TOUJOURS PRET! ALWAYS READY!
More than sixty years ago, this inscription decorated the uniform sleeves of the American 2nd Cavalry Group soldiers. ln late April and early May 1945, they operated in this area in fulfillment of their mission. It was an extraordinary action, unique in the whole history of American combat actions of the European campaign. Their goal was to liberate Allied POWs and save several hundred thoroughbreds in the bargain. The soldiers were very well trained and prepared for this mission following their own slogan, Always Ready. Two of the soldiers. Pfc. Raymond F. Manz and Tech/5 Owen W. Sutton, fulfilled the slogan to the letter, and their names are now engraved on a new memorial in Bělá nad Radbuzou. They were ready to give their lives in combat to liberate the enslaved people of Europe and to defeat the Nazi enemy. The place where they delivered on their promise and received their fatal wounds is located not too far from here. It happened on the forest road following the green marked tourist trail in the direction of Karlova Huť, Valdorf, Pleš, and the border crossing to Bavaria. On April 30, 1945, a five hour battle on the outskirts of the former settlement of Rosendorf (Růžov) claimed the lives of both these brave soldiers, Pfc. Manz being killed in action that day, and Tech/5 Sutton dying of his wounds the next day in a hospital. After the war ended, the bodies of both soldiers were transferred to the United States and buried with honors in their home towns in Toledo, Ohio, and Kinston, North Carolina. On April 28, 2006, a commemorative plate was officially revealed on the actual battle site. It is attached to the stonework foundation of a crumbled farmhouse. More information is displayed on the information panel nearby.
What brought the U.S. Cavalry soldiers to this place in late April and early May 1945?
The 2nd Cavalry Group under Col. Charles H. Reed was at the time part of the 3rd Army's XII Corps under Gen. Patton. Two squadrons comprised the Group, the 2nd and the 42nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadrons. Their task was to cover the left flank of the Corps units advancing across the border mountains deeper into the Czech interior. However, just before the move started, the Cavalry commander received a message about American, British, French and Polish prisoners being interned just behind the border forest near Hostouň and Bělá nad Radbuzou. Immediately, an improvised rescue mission was conceived to liberate the prisoners and transfer them to safety across the border. However, the task was not easy as the movement of the American units between Bělá and the border was monitored by SS units located in the former Sudetenland. The original intent of the Cavalry was even more amplified when a parliamentarian, the German Army veterinarian of Hostouň, told Col. Reed about a herd of some 650 horses facing certain slaughter. Col. Reed was a horse riding enthusiast, and decided quickly to act. At least 250 of the horses were the noble Lipizzans from the Hofburg Imperial Riding Academy in Vienna. There were stallions of Petar, the King of Yugoslavia, and Ribbentrop, the Nazi State Secretary. There were Kabardinian. Arabian, and Don thoroughbreds, two of them of full English blood. The action was set to go. The German parliamentarian persuaded the Hostouň Wehrmacht headquarters to establish a no-attack zone around Hostouň, and lead the Cavalry soldiers through the mine fields, but the Cavalry had to provide an armed force to fight through the German SS troops in the area.
On April 28. 1945, a task force composed of Troop A. a platoon of tanks from Company F, and a platoon of assault guns from Troop F, all of the 42nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron and called Task Force Stewart, started the operation. Troops B and C, 42nd Squadron, covered their flanks. The actual takeover of the horses and their transfer across the border got the codename "Operation Cowboy". Penetration of Bělá, Hostouň, and the surrounding settlements was carried out successfully and the horses got new masters. A counter-attack by German SS troops on April 30th near Rosendorf resulted in the deaths of Raymond Manz and Owen Sutton. In spite of the clash in Rosendorf, the cavalrymen retained their horse caring duties to the very end of the war in Europe. On May 12, 1945, when all hostilities had ended and the German surrender treaty was signed, the actual transport of the horses across the border was finalized. At first, the horses were moved to Swarzenberg in Bavaria, then in two convoys on the 18th and 25th of May, to St. Martin, where 215 horses were returned to the Austrian. The remaining horses were claimed as war booty, and from the port of Genova, Italy, many were shipped to the United States. No sooner than September 20 part of the herd came back. Major Babarin, a military veterinarian, took over 250 horses. Czech administration took over the tow horses and thoroughbreds. Some of the Lipizzaners were returned to their home in Lipice, Slovenia.
The famous "Ghosts of Patton’s Third Army", with their heritage reaching back to l836, left Czechoslovakia on routine rotation of the combat weary units. Keep in mind that since their arrival on Utah Beach June 19, 1944, they were immediately incorporated into the 3rd Army under Gen. Patton. They were engaged in battles throughout all Western Europe and finalized their WW2 campaign in the former Czechoslovak Republic. They did not stay for a long time, leaving on May 15-17, 1945, back across the border to nearby Koetzing in Bavaria. They acted as border guards of the whole area spreading up to Grafenau. In this role, you could see them in Cham, Regen, and other Bavarian border communities. Gradually, they were transformed into the 2nd Constabulary Regiment and then the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. In 1955, they were recalled to Fort Meade, Maryland. However, in loss than three years they came back to Germany to resume their border duties, establishing their headquarters in Nuremberg. Cooperating with the German border police, they guarded the 731 km long segment of the "Iron Curtain" bordering Czechoslovakia and East Germany. Following the downfall of the Iron Curtain and the border opening eastward, their military specialty in Germany lost reason to exist and they were charged with other duties outside Europe. In 2006 the gradual Cavalry unit redeployment to Bavaria started. At the limo when we are unveiling the monument honoring two American heroes in Bělá, the redeployment of their original unit may be complete and the unit is scheduled for an official welcome back to Germany. The headquarters will be established just across the border in nearby ViIseck. According to engineer Picka, the Mayor of Bělá, a new partnership with this town can result and logically extend to the Cavalry headquarters as well. The idea is stretched to the point when, perhaps on the next meeting, we can really welcome the “Ghosts of Patton's 3rd Army" here again. Let’s hope that ranks of these soldiers will include son’s or grandson’s of those heroes fighting for our freedom in 1945.