The 115th Cavalry Regiment was formed after World War I from the First Regiment of the Cavalry, Wyoming National Guard, in 1921. Then, in anticipation of World War II, the 115th was activated, but within a year or two they were dispersed to other units. Some of its members performed valuable service on the home front, and many saw action but not as the 115th Cavalry Regiment. Because the unit was broken up early in the war, they are forgotten.
Initially, all 115th Cavalry troops were horse troops. Then, they began to be mechanized, and Troop A (Lovell), Troop B (Sheridan), and Troop C (Lander) stayed horse units, while Troop D (Laramie) and Troop E (Torrington) were mechanized. Troop F (Douglas) rode motorcycles, and Headquarters Troop (Casper) had both horses and was mechanized.
The 115th Cavalry was activated nine months before WWII was officially declared. The entire 115th Cavalry Regiment, all 1,086 men, was inducted into federal service on February 24, 1941, the day they boarded a train for Fort Lewis, Washington.
On Sunday, December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and Fort Lewis heard over the radio that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. At that time, many men were away on 36-hour passes. When they returned, they found all gates barricaded by barbed wire and covered by machine guns. MPs at checkpoints searched all vehicles.
The 115th was then ordered onto Coast Patrol. Their sector extended along almost all of the Oregon coast and into northern California, a vast amount of distance. The 115th was ordered to repel or hold enemy attacks on the beaches. If not possible, they were to blow up bridges, fight delaying actions, and then hold the designated north/south line of final resistance at Hood River, Oregon.
On September 9 and 29, 1942, the Imperial Japanese Navy submarine I-25 surfaced off the coast of southern Oregon and launched a Glen seaplane, which dropped bombs inland. Luckily, the recent rains pre-empted what could have been large forest fires. Subsequently, the I-25 sank two ships off the coast of Oregon-the SS Camden and the SS Larry Doheny. The I-25 was finally sunk on September 3, 1943, by the USS Ellet and the USS Patterson.
The 115th Cavalry defended against another little-known threat in the form Japanese balloon bombs. From November 1944 through April 1945, the Japanese launched 9,300 balloon bombs into the jet stream that crosses over the Pacific Ocean and then the continental U.S. The public was not aware of this threat because, on January 4, 1945, the Office of Censorship requested that newspapers and radio broadcasts observe a publicity blackout. This voluntary censorship was strictly adhered to. The reason for the blackout was to discourage the Japanese from sending more bombs; if they did not know the results of the initial wave of bombs, they would doubt their effectiveness. The balloons were made of three or four layers of tissue paper sealed with an adhesive made from Japanese potatoes. Of the 9,300 launched, there were 285 confirmed sightings of balloons or parts of balloons in North America, as far east as eastern Michigan and as far north as northern Alaska. The only published account (prior to the publicity blackout) occurred near Thermopolis, Wyoming, and the only known casualties from this weapon were a woman and five children near Lakeview, Oregon.
Lives were lost while on Coast Patrol. On March 12, 1942, at Corvallis, Oregon, four men lost their lives in a barracks' fire, among them Sergeant Harry Boles, Corporal John "Jack" Williams, and Sergeant Elmore J. Howell.
In 1943 and 1944, the 115th Cavalry began to be split up.
Those who stayed with the 115th Cavalry became the 115th Cavalry Group, commanded by Colonel Garnett Wilson. In February 1945, they relieved the 15th Cavalry near the seaport of St. Nazaire, France, to hold pockets of German resistance. On April 25, the 115th was attached to the 103rd Division near Stuttgard in southwestern Germany. Once across the Danube River, the 103rd captured Landsberg (near Munich), the town in which Hitler wrote Mein Kampf. Near this town of 30,000, the elements of the 103rd liberated six concentration camps. They helped push south into Austria, alongside the famous 101st Airborne. Then they captured Innsbruck in the Austrian Alps on May 4 and, at Brenner Pass looking down into Italy, they met members of the U.S. 88th Division, who had fought hard up the Po Valley.
At present, though, there is no accurate record of how many former members of the 115th were killed in action in World War II.
The members of the 115th were some of the last military cowboys, and the myth of the Wyoming Cowboy appeals to something deep within us-just as it appealed to Americans during World War II. In May 1941, a Seattle newspaper reported: "Applause rose just once yesterday from the crowd of 10,000 which watched the greatest spectacle in the history of Ft. Lewis. ... The applause was for the horses and men of the 115th (Powder River) Cavalry from Wyoming. Perhaps it was for something else, too; something gay and romantic and gone forever." Our Wyoming Cowboys worked so hard and gave up so much.
WYOMING 115TH UNIFORMS