5th Cavalry Regiment
WW II, Pacific
"Loyalty and Courage"

Captured Japanese Pilot's View
On 07 December 1941, without warning, the Japanese destroyed the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. Although the 1st Cavalry Division was created as a result of a proven need for large horse-mounted formations, by 1940 many thought that the march of progress had left the horse far behind. All doubt was erased with the surprise of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Immediately troopers returned to the 1st Cavalry Division from all over the United States. They outfitted their horses and readied their weapons and vehicles in anticipation of the fight against the Axis.

In February 1943, the entire 1st Cavalry Division was alerted for an overseas assignment. 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 "SS Monterey" and the "SS George Washington" for Australia and the Southwest Pacific.

On 26 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. In January 1944 the division was ordered to leave Australia and sail to Oro Bay, New Guinea. After a period of staging in New Guinea, it was time for the 1st Cavalry Division to receive their first baptism of fire.

Island Combat
On 27 February, Task Force "Brewer", consisting of 1,026 troopers, embarked from Cape Sudest, Oro Bay, New Guinea under the command of Brigadier General William C. Chase. Their destination was a remote, Japanese occupied island of the Admiralties, Los Negros, where they were to make a reconnaissance of force and if feasible, capture Momote Airdrome and secure a beachhead for the reinforcements that would follow.

Just after 8:00 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.

Troops under the command of Lt. Col. William E. Lobit of Galveston, Texas, fanned out and attacked through the rain.They quickly fought their way to the Momote airfield and had the entire facility quickly under control in less than two hours. The United Press would hail the Los Negros landing as "one of the most brilliant maneuvers of the war." The Associated Press would call it "a masterful strategic stroke."

Shortly after 14:00 on "D" day, General MacArthur inspected and praised the Cavalry troops actions and accomplishments; then ordered General Chase to defend the airstrip at all costs against apanese counterattacks. He finally headed back to the beach where he presented the Distinguished Service Cross to Lt. Marvin J. Henshaw, 5th Cavalry, of Haskell, Texas. Lt. Henshaw had been the first American to land on Los Negros in the first wave, leading his platoon ashore through the narrow ramp of a Higgens boat.

Momote Airfield Photo - 14 Oct, 1943
Nightfall was coming which, as it was known, would bring a nighttime counterattack from the enemy. Early in the morning, around 2:00, the enemy came back in force. In the darkness the Japanese had made it into the 5th Cavalry's perimeter. Hand to hand fighting broke out near some foxholes. Tough fighting raged the next day and through the night. Japanese pressure on the invasion force remained desperate and intense. The music of the old cavalry charge could almost be heard when the rest of the 5th Cavalry reinforcements was riding toward the beach in LST,s and other landing craft. In a coordinated action, the 40th Naval Construction Battalion (Seabees) landed on Los Negros Island in support of the 5th Cavalry. Their mission was to reconstruct the Momote Airfield. Assigned to defend a large portion of the right flank, the 40th suffered heavy casualties while defending the airfield with the horseless soldiers of the 5th. Along with the 40th, the consolidated 5th Regiment soon secured all of the Momote airfield and spent the long night of 02 March, repulsing suicidal attacks, especially against the north and northwest sectors of the perimeter.

03 March, the third day on Los Negros, was a red letter day for the 1st Cavalry Division. It was the 89th anniversary of the founding of the 5th Regiment. There was little time for celebration; the fresh well equipped Imperial Marines were counterattacking and the worse was yet to come. Combat raged through the night of 03 March and the morning of 04 March. At one point the Japanese had penetrated several hundred yards inside the defense parameter near "G" Troop. The cavalrymen rallied and they wiped out the attackers. It was during the fierce night fighting that a member of "G" Troop, 5th Cavalry, won the division's first Medal of Honor. Staff Sergeant Troy A. McGill, of Ada, Oklahoma was in charge of a defensive position of foxholes dug into a revetment about 35 yards in front of the main line of resistance. Suddenly Sgt. McGill and his men found themselves in the center of a swarming, drink crazed Banzai attack by 200 Japanese soldiers. All but one of McGill's men were killed or wounded. McGill ordered the survivor to drop back, and gave him covering fire. When his weapon failed, McGill charged the enemy and clubbed as many as he could before he was killed. The next morning, 146 enemy dead were found in front of his position.

More reinforcements arrived shortly before noon of 04 March, and quickly went into action. The 2nd Squadron, 7th Cavalry relieved the 5th Cavalry who had been in continuous combat for four days and nights. On 06 March, the 5th Cavalry went back into action to occupy Porolka and the first American airplane landed on the Momote airstrip which had been repaired by the Seabees. The next day the 5th pushed south and overran Papitalai Village after a short amphibious landing assault. By 10 - 11 March, mop up operations were underway all over the northern half of Los Negros Island and attention was being given to a much bigger objective immediately to the west; Manus Island.

