Patton's Iron Cavalry - The Impact of the Mechanized Cavalry on the U.S. Third Army Page: 82
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The 316th Brigade's attacks to the east and south east continued, with all four squadrons
participating. The advance was slow due to heavy German resistance, but steady. The terrain in
this region was particularly difficult, consisting of the foothills of the Hunnsbrtick Mountains,
with a series of wooded ridges running from the south to the Moselle River, directly across the
corps' line of attack. The Brave Rifles discovered that they could use their mobility to quickly
move their troops to the fight, but that most of their actual combat was conducted on foot, much
like any other formation.179 On 16 March, B Troop of the 43rd Squadron and a platoon of F
Company (the tank company) were ambushed as they attempted to seize the highway
intersection three miles to the east of Fell. German forces opened up at close range with 88mm
cannon fire, destroying the entire platoon of tanks and forcing the patrol back with twenty men
wounded or captured.180 Additional subsequent attempts to reconnoiter the enemy position
revealed no further information, but cost four additional troopers missing in action. The German
position was eventually outflanked by elements of XII Corps, and assessment of the enemy
positions revealed that it had been held by at least a battalion with four 88mm guns and four
105mm guns. 181 This fight demonstrates the inherent weakness of the cavalry as organized,
leading to an overall lack of survivability. Although such a position would have been an
immense obstacle to any formation, a platoon of light tanks operating well in front of heavy
combat forces was simply easy meat for four 88mm guns and a battalion of infantry. Cavalry
can only do its job of finding and fixing the enemy if it survives to report. A line of last
positions reported does very little to aid the higher commander.
179 Incidentally, this realization had long been an assumption of American horse cavalry doctrine, a point
that is often forgotten in the denigration of the horse cavalry advocates of the 1930s.
180 Though the numbers are left out of the AAR, a typical tank platoon of the time possessed five tanks, in
this particular case, M24 Chaffees.
181 "Patton's Ghost Troops" - After Action Report 9 August 1944- 9 May 1945, 116.
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Nance, William Stuart. Patton's Iron Cavalry - The Impact of the Mechanized Cavalry on the U.S. Third Army, thesis, May 2011; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc68023/m1/88/: accessed March 1, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .