As militaries became more mechanized after the Nazi blitzkrieg swept over and occupied Europe, horse cavalry was deemphasized and the 1st Cavalry Division was reformed as a light infantry unit. They were trained and equipped for jungle warfare, and in that role, were dispatched for combat in the Pacific in the summer of 1943.
The 1st Cavalry Division's first action would be during the Admiralty Islands Campaign and the Battle of Los Negros. The 5th Cavalry landed on the island on February 29, 1944 against strong Japanese opposition. The Americans secured the island's airfield, their primary objective, and then defended themselves in the face of withering counterattacks by the numerically superior enemy.
One such fanatical counterattack by the enemy saw then Sergeant Troy McGill's 9-man squad swarmed by 200 enemy. After all his soldiers had been killed or wounded, McGill ordered the last uninjured man to evacuate to a safer position while he continued the fight alone. When the battle lifted the next morning Sergeant McGill was dead, but his lone, courageous stand claimed over one-hundred of the enemy. Six months later, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (M-S):
|Photo from Military Times' Hall of Valor|
Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Troop G, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. Place and date: Los Negros Islands, Admiralty Group, 4 March 1944. Entered service at: Ada, Okla. G.O. No.: 74, 11 September 1944
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with the enemy at Los Negros Island, Admiralty Group, on 4 March 1944. In the early morning hours Sgt. McGill, with a squad of 8 men, occupied a revetment which bore the brunt of a furious attack by approximately 200 drinkcrazed enemy troops. Although covered by crossfire from machineguns on the right and left flank he could receive no support from the remainder of our troops stationed at his rear. All members of the squad were killed or wounded except Sgt. McGill and another man, whom he ordered to return to the next revetment. Courageously resolved to hold his position at all cost, he fired his weapon until it ceased to function. Then, with the enemy only 5 yards away, he charged from his foxhole in the face of certain death and clubbed the enemy with his rifle in hand-to-hand combat until he was killed. At dawn 105 enemy dead were found around his position. Sgt. McGill's intrepid stand was an inspiration to his comrades and a decisive factor in the defeat of a fanatical enemy.
McGill's remains were repatriated to the United States. He rests in peace in his native Tennessee at the Knoxville National Cemetery.
The 1st Cavalry Division is still an integral combat component of the modern Army. Their home station is Fort Hood, Texas. The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 5th Cavalry are combined arms (armor and mechanized infantry) units within the division's brigade combat teams.