Combat!

From:
ONE HUNDRED YEARS WITH THE SECOND CAVALRY
By Joseph I. Lambert, Major, Second Cavalry
Copyright 1939 Commanding Officer, Second Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas
Capper Printing Company, Inc.

WWIVictoryDuring the period from November 3 to 8, one platoon of Troop C, under Sergeant McDonough, was attached to the Seventy-Seventh Division, and one platoon, under First Lieutenant Fred C. Thomas, was sent to the Eightieth Division. These two platoons aided the advance of the infantry by locating the enemy machine gun nests and parties which were “digging in”. Sergeant McDonough’s platoon lost three horses killed, and Lieutenant Thomas’ platoon lost two horses killed and two men wounded. As a result of the fine work at this time Lieutenant Thomas, Sergeant Charles South, and Private Samuel Naylor were recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross. Meantime, the rest of the troop moved on to Brizancy continuing military police work, and was here when the Armistice was signed.

Troop G arrived at Valdahon May 8, near the Swiss border, where it was on duty with the regimental headquarters running a remount depot until July 10. On this date it was transferred to Epinal to take charge of the remount station for the Seventh Army Corps, arriving there on the 12th. While at this place the Germans bombed the town six times, causing numerous casualties to the population, but none of the soldiers was injured. The troop was complimented by the Commanding General, Seventh Army Corps, and the French Commandant of the district for the fine work of the men in fighting fires set by incendiary bombs and in recovering bodies of civilians from the ruins. The danger was increased for the reason that the German fliers often fired machine guns at the men while they carried on the rescue work. At the time of the Armistice, the troop was under orders to join the offensive in the Argonne.

On July 29, Troop I discontinued remount duty at Selles-sur-Cher, near Tours, and entrained for Dommartin, under the command of Captain Stephen H. Sherrill. It arrived there August 3 and encamped in a wood west of Coulonges, near Chateau Thierry. The area was shelled by the Germans all night. From now until the end of the war, the troop was attached to the Third Army Corps. Upon arrival at the front, Captain Sherrill reported to the corps commander, Major General Robert L. Bullard, who attached the troop temporarily for duty to the French Tenth Cavalry Regiment.

When the troop reported to the colonel of the French regiment on the morning of August 4, it was directed to proceed to Les Pres Fermes, nicknamed Death Valley, near the Vesle River, where it reported to Major Nadot of the French cavalry. There were about 200 men under the command of the major, doing mostly patrolling. About a squad under an officer or non-commissioned officer was sent out at various hours. They traveled mounted as far to the front as possible, noting the location of enemy troops, machine guns, and artillery, and then sent back messages stating what was found. Leaving the horses, the rest of the patrol then proceeded by walking and crawling to the front lines, where the latest information of the enemy and our own troops was obtained.

That same evening of the 4th, three men of Troop I were sent out with a French patrol in order to learn the methods used by them. Our own artillery was all over the area and this caused the Germans to shell this vicinity as soon as our guns started firing. The men were subjected to artillery fire all night, and gas alarms were frequent. This work was continued with the French until August 6, when the troop marched a short distance to Arcis-le-Ponsart, where shelter was obtained for men and animals in a former German camp. On the 7th First Lieutenant James S. Rodwell conducted the first patrol made up of only Americans. It was necessary to cross an abandoned aviation field and the Germans threw a barrage on the area as soon as the patrol came in sight. But the speed of the horses carried the men through with only one man and one horse wounded. Lieutenant Rodwell’s patrol entered Fismes, and traveling along the front line trenches of the Sixth Brigade, Third Division, determined the number of bridges which had been thrown across the Vesle River, and obtained other information. Similar patrols were sent out every day on missions of reconnaissance until August 16, when the troop moved a short distance to Courmont and performed military police duty until September 10. While in the Aisne-Marne sector, the troop had eleven men wounded, seven of them by gas.

2 Replies to “Combat!”

  1. Was interested to find a reference to my grandfather in the above Combat article(First Lieutenant Fred C. Thomas). I find of particualr interest and pride that he was recommended for the Distinguished Service Cross. My father tells me that he never recieved that honor, nor did any of the men listed above. Are there any Army files that tell the history of what happened to that recommendation and if any of these men were in the end recognized by the US Army? Thanks.

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  2. Fred,
    First, please allow me to express my gratitude for your grandfathers service in that terrible war so long ago. I’d also like to thank you for your interest in that service. You do your grandfather a great honor by keeping his memory alive.

    Sadly, a recommendation for an award is just that, a recommendation. It is not an award of the medal. I was recommended for the Soldiers Medal and never received it.

    Took a little digging, but I did find the commendations given to your grandfather and the other two gentlemen in this action. They received an Honorable Mention. Only 28 of these have been awarded in the regiment since its establishment in 1836. Keep in mind there were only three medals available at the time, the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Purple Heart.

    His citation is as follows:

    Second Lieutenant Fred C. Thomas, Troop C, 2d Cavalry, 159th Infantry Brigade Headquarters, France, November 10, 1918: “During the recent operations of the 159th Infantry Brigade from November 3, to November 6th, north of Busancy, Lieutenant Thomas, by his skill and daring, carried out the patrolling work of his detachment of 17 men, covering the entire front of the division sector, which resulted in military information of great value, riding into machine gun and artillery swept areas, time and time again, and drawing fire in successful efforts to aid the advance of the Infantry, by locating machine gun nests and enemy parties digging in. This officer personally led several of the more dangerous patrols.”

    I hope this has been some help to you.

    Dave Gettman
    2nd Cavalry Association
    History Center Editor

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