In February 1943, the entire 1st Cavalry Division was alerted for an overseas assignment as a dismounted unit. An impatient 1st Cavalry Division was dismounted and they were processed for movement to the Southwest Pacific theater as foot solders. In mid June 1943, the last troops of the division departed Fort Bliss, Texas for Camp Stoneman, California and later on 03 July, boarded the USAT "George Washington" and sailed out of the Golden Gate, San Francisco, California enroute for Brisbane, Australia and the Southwest Pacific.
On 24 July, three weeks later, the division arrived at Brisbane and began a
fifteen mile trip to their new temporary home, Camp Strathpine, Queensland,
Australia. The division received six months of intense combat jungle warfare
training at Camp Strathpine in the wilds of scenic Queensland and amphibious
training at nearby Moreton Bay. On 15 January 1944, the regiment was ordered
to leave Australia and sail to Oro Bay, New Guinea, arriving on 25 January
1944. Camp Borio was established, where jungle training and operations in
support of the 1st Marine was performed. After a period of staging in New
Guinea, it was time for the 1st Cavalry Division to receive their first
baptism of fire.
Just after 0800 hours on 29 February, the 1st Cavalry troopers climbed down the nets of the APD's and into the LCM's and LCPR's, the flat bottomed landing craft of the Navy. The landing at Hayane Harbor took the Japanese by surprise. The first three waves of the assault troops from the 2nd Squadron, 5th Regiment reached the beach virtually unscathed. The fourth wave was less lucky. By then the Japanese had been able to readjust their guns to fire lower and some casualties were suffered.
After a period of staging in New Guinea, the 12th Cavalry Regiment departed from New Guinea as a part of the combat reinforcements of the Admiralty Campaign. On 02 March, the Regiment embarked at Cape Sudest, New Guinea in four LSTs and moved to join the forward forces of the 1st Cavalry Division, On 06 March, the 12th Cavalry Regiment along with the 271st Field Artillery Battalion landed in Los Negros Island with minimal resistance. Under cover of the B-25 bombing, they joined up with the 2nd Squadron of the 7th Cavalry Regiment to seize the Salami Plantation and Salami Beach, about three miles north of the Momote Airdrome. The Japanese, expecting an amphibious landing were surprised by the attack from the rear, had their guns directed toward the beach.
The next day, the 12th Cavalry Regiment and the 2nd Squadron of the 7th were joined by the 5th Cavalry Regiment to seize Papitalai Mission and Lombrum Point before the Japanese could complete building a well fortified defense. In retreat, the enemy left behind large amounts of their food and equipment. On 08 March, the 12th Cavalry liberated 69 Sikh soldiers who had been held captive by the Japanese and used as forced labor since the fall of Singapore on 15 February 1942.
With attention focused on the opening of new operations at Hauwei Island, the 12th and the 5th Regiments began working their way south of Papitalai Mission through the rough hills and dense jungles in hand to hand combat. Tanks sometimes would give welcome support, but mostly the troopers had to do the dangerous job with small arms and grenades.
On 22 March, two final attacks wiped out the remaining resistance on Los Negros. Two squadrons of the 5th and the 12th overran enemy positions west of Papatalai Mission. Once again it was tough fighting with the terrain, overgrown with thick canopies of vines, favoring the Japanese. On 24 March, the 5th and 12th overcame fanatical resistance and pushed through to the north end of the island. On 28 March, the battles for Los Negros and Manus were over, except for mop up operations.
On 31 March, the 1st Squadron moved from Lombrum Point to Mokerang Peninsula and on 01 April launched an attack was made on Korunist and Ndrilo Islands which lay just off the western tip of Mokerang Peninsula, Los Negros. After land, sea and air forces had given those islands a hard pounding, the troopers transported in eighteen native canoes, four captured Japanese collapsible boats and sixteen engineer half boats. landed unopposed. On 03 April, the 2nd Squadron moved to Rambuto Island, southeast of Los Negros to search out and destroy small bands of enemy. Because of the numerous coral reefs, the troopers carried their supplies and equipment as they waded ashore in waist high water. On 07 April, the 1st Squadron was sent on a combat mission to Pak Island where they were met with light resistance.
The Admiralty Islands campaign officially ended on 18 May 1944. Japanese casualties stood at 3,317 killed. The losses of the 1st Cavalry Division included 290 dead, 977 wounded and 4 missing in action. Training, discipline, determination and ingenuity had won over suicidal attacks. The First Cavalry Troopers were now seasoned veterans.
On Columbus Day, 12 October 1944, the 1st Cavalry Division sailed away from
its hard earned base in the Admiralties for the Leyte invasion, Operation King
II. On October 20, the invasion force must have appeared awesome to the
waiting Japanese as it swept toward the eastern shores of Leyte. Precisely at
H - hour, the first wave of the 1st Cavalry Division hit the beach at 10:00.
The landing, at "White Beach" was between the mouth of the Palo River, to the
south and Tacloban, the capital city of Leyte. Troopers of the 5th, 7th and
12th Cavalry Regiments quickly fanned out across the sands and moved into the
shattered jungle against occasional sniper fire.
The missions of the 1st Cavalry Division in late October and early November included moving across Leyte's northern coast, through the rugged mountainous terrain and deeper into Leyte Valley. The 1st Brigade had severe fighting in most difficult terrain when the 5th and 12th Cavalry secured the central mountain range of Leyte. It was particularly hard going in these mountains. It was slip and slide all the way over the toughest terrain interspersed with fighting the Japanese. In spite of the 5th and 12th Cavalry Regiment accomplished their mission well.
