LETTER FROM SERGEANT VITO SPADAFINO, TROOP A, 42ND SQUADRON, 2ND CAVALRY REGIMENT
I’m a WW2 veteran formerly with the 2nd Cavalry Recon and Mechanized unit of the 3rd Army in the European Theater. My unit was responsible for re-capturing the [Lipizzan] Stallions and numerous other horses prior to the end of hostilities somewhere [Hostau] in Czechoslovakia. The Stallions were turned over to The Spanish Riding Academy and the mares in foal and other breeds were shipped to a huge estate somewhere in the American zone.
My platoon and I were responsible for the protection and care of these precious animals. I have some photos of the great, great, grandmothers of some of today’s offspring. Two German veterinarians and the grooms and family that we brought back with the animals tended to them.
We were also keeping watch on all the horses in different parts of the estate. Our main concern was the Russians who were on the other side of the hedges that separated our sector from theirs. We had constant patrols around our perimeter because of them. I was fortunate enough to be able to assist the Polish cook in the kitchen who provided us with delicious meals. We had two German Vets who cared for the horses and also bred some of them. The Lipizzaner mares were in separate corrals of their own.
I have one amusing anecdote to tell you. One day Unit Commander Colonel Reed came to visit to see how things were going along. He and I walked down to see the Lipizzaner mares. While we observed them, I turned to the Colonel and said, “They look like they are pregnant.” Colonel Reed looks at me and says, “Sergeant, where do you come from?” I replied, “The Bronx, sir.” Well the Colonel says, “Where I come from we say they are in foal,” as he smiled. After a while my buddies got me on a horse to teach me to ride. I learned pretty fast and the grooms picked out a nice even gaited one and every once in a while I would go out riding after dinner with one of the platoon members. Strangely enough that was the last time I was on a horse. Soon I was ready to return to the USA to be discharged into civilian life.
I came face to face with General George Patton for a brief moment as our unit was going to the front. My encounter with General Patton was in late August of 1944 when we were going to the front line to go and reconnoiter for the division in our area. We were known as “The Ghosts of Patton’s Army” and there was a write up in The Stars and Stripes about our exploits behind enemy lines for 39 days. We had been traveling down this road in France when we came to an abrupt halt. In the early stages of war, anytime you came to a stop you have to keep a lookout for enemy aircraft above. I climbed out of my front seat and up to the turret of the armored car to relieve Geski our gunner to keep an eye in the skies. After some time had passed, a jeep was spotted barreling down the road and it was coming towards us. As it neared us we could see it had the four-star insignia on the bumper and sitting next to the driver was General Patton in all his splendor. He ordered his driver to stop alongside my armored car. He had a shiny helmet with four stars and his famous pearl handled guns on his gun belt. He stood and I immediately saluted and he saluted me back. He asked, “Sergeant, what seems to be the problem here?” I answered, “I don’t know Sir.” Then he asked how long had we been sitting there and I said about half an hour. He said carry on and sat down and told his driver to move on. Sometime later we got orders to mount up and make ready to move on, so I got back down in my front seat as always. As the column gained speed there was General Patton waving us on like a traffic cop. He was in my opinion the best General in the Army.
Vito was a VIP at a special 2006 showing of the Lipizzaner stallions honoring the men of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment near his home in Arizona.