11th United States Cavalry - 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment
11 July 2001
History of the 11th U.S. Cavalry The 11th U.S. Cavalry was activated on 2 February 1901 at Fort Myer, Virginia. In December of that year, the regiment was deployed to the jungles of the Philippines. Its mission was to help neutralize insurrectionist forces who were trying to seize power. The men used “bolo” knives - machetes to slash through thick jungle vegetation. The bolos became a part of the Blackhorse crest.
There, first Squadron earned the Regiment’s first battle streamer, “Samar 1902,” and the regiment suffered its first trooper killed. In an ambush, Private Clarence L. Gibbs, was shot on 4 March 1902, by guerilla forces.
In 1905, the regiment was stationed at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. The regiment (less first Squadron) deployed to Cuba on 16 October 1906, conducting small mounted patrols. February 1909, the 11th Cavalry marched in president William Taft’s inaugural parade in Washington D.C.
In March 1909, the regiment was stationed at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, with a training mission. In early 1911, the regiment was ordered to fort Sam Houston to train for a possible deployment into Mexico. In May of 1914, “The Ludlow Massacre” touched off an armed riot. The 11th Cavalry was deployed to the towns of Trinidad and Ludlow, Colorado, to stop the bloodshed by disarming the aggressors.
On 9 March 1916, Pancho Villa’s forces raided the town of Columbus,
New Mexico, killing fifteen Americans and leaving the town in ruins. On 12 March 1916, the 11th Cavalry joined General John J. Pershing in a punitive expedition into Mexico to capture Villa and neutralize his army. It was in Mexico, on 5 May 1916, that the Second Squadron (Provisional), commanded by Major Robert L. Howze, led the last mounted cavalry charge in U.S. history. Howze’s men counted forty-two enemy dead and many wounded. There were no friendly casualties. May 5th is the regiment’s official organization day, in honor of Howze’s charge.
On 9 July 1919, it moved to its new port, the Presidio of Monterey, California. Here the regiment received its nickname, “Blackhorse.” On 14 September 1924, “the Great Monterey Oil fire” erupted when lightning struck an oil storage tank. The fire raged for five days. The 11th Cavalry participated in the fire fighting effort. Twenty-six Blackhorse troopers were killed.
In 1937, the regiment appeared in the film “Sergeant Murphy” starring Ronald Reagan, and on 1 June of that year participated in the opening ceremony of the Golden Gate bridge. In the 1930’s, the 11th Cavalry was ordered to start experimenting with scout cars, the first mechanized cavalry vehicles.
On 15 July 1942, the 11th U.S. Cavalry was inactivated at Fort Benning,
Georgia. The Headquarters and Headquarters Troop was redesignated on 19 April 1943, as the HHT, 11th Cavalry Group Mechanized. The former squadrons of the 11th Cavalry were sent to fight with the 10th Armored Division and the 90th Infantry Division overseas. HHT, 11th Cavalry Group Mechanized drew new squadrons and also received an Assault Gun Troop (a howitzer battery).
On 1 June 1944, the Group moved to Camp Gordon, Georgia, to begin training for an overseas deployment. The regiment departed from New York bound for the United Kingdom on 29 September 1944 and entered France on 23 November 1944. The first unit of the Blackhorse to cross the English Channel was B Troop, commanded by 1LT Leonard B. Holder, who would later become the Regiment’s 37th Colonel in Vietnam. The regiments tanks later participated in the largest battle ever fought by the United States and was the largest land battle of World War II, the Battle of the Bulge.
After the war, the 11th Cavalry Group Mechanized was redesignated as the 11th Constabulary Regiment to maintain order in war torn Germany. November of 1948, it was redesignated as the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and inactivated. 1 April 1951 the Blackhorse was brought back onto active status as the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Camp Carson, Colorado. In 1954, the regiment transferred to Fort Knox, Kentucky, the “Home of Armor,” to complete its training in fully armored tactics. In mid-March 1957, the entire regiment rotated to southern Germany to relieve the 6th ACR patrolling the Germany-Czechoslovakia border. In 1964, the regiment returned to the United States and was stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland, for two years, until it received orders in March 1966 to deploy to Vietnam.
