9th Cavalry
Lawton-Fort Sill Chapter
10 th Cavalry

 

The 28th Cavalry: The U.S. Army’s
Last Horse Cavalry Regiment

The War Department decided in the fall of 1942 to reactivate its 2nd Cavalry Division as an all African-American division. This led to the 28th Cavalry being one of two black cavalry regiments constituted in the Army on November 11, 1942.

With the impending activation of the 2nd Cavalry Division in 1943, new units had to be organized to provide the division with its full complement of units: the 27th and 28th Cavalry regiments were two of these units. The 4th Cavalry Brigade and its 10th Cavalry were stationed at Camp Lockett, California (about 50 miles east of San Diego) while its 9th Cavalry was stationed at Fort Clark, Texas. A group of men from the 10th Cavalry was cadred to form the 28th. With them went the legacy of the original Buffalo Soldiers.

Upon activation of the division, each of the cavalry brigades would have one veteran Regular Army cavalry regiment and one of the new wartime regiments assigned to it. At Camp Lockett, the 28th Cavalry was to be activated and assigned to the 4th cavalry Brigade. While stationed in Southern California the 28th trained and did doubled duty acting as the boarder patrol along hundreds of miles of rugged terrain.

Command of this yet-to-be-activated regiment was given to 47-year-old Colonel Edwin M. Burnett, a veteran cavalry officer who served in World War I. Colonel Burnett, who had been promoted to colonel in June 1942, had commanded the Horsemanship department of the Cavalry Center at Fort Riley. From the brigade’s 10th Cavalry, he received a cadre of 153 noncommissioned officers; the remainder of his regiment came from Selective Service men (draftees).

The War Department’s decision not to consolidate the entire 2nd Cavalry division in Texas when the division was activated at Fort, Clark in early 1943 meant that a dual construction program was undertaken at both posts.

A new cantonment area and stables were Constructed at Camp Lockett one mile north of the main camp. Theater of operations construction was used as opposed to Mobilization construction that had been used when Camp Lockett was built in 1541.

These buildings were built cheaply with a width of almost a standard 20 feel and lengths varied according to use. They were covered with plywood siding and green rolled roofing. The troop areas were clustered together in their respective squadron areas.

On February 25, 1943, the 28th Cavalry, was activated at Camp Lockett while the 2nd Cavalry division was activated at Fort Clark that same day. Colonel Burnett’s executive officer, both of his squadron commanders and their executive officers plus several company grade officers were attending the 2nd Cavalry Division Course (January 11 -April 1) at Fort Riley.

Manpower for the 28th Cavalry was drawn directly from eastern and Midwestern reception centers. The Selective Service men received their basic training in the regiment. This was the same way the "old" 2nd Cavalry Division had been filled at Fort Riley in 1941.

The regiment received 300 men from the 2nd Service Command: New Jersey, Delaware and New York, 600 from the 5th Service Command: Ohio, West Virginia Indiana and Kentucky: and 327 men from the 6th Service Command: Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. Colonel Burnett greeted his new troopers on March 26 and their basic training started March 29.

While his regiment was taking basic training at Camp Lockett, Colonel Burnett went to Fort Bliss, Texas, where he selected 369 horses from those turned in by the 1st Cavalry Division when it was dismounted in February 1943. They arrived at Camp Lockett on April 25. From Fort Robinson (Nebraska) Remount Station, 1,080 horses were shipped to the camp. Some- of these horses contracted influenza, however, and 28 died in one day.

The 28th Cavalry had its first dismounted review retreat May 21. Lieutenant Colonel Edward I. Drinkert, the regimental executive office, reviewed the troops. On June 11 the regiment held a 21-event field day. Soldiers competed in baseball, volleyball, track, platoon drills, kitchen layout and obstacle races. Weapons Troop won the competition; C Troop came in second.

Basic training was completed June 26. Teams from its parent 4th Cavalry Brigade inspected each troop. The results of the brigade’s inspection were excellent and the 28th Cavalry proceeded to unit training — the next; phase of its activation training.

General Thoburn K. Brown, commanding general. 4th Cavalry Brigade, called for a full mounted review July 24. For the 28th Cavalry, it was the regiment’s first mounted review; for the 4th Cavalry Brigade, it marked the first time the entire brigade had been together as one unit.

