The History of the
4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment
John G. Keliher
The 4th Cavalry Regiment is one of the most famous and most decorated regiments in the United States Army. Since its activation in 1855, the 4th Cavalry has continuously served the United States of America in peace and war. The regiment has fought gallantly in the Indian Wars, the Civil War, the Philippine Insurrection, World War II, Vietnam and the Gulf War. In the War on Terrorism all 4th Cavalry active elements have served with distinction in Afghanistan and Iraq. For its wartime service the 4th Cavalry Regiment has been awarded 61 campaign streamers, three Presidential Unit Citations, five Valorous Unit Awards and two awards of the French Croix de Guerre with Silver Star.
At the end of the Mexican War in 1848, the U.S. Army had only three mounted regiments, the 1st Dragoons, the 2nd Dragoons, and the Regiment of Mounted Rifleman to protect settlers moving westward. By 1855, Congress realizing the number of mounted soldiers was not enough authorized the raising of two more regiments, the 1st Cavalry and the 2nd Cavalry.
The 1st Cavalry Regiment was constituted on 3 March 1855 and organized at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri on 26 March 1855 under the command of Colonel Edwin Voss Sumner. The military aptitude of the twenty-eight officers selected for the 1st Cavalry was conclusively proven in the Civil War when twenty-two of them became general officers in either the Union or Confederate armies. Among them were Captain George B. McClellan, (Major General, Commander, Army of the Potomac and the inventor of the famed McClellan saddle), and 2nd Lieutenant James E.B. (Jeb) Stuart, (Major General, CSA, Commander of the Confederate Cavalry Corps).
Upon completion of the organization of the regiment in August 1855, the 1st Cavalry was assigned to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Its mission was two-fold; to maintain law and order in the Kansas Territory between pro and anti-slavery factions and to protect the settlers from attacks by the Cheyenne Indians. In 1857 the regiment was split with half taking up new quarters at Fort Riley, Kansas and the rest maintaining small garrisons scattered throughout the state. On 3 March 1861, Colonel Robert E. Lee assumed command of the 1st Cavalry only to resign his commission a month later to lead the Confederate States Army in the Civil War.
With so many units being sent east for the war the 1st Cavalry was initially kept on the frontier until militia type units were raised to protect against Indian raids. On June 22, 1861 George McClellan now a Major General, requested Company A and Company E to serve as his personal escort. The two companies saw action in the Bull Run, Peninsula, Antietam and Fredericksburg campaigns, not rejoining the Regiment until 1864. The rest of the 1st Cavalry was committed to action in Mississippi and Missouri.
Since 1854 it had been advocated to redesignate all mounted regiments as cavalry and to renumber them in order of seniority. This was done on 3 August 1861. As the 1st Cavalry was the fourth oldest mounted regiment it was redesignated as the 4th Cavalry Regiment.
During the early years of the Civil War Union commanders scattered their cavalry regiments throughout the army conducting company, squadron (two company) and battalion (four company) operations. The 4th Cavalry was no exception with its companies scattered from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic coast carrying out traditional cavalry missions of reconnaissance, screening and raiding.
In the first phases of the war in the west companies of the Regiment saw action in Missouri, Mississippi and Kentucky campaigns, the seizure of Forts Henry and Donelson and the Battle of Shiloh. On 31 December 1862 a two-company squadron of the 4th Cavalry attacked and routed a Confederate cavalry brigade near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In 1863-64 companies of the 4th saw further action in Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi. On 30 June 1863 another squadron of the Regiment charged a six-gun battery of Confederate artillery near Shelbyville Tennessee capturing the entire battery and three hundred prisoners.
By the spring of 1864, the success of the large Confederate cavalry corps of Jeb Stuart had convinced the Union leadership to form their own cavalry corps under General Phillip Sheridan. The 4th Cavalry was ordered to unite as a regiment and on 14 December 1864 joined in the battle for Nashville, Tennessee as part of the cavalry corps commanded by General James Wilson. In the battle the 4th helped turn the Confederate flank, sending them in retreat. As the Confederate forces attempted a delaying action at West Harpeth, Tennessee an element of the 4th Cavalry led by Lt. Joseph Hedges charged and captured a Confederate artillery battery. For his bravery, Lt Hedges received the Medal of Honor, the first to be bestowed on a member of the 4th Cavalry.
In March 1865, General Wilson was ordered to take his cavalry on a drive through Alabama to capture the Confederate supply depot at Selma. General Wilson had devoted much effort in preparing his cavalry for the mission. It was a superbly trained and disciplined force that left Tennessee led by the 4th Cavalry. It was more than a traditional cavalry raid rather it was an invasion by a cavalry army, a preview of the blitzkrieg of World War II. As the column moved south into Alabama it encountered the famed Confederate cavalry leader Nathan Bedford Forrest. The Union force was too strong and defeated the Confederate cavalry allowing the Union forces to arrive at Selma the next day.
On 2 April 1865, the attack on Selma commenced led by the 4th Cavalry in a mounted charge. A railroad cut and fence line halted the mounted attack. Dismounting the Regiment pressed the attack and stormed the town. Selma’s rich store of munitions and supplies were destroyed along with the foundries and arsenals.
General Wilson next turned east to link up with General Sherman. His force took Montgomery, Alabama, Columbus, Georgia and had arrived in Macon, Georgia when word came of the end of the war. The Regiment remained in Macon as occupation troops.
The end of the Civil War brought a new surge of westward migration. Indian nations were determined to hold on to the lands they had taken back during the Civil War. In Texas the situation was acute with the Cheyenne and Arapahoe roaming at will in the north and the Comanche, Kiowa and Mescalero Apache controlling western Texas and eastern New Mexico. The 4th Cavalry was ordered into Texas to confront these formidable foes. The Regiment was filled with skilled Civil War veterans from both armiesand outfitted with the latest and best equipment. On War Department recordsof that day the 4th Cavalry was rated the best cavalry regiment in theU.S. Army.
By November 1865 the Regiment had transferred to Fort Sam Houston, Texas. From here the 4th pacified the San Antonio area and conducted campaigns against Indians along the Mexican border. On 15 December 1870 twenty-nine year old Colonel Ranald Slidell Mackenzie, U.S. Cavalry assumed command of the Regiment. A brilliant leader, he commanded a Union cavalry corps at the age of twenty-four. He would command the 4th Cavalry for twelve years, leading it on some of its most famous campaigns.
On 1 April 1873 the Regiment moved to Fort Clark, Texas close to the Mexican border. To put a stop to cross-border raiding by Kickapoo and Apache Indians living under the protection of the Mexican government, Colonel Mackenzie was ordered by President Grant to ignore Mexican sovereignty and attack three co-located Indian villages near the town of Remolino some fifty-five miles south of the border from which the cross-border raiding originated. With utmost secrecy Mackenzie began training and preparations for the operation.
On 17 May 1873 six companies of the 4th (A,B,C,E,I,M) crossed the Rio Grande under cover of darkness and headed to Remolino. It was a difficult night march over unfamiliar terrain but by dawn they were in position and on Mackenzie’s signal six companies of the 4th Cavalry in a mounted charge attacked the three villages. Mackenzie had planned the attack with anticipation of meeting stiff resistance. But unknown to him was the fact that many of the warriors had recently departed on a hunting expedition. Consequently the 4th met little resistance resulting in a quick victory losing one trooper killed and two wounded while the Indians suffered nineteen killed.
The few surviving warriors present in the villages along with some 40 women and children mounted on captured Indian horses were brought with the 4th Cavalry in its grueling ride back across the Rio Grande, reaching American soil at dawn on 19 May. The 4th Cavalry had covered a total distance of 160 miles, fought a battle and destroyed three Indian villages, all within some forty-eight hours. With their villages destroyed and their families having been placed on a reservation in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), the remaining Kickapoo warriors in Mexico were allowed to rejoin their relatives on the reservation thus ending the threat of further cross- border raids.
The Texas legislature voted “the grateful thanks of the people of Texas for the gallant conduct of Colonel Mackenzie and the 4th U.S. Cavalry”. President Grant also sent his congratulations. In the early 1950s John Ford made a film called “Rio Grande” starring John Wayne based on the raid. In 1958, ZIV television produced a 52-week series based on the raid and other 4th Cavalry exploits entitled “Mackenzie’s Raiders”. (The 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry used “Mackenzie’s Raiders” as their unofficial nickname before and during the Vietnam War.)
In August 1874, with the border pacified the 4th began a major campaign against the Comanche nation in northern Texas. On 27 September 1874 the Regiment located the Comanche in the Palo Duro Canyon of the Red River. Two companies drove off the large pony herd of 1200 while other companies attacked the camp driving off the warriors and then burning it. The Comanches made their way on foot to Fort Sill to surrender.
Successfully accomplishing their pacification mission in Texas, the Regiment was stationed in what is now the state of Oklahoma when it received orders to march with General Crook north to avenge the massacre of General George Custer and five companies of the 7th Cavalry. On 24 November 1876, the 4th Cavalry located Chief Dull Knife and his northern Cheyenne band. The Regiment rode all night to reach the Indian camp. At dawn the 4th Cavalry charged the village killing many of the Indian warriors, destroying their lodges and capturing 500 horses. The survivors soon surrendered. In 1880 and 1881 the Regiment was busy relocating Indian tribes in Utah and Colorado.
In 1883 the War Department redesignated all cavalry companies as troops. The designation squadron was given to a group of four troops and the cavalry no longer used the designation battalion. Since 1862 the U.S. Cavalry had used guidons similar in appearance to the United States flag to better distinguish Union from Confederate cavalry. On 4 February 1885 the War Department ordered a return to the traditional red and white cavalry guidon used before the Civil War with one specific change. On the upper red half instead of displaying U.S. in white the regimental numeral would be displayed and as before the troop letter would be displayed in red on the white lower half.
In 1884 the 4th Cavalry was ordered to Arizona to combat the Apache. By May 1884 the Regimental headquarters was located at Fort Huachuca along with Troops B, D and I. The rest of the Regiment was stationed at army posts throughout the eastern half of Arizona. In May 1885 150 Apaches led by Geronimo left the reservation and cut a wide swath of murder and robbery throughout southern Arizona as they headed for Mexico.