The Japanese had been able to put an additional 20,000 combat troops ashore on the west side of Leyte shortly after the First Team's invasion. On 09 November, the 12th Cavalry regiment pushed into the hills west of Leyte Valley and launched an offensive against the Japanese fortified positions to counter the ability of the enemy to be effective. On 15 November, the 2nd Squadron, 12th Cavalry Regiment got into an intensive fight with the Japanese who were well entrenched on Hill 2348, about two miles east of the Ormoc Pinamapoan Highway. The battle for Hill 2348 continued the next day and threatened to be a bloody stalemate. Individual Cavalrymen of "G" Troop advanced through heavy machine gun fire and began to silence the Japanese strongholds one by one.
On 20 November, the rest of the 12th Cavalry Regiment became heavily engaged around Mt. Cabungaan, about three miles south of Hill 2348. The enemy had dug in on the reverse side of sharp slopes. Individual troopers were again faced with the task of searching out and destroying positions in the fog. On the night of 02 - 03 December, the battle of Hill 2348 reached its climax. The 2nd Squadron, 12th Cavalry Regiment suffered heavy casualties from the heavy machine gun fire, mortars and waves of troops in suicidal attacks. The troopers counterattacked with devastating effort and the Japanese fled the hill in disarray.
During the next week the enemy fought defensive, delaying actions. On 19 December, the two squadrons of the 12th Cavalry regiment battled their way into the barrio of Lonoy, moving south the next day toward Cananga. The war seemed to speed up as the troopers could use conventional infantry tactics in the open countryside. The troops advanced toward their final objective, the fishing village of Villaba on the Vissaan Sea. On 29 December the small barrio fell ending the long wet Leyte/Samar campaign was over except for mop up operations.
By 11 January 1945, the Japanese losses amounted to nearly 56,200 killed in action and only a handful - 389 had surrendered. Leyte had indeed been the largest campaign in the Pacific War, but the record to that was about to be shattered during the invasion of Luzon.
With the last of the strongholds eliminated, the division moved on to Luzon, the main island of the Philippines. On 26 January, conveys were formed and departed for the Lingayan Gulf, Luzon Island, the Philippines. Landing without incident on 27 January, the regiment assembled in an area near Guimba and prepared for operations in the south and southwest areas. On 31 January 1945, General Douglas MacArthur issued the order "Go to Manila! Go around the Japs, bounce off the Japs, save your men, but get to Manila! Free the internees at Santo Tomas! Take the Malacanan Palace (the presidential palace) and the legislative building!".
Other units of the 1st Cavalry Division fought their way past the Japanese to Manila on 05 February. The 12th Regiment remained outside Manila, assigned to protect the northern flank and lines of communication. On 12 February, the regiment moved into Manila to joined the 1st Cavalry Division. For nearly a month after reaching the Philippines capital city, the division engaged in some of the roughest street fighting of World War II. By 03 March, the organized resistance was wiped out.
But once again, from 20 February to the 12 March, the Cavalry drew the difficult task of cracking the Shimbu Line a few miles east of Manila and securing a front from Taytay on the north to Antipalo on the south. The goal was to prevent Japanese reinforcements from reaching Manila. The 1st Cavalry Division fought regiment abreast as it destroyed the southern flank of the Shimbu Line. From north to south the units involved included the 5th, 7th, 8th and 12th Cavalry Regiments. Once the high ground was taken, the troopers were relieved by the 43 Infantry Division and given a week of rest south of Manila.
02 April saw the beginning of the second phase of the Luzon Campaign. On 28
July, the final elements of the regiment closed in Sariaya and the Luzon
Campaign was officially ended on 24:00 30 June. More than 14,000 Japanese had
been killed and nearly 1,200 had been taken as prisoners. The 1st Cavalry
Division had lost 680 troopers, a remarkable low causality figure considering
the violent fighting.
At 0800 hours on 08 September, a history making convey left Hara-Machida with Tokyo as their destination. Headed by Major General William C. Chase, commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division, the party included a veteran from each troop of the division. Passing through Hachioji, Fuchu and Chofu, the Cavalry halted briefly at the Tokyo City Limits. General Chase stepped across the line thereby putting the American Occupational Army officially in Tokyo and adding another "First" to its name;
"First in Tokyo".
The honor of the first enlisted man to enter the city officially went to a member of "D" Troop, 12th Cavalry, PFC Paul Davis of Fairland, Ottawa County, Oklahoma.
The first mission of the division was to assume control of the city. On 16 September, the 1st Division was given responsibility for occupying the entire city of Tokyo and the adjacent parts of Tokyo and Saitama Prefectures. The command posts of the 1st Brigade, 5th Cavalry and 12th Cavalry were situated at Camp McGill at Otawa, approximately 20 miles south of Yokohama. The 2nd Cavalry Brigade had its command post at the Imperial Guard Headquarters Buildings in Tokyo, while the 7th Cavalry was situated at the Merchant Marine School. The 8th Cavalry occupied the 3rd Imperial Guard Regiment Barracks in Tokyo. Division Headquarters and other units were stationed at Camp Drake near Tokyo.
In November 1945, the division assumed control of the repatriation center at Uraga, a port south of Yokohama. More than 560,000 Japanese military personnel and diplomatic and civil service officials returned home through the center. Over the next five years, the regiment was able to perform many valuable duties and services that helped Japan reconstruct and create a strong, viable economy. At such time in March 1949, the 12th Cavalry Regiment was relieved from the 1st Cavalry Division and inactivated at Otawa, Japan.
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