US Soldiers Find a Piece of World War II History in Iraq
CAMP TAJI, Iraq, Aug. 6, 2008 -- The cavalry has always played an integral role in the world’s militaries. Traveling and fighting on horseback gave them an advantage to regular ground troops, as it made them faster, more mobile and a more lethal force.
Throughout the years times changed and cavalry units eventually gave up their horses and replaced them with armored vehicles.
One of those armored vehicles, used in WWII was found on Camp Taji, northwest of Baghdad, in a vehicle boneyard.
Maj. John Highfill, a native of Otis, Kan., and previous executive officer 2nd Battalion, 14th Cavalry Regiment, “Strykehorse,” 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team “Warrior,” 25th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, a self-proclaimed history buff, discovered the antique while researching his unit’s history.
“After doing some research on the 14th Cavalry, I found that the 14th Cavalry Group, as it was designated during WWII, used this piece of equipment in the European Theater of Operations,” he said.
As Highfill continued his research of the vehicle he came across a picture of an Iraqi soldier in Camp Taji standing next to a Greyhound, and as a history enthusiast, he eagerly shared this information with his Soldiers and went out to the boneyard to search for the vehicle. He eventually found it among the tons of old, discarded and broken down Soviet equipment.
The M8 Light Armored Car, known as the Greyhound, was produced by Ford Motor Company starting in 1943 and used by British troops as well as the 14th Cavalry Group in Europe and the Far East during World War II. It was the first wheeled, scout vehicle after the horse cavalry ended.
But what is most interesting to Highfill are the similarities between the Greyhound and the unit’s modern day Stryker vehicles.
“It is an interesting parallel,” Highfill said. “The first vehicle after the horse cavalry ended was a six-wheeled all terrain type, close to our eight-wheeled Stryker that the 14th Cavalry received after being re-activated at Fort Lewis, (Wash.) back in 2000.”
Though Highfill found the vehicle, he struggled with what to do next. He didn’t know how to rescue it from the boneyard. But he knew he wanted it to go back to Schofield Barracks and place it next to the cavalry wagon outside the battalion’s headquarters as a reminder of the unit’s rich heritage.
His answer quickly came.
During his transition ceremony, in July, Soldiers from the Combat Repair Team, Company B, 225th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd SBCT, 25th Inf. Div., presented Highfill with a very special gift.
They had found the Greyhound from the picture in the Taji tank boneyard, and although it was in poor condition, they managed to get it to the maintenance shop to make minor repairs.
“When we presented it to Maj. Highfill, his expression showed how valuable this vehicle was to him. It was incredible to see,” said Staff Sgt. Cory Clother, native of Fredonia, Kan., maintenance supervisor of the CRT, Co. B, 225th BSB.
Although Highfill is no longer the battalion’s executive officer, he continues to help refurbish the Greyhound during their spare time. Soon a fresh coat of paint will be applied to cover the graffiti, and Highfill said he hopes the next step is getting it back to Hawaii.
“This vehicle is part of Calvary lineage,” he said Maj. Leonard Lira, a native of Victoria, Texas and executive officer, 2nd Bn. 14th Cav. Regt. “First we used the wagon, and currently we use the Stryker. The Greyhound is the missing time piece that fills a gap in history.”
(Story by Pfc. Lyndsey Dransfield, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.)
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