Organization and Equipment
QuarterHorse Organization and Equipment
It probably should be stated that this is not the present day MTOE for the
1/4th Cavalry but reflects the authorizations during the Vietnam Era.
The First Squadron, Fourth Cavalry was organized and equipped as a
divisional armored cavalry squadron. A squadron is the cavalry term
for a battalion, and contains four companies, or troops in cavalry lingo.
Three of the troops were organized as ground units equipped with armored
vehicles, while the fourth was organized as an air cavalry troop and equipped
with helicopters. There was also a headquarters troop, known as Headquarters
Headquarters Troop. The three ground troops were A-C Troops, and
the air cavalry troop was D Troop. The squadron had an authorized
strength of about 870 officers and men, although (as was the case with
most combat units) this number tended to fluctuate depending on casualties
and troop rotation schedules. The squadron was commanded by a Lieutenant
Colonel, and normally came under the direction of the division Troops
were often parceled out to the brigades of the division, and D Troop tended
to operate under the control of the First Aviation Battalion. Troop
commanders were normally captains, although D Troop usually was commanded
by a major. First we will examine the organization of the First Squadron,
Fourth Cavalry, and then look at the equipment used
by the cav and the tactics they developed for their unconventional war.
The three ground troops of the 1/4 Cav were organized as armored cavalry.
This meant that they were equipped with armored vehicles and tanks, making
up in firepower what they might lack in manpower. Each troop contained
three combat (or line) platoons and a headquarters platoon. The headquarters
troop was organized differently, as it was intended to direct and
support the operations of the line troops. Organization data for
the Squadron is taken from a report filed by the Squadron in 1966.
Where possible and practical, any organizational changes that took place
after that date are noted. This is particularly true for D Troop,
which was reorganized in 1967-68. During 1966 the Squadron had an
actual strength of 856 officers and enlisted men; almost 20 below the authorized
As its name implies, Headquarters
Troop (or HHT) provided the Squadron's leadership. The various support
services and staff organizations were also found in HHT. These included
personnel services (S-1; normally handles the inprocessing and outprocessing
of personnel and requests replacements), intelligence (S-2; tasked with
identifying enemy units and providing estimates of their effectiveness
and intentions), operations planning (S-3; developed plans to meet operational
requirements and missions), and supply and repair (S-4; handled maintanance
and supply requests). HHT had 202 officers and enlisted men assigned.
HHT could be looked at as the "brain" of the Squadron, since it controlled
communication, repair, and other functions necessary for the Squadron's
A, B and C Troops
Organized along similar lines, these
were the ground combat troops of the Squadron. Each ground troop
contained three line platoons as well as a headquarters platoon.
The combat teeth of each troop could be found in the platoons' scout squads
and tank sections. Each troop had a section of three M48A3s assigned,
as well as three scout squads with 2 Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicles (ACAVs)
each, giving each troop nine medium tanks and eighteen ACAVs. Each
of 1/4 Cav's troops had an assigned strength of 210 officers and enlisted
men. M113s with mortars were also often assigned to each troop. Another
popular attachment was the "Zippo" track, which was equipped with a flame
thrower. The strengths listed above were ideals; in fact most Troops were
often short vehicles, men, or both. These ground troops were the arms and
legs of the Squadron, and contained much of the unit's combat power.
D Troop: The air cavalry troop was commanded by a Major
instead of a Captain, and arrived in Vietnam equipped with OH-13 scout
helicopters and UH-1 Hueys as both lift ships and gun ships. The
aerorifle platoon was often used as a Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol
(LRRP) unit by the division during this time. During 1968 D Troop
exchanged its OH-13s for the OH-6A "Loach" and its UH-1 gunships for the
AH-1 "Cobra." It was also during this time that D Troop was effectively
removed from Squadron command and placed under the control of the First
Aviation Battalion, the Big Red One's helicopter unit. During most
of its time in Vietnam, D Troop was divided into a Scout Section, a Gun
Section, and the Lift Section. In 1966 D Troop was equipped with
8 OH-13s and 17 UH-1s. At that time the rifle platoon also contained about
50 men. In all, D Troop was home to around 145 officers and enlisted
men. The air cavalry troop was the eyes and long arm of the Squadron.
During the Indian Wars, the Fourth Cavalry rode to battle mounted on horseback,
but often engaged their opponents on foot. Vietnam era cavalrymen
rode to battle in tanks, APCs or helicopters and almost always fought mounted
(with the exception of the aerorifle platoon). The weapons used by
the men of Quarterhorse remained remarkably consistent during the war,
with the only major reorganization taking place when D Troop changed its
helicopters. It should be noted that the heavy concentration of automatic
weapons in any cavalry element gave them a shock power well out of porportion
to their actual size.
Tanks and APCs/ACAVs
The main battle tanks and armored cavalry assault vehicles of Quarterhorse
were its primary weapons, and one which the Army was initially reluctant
to send to Vietnam. The tanks in particular faced heavy resistance
from within the higher command structure. It was up to the men of
Quarterhorse to show that their armored fist had a role to play in Vietnam.
M48A3 Patton Main Battle Tank
Designed, like most U.S. equipment, to face the Soviet Army in Central
Europe, the Patton became a very valuable weapon in the war in Vietnam.
Although it was being replaced with the newer M60 main battle tank, the
M48A3 went to Vietnam and did a tremendous job. It proved to be a
very stout tank, difficult to knock out with mines, recoilless rifles,
or the infamous rocket propelled grenades (RPGs) common to VC/NVA units.
While the M48A2 also served in Vietnam, the A3 varient was the vehicle
of choice wth most cavalry units for one simple reason: fuel. The
A2 used regular gasoline, while the A3 used diesel. Diesel fuel is
much harder to ignite, which made the tank (and thus the crew) more likely
to survive hits.
Fresh out of the factory, the M48A3 was armed with two machine guns
(a 7.62mm gun mounted next to the main gun and a .50 caliber mounted in
a special cupola unit for the tank commander) and a 90mm main gun. One
of the more popular crew modifications involved removing the commander's
.50 from the cuploa, which was of limited usefulness, and mounting it in
the open. This allowed more .50 ammo to be belted into the gun (an important
consideration in a firefight). As usual extra machine guns were often welded
to the hull, with one for the loader's hatch being especially common. The
90mm main gun, while perhaps not up to battling Russian heavy tanks in
Central Europe, proved to be very useful in Vietnam. Based on an anti-aircraft
gun of World War Two vintage, the 90mm had a wide variety of shells availble.
The most popular proved to be High Explosive (sometimes used with delay
fuses for busting bunkers) and the Cannister round. Acting much like a
large shotgun shell, the cannister round proved to be devistating against
human wave attacks. The tank itself also proved to be a useful weapon,
crushing jungle undergrowth and smaller trees when used for "jungle busting."
Of course the Patton did have its weaknesses. Although not overly heavy
as far as tanks go, the Patton's size still restricted it to roads during
the wet season, and often kept it from using bridges. While the tank did
prove to be much more mobile than originally thought possible, its weight
was still a limitation.
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Copyright William Van Horn and Bill Baty 1997