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
20 – 28 Nov 1944
Cpl. Bernard J. Beagarie, H&S Troop, 42d Squadron
“Hit the Leather and Ride.” This historic slogan was made alive and up to date for the 42d Cavalry Squadron by a memorable march on horseback by thirty gallant and intrepid Cavalrymen of the Squadron. Most of those concerned had made their closest acquaintance with horses by attending Saturday night showings of the Hollywood “horse operas”. The assembly point for the cavalcade was in front of the Squadron CP in the bomb and shell torn village of Coincourt (map 29a)(map OHW), France, the date was the 21st of November, 1944.
Naturally, a horse mounted Cavalry platoon is not formed without certain essential preliminaries. At 10 o’clock the night before, a messenger from the CP had awakened Pvt. Beagarie of H&S Troop, with instructions to report to Lt. Mitchell pronto. On reporting, he was informed that 30 horses, with saddles and bridles, were to be obtained and brought to the CP by 8 o’clock the following morning. (Ed’s. note: Unfortunately for Beagarie, he spoke French.) A detachment from the Squadron was to cover the following days march on horseback, while the rest of the men proceeded in vehicles.
The horses were to be found in Coincourt, and in Parroy (map 29a)(map OHW) also if necessary, and the civilians must be contacted at once, in fact right away. So out they went into a rainy night as black as pitch, and felt their way through a maze of buildings to the house where the local FFI chief lived. (The Maire had evidently decamped.) The chief was still up and gave them a warm greeting. He listened to their story, as explained by Beagarie from instructions given by Lt. Mitchell, and promised to see what he could do. An hour later he announced that he would have twenty horses for them in the morning, but that they would be of the heavy work type and would not have saddles or bridles. Lt. Mitchell and Beagarie saw that a trip to Parroy was necessary, so they obtained a jeep, driven by Mosdy of H&S Troop, and set off about midnight to contact the Maire of Parroy. It was so dark and wet that Lt. Mitchell sat on the hood with a flashlight all the way, to show the driver where the side of the road was. They could never have made it otherwise. By good luck they found the Maire still up at 1230, since he and his wife were taking care of a sick cow. He was not happy to hear of our needs, but at least tore himself away from the cow long enough to check a few farms in the area. Finally, after seemingly endless discussion and arm waving he promised to send 10 horses to the mad Americans the first thing in the morning. Shortly after four in the morning, the horse gathering detail started back, this time with Beagarie and the flashlight on the hood. They reached Coincourt just before five, wet and chilled through, but satisfied with their success.
As soon as it was daylight the farmers started bringing in their horses. Without saddles and only makeshift bridles they did not look very prepossessing. The men assigned to ride them soon found they were very hard to mount and hard to ride. Much to his consternation, Beagarie heard he was to ride also. He had to interpret between Lt. Bayer, the officer in charge of the mounted party, and the two civilians who were going along to take care of the horses en route. He looked around for Lt. Mitchell, but that officer had thoughtfully disappeared. Since he had never ridden a horse in his life, Beagarie was determined to have the gentlest one of the lot, and finally found a horse not much bigger than a pony, whose owner assured him was as meek as a lamb.
The procession started out shortly after eight o’clock, and several fellows lined up to take pictures of the parade as it passed them. It wasn’t long before the horses began to give trouble. Many times they got too chummy and insisted on trotting along three or four abreast, in spite of the fact that this was definitely against security regulations. At other times they wanted to stop and eat grass or just rest. One or two even tried to turn back. The worst aspect was their galloping. If one set off at a gallop, two or three were sure to follow him because he was their pal. This happened to Beagerie once and he had a hard job holding on to his helmet and raincoat, to say nothing of his weapon.
More than one man was ready to call it quits, as they had not dreamed that the glories of horseback riding contained such strenuous activity as this. It always looked so easy in the movies. The most envied men in the world that day were those who still rode in the vehicles.