During August and September, the regiment tested! Its proficiency in pistol and rifle marksmanship, utilizing ranges at Camp Lockett and Camp Callan, 2 coast artillery training center at La Jolla. Camp Matthews, the Marine Corps Rifle Range at La Jolla, was used to fire M-1 rifles for record. Range firing ended September 6 with approximately 95% of the regiment qualifying on the M-1 rifles.

During a regimental review October 7, awards for range proficiency were presented by General Brown. Awards were given to Corporal Edward Lewis, B Troop, high shot in rifle marksmanship as a selected: First Sergeant Lee Thomas, high shot of all regimental first sergeants in rifle marksmanship Staff Sergeant John Buller, 3rd platoon leader, B Troop, the platoon with the highest average qualification in rifle marksmanship: and Staff Sergeant Nolan Duncan, 1st Platoon leader, e Troop, the platoon with the highest average qualification in pistol marksmanship.

Activity within the 28th Cavalry was governed by bugle calls. A bugler ascended a large rock to sound his calls. Bugler’s Rock, as this location was known, was across Custer Road from regimental headquarters.

Summer 1943 was a very bad fire season in San Diego County. The 28th Cavalry was called upon to fight both brush and forest fires.

Not all the men’s time was spent in military duties. The 28th Cavalry utilized the main post facilities for recreation. The officers club was located next, to Highway 94, the main entrance to the camp, in the two story Campo Hotel that the Army had taken over in 1941. Motion pictures were shown in the camp theater. In the 28th Cavalry area, the regiment had its own post exchange, chapel and swimming pool. Lieutenant William Bell, the regiment’s special services officer, put together several shows that were held in the natural amphitheater behind regimental headquarters. Regular post entertainment was put on in Merritt Bowl The Camp Lockett Fall Horse Show was held October 23, 1943, in the 28th Cavalry’s horse show ring.

The Army’s XVII Corps examined the 28th Cavalry to see how the regiment stood in its training compared to other Army Ground Force units. The results were satisfactory, and the 28th Cavalry was allowed to continue with its next phase of training.

By December 1943, decisions were being made by the War Department in Washington D.C., that would have a major impact on the 2nd Cavalry division. The division was considered a candidate for deactivation, using its units to form service units that the Army felt it needed more than a cavalry division., he department, however, was ignoring the fact that when the 1st Cavalry

Division had been dismounted in early 1943 suitable employment for that division had been found in the Pacific. Instead, the Army decided to ship the 2nd Cavalry Division to North Africa where the division would be broken up and used to form service units. About January 12, 1944, the 28th Cavalry was alerted for movement Measures at Camp Lockett were initiated in order that the 28th Cavalry would be prepared to move on ready day - Clothing and equipment was drawn. The inspector general from III Corps, under which the regiment had been transferred prior to alert day, made a lull inspection of the regiment’s administration and found it in good condition. All this lime the regiment was dismounted.

Within two weeks of its first anniversary, the 28th Cavalry entrained from Camp Lockett on February 10, 1944 The three trains arrived at Camp Patrick Henry Virginia, on February 15. The regiment was physically processed, its equipment was brought up to combat serviceability and the troops were brought up to strength per current table of organization with the addition of 243 replacements from Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

On March 2, 1944, the 28th Cavalry moved from Camp Patrick Henry to Newport News, Virginia. The next day the regiment sailed to North Africa on the maiden voyage of the USS General William Mitchell, arriving at Casablanca, Morocco, March 12. The regiment was moved to Camp Don B. Passage, a debarkation staging area on the outskirts of Casablanca, then departed by train for Oran, Algeria, a two-day journey to the east.

The 28th Cavalry’s final review was conducted by Colonel Burnett, then 2nd Cavalry Division’s acting division commander. This retreat parade, led by Lieutenant Colonel Drinkert on March 24,1944, marked the end of the regiment. One week later, the 28th Cavalry was inactivated at Assi-Ben-Okba, Algeria.

At the time of its inactivation, the 28th Cavalry was the last horse cavalry regiment in the United States Army. On December 12,1951 the 28th Cavalry was disbanded.