Unit Histories: 89th Recon Troop

The 89th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop (Mechanized) was activated at Camp Carson July 15, 1942, under command of Capt. Elwin T. Knight. After completing infantry basic training the troop participated in a number of parades in nearby towns as part of the War Bond Drive. In addition to scout cars the original troop was equipped with motorcycles, and training included night problems over winding mountain roads and tough obstacle courses to develop expert riders and message carriers. Many of the recon men had been motorcycle enthusiasts and racers, and their civilian experience paid of in maneuvers. They rode down vertical embankments, roared through gulches, and even practiced vaulting a water filled ditch from a one plank ramp, and then flipping over their mounts to go into action.

They trained in rugged mountain terrain and in southern Colorado's desert sand dunes. A few of the troop's star riders put on a show at the Army-Cardinal football game in Denver in the fall of 1942, crashing through flaming wooden walls. Spectacular as the motorcycle unit had been, it was abandoned with the light division and never became part of the 89th again. The troop was transferred to Second Army. When the 89th reorganized in 1944 the new recon troop was reactivated with entirely different personnel. Reaching full strength in early September, it began an intensified program of training in the techniques of reconnaissance and battle. After hours of classes on weapons and tactics, the troop underwent troop problems, and then maneuvered for several weeks against the 13th Airborne Division in the dune and swamp area of southeastern North Carolina. The troop received a commendation for its work from the director of the maneuvers. Rejoining the Division in October, smoothed out the rough spots in another series of problems and prepared for overseas movement. Eleven days after leaving Boston, the unit disembarked at LeHavre on January 22, 1945. Less than two months later, after readying combat equipment at Camp Lucky Strike and Blangy-sur-Bresle, the troop was poised in front of the Division zone on the Moselle' S left bank waiting for the jump.

The first mission was to knife through to Eller and seize the high level bridge there before its Destruction by the retreating Wehrmacht. After a tortuous night move through the twisted gorges and precipitous hills west of the Moselle, the 1st and 3rd Platoons reached Eller on the morning of March 12 to find the bridge blown. The 1st Platoon took nine prisoners and Sergeant Joe Evagues knocked out a German machine gun with one round from his 37mm gun.

Moving across the Division bridgehead at Alf, the troop fanned out with elements of the infantry Task forces and the 11th Armored Division for the drive to the Rhine. Moving rapidly inland it overran Shren, Enkirch, Dillendorf, and Rhaunen without a single casualty for the recon men. Moving northeast, the troop prepared to cross the Rhine.

At 2020 on March 26, the troop's M8s moved over the Boppard bridge of the 87th Division. Assigned the mission of leading a task force south along the east bank through St. Goarshausen and Kaub to Lorch, lending support to the Rolling Ws two pronged attack across the river, the troop was held up overnight below St. Goarshausen and could not move out on a mission before dawn. And when it did it ran into a hole in the road as big as a house with the base of the cliff on one side Of the road, and the river on the other, using their bare hands, the men began filling the cavity with dirt and rock. Tec. Rock. Tec 4 Walter G. Gabler grabbed what he thought was a smooth stone. It was a wired German egg grenade. It didn't go off, fortunately for Gabler. Finally a bulldozer was brought up about dawn and pushed part of the cliff into the hole.

The following day the troop suffered its first casualties. Pointing for 344th [infantry regiment] in its drive for Lorch, the 2nd Platoon was ambushed just short of the town. Two men were killed and three wounded when fire from cliff-emplaced 20mm detonated the AT mines in the rack of an armored car.

Forking away from the Rhine, the 1st Platoon moved toward Presburg and the 3d inland and Southward to Geisenheim. Reassembling above Geisenheim, the troop reconnoitered along the Rhine below Wiesbaden. As the Division swung northward to drive across Thuringia, the cavalrymen patrolled Rudesheim, Johannesberg and Eltville for several days. Then it began \reconnaissance work for the fast-moving tank-infantry teams. Moving up parallel to the Autobahn which halved the provinces of Thuringia and Saxony, the platoons probed into Tabarz Waltershausen, Friedrichroda and Langensalza.

After Bad Berka the troop was divided. The 2nd Platoon and headquarters lunged ahead of the armor and raced through Grosslohma and Schimewitz while the 1st and 3rd Platoons paced another column through Blankenheim and Kesslar. Kahla, on the east bank of the Saale River, was the objective of both columns. The northern group broke through to Kahla in one day to find the bridge demolished. The southern group captured Blankenheim but enemy tanks and infantry at Kesslar prevented its reaching the river until the next day. After clearing Kesslar, the 1st and 3rd Platoons spearheaded a dash upstream for Kahla to seize another bridge. It too was blown. The retreating Germans had delayed the column at Kesslar long enough to demolish the bridge. Strung along the east bank the troop and supporting tanks and TDs covered the infantry's assault crossing. After the crossing, the engineers put down a pontoon bridge and the troop was ordered to cross over and reconnoiter the area in front of the Division west of the Mulde River.

Pushing ahead of the tank-infantry teams again, the 1st Platoon smashed toward Greiz and Reichenbach. The 2nd Platoon led a speed column of TDs and the 355th I&R Platoon in a wild chase to capture Zwickau on the Mulde River. Surprising the Wehrmacht, the troop and TDs covered the Doughboys who speedily cut the wires leading to the demolition charges on the two bridges over the Zwick-Mulde river, under intense fire.

Meanwhile, the 3rd Platoon moved through Werdau and ahead of the column into the rolling country beyond Steinpleis. Caught in a hail of 88mm, mortar and machine-gun fire on a forward slope the cavalrymen held up while the Doughboys and the tanks moved up to knock out the disclosed enemy positions. The next day, the 1st Platoon held Reichenbach, the 2nd protected the western approaches to Zwickau and the 3rd passed through Zwickau, over the river to reconnoiter the Stollberg-Lossnitz-Aue sector. Troop headquarters occupied Crimmitschau.

The Division combat teams had reached their limited line and the recon troop patrolled the sector forward of the line to prevent enemy concentrations for a possible counterattack. For the next three weeks, Recon crisscrossed the zone with platoon strength groups of armored cars and jeeps but made no contact with major enemy units. However, there were frequent skirmishes, brief and fierce, with infiltrating enemy forces. The last man to be killed in the troop met his death when the 1st Platoon was ambushed on the fringe of the heavy woods above Rhaum.

Following VE day, the troop performed occupational duty and guarded a large gas dump southeast of Gotha. By June 1 it had returned to LeHavre and formed an MP detachment at Twenty Grand and a provisional trucking outfit at Lucky Strike.

The above is taken from the unofficial history of the 89th Infantry Division.