106th Cavalry Group (United States) - World War II - Equipment and Armament

Equipment and Armament

The 106th Cavalry was lightly equipped to allow it to move quickly and deploy rapidly. They fought mounted in mobile Bantam Jeeps and M8 armored cars. Each squadron's complement of troops and vehicles consisted of a headquarters troop that included communication, administrative, mess, maintenance, transportation, and supply support, a medical detachment, a cavalry assault gun troop, and three reconnaissance troops, lettered A, B, and C. A squadron of about 760 men was about the equivalent of a typical Army battalion in numbers, though Cavalry units were typically smaller.

The three reconnaissance troops were each equipped with Bantam jeeps with a bracket-mounted .30 caliber machine gun, manned by a soldier sitting in the front passenger seat. A second Bantam jeep was mounted with a 60mm mortar manned by two soldiers. Sometimes the Bantam was mounted with a .50 caliber machine gun. Each troop was usually equipped with a mixture of the three vehicles. To maximize speed and maneuverability on the battlefield, the Bantams were not given extra armor protection. The only modifications the 106th made was to add a wire cutter. They mounted a steel pole on the front bumper that extended above the driver's head because the Germans would sometimes stretch piano wire over roads with the intention of injuring or decapitating the driver.

The third vehicle used was the six-wheeled, light-weight M8 Greyhound armored car, mounted with a 37 mm gun in a movable turret that could swing a full 360 degrees. It also featured a .30 caliber coaxial machine gun that could move independently of the turret. The M8 was equipped with powerful FM radios to enable battlefield communications.

E Troop, the Squadron's mobile artillery, was the Cavalry Assault Gun Troop and consisted of three assault gun platoons. Each platoon was equipped with assault guns, short-barreled 75 millimetres (3.0 in) howitzers in an open turret on an M8 chassis. They also utilized two halftracks to carry their headquarters unit and an ammunition section. Two gun sections used an M8 Greyhound.

F Troop consisted of five light tank companies. Early in the war, each company had three light tank platoons, consisting of five 37mm M5A1 Stuart light tanks. While fast and maneuverable, the Stuart's armor plating and its cannon were soon found to be no match against the German tanks. In February 1945, they were replaced with the more heavily armed 75 mm M24 Chaffee light tank.

The M5 Stuart light tank was capable of speeds up to 36 mph (58 km/h) on the road, while the M24 Chaffee could travel at speeds up to 37 mph (60 km/h) on paved surfaces. The M8 armored car was capable of speeds of up to 50 mph (80 km/h), while the Bantams could exceed 70 miles per hour (110 km/h). The officers usually rode with their enlisted men in the Bantams, while the squadron's support troops used a variety of vehicles including the Bantams, military trucks, and armored halftracks. At times, the men would dismount from their light vehicles and take on infantry roles, digging in to create a stronger defensive line.

Patrols were undertaken both on foot or mounted as the circumstances dictated. In this capacity, the cavalrymen would go into combat with M1 rifles and carbines, hand grenades, Thompson machine guns, and newly developed bazookas. When facing heavily fortified enemy positions or, later in the war, against the heaviest German tanks, the 106th was accompanied with supporting units, usually in the form of a small number of tank destroyers. However, the mission of reconnaissance units was not to kill all of the enemies encountered, but to summon the slower moving and better equipped infantry and armored units whose job it was to fix and destroy the heavily armored enemy.

The headquarters, maintenance, mess, supply and medical units were equipped with a variety of military trucks, M8 Armored cars, halftracks, and Bantam jeeps.

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