Cavalry (United States) - History - World War II - Mechanized Cavalry

Mechanized Cavalry

Prior to World War II, the Army commenced experimenting with mechanization and had partially mechanized some cavalry regiments, such as the Wyoming National Guard's 115th Cavalry Horse-Mechanized. During the war, many of the Army's cavalry units were mechanized with tanks and reconnaissance vehicles, while others fought dismounted as infantry. Some units were converted into other types of units entirely, some of which made use of the cavalry's experience with horses. The Mars Men of the China Burma India Theater give such an example.

The principal reconnaissance element of an Infantry Division was a mechanized Cavalry Troop, whilst an Armored Division was provided with a full Cavalry Squadron. Several Cavalry Groups, each of two squadrons, were formed to serve as the reconnaissance elements for U.S. corps headquarters in the European Theater of Operations during 1944-45.

Besides HQ and service elements, each Cavalry troop comprised three cavalry platoons, each of which was equipped with six Bantam jeeps and three M8 Greyhound armored cars.

Three of the jeeps were mounted with a 60mm mortar manned by two soldiers; the other three had a bracket-mounted .30 caliber machine gun, manned by a soldier sitting in the front passenger seat - although sometimes the M1919 was replaced by a .50 caliber machine gun. To maximize speed and maneuverability on the battlefield, the Bantams were not given extra armor protection.

The M8 Greyhound was a six-wheeled, light-weight armored car, mounting 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.

A Cavalry squadron comprised a HQ Troop, three Cavalry troops (four for those in Armored Divisions), a Light Tank Company and an Assault Gun Troop.

The Light Tank Company had 17 tanks; two in the Company Headquarters and three platoons of five tanks. Initially, the tanks were M3 Stuarts, later M5 Stuarts; both of which were equipped with 37mm guns. The Stuart was capable of speeds of up to 36 mph (58 km/h) on the road. While fast and maneuverable, its armor plating and cannon were soon found to be no match for the German tanks. In February 1945 they were replaced with the M24 Chaffee light tank, which was equipped with a 75 mm gun.

The Assault Gun Troop comprised three Assault Gun Platoons (four for those in Armored Divisions), each with two M8 HMCs - M5 Stuarts with their turrets replaced by an open-turreted 75mm howitzer - and two M3 Half-tracks; one for the platoon HQ, the other for the ammunition section.

The experience gained in the use of the mechanized cavalry groups during World War II led to the eventual postwar formation of armored cavalry regiments to act as corps reconnaissance and screening elements.

Read more about this topic:  Cavalry (United States), History, World War II

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