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
On March 9, 1944, a letter was received from the War Department stating in effect that the entire 2d Cavalry Group (Mecz) was to prepare for foreign duty and was to move to New York or Boston port of embarkation at a time to be determined by the appropriate Port Commander for further movement by water transportation. The preparations to be made, the requirements to be met, the date to be ready and the shipment number assigned for the advance and main parties were specified in this same letter. From that day on the entire effort of the Group was devoted towards preparing for overseas movement. Officers, warrant officers, and enlisted men were transferred and acquired until the Group reached its T/O strength on March 31, 1944.
Officers and enlisted men alike fired the T/O weapons of the respective troops. Each man not previously qualified on his own personal weapon was afforded an opportunity to fire once again. All personnel were required to fire for familiarization the supporting weapons of the rest of their troop. Dental repair work was accorded a high priority. Personal clothing and equipment were checked and rechecked to meet specified requirements. Training was necessarily cut to a minimum except in the field of physical conditioning. All officers and men were required to participate in two nine mile hikes, and in two four mile fast road marches which were scheduled each week.
Advance detachments from Group Headquarters, Hq 2d Cav Rcn Sq and Hq 42d Cav Rcn Sq were organized and were prepared to move to the designated port of embarkation on the call of the Port Commander on 11 March 1944 or any date thereafter, their mission being to act as the coordinating agency at the overseas destination for supply and personnel matters prior to the arrival of their respective units. The advance detachments, comprising Lt. Col. Stephan W. Benkosky, Major William H. Young, and 1st Lt. Thomas M. Stewart, Corporal John W. Gore, and Corporal Harold A. Amundsen for Group Headquarters, 1st Lt. Richard J. Boyer, 1st Lt. George H. Orcutt, and Sergeant George J. Ford for the 2d Squadron, and Captain Maurice J. Shroyer, 2d Lt. Hermann A. Rothenbach and Sergeant William A. Flannagan for the 42d Squadron left Fort Jackson, S.C. on 18 March 1944 for Fort Hamilton, N.Y. port of embarkation.
The readiness date for personnel and company equipment was April 1, 1944, for movement to designated port of embarkation on the call of the Port Commander.
The Second Cavalry Group left Fort Jackson, S.C. by rail for a permanent change of station on 1 April 1944 and arrived at Camp Kilmer, N.J. on April 2nd 1944 completing the first step on its journey to the war zone. Spirits were high as the train grated to a stop at Kilmer, and everyone was anxious to learn just when our ship would leave.
However the movement overseas did not take place immediately upon arrival at the New York port of embarkation. If we thought that we had made all the necessary checks and inspections at Fort Jackson, a surprise was coming.
Barracks were assigned all the troops, and all personnel of the Group were screened physically again, while the personnel records as well as all clothing and equipment were rechecked. After the first flurry of inspections and show downs, everyone settled down to a routine of supervised athletics and road marches, with the addition of boat drills and the use of cargo nets in evacuating the wooden ship mockups that abound at Camp Kilmer. Interspersed with the outdoor work was the review of many training films, often repeaters, required for the orientation of men going overseas. Classes in the recognition of enemy planes and combat vehicles were held again and the whole command felt that it was fit and ready for the big task.
When it became apparent that the two squadrons were not scheduled for immediate shipment they were issued pass quotas for 12 to 40 hour periods and some of the men who lived in New York and New Jersey were able to spend a few hours at home. To the others, less fortunate, there was the glitter of nearby Broadway, with its Astor Bar, and Empire State Building for those inclined to sight seeing. All, that is, except Group Headquarters. They were alerted for shipment 8 April 1944, the day passes were effective for the rest, and had to sweat out the train and ferry ride to New York, to board the Queen Mary, while many like Major Thomas B. Hargis, Jr., knew their wives were waiting on shore, so near and yet so far.
Finally on 20 April the 2d Squadron, to be followed by the 42d Squadron on 21 April, boarded the transport liner Mauretania bound for overseas destination.
By this time Group Headquarters was already established at Camp Bewdley (map E)(map CB), Worcestershire, England, having arrived at Greenock, Scotland, on 17 April 1944 where they disembarked from the Queen Mary and proceeded by rail to the new station which had been designated by Hq Third Army.
The Mauretania, like the Queen Mary before it, being a high speed liner, did not travel in convoy but zig-zagged across the Atlantic on its own.
A few days out we saw porpoises playing along side and later on spotted a patrol bomber as it passed above us. Fortunately, the sea was fairly calm for the crossing, because the men were very crowded in the holds, and those who did get sea sick were afraid they were going to die. Then there were some who were afraid they would not.
Time on shipboard was spent attending short classes on identification of enemy equipment and orientation on the British Isles, in doing calisthenics, attending boat drill, as well as carrying out the necessary details of guard and mess attendant. The message center aboard ship was operated by 2d Cav Sq and radio operators were provided to assist the normal radio crew during the voyage.
Finally on April 30 the Mauretania put in to Liverpool (map E) where we were met by a band and Red Cross girls with donuts. As anyone who has carried a barracks bag from Liverpool to the train on the other side of the Island will testify, that coffee was a welcome treat.
The train left as soon as loading was completed and we covered the 145 miles south to Kidderminster (map CB) by midnight of the same day, some of us standing in the blacked-out isles of the little British coaches eagerly catching our first glimpse of England – by moonlight.
Truck convoys provided by Group Headquarters picked us up at the station and both Squadrons were shortly in their assigned quarters at Bewdley in a recently constructed hospital plant.
At Bewdley where the Headquarters of XII Corps was also established, we entered another short training phase from May 1 to May 18 stressing conditioning, road marches, and classes on tactics prior to arrival of motor equipment.
It was during our stay there that General Patton arrived to talk to the troops.