After unsuccessful efforts to bring Geronimo back to the reservation. General Nelson A. Miles commander of the Department of Arizona ordered Captain Henry W. Lawton with Troop B, 4th Cavalry in pursuit. Several engagements with 4th and 10th Cavalry elements took a toll on Geronimo’s band but he managed to escape back to Mexico. In July Lawton resumed the pursuit. Geronimo sent word he was willing to surrender. Moving into Mexico Lawton accompanied by Lieutenant Charles Gatewood, 6th Cavalry, whom Geronimo respected and trusted, met with Geronimo on 24 August. Geronimo agreed to cross back into Arizona and surrender to General Miles. Captain Lawton and Lieutenant Gatewood brought Geronimo to Skeleton Canyon some twenty miles north of the Mexican border where he formally surrendered to General Miles on 3 September 1886.
General Miles and Captain Lawton escorted Geronimo and his band to Fort Bowie. They were immediately put on a train and sent to Florida accompanied by Troop B, 4th Cavalry. After delivering Geronimo to the authorities in Florida, Troop B was ordered to Fort Myer Virginia to serve as an honor guard. With the capture of Geronimo the 4th Cavalry was transferred to Fort Walla Walla Washington in May 1890. For the next eight years it performed routine garrison duties.
After the seizure of Manila during the War with Spain by Admiral Dewey the call was made for American ground forces to defend the Philippines. The first regiment to be sent was the 4th Cavalry. Six troops were initially sent in August 1898 to Manila were they were immediately deployed to defend Manila from dissident elements of the Philippine army that resented the American takeover of their islands. Fighting broke out when Filipino forces fired on U.S. Forces. The Americans drove the Filipinos from the city and began a campaign to capture the insurgent capitol of Malolos. Because of a mix-up the 4th Cavalry’s horses had been unloaded in Hawaii. Troops E, I and K were mounted on Filipino ponies and participated in the Malolos campaign. The dismounted squadron consisting of Troops C, G and L participated in the capture of Santa Cruz led by Major General Lawton. (He had served in the 4th Cavalry as a 1st Lieutenant and Captain from 1871 to 1888 and had commanded Troop B during the capture of Geronimo.)
By August 1899 the rest of the Regiment had arrived in the Philippines. In the fall of 1899 the 4th Cavalry moved north under General Lawton to capture the insurgent President Aguinaldo. Severe fighting took place and in the small town of San Mateo and General Lawton was killed in action.
In January 1901 the Regiment was assigned pacification duties in the southern part of Luzon. On 31 September 1901 the tour of duty in the Philippines ended for the Regiment. The 4th Cavalry had participated in 119 skirmishes and battles. The Regiment’s three squadrons were reassigned to Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley Kansas and Jefferson Barracks Missouri, the birthplace of the regiment. In 1905 the 4th returned once again to the Philippines and participated in the Jolo campaign on the island of Mindanao.
In 1907 the 4th was reassigned back to the United States to be stationed at Fort Meade, South Dakota less the 3rd Squadron stationed at Fort Snelling, Minnesota. In 1911 the 4th was sent to the Mexican border and two years later departed for Schofield Barracks Hawaii where it served throughout World War I. In 1919 the 4th Cavalry returned to duty along the Mexican border near Brownsville Texas. In 1921 it was transferred to Fort Sam Houston, Texas. In 1922 the War Department approved a Distinctive Unit Insignia and a Coat of Arms for the 4th Cavalry Regiment. In 1925 the 4th Cavalry was transferred to Fort Meade, South Dakota. Regular duties were performed with practiced marches and annual maneuvers held in Wyoming. In 1926 the March King John Phillip Sousa, impressed with the reputation of the 4th Cavalry, wrote an official march for the regiment entitled “Riders For the Flag.” The 4th Cavalry Band and the Black Horse Drill Team of Troop F participated in many civic functions throughout the Midwest.
As war swept Europe in 1940 the 4th Cavalry Regiment was reorganized as a Horse-Mechanized Corps Reconnaissance Regiment. The 1st Squadron retained their horses and the 2nd Squadron was mechanized. By 1942 the Army decided that the corps reconnaissance regiments should be completely mechanized. The 1st Squadron turned in its horses at Fort Robinson, Nebraska in the spring of 1942 and became mechanized. In January 1943 the Regiment left Fort Meade for the last time for the Mohave Desert to prepare for the North African campaign. But the regiment’s orders were changed. Instead, the 4th was sent to England to serve as the reconnaissance regiment for the VII Corps. Arriving on 15 December 1943 the 4th was encamped in the town of Singleton, West Sussex near the English southern coast. Immediately upon arrival the 4th Cavalry Regiment was redesignated and reorganized as the 4th Cavalry Group, Mechanized. The 1st Squadron was reorganized and redesignated as the 4th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Mechanized and the 2nd Squadron was reorganized and redesignated as the 24th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Mechanized.
In preparation for the Normandy invasion the 4th Cavalry was assigned a critical role in the amphibious assault of the VII Corps onto Utah Beach. Aerial reconnaissance showed German fortifications on the St. Marcouf Islands 6000 yards off of Utah Beach. These fortifications could pose a serious threat to the Utah Beach landings. The 4th Cavalry was assigned the mission of neutralizing them prior to the landing. The 4th also had the mission of getting two troops ashore on D-Day to link up with the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions to give them armor support.
