80 years Ago: Hanging up the saddle
21 February 1942. The “Brave Rifles,” 3d Cavalry Regiment troopers at Ft. Myer lead their trusty mounts to the railroad for the trip to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, one of the last evolutions involving a regiment of horse-mounted cavalry in U.S. service.
Once there, the mounts were turned in and the troops began training for World War II.
The troopers seem to be wearing the M1926 pattern Winter Service Uniform with coats and black four-fold service neckties. Note the late-pattern Campaign service hats, which were put to pasture for general use after 1941. Notably, they are also seen with newly-issued M1 Garands, some carried “Russian style” i.e. slung over the body.
The old 1912 Pattern cavalry gear, which still included much leather equipment as well as a distinctive chain saber attachment and bandoleer, is long gone, replaced by the more modern M1923 gear. The enlisted men wear the tall russet leather lace-up cavalry boots which were authorized in 1930.
The M1918 Mounted Cartridge Belt with 1907 Equipment Suspenders; Double Magazine Pocket; the M1912 Mounted Holster, and the M1910 1st Aid Pouch can all be seen if you look hard enough.
The wear of service breeches was halted across the Army in 1937, except for those in mounted units.
Model 1913 Cavalry Saber (also known as the Patton Saber) was the last cavalry saber used by the U.S. Army, was withdrawn in 1935 on orders from MacArthur.
Of the men shown above, almost all of the officers and troopers of the 3d Cavalry– regular Army men– became cadres for National Guard divisions. The 3d was then filled with draftees and cadre from the 4th (horse) Cavalry and was reorganized into what became the 3d Cavalry Group (Mechanized) while its 1st Squadron became the 3rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, and 2nd Squadron became the 43rd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, all centered around M8 Greyhounds.
After two years of training, they landed in France in June 1944 as a reconnaissance element of the XX Corps, U.S. 3rd Army.
Today, the Brave Rifles still exist, recently celebrating their 175th anniversary. They are based at Fort Hood and maintain an excellent regimental museum, from which these images are supplied.
As for the Cavalry’s horses? Many were turned over to the U.S. Coast Guard and used for Beach Patrol during the conflict, then sold at auction in 1945.