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3rd Squadron (RSTA), 89th Cavalry Regiment

The Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA) Squadron has both mounted and dismounted reconnaissance units, a surveillance unit including ground radars, sensors, and unmanned aerial vehicles. Also attached is a Forward Support Company.

During World War II the 89th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mechanized) was part of the 9th Armored Division. The 89th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized) was activated at Camp Carson 15 July 1942. In addition to scout cars the original troop was equipped with motorcycles. Spectacular as the motorcycle unit had been, it was abandoned with the light division and never became part of the 89th Cavalry. The troop was subsequently transferred to Second Army. When the 89th Cavalry reorganized in 1944 the new reconnaissance troop was reactivated with entirely different personnel.

During most of the 11 months between D-day and V-E day in Europe, the US Army was carrying on highly successful offensive operations. Unbelievably, and under the goad of Hitler's fanaticism, the German Army launched a powerful counteroffensive in the Ardennes in December 1944, with the design of knifing through the Allied armies and forcing a negotiated peace.

St. Vith lay approximately 12 miles behind the front lines on 16 December 1944. On the morning of 17 December 1944, Colonel Slayden, VIII Corps' assistant G-2, and Lt. Col. Earle Williams, the 106th Division signal officer, while doing independent scouting east of St. Vith, had seen the enemy and tapped the signal wire to ask for artillery interdiction of the highway. A Combat Engineer Battalion deployed about 2 miles east of St. Vith along the outer edge of a pine forest fringing the ridge mask over which climbs the road from Schonberg. Here 40 men or so of the 81st Engineer Combat Battalion (106th Division) joined the 168th. CCB, 9th Armored Division, had passed St. Vith en route to aid the 424th Infantry, and a platoon of Troop C, 89th Cavalry Squadron, was commandeered to reinforce the watch east of the town. This little force was digging in when, at noon, the first enemy patrols were sighted.

Since the 9th Armored Division was in this sector with a force equivalent only to a combat command, the reserves consisted of one tank battalion (the 19th Tank Battalion), a company from the divisional engineers, a battery from the 482nd Aircraft Artillery Battalion, most of the 89th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, a company of self-propelled tank destroyers, and 2 reconnaissance platoons belonging to the 811th Tank Destroyer Battalion. These units would fight as a combat command. In the late afternoon Company A, 19th Tank Battalion, joined the 12th Infantry (of the 4th Division) as a mobile reserve in this area. Troop B, 89th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, came up to reinforce Company B, 811th Tank Destroyer Battalion, whose 76mm self-propelled guns covered the Waldbillig and Christnach draws. The right flank of the 9th Armored, although none too secure, at least was outposted.

Infiltration tactics began to bear fruit as day came on 17 December 1944. About 1330 Troop B, 89th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, and 4 tank destroyers from the 811th Tank Destroyer Battalion, launched a counterattack from Waldbillig to regain Mullerthal. The leading tank destroyer was set afire by a German Panzerfaust, effectively blocking the narrow road. The dismounted cavalry encountered accurate small arms fire as they attempted to work ahead and the acting commander of Troop B was killed. The unseen enemy, firing behind the cover of huge boulders and trees, had the upper hand. At dark a platoon of cavalry assault guns laid down a protective barrage and the American task force withdrew to the hills flanking the exit from the Waldbillig-Mullerthal defile.

The chief German success on 17 December 1944 came at the close of day, with an attack by the 1st Battalion, 988th Regiment, on Beaufort. Here, during daylight hours, the attackers had literally been "blown all over" (as American observers reported) by the howitzers firing from Savelborn and the guns on 3 headquarters tanks. At dark Germans seeped into the town from assembly points in the woods, only some 1500 yards distant, and ambushed an 81mm mortar platoon when this shifted to meet the assault. Colonel Collins ordered the headquarters of the 60th Armored Infantry Battalion back to the motor park near Savelborn and committed Troop A, 89th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, to fight a rear guard action in Beaufort. The cavalry unit, led by Capt. Victor C. Leiker, held on until 2030, by which time the German infantry controlled all the street corners, then fought its way south to Waldbillig. This rear guard stand cost Troop A 16 jeeps and 7 of its 12 armored cars as well as 43 casualties.

On most of the front held by the 7th Armored and the troops of the 9th Armored and 106th the morning passed in ominous quiet. Patrols working in front of the American lines came back with reports of enemy activity and movement. Some kind of an attack was in the offing, but it seemed slow in coming. Apparently the German corps command had some difficulty in organizing a co-ordinated and well-timed advance over the broken and wooded ground around St. Vith. In fact, he had not reached the commanders of his 2 infantry divisions with orders until daylight. The center regiment of the 62nd Volks Grenadier Division (the 190th Regiment), charged with seizing the high ground in the thick forest east of Grufflange, did get one battalion under way in the morning and succeeded in overrunning an armored infantry platoon and 3 tank destroyers belonging to CCB, 9th Armored. Once the element of surprise was lost the Germans made no further headway in the forest. Artillery and bullet fire held them until a platoon of American tanks arrived, whereupon they withdrew.

Cpl. Horace M. Thorne was the leader of a combat patrol on 21 December 1944 near Grufflingen, Belgium, with the mission of driving German forces from dug-in positions in a heavily wooded area. As he advanced his light machinegun, a German Panzer III tank emerged from the enemy position and was quickly immobilized by fire from American light tanks supporting the patrol. Two of the enemy tankmen attempted to abandon their vehicle but were killed by Cpl. Thorne's shots before they could jump to the ground. To complete the destruction of the tank and its crew, Cpl. Thorne left his covered position and crept forward alone through intense machinegun fire until close enough to toss 2 grenades into the tank's open turret, killing 2 more Germans. He returned across the same fire-beaten zone as heavy mortar fire began falling in the area, seized his machinegun and, without help, dragged it to the knocked-out tank and set it up on the vehicle's rear deck. He fired short rapid bursts into the enemy positions from his advantageous, but exposed location, killing or wounding 8. Two enemy machinegun crews abandoned their positions and retreated in confusion. His gun Jammed, but rather than leave his self-chosen post he attempted to clear the stoppage. Enemy small-arms fire, concentrated on the tank, killed him instantly. Cpl. Thorne, displaying heroic initiative and intrepid fighting qualities, inflicted costly casualties on the enemy and insured the success of his patrol's mission by the sacrifice of his life.

Following VE day, the troop performed occupational duty and guarded a large gas dump southeast of Gotha. By 1 June 1945 the 89th had returned to LeHavre and formed an MP detachment at Twenty Grand and a provisional trucking outfit at Lucky Strike.

After a number of inactivations and reactivations, 3rd Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment was again reactivated during 2006 as part of the 10th Mountain Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team. This activation was part of the overall transition of the Division to the US Army's new modular force structure. The 3-89th Cavalry was subsequently deployed with other elements of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 3-89th Cavalry continued to serve in that country into 2008.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:26:00 ZULU