At 0430 Hours 6 June 1944, elements of Troop A, 4th Squadron and Troop B, 24th Squadron landed on the St. Marcoufs. Corporal Harvey S. Olsen and Private Thomas C. Killeran of Troop A, with Sergeant John S. Zanders and Corporal Melvin F. Kinzie of Troop B, each armed only with a knife, swam ashore to mark the beaches for the landing crafts. They became the first seaborne American soldiers to land on French soil on D-Day. As the troops dashed from their landing craft they were met with silence. The Germans had evacuated the islands but they did leave them heavily mined. Meanwhile one platoon of Troop B, 4th Squadron got ashore at Utah Beach and liked up with the 82nd Airborne. On 7 June the platoon surprised a German column and in a mechanized cavalry charge hit the column routing it with a loss of some 200 casualties. Heavy seas prevented Troop C from linking up with the 101st until 8 June.
As the American forces swung into the Cherbourg peninsula the 4th Cavalry Group’s two squadrons performed flank protection for the 4th and 9th Infantry Divisions. In the Cape de la Hague area the 4th Squadron fighting dismounted seized all of its objectives in five days of bloody fighting capturing over 600 prisoners. Both the 4th and 24th Cavalry Squadrons were awarded the French Croix De Guerre with Silver Star for their gallantry on the Cherbourg peninsula.
After breaking out of the Normandy hedgerows at St Lo in July 1944, the VII Corps attacked east toward Paris. In the dash across France the 4th Cavalry Group assumed traditional cavalry missions of flank screening and protection of lines of communications for the VII Corps. Paris was liberated on 24 August as the 4th Cavalry Group by-passed the city crossing the Seine River on 25 August and the Marne River on 31 August. As the VII Corps prepared to enter Belgium it attached the 759th Light Tank Battalion to the 4th Cavalry Group to support the Group’s protection of the VII Corp’s right flank and rear. Also attached shortly thereafter were the 635th Tank Destroyer Battalion (Self-Propelled) and the 87th Armored Field Artillery Battalion. Along with the two reconnaissance squadrons the attachments gave the 4th Cavalry the strength of a light armored brigade as it crossed into Germany on 14 September and penetrated the Siegfried Line. By late November the 4th Cavalry Group had moved with the VII Corps into the Hurtgen Forest meeting stiff German resistance.
On the 16 December 1944 the German Army launched its surprise attack against lightly-held Allied positions in the Ardennes. While the attention of the world was focused on the early stages of what would become known as the Battle of the Bulge, some of the fiercest fighting of the war erupted to the north on the 19th, 20th and 21st of December in the VII Corps sector on the edges of the Hurtgen Forest along the approaches to the Roer River. It was here that the 4th Cavalry Group was given the mission to seize the heavily fortified town of Bogheim and the high ground to its southeast.
On the 19th under a ground fog, two troops of the 4th Squadron got into the town undetected and engaged the Germans. Two other troops coming up in support were caught in the open as the fog lifted and took heavy casualties. The two troops already in the town successfully drove out the Germans by the afternoon. But all four troop commanders had either been killed or wounded and over one fourth of the enlisted personnel had also become casualties. The next morning the 4th Squadron charged dismounted across two hundred yards of open terrain to seize the high ground overlooking the town. In the battle for Bogheim the 4th Squadron destroyed two battle groups of the 947th German Infantry and a company of the 6th Parachute Regiment. For its magnificent bravery at Bogheim the 4th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.
As the German Ardennes offensive pushed westward the VII Corps was shifted south into Belgium to blunt its advance. By 23 December the 4th Cavalry Group was in contact with advancing German forces. On 24 December the 4th Cavalry Group was attached to the 2nd Armored Division and ordered to defend the key road junction of Humain to prevent the Germans from driving a wedge between the 2nd Armored and the 84th Infantry Divisions. The 4th Squadron was screening to the west between Combat Commands A and B of the 2nd Armored Division, leaving the 24th Squadron to defend Humain. By midnight Troop A, 24th Squadron had taken Humain. But by early Christmas morning Troop A was forced out of the town by a strong German panzer attack. Attempts to retake the town by the lightly armored 24th Squadron made little progress against the heavy German armor. Nevertheless by 26 December the 2nd Armored Division along with the 24th Squadron had repelled the German attack in the Humain sector and significantly contributed to ending the German attempts to continue their westward advance across the Meuse River toward Antwerp.
After retaking the territory lost to the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge Allied forces resumed their advance into Germany. The 4th Cavalry Group conducted screening missions for the VII Corps in the advance to the Roer River in February and the closing of the Ruhr Pocket. As the war drew to a close the last major operation assigned to the 4th Cavalry Group (Reinforced) on 7 April was to eliminate the 85,000 strong German force holding out in the Harz Mountains. By 21 April the 4th Cavalry Group had accomplished its mission. From there the 4th Cavalry Group went on to conduct mopping-up operations along the Elbe River and had reached the city of Leipzig when hostilities ended on 8 May 1945.
