By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
The modern incarnation of the U.S. Army’s
First Cavalry Division began after the end
of the First World War, when the massive force
of millions of citizen-soldiers that mobilized
to fight the Kaiser transitioned to a much
smaller peacetime force of professionals.
The new regular division activated in September
1920, with most of its elements coming from
the wartime 15th Cavalry Division. It had
two cavalry brigades each of two regiments;
briefly, the division included the 10th Cavalry
Regiment of black soldiers, a controversial
move in the segregated U.S. Army.
The division spent the 1920s and 1930s at
Fort Bliss, Texas, occasionally participating
in maneuvers and patrolling the Mexican border.
After the entry of the United States into
World War II, the division received higher
allotments of automatic weapons and light
tanks for its reconnaissance battalion. Activated
for overseas service in February 1943, the
“First Team” lost its horses and
went to war as a uniquely-organized four-regiment
infantry division. The division continued
to use cavalry terminology for its units and
soldiers, helping to build cohesion and morale.
A detachment of Lakota Sioux “code talkers”
joined the recon squadron as well —
often helping support the 7th Cavalry Regiment
destroyed by their grandfathers. After a year’s
jungle-combat training in northern Australia,
the division entered combat in the Admiralty
Islands off New Guinea in February, 1944.
The Admiralty campaign lasted until May, and
in October 1944 the 1st Cavalry was one of
the assault divisions in the landings on Leyte
in the Philippines.
Five troopers, five types of headgear.
The 1st Cavalry in the 1941 Lousiana
For the next three months the 1st Cavalry
fought on Leyte, in the grueling battles for
the Ormoc and Leyte valleys. Parts of the
division also took the island of Samar. In
late January, 1945, they were landed in Lingayen
Gulf on the northern end of Luzon, the main
island of the Philippines. They fought their
way south, reaching Manila on 3 February and
liberating 4,000 civilian prisoners from the
camp at Santo Tomas. A flying column from
the division dashed into Manila to rescue
the “Philippine White House,”
Malacanan Palace, from Japanese demolition
teams and more importantly, to save the San
Miguel Brewery from their dastardly attentions.
A month of savage house-to-house, often room-to-room,
fighting remained before Manila was freed
by the 1st Cavalry with help from the 37trh
With Manila secure, heavy fighting remained
to repel Japanese attempts to retake the Philippine
capital. In late march, the division’s
front shifted to southern Luzon, where another
month of hard fighting saw most of the island
secured as well. “Major combat operations”
were declared at an end on 30 June. Division
estimates put the total number of enemy killed
at over 14,000.
The 1st Cavalry on Leyte.
Slated for Operation Olympic, the invasion
of Kyushu in the Japanese home islands, the
1st Cavalry retrained for amphibious landings.
On 1 November 1945 the ex-horsemen would have
been one of the first divisions ashore, in
what promised to be the bloodiest battle of
the Pacific War.
The dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima
and Nagasaki hastened Japan’s surrender,
and on 2 September 1945 the 1st Cavalry landed
in Yokohama as an occupation division rather
than an assault force. The First Team became
the first division to enter Tokyo, and for
the next five years occupied central Japan,
collecting weapons and contraband, keeping
order and smashing black-market rings. During
the war the division suffered 970 killed and
When North Korean forces invaded the South
in 1950, the cavalry division rushed across
the Sea of Japan to help hold the Pusan Perimeter.
Months of bloody combat followed, and when
American forces landed at Inchon the 1st Cavalry
spearheaded the breakout from the perimeter.
When relieved in January 1952 the 1st Cavalry
had suffered terrible losses: 3,811 killed
in action and over 12,000 wounded. The division
remained in Japan until 1965.
Right field is secure. First Team troopers
take Rizal Stadium, Manila.
A swap occurred in that year, with the division’s
colors transferred to the 11th Air Assault
Division. Renamed the 1st Cavalry Division
(Airmobile) but usually called the 1st Air
Cavalry, the new First Team fought in Vietnam
until June 1972 and was one of the last major
combat units to withdraw. During its seven
years in Vietnam the 1st Cavalry lost 5,444
killed in action and had over 26,000 of its
Afterwards, the 1st Cavalry became an armored
division, retaining some helicopter capability
but relying on its tanks for its striking
power. It saw limited action in the 1991 Gulf
War, and did not deploy to Iraq until early
2004. Like many other units, its first deployment
there was continually extended and it did
not return to the United States until April,
2005. During the first deployment, 156 troopers
were killed in action. The division’s
second deployment in Iraq began this week
(early November 2006).
To honor Furio and the 1st Cavalry, we’ve
provided a FREE
Great Pacific War. As one of the
United States Army’s premier fighting
divisions both in the Second World War and
in the present day, the First Team needs its
own counter to properly reflect its important
strategic role and to strike fear in the heart
of the Japanese player. The American cavalry
corps is part of the United States at-start
forces in the 1939 and 1941 scenarios. It
can be broken down into the 2-4 1 Cav and
1-4 2 Cav cavalry divisions. During any Production
Segment, the American player may substitute
the 2-4 1 Cav INF division for the 2-4 CAV
division, provided it is in supply and not
adjacent to any enemy unit. Once swapped,
it may not be re-mounted as a CAV piece.