1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry
91st Reconnaissance Squadron
"The Airborne Cav"
The 91st Reconnaissance Squadron was reactivated, and reorganized and redesignated the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment on 8 June 2006, at the Conn Barracks Parade Field in Schweinfurt, Germany, assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. This activation was part of the transition of the 173rd Airborne Brigade to the US Army's new modular force structure during 2006. This reactivation was the first time the colors of the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment had flown since the end of operations in WWII.
The distinctive unit insignia was originally approved for the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron on August 6th, 1942. It was redesignated for the 91st Reconnaissance Battalion on 25 May 1950. The insignia was redesignated for the 91st Armored Cavalry Reconnaissance Battalion on 22 October 1953. The insignia was again redesignated for the 91st Cavalry Regiment, with the description and symbolism updated on 1 March 2006.
The 91st Reconnaissance Squadron should not to be confused with the Army Air Force's 91st Recon Squadron or the Army's 91st Recon Troop. The 91st Reconnaissance Squadron completed numerous missions in North Africa during WWII while attached to various Infantry and Armored Divisions. The 91st Recon Squadron was a nondivisional unit and reported directly to the Army's II Corps throughout the war.
Learning from the WWI experience and in preparing for the future of mechanization, the 1st Armored Car Squadron joined the 1st Cavalry Division in November 1928. This new and experimental unit had been organized and trained at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Aberdeen, Maryland. The 1st Armored Car Squadron remained with the 1st Cavalry Division through its various reorganizations until it was re-designated the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron and was relieved from the 1st Cavalry Division in 1943 to join the Africa Campaigns against the Germans and Italians in the Kasserine Pass and later battles in Tunisia and Italy.
North Africa demonstrated that reconnaissance units required the capability to attack and defend as a natural extension of their reconnaissance and security missions. An example of a reconnaissance unit attacking independent of any reconnaissance or security mission was the attack executed by the 91st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (CRS) on 23 April 1943.
The 91st CRS was the only nondivisional cavalry reconnaissance unit deployed to North Africa. The unit, originally organized as the mechanized cavalry reconnaissance squadron of the 1st Cavalry Division, was the oldest and most experienced squadron size mechanized reconnaissance unit in the Army. It, unlike most of the mechanized cavalry organizations, was relatively unaffected by the changes that occurred in cavalry in 1942, and therefore was ready for overseas deployment.
In North Africa in the northern zone of its front the II Corps planned to isolate Axis troops in the area of Garaet Achkel-Lac de Bizerte. The task was assigned to the 9th Infantry Division and the 1st Armored Division. To drive the enemy on the west and north sides of Garaet Achkel back toward Bizerte, two regimental combat teams of the 9th Division and the Corps Franc d'Afrique were to operate northwest of the lake. The 1st Armored Division was to push northeast from Mateur to Ferryville, and then east on the south side of Lac de Bizerte in order to cut the Axis line of retreat from Bizerte to Tunis.
The 1st Armored Division had not been able to show its full power in the first phase of the operation, although the threat of armored attack down the Tine Valley had undoubtedly been a factor in forcing the German retreat on 2 May 1943. Now, from the Mateur area, the 1st Armored Division was to strike at the center of the new German line, where two roads led into the Tunis plain: one from Mateur through Ferryville to the Tums-Bizerte highway and the other from Mateur to Djedeida.
The enemy defense of these roads depended on holding two hill masses. The first, and by far the more important, comprised a 5-mile belt of hills between the Ferryville and the Mateur-Djedeida roads. In these heights lay the main enemy positions. The second was the imposing Djebel Achkel, just south of the lake and rising more than 1,600 feet above the plain. The 91st Reconnaissance Squadron was to take care of Djebel. Achkel and guard the Division's left flank. The primary attack was made by two combat teams, team A operating for a breakthrough at Ferryville and team B aiming for control of the road to Djedeida.
The first move was against this isolated height. Not only did it flank the intended line of our main attack, but from its top the enemy could direct artillery fire on the Mateur plain from batteries as far as 8 miles to the east. The 91st Reconnaissance Squadron, moving to the attack on 4 May 1943, met strong opposition, but by mid-afternoon of 5 May 1943 the troops had advanced about one-third of the way up the mountain and by nightfall had captured the western half, taking more than 80 prisoners.
The remaining enemy forces, only a few hundred strong, put up the stubborn resistance that characterized German fighting in this campaign. Enemy installations in stone buildings at the base of the mountain held out until blasted by a tank-destroyer unit on 9 May 1943. Fighting on the hill continued until 11 May 1943, when more than 300 officers and men of the Hermann Goering Division surrendered but not until they had verified the report that their general had surrendered on the 9th Division.
On 7 May 1943, the 1st Armored Division launched a three-pronged attack that completely routed the Germans along the Mateur-Ferryville front. At the north end of the German line the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron (with the exception of one troop left on Djebel Achkel) attacked and captured Djebel ez Zarour. The Squadron followed by the 2d Battalion, 39th Infantry, entered Ferryville shortly after noon. In the center, heavy artillery fire chased the enemy from the Messeftine ridge and the 6th Armored Infantry occupied the hills. The 3d Battalion, 13th Armored Regiment, advanced from the south and found the enemy in full retreat to the east.
Soon only two enemy strongpoints of consequence still held out in front of the 3rd Battalion. One of these was Hill 151, overlooking the road 4 miles east of a bridge captured during the advance. The other was Djebel Sidi Mansour, a mile south of Hill 151. When units of the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron advanced east of the bridge on 8 May 1943, enemy fire from Hill 151 and Sidi Mansour threatened to hold up the advance. Company G of the 3rd Battalion was ordered to attack Hill 151, with Company I in support. Two platoons of Company G maintained strong frontal fire while the third platoon maneuvered to the south flank and destroyed the enemy.
The lineage continued in June 2006 when the unit was reactivated as the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. The personnel came from 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, which was concurrently inactivated and reflagged. This reactivation was part of the transition of the 173rd Airborne Brigade to the US Army's new modular force structure. The 1-91st Cavalry subsequently deployed with other elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team to Afghanistan as part of the United States contribution to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), where it continued to serve into 2008.
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list