For occupation duties in Germany and Austria the Army organized the U.S. Constabulary. The 4th Cavalry Group was redesignated the 4th Constabulary Regiment with the 4th and 24th Constabulary Squadrons. The Headquarters of the 4th Constabulary Regiment was stationed at Camp McCauley in Hoersching near Linz, Austria. The 4th Constabulary Squadron was stationed at Wells and the 24th Constabulary Squadron at Ebelsburg. Troops of the regiment were posted at seven other towns throughout the American occupation zone of Austria conducting law and order and security missions. The 4th Constabulary Regiment was inactivated on 1 May 1949. The 24th Constabulary Squadron was transferred to Bad Herzfeld, West Germany also on 1 May 1949 where it performed border surveillance until its inactivation on 15 December 1952. On 21 April 1953 the 24th was redesignated in an inactive status as the 524th Reconnaissance Battalion. The 4th Constabulary Squadron was reorganized and redesignated as the 4th Reconnaissance Battalion on 1 April 1949 and then on 1 December 1951 as the 4th Armored Cavalry Reconnaissance Battalion and remained at Camp McCauley until its inactivation on 1 July 1955. Also on 1 July 1955, in order to perpetuate some small remnant of the 4th Cavalry on active duty, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Armored Cavalry Reconnaissance Battalion was reorganized and redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Armor Group and activated at Gibbs Barracks in Frankfurt, West Germany, assigned to the 7th Army and placed under the operational control of the V Corps. Attached to the 4th Armor Group were three separate tank battalions and two armored infantry battalions stationed at various locations within the Northern Sector Command of the 7th Army. Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Armor Group was inactivated at Frankfurt on 1 April 1963 and redesignated in an inactive status as Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 14th Squadron, 4th Cavalry.
In the short span of twelve years the 4th Cavalry Regiment had been redesignated five times and all that was left of one of the U.S. Army’s finest regiments was its regimental numeral on an armor group headquarters company. With the decision to also do away with most tactical regiments the Army realized it must preserve the valuable honors, traditions and history of famous regiments. In 1957 the Army set up the Combat Arms Regimental System (CARS). Under CARS the regiment would be a group of tactical units bearing the regimental name. Over one hundred and fifty historic regiments of cavalry, armor, infantry and artillery were preserved. The original line companies/batteries/troops of a regiment would be activated as the headquarters company/battery/troop of newly constituted battle group/battalion /squadron to preserve the lineal ties with the old regiment. Should a separate company-sized element be required the original company/battery/troop would be activated.
On 15 February 1957 five elements of the 4th Cavalry were activated. The 1st Squadron descending from Troop A was activated in the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley Kansas. The 2nd Battle Group (infantry) descending from Troop B was activated in the 1st Cavalry Division in Korea. The 3rd Squadron descending from Troop C joined the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks Hawaii. The 4th Squadron descending from Troop D was activated in the Army Reserve 102nd Infantry Division at Kansas City Missouri and the 5th Squadron descending from Troop E was activated with the Army Reserve103rd Infantry Division at Ottumwa, Iowa.
During the 1960s Army requirements led to changes in the active elements of the 4th Cavalry. On 1 August 1963 the 2nd Battle Group was reorganized and redesignated as the 2nd Squadron and assigned to the 4th Armored Division. On 15 March 1963 the 5th Squadron was inactivated. Its predecessor Troop E was activated on 3 December 1963 and assigned to the Army Reserve 205th Infantry Brigade at Madison, Wisconsin. On 31 December 1965 the 4th Squadron was inactivated.
It was initially thought, that the terrain of Vietnam would preclude the use of armored cavalry in Vietnam. But early successes in mounted operations in the Vietnamese highlands by Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, as well as successes in the area north west of Saigon known as the III Corps Tactical Zone by the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 1st Infantry Division and then the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 25th Infantry Division, convinced commanders that given their mobility and firepower, armored cavalry along with tank and mechanized infantry units supported by air cavalry could be very effective against Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces.
The 1st Squadron 4th Cavalry was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division as the division reconnaissance squadron based at Di An. It was the first element of the 4th Cavalry Regiment to arrive in Vietnam. The squadron’s main mission was to conduct route and convoy security missions primarily along Vietnam’s Route 13, the main communications and supply route from the Saigon north through Binh Doung and Binh Long Provinces. The 1st Squadron successfully accomplished this mission in face of strong enemy resistance. It also participated in large scale combined operations such as Cedar Falls and Junction City. Overall the Quarter Horse as it was known, participated in eleven campaigns of the Vietnam War from 20 October 1965 to 5 February 1970. The 1st Squadron was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for its heroism in Binh Long Province as well as a Valorous Unit Award for Binh Doung Province. Troop A, 1st Squadron received a Valorous Unit Award for its actions at the battle of Ap Bau Bang.
The 3rd Squadron 4th Cavalry served as the reconnaissance squadron for the 25th Infantry Division. The 3rd Squadron completed its deployment to Vietnam on 24 March 1966 and was based at Cu Chi northwest of Saigon. Troop C, 3rd Squadron initially served with the 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. There, the troop pioneered the use of armored cavalry in the thick jungles of that region in fierce fighting against North Vietnamese units. Troop C later saw action against Viet Cong main force units in Quang Tri Province receiving a Valorous Unit Award. On 1 August 1967 Troop C rejoined the 3rd Squadron at Cu Chi.