P-40 Landing at Momote 15 March, 1944
By 16 March 1944, Momote airstrip was in use and the airdrome well on its way to completion. The airstrip was quickly repaired so that by 18 May, fighters could operate from it. Momote Airdrome was surfaced with coral and equipped with taxiways, hard stands, and storage areas. By the end of the campaign over 7,000 barrels of bulk petroleum fuel were stored at Momote for operations. Also, a causeway was built spanning a swampy area, linking the airfield on Los Negros with Manus Island.

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.

Two final attacks wiped out the remaining resistance on Los Negros Island. On 22 March, two squadrons from the 5th and 12th Regiments overran enemy positions west of Papitalai 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 Regiments 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.

The Admiralty Islands campaign officially ended on 18 May 1944. Japanese casualties stood at 3,317 killed. The losses of the 1st Cavalry Division were 290 dead, 977 wounded and four missing in action. Training, discipline, determination and ingenuity had won over suicidal attacks. The 5th 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 1000 hours, the first wave of the 1st Cavalry Division hit the beach. 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.

Return to the Philippines
The fighting near the beaches was still was underway when General MacArthur and Philippines President Sergio Osmena waded ashore in ankle deep water. MacArthur soon broadcast his famous message to the Philippinos: "People of the Philippines: I have returned. By the grace if Almighty God, our forces stand again on the Philippine soil - soil concentrated in the blood of our two peoples... Rally to me! Rise and strike!". To the Philippine guerilla forces and the 17 million inhabitants, it was the news they had long awaited.

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. By 15 November, elements of the 5th and 7th Regiments pushed west and southwest within a thousand yards of the Ormoc Pinamapoan Highway. 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!" The next day, elements of the 5th Regiment joined the "flying column", as the mobile units came to be known, jumped off to slice through 100 miles of Japanese territory. The rescue column, led by Brigadier General William C. Chase was a high risk gamble from the beginning. The column was able to get around, over and past each obstacle in its path. At 18:35, 03 February the rescue column crossed the city limits of Manila. By 21:00 the internment camp at Santo Tomas was liberated and the prisoners were freed. On 07 February, the 37th Infantry Division relieved the 5th Regiment, who immediately joined in the fight to free southern sections on Manila.

The First Team was;

"First in Manila".

On 12 April, the 5th Cavalry Regiment began a drive southeastward down the Bicoi Peninsula to clear it of Japanese and link up with the 158th Regimental Combat team. The two forces finally converged at Naga on 29 April, after "B" Troop, 5th Cavalry and a group of engineers made an amphibious assault across the Ragay Gulf at Pasacao. On 30 June 1945, the Luzon Campaign was declared completed.

Surrender of Japan
On 13 August, the 1st Cavalry Division was alerted that they were selected to accompany General Douglas MacArthur to Tokyo and would be part of the 8th Army in the occupation of Japan. On 02 September, the long convey of ships steered into Yokohama Harbor and past the battleship Missouri where General MacArthur would later receive the Japanese surrender party. At noon on 05 September 1945, a reconnaissance party headed by Colonel Charles A. Sheldon, the Chief of Staff of the 1st Cavalry Division, entered Tokyo. This embarkment was the first official movement of American personnel into the capital of the mighty Japanese Empire.

At 8:00 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 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, which provided greater proximity to security missions at the American and Russian Embassies and the Imperial Palace grounds. Division Headquarters and other units were stationed at Camp Drake near Tokyo.

Troops of the 5th Cavalry Regiment were assigned guard and security missions in the Tokyo area where General MacArthur had taken up residence. Over the next five years, until the outbreak of the Korean War, the regiment was able to perform many valuable duties and services that helped Japan reconstruct and create a strong, viable economy. On 25 March 1949, the reorganization which began in 1945, was completed by redesignating troops as companies.

Cavalry Outpost Publications Logo 14 Oct '99
Need a gift for an Alumni of the 1st Cavalry Division?

eMail Your WebSite Comments.

Return to "MyOwnPages"©.

Copyright © 1996, Cavalry Outpost Publications ® and Trooper Wm. H. Boudreau, "F" Troop, 8th Cavalry Regiment (1946 - 1947). All rights to this body of work are reserved and are not in the public domain, or as noted in the bibliography. Reproduction, or transfer by electronic means, of the History of the 1st Cavalry Division, the subordinate units or any internal element, is not permitted without prior authorization. Readers are encouraged to link to any of the pages of this Web site, provided that proper acknowledgment attributing to the source of the data is made. The information or content of the material contained herein is subject to change without notice.

Revised 27 Sep '09 SpellChecked