04 September 2007

The US 7th Cavalry: A Haunted Heritage?

General George Armstrong Custer

The United States 7th Cavalry Regiment is a United States Army cavalry regiment, whose lineage traces back to the mid-19th century.

The 7th Cavalry is the only military unit ever to lose all of its members in battle.

It is the unit that was led by General Custer at the Little Big Horn.

George Armstrong Custer emerged from West Point at the bottom of his class where he had amassed a huge number of demerits. His success in the Civil War might be attributed to his unorthodox methods and the wild charges he led with no concern for the scouting reports, if he ever read them. He had the highest casualty figures among the Union division commanders. However, he himself emerged unscathed.

After the war he was made lieutenant-colonel of the Seventh Cavalry on America's western frontier. Custer is best remembered for losing the battle of Little Big Horn in which his troops faced combined bands of Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians led by the chief Sitting Bull.

The battle ended with Custer's troops on a knoll encircled by Indians a moment which became known as Custer's Last Stand; Custer and his entire force of 220 men were killed.

The battle made Custer a popular American hero and martyr for nearly a century, but by the late 1900's his stardom faded a bit as his tactics were more closely examined and as popular attitudes toward Native Americans changed.

After this infamous battle, the regiment 1st Battalion / 7th cavalry was retired out of respect for the 220 men that were killed at Little Big Horn.

OK, so fast forward a hundred years or so to Vietnam.

Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore is commanding an air cavalry unit, his troops are getting ready for the first official battle of the Vietnam War.

So the night before their departure for Vietnam, Moore learns from a superior officer that his unit will be redesignated as the 1st Battalion / 7th cavalry regiment... the same regiment as Custer when he and his unit were slaughtered at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

A few days later 450 U.S. soldiers were dropped into a small clearing in the Ia Drang Valley.

They were immediately surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers... half of them were killed.

Just like Custer and the Lakota Sioux and the valley. Except now the horses were helicopters, the Indians were the NVA and Little Big Horn was Ia Drang.

Eerie similarities.

Lieutenant General Hal Moore graduated from West Point and then went to Harvard where he obtained a Masters degree in international relations. He was a smart dude, a born leader.

The movie We Were Soldiers dramatized this Battle of Ia Drang, the first major engagement of American troops in the Vietnam War but it's based on the book We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young by Hal Moore and reporter Joseph L. Galloway, who were at the battle.

1st Battalion / 7th cavalry and their horse

Read about the Battle of Ia Drang From Wikipedia

No comments: