when I look at these faded old Kodak Brownie snaps of that "Motley Crew" you
assembled at Ft. Bliss and Ft. Clark who were told they were going to become cavalry men,
you'd have to think it was some kind of joke. Most of us were skinny, all legs and arms.
Most were 16 to 20 years oldgreen as grass in almost all respects. We were a
fantastic mixtureshort and tall, big ears and feet, and almost all from not very
affluent families. Not half were high school graduates; we were mostly products of the big
depression and lucky that the worst was apparently behind usor so we thought. We
were kids of ranchers, farmers, city workers, insurance salesmen, grocers, shoe repairmen,
car salesmenyou name it and we probably had a representative. So this is the group
that is going to become a crack Cavalry Regiment? You gotta be kidding!
We came after the sabre was gone.
There were no Indian or border bandits to steal cattle or horses. The McClellan saddle was
modified to have a skirt instead of that leg-pinching spider strap. We had 1903's and rode
with both snaffel and curb bits (at the same time). Lord, who decided to punish my horse
by ordering the use of 2 bits in his mouth at the same time?
Even with all our
differences and faults, it wasn't long until we were sitting straight, back arched, heels
down, toes out and those 4 reins neatly folded over our hands. Some took a little longer
than others, some horses took a little longer too, but soon the columns moved with an
indefinable beauty. Each man was proud of how his leather looked and how his horse
glistened in the Texas sun. (Are you sure these are the same men?)
That doesn't mean it was
easy. Every time the corral gate closed behind you, you groaned just thinking about how
many times your rear was going to pound that McClellan before you saw the gate again. Cold
mornings were worse than hot. You never got used to those first jolts you had with the
saddle and you wondered if things would get betteror even worse.....probably worse.
Up the side of the road
for 50 miles to Garner Park. Past old Mr. John Nance Garner, leaning on his gate in
Uvalde, waving at every single passing Trooper. Knowing who he was surely made every
trooper sit a little straighter even though over 40 miles had already taken its toll on
their rears. Now it was hot and there were still over 10 miles to go. Your horse was
sweaty and you knew you had a good 1½ - 2 hours to dry and groom him, feed & water
him and bed him downthat is if you ever got to the stopping place. After all that,
you'd eat, pitch tents and try to wash the grime off your face (probably in the horse
watering trough while "Chicken" or "Bess" or "Cleve" or
"Slots" and all the others were slurping water alongside you). But, don't let
the 1st Sgt. see you do that! He'd say something a little stronger than, "That's not
nice," and you'd likely wind up on guard or stable duty to take up that little bit of
rest you would have gotten.
You'll be 'up and at em'
before daylight comes and the whole routine starts all over. Damn, I can't afford to think
about that ride backI just don't believe I can do it. But, you do it. It'd be far
too embarrassing to ever give up and fall out.
We had very few chances to
visit among the Troops other than our own, but we did find time to make a friend here and
there from other Troops.
A lot of days and many
miles later we were in New Caledonia with Australian horses. General Kruger thought he
could use horse cavalry in the jungles he knew we had to cross. The monsoon season changed
that. Constant rain and the horses standing in mud day and night soon softened the carnera
bands on the hoofs. We stood night after night moving them every few minutes to what
seemed like a little higher ground. No luck. The horses went. I hope they eventually went
to their Happy Hunting Ground knowing they had done their best. To Big Bob, Clancy, Cleve,
Sue Baby, Chief and all the rest: With all the work you made us do to care for you, we
missed you. Now we were foot soldiers.
A lot of things changed.
The squad exercises now meant we carried the light '30sthe heavy '30s and the BARS
on our backs and necks. We marched the 9 miles from Dumbea Valley to the coast daily at a
trot, wringing wet with sweat and swatting mosquitos every step with a small leafy branch.
We were foot soldiers. Yeah! Great!
We first went to
Townsville, Australia for supplies, then to Woodlark Island near the Solomon Islands. We
were there to protect the SeeBees while they built a landing strip of the coral so fighter
planes could reach Rabaul, New Britain. By then the Motley Crew had become a disciplined
Regiment. A Battalion of Field Artillery was added to us in November 1943 and we were then
called "A Regimental Combat Team" (RCT). None of us had any idea what that meant
at the time, but we would learn. Our RCT, only a fraction of the size of a Division, much
smaller even than an Infantry Regiment, was destined to become a small, mobile fighting
unit. No Japanese soldiers were on Woodlark but they bombed us there. We then moved to
Goodenough Island to resupply and on December 15, 1943, we made the first northward attack
in the South Pacific. It was at Arawe, New Britain that A Troop was shot all to hell
trying to assault the beach in rubber boats. Who the hell thought up that move? There was
little opposition by the main body at first. We were ordered to form a main line of
resistance (MLR) at the head of the peninsula we landed on. The Japanese reorganized and
reinforced from Rabaul. We sat there a long time wasting Troopers on patrols.
