Vennard Wilson speech

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Vennard Wilson speech  (1945) 
by Vennard Wilson

Colonel Vennard Wilson, commanding officer of the 106th Cavalry Group at the end of World War II, was awarded the Legion of Merit, Legion of Honor, and Croix de guerre for his outstanding leadership of this unit. The entire 106th Cavalry Regiment was awarded the Croix de guerre with Palm for their gallantry and action near Caen and Falaise during the action closing the Falaise pocket, and the 121st Cavalry Squadron was awarded the Fourragère and for its action at Lunéville, France.[1]

During their occupation duty in St. Wolfgang, Austria, on Memorial Day, 30 May 1945, Wilson spoke to the entire unit. He praised the accomplishments of the entire group and specifically Troop B, 121st Calvary Group.

Text of his speech[edit]

"This is our National Memorial Day. It is fitting that we set aside a few moments to pay honor to our comrades who, by their supreme sacrifices, have made possible the triumph of our forces. It is our custom on this day to pay honor to all the dead of all the wars of the American Armies. We salute them.

Yet this is also a special occasion for those of us who have just completed a long and arduous campaign, and who by the accidents of chance still live to tell the story of those who are no longer with us. We cannot but feel a special reverence for those comrades whom we knew intimately, whom we saw while their blood was still warm, men who did not let us down in a fight.

Let me briefly review our accomplishments. Our regiment, approximately fifteen hundred men, rather small as a major combat unit, has carried its full share of the action from Normandy to Austria. We landed in Normandy on 2 July 1944, learned combat in the famous hedgerow fighting there, learned to make swift advances in the initial breakthrough to Avranches. Then came our first open runs, from Avranches to the Seine. We were ready, and took up the gallop for fifty- and sixty-mile runs, leading the pack all the way. When the Third Army paused for supplies, we covered its right flank for a length of one hundred and fifteen miles.

The advance began again and we were told to lead the XV Corps from the vicinity of Neufchateau to Charmes. That, from a tactical standpoint, was one of the most interesting and successful of our accomplishments. An entire German division—the 16th Infantry Division—was in front of us. Our communications and technique were then developed to such a high standard that our infantry following us hardly lost an hour.

We used five of our six troops to contain those Germans, slipped around to their north, delivered our infantry on their objective at five in the afternoon after a fifty-mile advance. I wish to pay special tribute to B Troop 106th Squadron and their gallant troop commander, Captain Park, in this operation. This troop was one hundred miles in rear of us when the advance was ordered, came up during the night, arrived at the starting point after the other troops had departed, kept moving as rear troop during the day, and were sent into action late in the afternoon after I had committed the five other troops. Captain Park used on of his platoons on side blocking and reconnaissance missions, and when I arrived at Charmes we had only Captain Park, two platoons, and a platoon of tanks. It was enough to do the job.

Our next phas was the advance to Luneville. The Corps paused a few days at Charmes, on the Moselle. Our technique was so well developed that we were already in contact on the objective when the advance started.

Then came the foot-slogging days of the Forêt de Parroy. We became infantry for a solid month, and slugged it out alongside the 79th Division. That was far from a pleasant campaign.

Then the days of the Vosges Mountains, the fight with the 130th Panzer (Lehr), the best fighting Germans we have ever fought against. The fight at Wimmenau, not one of our best. The winter campaign at Ludweiler, where we lost two hills but still retained the position. We were not at our top form then, far from it. But we rebuilt the outfit without withdrawing from combat, and the attack at Schaffhausen by A Troop 106th Squadron smacked them over like professionals.

Then the rest at Merlebach, the arrival of the new tanks, the finest present a man could have, and we were ready again. When the advance was begun to the Siegfried Line, I think that this outfit was absolutely at its top form. It was ferocious. I went in with A Troop 121st Squadron when it and B Troop 121st Squadron attacked the first town south of the Siegfried Line. Never could a man be prouder than to feel the weight of such an attack as you put on then. I know that nothing could possibly stop you.

Next, the advance to and across the Rhine, to the Main, to Nurnburg, to the Danube, to Munich, and finally to Austria. During this period, we worked with two of the finest fighting divisions of the American Army, the 3rd and 45th Infantry Divisions. They are both fast-moving and hard-hitting. We gained their respect and admiration.

One of the most interesting advances was the one on to Salzburg, and beyond. We were attached to the 3rd Division at the time. There was only one road available, and no room for us. The 3rd Division leading elements were delayed by a blown bridge some ten kilometers forward of Salzburg. The 121st Squadron was halted some forty kilometers west of Salzburg in read of a bad by-pass. During the night, the Division Commander gave me permission to use a northern road, and the Squadron took off at midnight. Led by B Troop 121st Squadron, with its troop commander, Captain Benecke, on the point bantam, it accepted the surrender of Salzburg early in the morning, beating the infantry by a very short time. When I informed the Division Commander of what you had done, his comment was "Fine, I didn't think you could do it!" He did not know you men as well as I did.

I have mentioned four troops merely because they happened to fit into the story. The others have also had their day. There was C Troop 106th Squadron in a brilliant final drive to Munich, there was C Troop 121st Squadron which played the major share in the Ludweiler Campaign, the assault gun troops who supported us constantly, and those tankers, God bless them, who made the most of our fights successful, those supply men who fed us, those mechanics who kept us rolling, those medics who saved many of us, make us feel that every man played his part.

I feel a pride in this regiment. It is always a proud feeling to belong to an outfit which can take its place with the best, which is definitely placed by its Corps Commander and by the infantry commanders with which it has worked, as a first-class fighting unit.

Those exploits of ours were not without cost. You cannot whip the enemy unless you take your share of the losses. They were accomplished through the willingness of our comrades to get out and feel his fire, to give back plenty of it, and to make the necessary sacrifice to dominate him. To our fifteen hundred men, there have been 1,195 Purple Hearts issued, and 194 of these will never again go into combat. They are our honored dead who lie buried on foreign soil; the men to whom we pay special tribute today.

We owe a certain debt to these dead. They have aided us in the defeat of a powerful, savage, warlike nation. We must so conduct ourselves in the future that their victory will be complete, that the peace for which they died will be permanent."


  1. Williams, Donald C. "106th Cavalry Group". Archived from the original on March 24, 2005. Retrieved 16 November 2014.