SECOND UNITED STATES CAVALRY – A HISTORY
Compiled, edited and published by Historical Section, Second Cavalry Association
Maj. A. L. Lambert and Cpt. G. B. Layton, 2d Cavalry
21 March – 1 April 1945
The campaign of Central Europe was to be, for the Second Cavalry Group, a typical Cavalry campaign, somewhat on the order of the mad dash across France. Long jumps, spotty resistance, and then short, sharp, bitter fights, followed by another long jump, characterized the campaign.
The Group completed the relief of the 90th Infantry Division, between Bingen (map V)(map 37) and Mainz (map V)(map VI)(map 37), on the 22nd of March. At 1500 both Squadrons started a crossing demonstration along the Rhine in that sector. Troops moved around, artillery fire was increased, and we indulged in the usual scrambling about trying to simulate an infantry or armored Division. The enemy showed his appreciation of our efforts by showering us with artillery in Bingen and Frei Weinheim (map 37).
The Group was attached to the 26th Division on the 23rd and directed to be prepared to cross the Rhine and advance to the northeast. The next day a change of orders was received. The 106th Cavalry Group was to relieve the Second on the 25th, and upon relief we were to cross the Rhine and screen Corps north flank along the south bank of the Main river.
The relief went off as scheduled. To pass away the time, while waiting for relief, Troop E, 42d Squadron, lobbed shells over the Rhine and knocked out two machine gun nests, one AT gun and one house occupied by enemy troops.
The Group crossed the Rhine on the 26th. 2d Squadron relieved the 2d Infantry Regiment along the Main river from Gustavburg to Kleisterbach, while the 42d extended a screen along the line Gernsheim (map 38), Waschenbach (map 38), Zeilhard (map 38), Reinheim (map VI)(map 38), Altheim.
Movement is now becoming so rapid that new orders were received daily. On the 27th the Group was to move in with the 26th Division and ensure the security of the Hanau (map VI) bridgehead. On the 28th, Group reverted to Corps control and was to screen the Corps right flank. Elements of the 42d Squadron were ferried across the Main river on the 29th. The next day A Troop took up positions on the line Wasserlos, Albstadt. 2d Squadron established contact with the 106th Cavalry Group at Oberredenbach.
The 42d Squadron leapfrogged far to the north and located in the vicinity of Spielberg (map 39), with elements out as far as Udenhain (map 39) and Bad Soden (map 39) where enemy resistance was found to be almost negligible.
The 2d Squadron continued screening on the right flank of Corps pushing the screen, on the 31st, northeast to Gelnhausen (map VI)(map 39). In this area the enemy began to show signs of active resentment at our rapid advance. S/Sgt. Sander’s platoon of A Troop in attempting to enter Eidengesass (map 39), engaged the enemy in an intense fire fight. The Germans were fighting fanatically from dug-in positions, and were not inclined to give up. Sgt. Sander exposed himself continuously to enemy fire in an attempt to gather his scattered force and place them in positions from which to liquidate the enemy. He drove up, in his armored car, near a German strong point and eliminated it with his machine gun. However, the Germans were well located in that area and a supporting gun killed Sgt. Sander while he was exposed in the turret of the armored car, firing the anti-aircraft machine guns.
In the meantime we had also encountered stiff resistance at Altenhasslau (map 39). As a platoon neared the town they encountered intense small arms fire and part of the platoon was pinned down. Lt. Roberts pulled his armored car into an open field to bring fire on the enemy, and one of the car’s crew was seriously wounded and fell from the car to the ground. Lt. Roberts leaped from the armored car and although slightly wounded from the intense fire, managed to get the wounded soldier to a covered position. In another part of the field, Corporal Bill Young noticed that a wounded man and several of his buddies were pinned down by enemy fire. He grabbed a jeep, drove through the enemy fire to the wounded soldier, placed him in the jeep, and managed to return safely. Sgt. Wendell S. Young was all over the area that day, exposing himself, directing fire, selecting better positions, and personally leading support forward to where they were most needed. His personal courage played a large part in the killing of an estimated hundred enemy, and the taking of more than 250 prisoners during the fighting this and the next day when Altenhasslau was finally secured.
As the platoon of which Corporal Law and Pfc. Thomas were members continued the investigation and last cleanup of Altenhasslau, the point vehicle, in which they were riding, suddenly came under intense mortar and small arms fire, and the driver was seriously wounded. Law and Thomas managed to carry the injured soldier to comparative safety in spite of the heavy fire, and then remained dismounted with the platoon and supported the armored cars with rifle fire. Altenhasslau was finally taken during the fight.
The same day, April 1st, 2d Squadron pushed northeast toward Bad Orb (map VI)(map 39), where several thousand American prisoners were reported to be held. Troop A reached Hochst (map 39) and Wirtheim (map 39) and Troop B to Kassel (map 39) in the initial attack. In the 42d Squadron zone, enemy rifle units were encountered by Troop B on the high ground southwest of Wachterbach (map VI)(map 39). Troop B was relieved by elements of the 2d Squadron which had pushed that far north by 1300 after driving the Krauts from Haitz (map 39). Troop C with one platoon, Sam Fowler’s of F Troop, advanced southeast from Salmunster (map VI)(map 39) through the Bad Orb forest, reaching Merns (map 39), and thus intercepting enemy groups leaving Bad Orb. Troop A was at the outskirts of Niederzell to the northeast and Squadron Headquarters had moved to Ulmbach.