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56th Cavalry Brigade

Brigades remained the largest cavalry units in the Guard until the mid-1930s, when Congress authorized an increase in its strength. In 1936 the National Guard Bureau, formerly the Militia Bureau, returned to federally recognizing cavalry division headquarters. By mid-1940 the bureau had federally recognized headquarters for the 22d, 23d, and 24th Cavalry Divisions, but not for the 21st. At that time the 21st consisted of the 51st and 59th Cavalry Brigades, the 22d of the 52d and 54th, the 23d of the 53d and 55th Brigades, and the 24th of the 57th and 58th Cavalry Brigades; the 56th Cavalry Brigade served as a nondivisional unit.

As these forces did not fit into any current war plans, the General Staff initiated a study in August 1940 to determine the Guard's requirements for horse and mechanized units. It concluded that the Guard needed both types of organizations, but not four horse cavalry divisions. At the time of the study it was rumored that the personnel from two cavalry divisions would form the nuclei of two armored divisions. The states, however, objected to the loss of cavalry regiments, and Armored Force leaders believed that armored divisions were too big and complicated for the Guard. On 1 November 1940 the National Guard Bureau withdrew the allotment of the 21st through 24th Cavalry Divisions, which in effect disbanded them. Some of their elements were used to organize mechanized cavalry regiments. After November the 56th Cavalry Brigade, a Texas unit, remained the only large unit authorized horses in the National Guard. It entered federal service before the end of the year.

The National Guard, before any of its units were inducted into Federal service during 1940-41, had 4 cavalry divisions, the 21st through the 24th. All 4 were broken up and none entered Federal service, although many of their elements did. Also, conversions and reorganizations of 17 National Guard cavalry regiments before induction resulted in the organization of 7 horse-mechanized cavalry regiments, as well as several field artillery regiments, coast artillery regiments and separate battalions, and an antitank battalion. Thus, after the reshuffling, 7 partially mechanized regiments and a brigade of 2 horse cavalry regiments entered Federal service. The horse-mechanized regiments were the 101 st ( New York), 102d ( New Jersey), 104th ( Pennsylvania ), 106th ( Illinois ), 107th ( Ohio ), 113th ( Iowa ), and the 115th ( Wyoming ) ; the horse brigade was the 56th (Texas), consisting of the 112th and 124th Cavalry (Texas). While in Federal service, all of the horse-mechanized regiments were completely mechanized and split up to form groups and separate squadrons, similarly to those of the Regular Army.

The horse regiments, the 112th and 124th, were dismounted, withdrawn from the 56th Cavalry Brigade, and reorganized as infantry with much the same composition as regiments of the 1st Cavalry Division. On 24 July 1942 the 7th Cavalry Regiment was attached to the 56th Cavalry Brigade, and was releasedd and reverted to the Division on 25 September 1942.

On 24 July 1942, Commanding General 1st Cavalry Division was relieved of command of Southern Land Frontier be Commanding General 56th Cavalry Brigade. It is assumed that on this date 1st Cavalry Division was relieved from attachment to Southern Defense Command and remained assigned to Third Army. It is further assumed that upon return from maneuvers in Sep 1942 Commanding General 1st Cavalry Division reassumed command of Southern Land Frontier and reattached to Southern Defense Command until February 1943 when 1st Cavalry Division was again relieved by 56th Cavalry Brigade.

The Mediterranean theater needed service troops, and in September 1943 the War Department decided to use the personnel of the 2d Cavalry Division in that role. Leaving the country in February 1944, the division was inactivated shortly thereafter in North Africa and its men reassigned to a variety of service units. Army Ground Forces eliminated the 56th Cavalry Brigade when no use for it developed overseas. Finally, in mid-1944, the Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 56th Cavalry Brigade, became the 56th Reconnaissance Troop, Mechanized. Its headquarters troop became the 56th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop, Mechanized, but did not see combat. The former brigade's cavalry regiments went on to fight in the Pacific and China-Burma-India theaters.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:30:08 ZULU