Memorial to Troop A, 42nd Cavalry Squadron, 2nd CAV Grp. (MECZ) in Bělá nad Radbuzou

Memorial to Troop A, 42nd Cavalry Squadron, 2nd CAV Grp. (MECZ) in Bělá nad Radbuzou – History of the memorial to Raymond E. Manz and Owen W. Sutton in Bělá nad Radbuzou

I was inspired for the creation of this memorial in 2005 after reading a book by Jindřich Marek – The Lilac Scoop. This book describes, in a very interesting way, not only a story of Colonel Reed’s cavalrymen and horses from the stud farm in Hostouň.

After addressing Mayor of Bělá nad Radbuzou, Mr. Picka, sometime in August 2005, we found common ground and we agreed to establish a working group. At that time, no one thought what a load of work lay ahead of us and what climax would be our reward. We invited Václav Tauer, Richard Praus, Jan Salzman and, subsequently, Jerry Toole or the working group.

Our common goal was to build a memorial plaque to commemorate Lance Raymond E. Manz and Technician of the 5th Grade Owen W. Sutton in the now-extinct village called Rosendorf at the place where, on 30 April 1945, there was a clash between so-called Patton’s ghosts from group A, the 42nd Reconnaissance Squadron (MECZ) of the 2nd Cavalry of the U.S. Army and a unit of the Nazi SS troops.

We became absorbed old documents, searched for old reports, we surfed the internet waves until we found Mr. Patrick Biddy who is a member of the 2nd Cavalry of the U.S. Army. It was a really great meeting because, thanks to it, we began to be successful in discovering facts that we had not expected at the beginning or at the brightest moments.

The result of our joint and gruelling work materialized in the unveiling of a memorial plaque in the extinct village of Rosendorf on 28 April 2006. The greatest experience for me was a personal meeting with Patrick Biddy who came from the U.S. to attend the unveiling personally.

Although it was cloudy during the unveiling of the plaque I think no one particularly minded. At the moment when Patrick and Mayor Picka were unveiling the plaque, I was really proud of our Military Car Club, which is able to work purposefully and to commemorate our history even at places where it was totally unacceptable in our recent communist past.

Given how everyone interested sank into their work, I and the mayor began to form the idea of building a truly representative memorial that would remind with dignity the victims who sacrificed their lives, even if they did not have to, for the freedom of other nations. On the day of unveiling the memorial plaque, we were already working intensively on the unveiling of a monument in Bělá nad Radbuzou.

Then we sweated, wrote emails, telephoned, sometimes swore and, wiped litres of sweat at the thought that something will finally turn out badly but the result surprised even ourselves. In our opinion, one of the greatest achievements was establishing direct contacts with the families of the killed soldiers, Raymond E. Manz and Owen W. Sutton. The climax was the arrival of the Manz family members to Bělá nad Radbuzou on 16 September 2006. Unfortunately, the Sutton family apologized at the last minute due to health reasons. It was a unique opportunity to express our thanks to those who deserved it most. We were honoured by the presence of 90 soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry of the U.S. Army, who also attended the unveiling ceremony and, of course, we must not forget the personal presence of General Antonín Špaček, a Czechoslovak war hero.

On 16 September 2006, after a year-long intensive preparation, we succeeded in commemorating Raymond E. Manz and Owen W. Sutton, to unveil a memorial in Bělá nad Radbuzou

My thanks belong to everyone who has helped to convert the original idea into reality. Special thanks belong to:

  • Mayor of Bělá nad Radbůzou Mr. Libor Picka
  • Member of 2nd Cavalery Association Mr. Patrick Biddy
  • Honorary member of Military Car Clubu Pilsen – Richard Praus
  • Václav Tauer
  • Jan Salzman
  • Václav Janda
  • Jerry Tool
  • 2nd Cavalery Ltc. Col. Bryen E. Denny
  • Historian of 2nd Cavalery Mr. David Gettman
  • Members of Military Car Club Pilsen

I would express special thanks to the first President of the Military Car Club Plzeň, Mr. Milan Dlouhý, who had inspired me and supported in getting the whole thing through to the successful end.

Rudolf Bayer
Chairman of the club
Military Car Club Plzeň

A legend of memorial in Bělá nad Radbuzou – “Patton’s ghosts”

Toujours pret! Always ready! Vždy připraven!

The motto that could be seen on the sleeves of uniforms of American cavalrymen more than sixty years ago. They were the soldiers of the 2nd Cavalry Group who fulfilled the orders issued by their commander here in late April and early May 1945. It was quite a unique and extraordinary action in the history of their activities on the European battlefield. It consisted of the liberation of prisoners of war while also saving hundreds of thoroughbred horses. Therefore, in the spirit of the above motto – always prepared, they were trained perfectly for this action. It was carried in the hearts of Pfc Raymond E. Manz and Technician of the 5th Grade Owen W. Sutton, whose names are engraved, in eternal memory, on the newly unveiled memorial to the fallen in Bělá nad Radbuzou. They were prepared both to fight and to sacrifice their lives for the freedom of oppressed peoples and the liberation of Europe from the fascist enemy. The place, where the final part of the motto was completely fulfilled for them, lies nearby. It happened on a forest road running along the green trail to Karlova Huť, Valdorf and Pleš to the border with Bavaria. The battle, fatal for both the men, took place at the edge of the now-extinct village of Rosendorf (Růžov) on 30 April 1945. During this battle, Pfc Manz was killed and Technician of the 5th Grad Sutton died in hospital due to his serious injuries the next day. According to the wishes of the families, the remains of both the American soldiers were transported to their native places and laid with dignity in cemeteries in Toledo, Ohio, and Kinston, North Carolina, after the war. On 28 April 2006, a memorial plaque was unveiled at the place where the battle actually took place. It is located at the ruins of the foundations of a farmhouse originally standing there. For further details, refer to the text on an information board near the memorial.

