington Morton (18 March 2004). "Men on "Iron Ponies", The Death and Rebirth of the Modern U.S. Cavalry. Chapter 12: The Last Six Months, the Bulge and Beyond" (PDF). Retrieved 2 December 2008. 
  21. ^ "Nuremberg: Memorial to Robert H. Jackson". Archived from the original on 9 July 2007. Retrieved 28 November 2008.  Von Ribbentrop's Mercedes was later used by Robert H. Jackson, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and Chief Prosecutor of the Nuremberg Trials.
  22. ^ "FRENCH CAMPAIGN EDICT NO 872". Archived from the original on 20 November 2008. Retrieved 8 November 2008. 
  23. ^ "Tribute to T/5 Myron K. Ricketts, B Troop, 121st Squadron, 106th Cavalry Group". Archived from the original on 20 November 2008. Retrieved 25 February 2009. 
  24. ^ "106th Cavalry Regiment". Retrieved 7 February 2013. 
  25. ^ Stacey Rieger (6 September 2006). "Illinois Army Guard Transformation Enhances Capabilities". National Guard press release. 
  26. ^ "Deployment Ceremony 16 Aug for Aurora-based Unit". 11 August 2008. Archived from the original on 3 June 2011. Retrieved 3 December 2009. 
  27. ^ Units by Type, Illinois Army National Guard Illinois Army National Guard. 1 May 2011

Further reading[edit]

  • Collier, William H. (2012). The 106th Cavalry’s story. [S.l.]: Trafford Publishing. ISBN 9781426971891. 
  • Gleason, Bruce P., “Military Music in the 106th Cavalry: The Mounted Band of the Chicago Black Horse Troop, 1929–1940,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 104 (Winter 2011), 301–35.

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Army Center of Military History document "106th Cavalry Regiment - Lineage and Honors".

This article contains text that is a work of the U.S. military and therefore is in the public domain.