Actions in the European Theater were carried out by two units that would later become part of the 12th Cavalry Regiment. The first unit to engage enemy action in WW II and be later consolidated with the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, 12th Cavalry on 15 February 1957, was the 81st Reconnaissance Battalion (Armored), 1st Armored Division who landed in North Africa and fought their way through the North African, Tunisian, Sicilian and Italian Campaigns.
Activated as the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion on 15 July 1940 with troops
drawn from the 7th Cavalry Brigade, organic to the 1st Armored Division.
Redesignated in May 1941 as 81st Armored Reconnaissance Battalion (ARB) and in
January 1942 as the 81st Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. The ARB consisted
of three armored reconnaissance companies and a light tank company. Committed
to battle 31 January 1943 at Station de Sened, Tunisia.
In the famous battle of Kasserine pass the battalion was distributed across the front of the division in an early warning screen. Elements of the "B" and "C" companies were able to provide early warning of the German attack and began to withdraw. Company "C" also provided early warning but retreated as far as the (unidentified) infantry regiment which was in defensive positions. The infantry were not authorized to retreat and the reconnaissance company, despite its high mobility, choose to remain in place with the infantry. Ultimately the infantry regiment was surrounded and most of "C" Company, 81st ARB was captured with the infantry. After Kasserine the battalion was reconstituted and served with distinction through the rest of the campaign at Maknassy, El Guettar, and Mateur.
Landing in Italy in 1943, the battalion moved to Anzio beachhead on 01 February 1944. However, because of the mountainous terrain in the theater, much of the battalion's combat operations were dismounted. In 1943 the battalion was reorganized as the 81st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, as part of the conversion of the division from a "heavy" armored division to the new 1943 "light" division organization. Mounted action resumed briefly during the entry of Rome on 04 June and subsequent liberation of Rome during the summer of 1944. Redesignated as 81st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Mechanized, in July 1944. Drove toward Florence, then held defensive positions during the winter. Forward action continued, rolling through Po River Valley in April 1945.
The second unit to be later consolidated with the 3rd Reconnaissance Squadron,
12th Cavalry Regiment on 01 October 1957, was the 83rd Reconnaissance
Battalion (Armored), 3rd Armored Division. The 83rd Armored Reconnaissance
Battalion was an original "Spearhead" unit, having been activated at Camp
Beauregard, Louisiana, on 15 April 1941, as the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion.
The organization's core was made up of 20 officers and 224 enlisted cadremen
from the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Benning, Georgia.
The 83rd came into its own as a great fighting force. With Combat Command "B", the battalion was among the first Americans to reach German soil in force. The 83rd also occupied Roetgen on 12 September 1944, the first German town to fall to allied troops. During the bitter winter campaign in Belgium, the battalion was again in the limelight. Company "A" was with Task Force Hogan's "400" at Marcouray, personnel of the unit reconnoitering a route out of that death trap and leading a 14 hour march through German lines on Christmas night. Later, the company, along with the rest of the battalion, spearheaded an attack which cut the vital St. Vith-Houffalize road.
Back in Germany for the last great offensive early in 1945, the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion again led the "Spearhead" in several of its most notable drives. The battalion was the first unit of the First Army to reach the Rhine, touching the "sacred river" at 0400 hours on 04 March, north of Worringen. In a magnificent sweep to encircle the industrial Ruhr, the battalion moved out in front to lead the entire division on the longest armored drive ever made in the history of warfare, 90 road miles against opposition.
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