What brought U.S. cavalrymen to these places in late April and early May 1945?

The 2nd Cavalry Group, under the command of Colonel Charles H. Reed was, during the described period, part XII Corps of the 3rd U.S. Army of General Patton. It consisted of the 2nd and 42nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron. It was motivated by the Corps command to cover the left wing of the corps troops during further advance over the border mountains to the inland of our state. Even before this advance commenced, a completely random message fell into the hands of the cavalry commander. Not far behind border forests, near around Hostouň and Bělá nad Radbuzou, English, American, French and Polish prisoners of war were interned. A plan was conceived immediately to move over the border and to free them. The task was not a simple matter. Between the border and Bělá, German SS divisions were mapping the advance of American troops along the border within the band of former Sudetenland. The cavalrymen’s initial intention was supported by yet other news about deposited horses that was given to Col. Reed – an ardent horse lover – by a German Army vet, acting in the role of a parliamentarian. It was about 650 horses – 250 Lipizzaner horses from the imperial riding academy in Hofburg, Vienna, and stallions of the King of Yugoslavia, Petar, and the Nazi Foreign Minister, Ribbentrop. Furthermore, there were horses of the Kabardin, Arab and Don breeds, including two English thoroughbreds. The pursuance of a specific action was finally decided when agreement was reached, through the German parliamentarian, with the Hostouň Wehrmacht headquarters.

It was agreed that a non-attack zone near Hostouň would be created, that the Wehrmacht units would leave this zone and that the cavalrymen would be guided through mined areas by the Germans.

The 42nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, in particular its regiment “A”, was charged with this task – under code-name Stewart – on 28 April 1945. This regiment was further supplemented by a platoon of M5 or M24 light tanks from the “F” Company and a platoon of M8 self-propelled howitzers from the “E” regiment. Regiments “B” and “C” provided side coverage. The actual action in securing and guiding the horses over the border of the republic was given code name “Cowboy Operation”. The “A” regiment assumed a major role in this case as well. The penetration to Bělá, Hostouň and adjacent villages and seizure of all the deposited horses were performed successfully and the horses got new tenders. A counterattack of the German SS troops on in Rosendorf 30 April 1945 resulted in the death of Raymond Manz and Owen Sutton and other wounded men. Despite the tragic event, the cavalrymen remained the “tenders” of these horses until the end of the war.

The actual transport of the horses over border began on 12 May 1945 after until the final German surrender and the end of war actions. First, it was directed to Schwarzenberg in Bavaria, then, in two stages from 18 till 25 May, to Sankt Martin near Neustadt, from where 215 horses were returned to Austria. The remaining horses were declared war booty transported by ship to the United States from the Italian port of Genoa. Part of them returned on 20 September. 250 horses were taken over by an army vet, Major Babarin; draught-horses and the thoroughbreds remained in Czech administration and part of the Lipizzaners returned to Lipica, Slovenia.

The famous “Patton’s ghosts” – whose origins date back to 1836 – left our country during the exchange of the front-line troops. Let us remind that, after landing on the Utah Beach on 19 June 1944, they were immediately integrated into Patton’s 3rd Army. They completed their WWII campaign in the former Czechoslovakia after battles throughout western Europe. They did not stay here long because left in the period from 15 to 17 May 1945. However, their new dislocation was not far away. They only moved across the border to the Bavarian Kötzting. The border zone they guarded was gradually extended to Grafenau. So they could be seen in Cham, Regen and other Bavarian border towns and villages. Gradually, there was their organizational transformation to the 2nd Police Regiment and subsequently to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. In 1955, they returned briefly to the USA to Fort Meade in Maryland. It did not even last three years and their territory of action became Germany once again. The headquarters is located in Nuremberg and the unit resumes its tasks in guarding the border. In cooperation with the German border police, it was a stretch of 731 km in length with countries behind the “Iron Curtain”, i.e. East Germany and Czechoslovakia. The demolition of the “Iron Curtain” and the opening of the borders eastward mean that their specific military expertise in Germany has lost military justification. Therefore, they are entrusted with other tasks outside Europe in the following years. In 2006, the cavalry is gradually transferred once again to Bavaria from the USA. At the time when we unveil the memorial to two heroes from this unit in Bělá, the relocation of the unit should have been completed and the unit welcomed solemnly in Germany. The main headquarters will be in Vilseck near the border. As has been said by Bělá Mayor, Ing. Libor Picka, “a new partnership with the city and, subsequently, with the cavalry headquarters may arise from it”. A real speculation offers itself that we may welcome the “Patton’s ghosts” once again at a future memorial ceremony. Then it is quite possible that the sons or grandsons of those heroes, who fought for our freedom in 1945, will be seen among the soldiers.