The 3rd Squadron participated in twelve campaigns from 24 March 1966 to 8 December 1970. The squadron’s primary mission was to conduct route and convoy security along Vietnam’s Route 1 keeping open the main supply and communications route from Saigon to Tay Ninh, By 1967 the squadron was escorting some 8,000 vehicles a month operating both day and night escorts. It also participated in large scale combined arms operations such as Cedar Falls, Junction City and the invasion of Cambodia. During the Communist Tet Offensive of January 1968 the 3rd Squadron was rushed to Tan Son Nhut airbase outside of Saigon where it successfully repelled a massive Viet Cong attempt to seize the air base. For details of this action see Battle of Tan Son Nhut. For its gallantry at Tan Son Nhut the 3rd Squadron was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation. In addition, the squadron received two Valorous Unit Awards for battles along the Cambodian border and in Binh Doung Province. In addition, Troop D (Air), 3rd Squadron received a Presidential Unit Citation for gallantry in Tay Ninh Province. Troop A, 3rd Squadron received a Valorous Unit Award for contributing to the defeat of Viet Cong forces in the Cu Chi District. The 1st Platoon, Troop A, 3rd Squadron also received a Presidential Unit Citation while attached to the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry during the battle of Ben Cui.
Troop F, 4th Cavalry was activated on 10 February 1971 in Vietnam and assigned to the 25th Division as a separate air cavalry troop in support of the 25th Division’s 2nd Brigade. After the 2nd Brigade left Vietnam on 30 April 1971, Troop F remained assigned to the 25th while serving with the 11th and 12 Aviation Groups. It was one of the last Army units to leave Vietnam on 26 February 1973.
In 1972, two years after its return from Vietnam, the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry was reorganized from an armored cavalry squadron to an air cavalry squadron with maneuver elements consisting of one armored cavalry troop equipped with tanks and armored personnel carriers and two air cavalry troops equipped with helicopters. In the mid-1980s the Army decided to move to a unit replacement system whereby soldiers would spend the majority of their army careers rotating between the elements of a regiment located in the United States and overseas. In order to set up the proper alignment of like units old historic long-term assignments of regiments in certain divisions were terminated. As part of this reorganization Department of the Army decided that all 4th Cavalry elements would be armored cavalry and assigned to heavy divisions. Thus on 16 March 1987 the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry was inactivated as the 25th Infantry Division was designated a light division. The 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry organized as an armored cavalry squadron, remained assigned to the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized). The 4th Squadron was reactivated in 1986 and was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) in Germany. Pressure to return the highly decorated 3rd Squadron to active duty led the Army to replace the 4th Squadron with the 3rd Squadron on 16 June 1989. One of the missions of both squadrons was the patrolling of the inner-German border until the collapse of East Germany in 1990.
Meanwhile the 2nd Squadron which had been inactivated in Germany in 1972 after serving both in the 4th Armored Division and then in the 1st Armored Division, was reactivated with the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Stewart, Georgia in January 1987.
Three 4th Cavalry elements participated in the Gulf War. The 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry continued to serve as the reconnaissance squadron for the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) assigned to the VII Corps. The 2nd Squadron, 4th Cavalry was the reconnaissance squadron for the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) assigned to the XVIII Airborne Corps. Troop D, 4th Cavalry, the reconnaissance troop of the 197th Infantry Brigade (which was attached to the 24th Division) was placed under operational control of the 2nd Squadron.
The ground attack of Desert Storm was launched shortly after midnight on 24 February 1991. The attack began in the XVIII Airborne Corps sector on the extreme left flank of the Coalition Forces. The 24th Division had the critical mission of blocking the Euphrates River valley to cut the escape of Iraqi forces in Kuwait and then to attack east with VII Corps to destroy the Republican Guard divisions. The 2nd Squadron, 4th Cavalry had crossed the border six hours ahead of the main attack and scouted north along the two axis of advance. The 2nd Squadron found little evidence of the enemy and the division made rapid progress. With the 4th Cavalry screening 5 to 10 miles in front of the attacking brigades the 24th continued north until around midnight when the division was halted 75 miles inside Iraq. By 27 February, the fourth day of combat, the 24th Division had destroyed all Iraqi units it had encountered securing the Euphrates River Valley and had trapping most of the Republican Guards divisions for the two Corps to destroy.
In the VII Corps sector the 1st Infantry Division was given the mission of breaching the enemy’s defensive line. In turn the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry was ordered to lead the Big Red One. The 1st Squadron had arrived in Saudi Arabia without its tanks which had been in storage while the squadron served as the Opposing Force in 1st Division maneuvers in Germany and was short tank-qualified personnel. The 1st Squadron quickly integrating new replacements just out of training and readied newly issued tanks for A and B Troops. On schedule the 1st Squadron with its two armored cavalry troops and two air cavalry troops lunched the VII Corps attack destroying over twenty-seven Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles in the initial attack. The Big Red One soon had destroyed some ten miles of enemy defenses and had created a breach in the Iraqi lines for the VII Corps to pour through. Swinging east the Corps with the 1st Division on the south passed through the cavalry screen and attacked the Iraqi forces. By 27 February the 1st Division had destroyed two armored divisions. The 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry then set up blocking positions on the Al Basrah -Kuwait City highway preventing Iraqi forces from escaping from Kuwait. The Squadron received a Valorous Unit Award for its actions during Desert Storm.
A cease-fire was declared at 0800 28 February 1991. Thus ended the quickest and most overpowering victory in U.S. Army history. The 4th Cavalry elements that participated in Desert Storm the 1st Squadron, the 2nd Squadron and Troop D all performed their missions with courage, and outstanding professionalism adding to the reputation of the 4th Cavalry as being one of the Army’s finest regiments.
The deep draw down of the Army beginning in the middle 1980s and continuing after Desert Storm combined with the burgeoning peace keeping commitments led to the decision to halt the implementation of the unit replacement system. Unfortunately by the time the decision was made the Army had completed a massive reassignment of regiments, which had often terminated long standing historical associations between regiments and divisions. The inactivation of the 3rd Squadron 4th Cavalry after serving with the 25th Division for thirty years is a case in point. By 1996 the Army, recognizing the damage such moves had made on esprit-de-corps reassigned many units back to their traditional parent organizations.
Thus the 3rd Squadron, which had served with the 3rd Infantry Division since 1989 to include a tour in Bosnia, was reassigned to the 25th Infantry Division on 16 February 1996 as the division reconnaissance squadron. It was based at Wheeler Army Airfield adjacent to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. The squadron’s maneuver elements were one motorized reconnaissance troop and two air cavalry troops. The 1st Squadron remained assigned to the 1st Infantry Division and was stationed at Conn Barracks, Schweinfurt, Germany. The squadron’s maneuver elements were three armored cavalry troops and two air cavalry troops. Conn Barracks served as the regimental home of the 4th Cavalry Regiment as the regimental colors were located with the 1st Squadron.
The post Desert Storm drawdown did not leave the 4th Cavalry unscathed. The Army inactivated the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) in February 1996 with the concurrent inactivation of the 2nd Squadron 4th Cavalry. And with the inactivation of the 197th Infantry Brigade earlier, Troop D, 4th Cavalry was also inactivated. Troop E, 4th Cavalry was inactivated on 5 June 1994 when the decision was made to remove combat units from the Army Reserve.
On 16 January 1999, Troop E, 4th Cavalry was reactivated as the reconnaissance troop for the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division stationed in Schweinfurt, Germany. Troop F, 4th Cavalry was also reactivated on 16 January 1999 as the reconnaissance troop for the 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division in Vielseck, Germany. Troop D, 4th Cavalry was reactivated 25 February 2000 as the reconnaissance troop for the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas.
All active elements of the 4th Cavalry have served tours of duty in either Iraq or Afghanistan. The four elements of the regiment assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, the 1st Squadron and the three brigade reconnaissance troops, Troops D, E, and F served in Iraq from 2004-2005. The 1st Infantry Division operating as Task Force Danger was based in and around the Iraqi city of Tikrit. The 1st Squadron organized as Task Force Saber conducted security and stability operations from its Forward Operating Base Mackenzie near the town of Ad Duluyuah. Attached to the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division during operations in the city of Samarra from 1 October 2004 through 1 November 2004 the 1st Squadron’s gallantry resulted in the receipt of a Valorous Unit Award. Troop D served with the 1st Brigade in Al Anbar Province from January to September 2004, receiving a Valorous Unit Award. Troop E served with 2nd Brigade from February 2004 to February 2005 and received a Meritorious Unit Commendation. Troop E received a Valorous Unit Award for its actions in the city of Samarra from 1 October 2004 to 1 November 2004. Troop F served with the 3rd Brigade from February 2004-March 2005. Troop F was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism in action during the battle for Fallujah from 8 November to 20 November 2004.
The 3rd Squadron served a one year tour of duty in Afghanistan from April 2004-2005. Initially based at Kandahar Airfield the 3rd Squadron was under the operational control of the 25th Infantry Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team organized as Task Force Bronco. Initially the 3rd Squadron was responsible for security and stability operations throughout Kandahar Province. Organized as Task Force Saber the squadron’s two air cavalry troops B and C Troops initiated the first OH-58D helicopter operations in Afghanistan logging over 6,000 hours in support of Task Force Bronco security and stability missions. While the Troop A mounted on Humvees conducted screening and route security missions. In addition the squadron initiated and supervised a significant number of reconstruction and educational initiatives in Kandahar Province. In August 2004 hostilities broke out between Afghani warlords in the western city of Herat. Coalition forces including Task Force Saber halted the hostilities. Task Force Saber remained in the area to disarm the militias, to successfully secure polling sites for the October national presidential elections and to conduct operations to block Taliban infiltration of Regional Command West. In February the squadron returned to Kandahar Province where it resumed security and stability operations. For its accomplishments in Afghanistan the 3rd Squadron was awarded a Meritorious Unit Commendation. In April 2005 the squadron returned to its home at Wheeler Army Air Field, Hawaii.
In 2004 the Army initiated a reorganization designed to increase the number of cohesive deployable units and to improve force and personnel stability. Reorganizing to a modular designed force, the Army is standardizing its units by type under modular concepts and moving from a division-centric force the Army has had since the start of WWII to a brigade-centric force.
Under this concept the 4th Cavalry Regiment is undergoing significant changes as all active elements reorganize from a mix of armored cavalry and air cavalry to a mix of armored, motorized and dismounted reconnaissance units. In addition the regiment is expanding from two squadrons and three separate troops to five squadrons making it one of the larger cavalry regiments in the Army.