The Regiment began redesigning its equipment for a new type of warfare. Adding additional armor and two more 30 cal. machine guns to the armored personnel carrier, which had one 50 cal. Browning machine gun and protective gun shields for the crew and track commander. The result was a rapid all terrain fighting vehicle which could deliver devastating firepower. It was called the Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle or "ACAV". The Blackhorse troops arrived in South Vietnam on September 7, 1966, (the Air Troop arrived in December), and quickly engaged the enemy with tanks, ACAV’s, artillery and helicopters. The Regiment received its own distinctive patch.
The main operational area was the provinces around Saigon and up to the Cambodian border. The unit clearly demonstrated it's rapid mobility when Saigon came under siege during the 1968 Tet Offensive. The unit raced over 100 kilometers in eight hours to the defense of the city and fought street by street to overcome the attacking Viet Cong. History now points out that the Viet Cong were virtually annihilated during these battles. From that time forward, a well-equipped North Vietnamese Army supplied by the communist superpowers were the primary adversaries.
In July of 1968, Colonel George S. Patton, the son of one of our countries greatest military heroes, assumed command and soon applied his expertise in armored combat and moved the armor off the roads and into the jungles in search of the enemy. So successful was the unit's search and destroy missions within the enemy's main supply routes between Cambodia and Saigon, the enemy could no longer move freely and was forced to seek sanctuary inside neutral Cambodia. Patton coined the phrase, “FIND THE BASTARDS, THEN PILE ON.”
From well-established bases inside Cambodia, the communist's would strike out into South Vietnam, then return across the border to resupply and regroup. On May 1, 1970, commanded by COL Donn Starry, the 11th Cav spearheaded the historic attack across the Cambodian border called Operation “Fish Hook”, to deny the enemy of these safe havens. The unit battled for more than 60 kilometers to capture the town of Snuol and suffered the first two American casualties by anti-tank fire.
The Cambodian Incursion was the last significant flexing of U.S. ground combat muscle in the war. The capture and destruction of tons of enemy weapons and supplies left the enemy devastated and demoralized. The result was a smoother transition of responsibility to the South Vietnamese military as the American combat forces continued to withdraw. Countless American and allied lives were saved by this operation which left the North Vietnamese Army unable to mount an effective offensive for some time.
In February of 1971, First and Third Squadron redeployed to the U.S. and was inactivated.
After almost six years of combat, winning every major engagement, on April 6, 1972, the Blackhorse Regiment Air Troop and Second Squadron departed Vietnam. One year later on March 29, 1973, the last American combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam. Within two years, on April 30, 1975, Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese as Soviet made tanks crashed through the gates at the Presidential Palace. Tanks that were never brazen enough to stand toe to toe against the Blackhorse Regiment while it stood watch for the people of South Vietnam. South Vietnam's military, without the support of American combat troops was not able to defend its country.
In all, 768 Blackhorse troopers lost their lives on the battlefields. The number of wounded totaled 5,761. Three of its troopers were awarded the Medal of Honor, two of which were Posthumous. In its best performance, the gallant and dedicated troopers of the Blackhorse Regiment earned eleven battle streamers.
On 17 May 1972, the 14th Armored Cavalry Regiment was redesignated as the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. On 9 November 1989, the East-West German border fell. The regiment’s 17-year vigil along the Iron Curtain was over.
In August of 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. 1st Platoon, E Troop, 2nd Squadron went to war with 3rd ACR. On 10 April 1991, the regiment deployed an aviation task force to support the U.S. Kurdish relief efforts in Turkey and Northern Iraq (Operation Provide Comfort). On 16 May 1991, the regiment deployed to Kuwait for Operation Positive Force to secure Kuwait as it struggled to rebuild from the war. By October, Task force Thunderhorse’s mission in Turkey was over, and its remaining troopers returned to Fulda. As the need for U.S. forces in Europe decreased, the Blackhorse Regiment was inactivated in an emotional ceremony 15 March 1994.
The 11th ACR was reactivated again on 26 October 1994, at the
National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California. The Blackhorse continues the
tradition of “Lead, Train, Win” while serving as the Army’s premier
training unit, the NTC’s Opposing Force. The Blackhorse stands ready to
respond to any mission to which it may be called.