Naturally all the perverseness on the part of the horses disgusted everyone and especially disturbed Lt. Bayer who, several times en route, lashed some of the brutes across the rear end for stalling and holding up the works. The climax of the trip came when the procession reached two ruined bridges. One was bypassed after much difference of opinion between the men and their mounts, and the other spot was forded by some of the horses, while nothing under heaven could induce the others to follow. Finally a truck was sent for, to transport these recalcitrants by another route nearby, and the procession resumed it’s winding way.
After about ten miles of travel, the trip ended at a desolate, abandoned village, where Lt. Bayer told the two French civilians that the horses were no longer necessary and that they must take them back to their owners. They were glad to go and everyone was glad to see them go. Many were the sore backs and rear ends after that exhausting march. But the grim humor of the situation kept morale at a high level, especially among those troops not riding the horses. It was something to write home about, and the possible success or failure of the enterprise as regarded by Headquarters, did not affect greatly the view-point on horses of those who really went all out to “Hit the Leather and Ride”.
Everyone was thrilled to be rolling again. The Squadron Executive left Bourdonnay (map 29a), as soon as the 42d CP pulled in for a temporary halt, and rejoined Troop A, passing the column to contact the Troop CO. Capt. Andrews was finally located in the point bantam just before the Marne Canal bridge at Houillons (map 29b), which was found to have been blown only a few hours before. Troop A turned north and occupied Rhodes (map 29a), then proceeded dismounted to the bridge near Fort Boisson (map 29b) because of the Kraut demolitions and felled trees which blocked the roads.
To the north, B Troop progressed rapidly, and after cutting through some tree blocks, Lt. Lindoerfer’s platoon gained Bisping (map 29b), dismounted since the bridge was out, and secured the town. Everywhere was evidence of strongly prepared positions that the Germans had evacuated.
C-2 came into town mounted, from the northwest, and were held up by tree blocks to the east. Troop B 2d Squadron had advanced mounted to Cutting (map 29b), and sent it’s leading elements southeast to Foret Domaniale (map 29b). Troop C advanced to Angviller (map 29b) via Rorbach (map 29b).
The next day Group received warning orders for an attachment to the 80th Division on the Corps north flank. Accordingly 42d Squadron was assembled for movement while 2d Squadron continued the push northeast, elements reaching Berthelming (map 25) that night.
42d Squadron moved to an assembly area at Landroff on the 23rd, and prepared to move at daylight to Guinglange (map 30). Troop B, 2d Squadron, pushed on to Mittersheim (map 29b), with it’s platoons reaching Fenetrange (map 29b). Their forward advance was stopped by enemy resistance at Niederstinzel (map 29b), after they had captured 28 prisoners in their drive. Troop C moved into Romelfing (map 29b) and assisted B, together with elements of the 4th Armored Division, to clear the town.
The 2d Squadron lines remained unchanged on the 24th. Mounted patrols traveled the road from Oberstinzel (map 29b) to Sarrebourg (map 29b)(map NS). Enemy resistance was determined in Niederstinzel and our Troops failed to take the town. Troops B and C, 42d Sq. pushed reconnaissance dismounted northeast of Guinglange through 95th Division positions, while maintaining the screen on Corps’ north flank.
November 25th, 2d Squadron no change. Enemy artillery increased. Lt. Kelley, who had relieved Lt. Crisman as CO of C Troop 2d Squadron only four days before, was killed at Fenetrange (map 29b). Heavy artillery fire had been falling on the Troop’s position for two days, causing six casualties, four killed and two wounded, among them Lt. Kelley. He was the second C Troop commander to be killed in action, and the third to become a combat casualty.
On the 27th the balance of the Group was relieved from the mission of screening the south flank and attached to the 80th Division for work on the north flank. The next day 42d Squadron was returned to Group.
Troop A fought it’s way into Carling (map 30) and held the town against counter-attacks. During the fight big Dave Walsh stepped around a corner and bumped into a Kraut soldier who had a burp gun slung over his shoulder. Dave jammed his carbine into the Kraut’s belly and pulled the trigger. A miss-fire! The German struggled to move his burp gun, but seemed paralyzed. Both men glared at each other for an instant, then took off in different directions at a high canter.