On 16 November 2005 the 3rd Squadron was assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division to serve as the brigade’s reconnaissance squadron. It is organized with a headquarters and headquarters troop, two motorized reconnaissance troops mounted on Humvees and a dismounted reconnaissance troop.
In 2006-2007 the 1st Infantry Division returned in brigade increments from Germany with duty stations of Fort Riley, Kansas and Fort Hood, Texas. The four elements of the 4th Cavalry that are serving with the 1st Infantry Division have reorganized or are programmed to reorganize as described below.
The 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry has reorganized as a brigade reconnaissance squadron consisting of a headquarters and headquarters troop, two motorized reconnaissance troops equipped with Humvees and one dismounted reconnaissance troop. It is assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Infantry), 1st Infantry Division and stationed at Fort Riley.
Troop D, 4th Cavalry has reorganized as the 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry. (Organic squadron elements organized and activated). An armored reconnaissance squadron, it consists of a headquarters and headquarters troop and three reconnaissance troops equipped with Bradley armored scout vehicles and is assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team (Heavy), 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas.
On 28 March 2008, Troop E was reorganized and redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment (organic squadron elements constituted and activated). Organized as an armored reconnaissance squadron equipped with Bradley armored scout vehicles, it is assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (Heavy) 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas.
Troop F, 4th Cavalry was inactivated in Germany in 2006 along with the rest of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. Troop F was reorganized and redesignated as Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment (organic squadron elements constituted and activated) on 16 April 2007 and activated at Fort Hood Texas. The 6th Squadron is assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (Infantry), 1st Infantry Division and is organized identically to the 4th Cavalry Regiment’s 1st and 3rd Squadrons. When facilities become available the 3rd Brigade Combat Team will be home-stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
All active elements of the 4th Cavalry have served with distinction in fifteen combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. The 1st Squadron and Troops D, E, and F began serving deployments in Iraq in February 2004 with elements of the 1st Infantry Division. The 3rd Squadron accompanied the 25th Infantry Division to Afghanistan in April 2004. Beginning in 2005, in order to more effectively conduct operations in both countries, the Army moved from a division-centric to a brigade-centric modular organization built on combined arms brigade combat teams. Consequently, Troops D, E & F were reorganized as the 4th, 5th and 6th Squadrons and along with the 1st Squadron, were each assigned to a brigade combat team of the 1st Infantry Division. The 3rd Squadron was reorganized from an air cavalry squadron to a brigade reconnaissance squadron and assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
In the seven years from 2004 to 2011 units of the 4th Cavalry Regiment have been consistently serving in either Iraq or Afghanistan conducting counter-insurgency warfare. Depending on the time period and the location of the area of operations the security situation varied between deployments. In some deployments intense combat operations were required in partnership with local government forces to eliminate strongly entrenched insurgent elements before security and stability could be achieved to a level that would increase the protection of the local population, and allow for improvements to take place in the quality of their daily life and commerce. This is reflected in the awards received by 4th Cavalry units depending where and when deployed. For example, those units deployed in the earlier stages of the Iraq campaign received awards recognizing the high intensity of combat they encountered and successfully concluded. Whereas units deployed at other times or to less threatened areas did not experience such intense combat and upon arrival were able to place emphasis more on local stability, protection of the population and improving economic conditions. In recognition of extraordinary gallantry and distinguished service in the War On Terrorism, 4th Cavalry units as of 2011 have received one Presidential Unit Citation (Troop F); four Valorous Unit Awards, (1st Squadron—two awards; Troops D and E—one each) and six Meritorious Unit Commendations (1st Squadron—one award; 3rd Squadron—three awards; Troop E/5th Squadron—two awards).
For the foreseeable future the 4th Cavalry Regiment active elements will consist of five reconnaissance squadrons. The 3rd Squadron remains stationed at Schofield Barracks. The 1st, 4th and 5th Squadrons will be stationed at Fort Riley and the 6th Squadron at Fort Knox. Fort Riley will also be considered the regimental home of the 4th Cavalry with the Regimental Colors maintained by the 1st Squadron.
Additionally the U.S Army sponsors and maintains Troop B, 4th U.S. Cavalry (Memorial) at Fort Huachuca Arizona. Organized in 1973 Troop B appears at military and civilian ceremonies and functions throughout the southwest to promote the heritage and traditions of the U.S. Army during the Indian Wars. The memorial troop is equipped and mounted identically to Troop B, 4th Cavalry in 1886 when it participated in the capture of Geronimo under the command of Captain Henry W. Lawton. Active duty soldiers and Department of the Army civilians wear authentic 1886 cavalry uniforms and are armed with the cavalry weapons of that era and the horses are saddled and bridled with equally authentic equipment.
Soldiers who have served in the 4th Cavalry can take great pride in having contributed to the record of one of the finest regiments in the U. S Army. Today’s active duty 4th Cavalrymen and the volunteers of Troop B (Memorial) continue to add to and perpetuate the magnificent history of the 4th Cavalry Regiment.
— History Researched and written by John G. Keliher using U.S. Army historical records. Revised and updated from the first edition originally researched and written by the author in 1960.