MECHANIZED CAVALRY

 
 

TYPES OF MECHANIZED CAVALRY UNITS

 
The following types of mechanized cavalry units fought in the European Theater of Operations (ETO):
 

(1)
 

The mechanized cavalry group, composed of group headquarters and headquarters troop and two attached mechanized cavalry reconnaissance squadrons.

   

(2) 

The mechanized cavalry reconnaissance squadron assigned to the light armored division.
   

(3) 

The mechanized cavalry reconnaissance troop assigned to the infantry division.
 

While bearing a different name and having a different organization, the armored reconnaissance battalion, assigned to the heavy armored division, occupied a position corresponding to that of the mechanized cavalry reconnaissance squadron in the light armored division.

 

MISSION AND ROLE

 
(1)
 
The prescribed mission of mechanized cavalry when the invasion of Normandy began was reconnaissance, and this mission was to be performed with a minimum of fighting.
   
(2)

 

Paragraph 38 of Field Manual 100-5, Field service regulations, operations, 1944 expressed the mechanized cavalry role as follows: "Mechanized cavalry units are organized, equipped and trained to perform reconnaissance missions employing infiltration tactics, fire, and maneuver. They engage in combat only to the extent necessary to accomplish the assigned missions."

   
(3)
 

Mechanized cavalry units had been organized and equipped upon the basis of this role and its method of accomplishment and hence had been reduced to minimum strength in respect to both personnel and equipment.

 

TACTICAL DOCTRINE

 

The tactical doctrine which governed the employment of mechanized cavalry units was contained in the following paragraphs (38 to 41) of Field Manual 100-5,  Field service regulations, operations, 1944:

 

Paragraph 38:  Mechanized Cavalry units are organized, equipped and trained to perform reconnaissance missions employing infiltration tactics, fire, and maneuver. They engage in combat only to the extent necessary to accomplish the assigned mission. Reconnaissance units on reconnaissance missions contribute to the security of the main force by reporting the locations of enemy forces and by giving timely warning of ground and air attacks. Information and warnings are transmitted directly to units whose security is threatened and to higher headquarters. When opposing main forces close, mechanized cavalry may be employed on reconnaissance missions toward an exposed flank, used to maintain liaison with adjacent units, or placed in reserve.

 

Paragraph 39:  Mechanized cavalry units perform distant, close and battle reconnaissance within zones or areas, or along designated routes or axes. Units may be employed dismounted on reconnaissance missions when the use of vehicles is impracticable. The zone assigned will vary with the size of the reconnaissance unit, the routes available to the enemy, the effect of terrain and weather on visibility and movement, the information desired by the higher commander, and the facility with which reserves can be moved within the zone. The frontage for a platoon reconnoitering a zone should not exceed four miles. A troop with one platoon in reserve initially can reconnoiter a zone 10 miles in width, while a squadron with one reconnaissance troop and the light tank company in reserve initially can reconnoiter a zone 25 miles wide. The rate of advance of units engaged in reconnaissance can be 10 miles per hour on open terrain under favorable conditions, but unfavorable conditions may reduce the rate even to that of dismounted reconnaissance. The time interval by which reconnaissance units precede the main force in an advance must be determined in each instance after a consideration of all factors which may affect the rate of advance of the reconnaissance units.

 

Paragraph 40:  Night reconnaissance is less effective than daylight reconnaissance and is limited ordinarily to dismounted patrolling, observation of routes, and the use of listening posts.

 

Paragraph 41:  Operations of mechanized cavalry and aviation are complementary. Aviation provides information which facilitates the execution of ground reconnaissance missions and conserves ground reconnaissance elements.

 

ASSIGNMENT AND ATTACHMENT OF MECHANIZED CAVALRY UNITS IN ETO

 

Thirteen mechanized cavalry groups, and one unattached mechanized cavalry reconnaissance squadron fought in the European Theater of Operations. These units were assigned to armies and habitually attached to corps; and most of these attachments were in effect, largely permanent. Corps frequently further attached these units, for operations only, to divisions, especially to infantry divisions

 

Thirteen mechanized cavalry reconnaissance squadrons fought as organic units of light armored divisions, and two armored reconnaissance battalions as organic units of heavy armored divisions.

 

Forty-two mechanized cavalry reconnaissance troops fought as organic units of infantry divisions.

 

EMPLOYMENT OF MECHANIZED CAVALRY UNITS IN ETO

 
Types of Missions.
(a)  Offensive combat, including attack as well as pursuit and exploitation.
   
(b)  Defensive combat, including defense, delaying action and holding of key terrain until arrival of main forces.
   
(c) Reconnaissance.
   

(d)
 

Security ( for other arms ), including blocking, moving and stationary screening, protecting flank, maintaining contact between larger units and filling gaps.

   

(e)
 

Special operations, including acting as mobile reserve, providing for security and control of rear areas, and operating an army information service.