"Washing Machine Charlie" saw to it we didn't sleep much by cruising up and down
the peninsula dropping bombs at will night after night. We crouched in the holes and
cursed him for weeks. That is until 40mm anti-aircraft guns were brought in. Very soon the
"Charlies" came no more. Finally, General MacArthur decided our diversion for
the Marine landing on the north of the island was no longer needed. Small tanks were sent
and we routed the Japanese, but not before Smitty, and the two Jack Johnsons and Eddie and
many others had ended their lives on that grubby peninsula.
Arawe was but a
Kindergarten chore compared to the 52 days on the Driniumor River near Aitape soon to
come. The trek to the Driniumor River from Aitape in the mud and rain was an introduction
to the days ahead when the Japanese 18th Army came up from by-passed, dreaded Wewak
determined to wipe out the Driniumor line, so they could then attack Aitape and Hollandia.
The Japanese forced a
breakthrough between the 112th and the ocean and causing us to begin a
"perimeter" defense instead of a "line" defense. These perimeters
changed continuously. Patrols were ambushed and men killed daily. A spot called Afua
became a focal point for attacks by the determined Japanese, but our 148th Field Artillery
Battalion saved the day several mornings by firing over our perimeter at a hellish close
range to blast the attacking Japanese. "C" Troop and others sustained daily
Banzai charges at daylight. All were repulsed, but not without loss to the "Motley
Crew." It was too early in the war for choppers. The wounded were carried by natives
and Troopers nearly 5 miles to the coast where trucks took over the litters: the mud
covered, blood soaked fatigues, crude bandages and racks made of bamboo to try and hold
wounded in somewhat of an upright position. Some of the hastily made contraptions reminded
you of Rube Goldberg drawings. Echoes of, "Get 'em to the coast,"
"Quick," "Get going," still reverberate in my mind. Our meager first
aid station could do little but patch and send 'em on their way, but they did one hell of
a job considering what they had to work with. You could only quietly stand, teary eyed
when you watched a litter train disappear into that dark rain, always down a muddy jungle
trail, heading to the coast. Who would die before the ocean came to view? Who would die
the first night in the Aitape field Hospital? Who would make it? Oh, God, what a pitiful
sight. There was so little that could be done for them. To stand and watch that last man
in the train slowly disappear into the jungle was like a slow motion dream. Patrols were
out deep in the Japanese infested areas day and night. Some patrols were lost for days,
some were ambushed, some had to leave Troopers where they fell, and others were ambushed
later trying to retrieve the bodies.
Oh, God, is this the same
"Motley Crew" you assembled at Ft. Bliss to teach them dismounted drill and the
Manual of Arms? How could it come to this?
Here you stand in those
soggy boots that haven't been off your feet in a week. Your stinking fatigues and your M1
that rusts overnight in that hellish jungle. Your head aches and the lump in your throat
never goes away. Always another litter train passing through. Any man, yes, now a man, who
saw these things can never return to the trivial problems of yesterday and rid his brain
of these images. These things will be with you forever. You may as well face it.
The Motley Crew went to
the Philippines attached to the 1st Cavalry. A lot of the same scenes. Popovich, Clifford
Lee, and many others went that far before finding their fate. Some Troopers' wounds killed
them years later, many Troopers were stopped in their tracks. A half century has gone by
since then but the images, the dreams, are still crystal clear. They will always be
And now we have grown old.
How lucky to have had these years to be blessed with family and friends. The most
cherished friends are the survivors of the Motley Crew. We meet as often as we can and
stay in touch with one another in various ways. We respect each others views and we are
grateful for all these "extra" years we have been allowed to have. We freely cry
when another Trooper's death is announced. Our sorrow is indefinable when we learn of
another's serious illness.
Hey there, Trooper! Sit up
straight! Straighten your tie! Eyes front! It's 1993 and you're still here? A large
percentage of the Motley Crew is already gone - even those who survived the war. It's very
close to time to close our book and "fade away" as the story goes. Lean back,
smile, think of the many blessings God has given you and remember.
One day that Motley Crew
of 1940 will assemble at a cool, running stream, unsaddle, and hug each other. We were
brothers then, still are, always will be.
On a green and distant
A line of Troopers standing still.
Their heads are high,
yet all eyes weep,
Another friend is now asleep
He rests in God's eternal care.
He stood with us in
times now gone
Times of laughter, of fear,
of dreaming of home.
We'll meet again - we Troopers all,
We each but await The Bugle Call.
Kouowa Bay, New Caledonia, 1943
The natives took the Troopers out to kill a deer. they headed off the
island on the boat. The Troopers were confused at first, but then the dogs were sent up
onto land and they ran the deer out onto the beach where the natives could shoot them.
3 standing in back (left to right):
A native, Arthur Mendoza, and Claire
Sitting in the boat (left to right):
Guide, Dean Walley(in middle right
beneath Mendoza), the deer is laying next to Dean and one dog is visible at Mendozas
side. The other dog is on the far right of the boat.
Standing in the water in front (left to
Ben Moody and another native