 

CHARACTERISTICS

 

The following principal characteristics were revealed by mechanized cavalry in the course of its operations in the European Theater:

 
(1) Mobility.
 

The mounted mobility of mechanized cavalry was superior on roads. This mobility occasionally suffered by reason of the inadequate speed and range and the excess weight of attached combat vehicles, such as medium tanks and M10 and M36 tank destroyers. Off of roads, the mobility of mechanized cavalry was reduced due to the limited cross country ability of its primary vehicle, the armored car.

 
(2) Fire Power.
 

a.


 

The overall fire power of mechanized cavalry was superior to that of comparable infantry units. However, mechanized cavalry was strikingly inferior t infantry in rifle and automatic rifle strength. Coupled with the inadequacy of personnel in mechanized cavalry units available for dismounted maneuver and for close protection of combat vehicles, this weakness in rifles and automatic rifles seriously reduced the ability of mechanized cavalry to engage in dismounted combat.

 
 

b.

The fire power of mechanized cavalry also suffered severely due to the lack of an effective primary weapon in the armored car.

 
 

c.




 

The 60mm mortar was early deemed inadequate for  mechanized cavalry, as result of combat experience, and the shortage of men in the mechanized cavalry reconnaissance platoon made it difficult to man the large number of these weapons ( three per cavalry reconnaissance platoon) provided. Furthermore, the fact that, in the mechanized cavalry reconnaissance platoon, a vehicle to transport the mortar was normally available, made it less necessary to have a mortar of light weight. Accordingly, a need for a medium-weight mortar, in smaller quantity, was felt; and in the First and Third Armies, the 81mm mortar was provided prior to the end of combat and proved very suitable for mechanized cavalry.

 
 

d.
 

The 37mm gun in the light tank ( M5A1) proved inadequate in combat, except in light reconnaissance and screening action; and it was replaced, prior to the end of fighting, by the 75mm gun ( in the M24 light tank ), which proved much more suitable.

 
 

e.


 

The assault gun provided for mechanized cavalry units proved of great value, but the bursting radius of the 75mm projectile was deemed inadequate, as result of combat experience. A caliber of 105mm was felt to be more suitable, and the greater effectiveness of the 105mm howitzer was proven on the many occasions when light field artillery units supported mechanized cavalry.

 
(3) Adaptability and Flexibility.
  a.
 

A high degree of flexibility and adaptability was demonstrated by mechanized cavalry and enabled it to accomplish a great variety of missions with facility and smoothness.

 
 

b.



 

Mechanized cavalry group and reconnaissance squadron (and armored reconnaissance battalion) headquarters lent themselves readily to the organization and command of task forces of varied composition and strength. Combat engineer and tank destroyer units provided the most common reinforcements, and field artillery, especially of the armored type, was normally in support and less frequently attached. Infantry, in view of mechanized cavalry's weakness in men on the ground, was often needed but not often available.

 
(4) Self-Sufficiency.
 

a.

Mechanized cavalry demonstrated an ability and willingness to operate in enemy territory.

     
 

b.

 

This self-sufficiency suffered from shortage of organic cargo vehicles for transportation of ammunition, motor fuel, rations and equipment, and lack of adequate attached medical personnel and equipment - conditions which were aggravated as attachments increased the normal strength of units.

 
(5) Fighting Ability.
 

a.

The fighting ability of mechanized cavalry was demonstrated by its successful performance of many combat missions.

 
 

b.


 

In view of the nature of its fire-power and its shortage of men available for dismounted combat, this ability was more evident in defensive than offensive action, except when the latter was mounted. Furthermore, the fact that mechanized cavalry units had been imbued, in training, with the mission of reconnaissance and the doctrine of accomplishing mission was a minimum of fighting, caused some mechanized cavalry units to commence their operations with a mental obstacle to offensive combat.

 
 

c.




 

In many cases and especially in defensive combat, which found mechanized cavalry units committed for long periods without relief, mechanized cavalry suffered from a lack of reserves and consequent inability to provide depth to its dispositions, to reinforce an action or to relieve troops long committed. The shortage of reserves was believed chargeable, in the case of the mechanized cavalry group, to the lack of a third squadron, and in cases which at various times affected groups, squadrons and troops, to the detachment of subordinate units to perform duties which were not related to the accomplishment of the mechanized cavalry mission.

 
 

d.

In some cases, mechanized cavalry was inadequately reinforced for the performance of particular missions.
 
 

e.




 

With respect to mechanized cavalry groups, it is generally believed, as result of combat experience, that the reorganization, prior to the invasion of Normandy, of mechanized cavalry regiments into mechanized cavalry groups and separate mechanized cavalry reconnaissance squadrons, had an adverse affect on the morale and administrative efficiency of these units in the field. This handicap was somewhat obviated by the fact that mechanized cavalry reconnaissance squadrons normally operated under their corresponding groups. Furthermore, the reorganization facilitated the ability of mechanized cavalry reconnaissance squadrons to operate on detached missions.

 
 

 

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