Tribute to T/5 Myron K. Ricketts, B Troop, 121st Squadron, 106th Cavalry Group
|Staff Sergeant Myron Ricketts and his sister Carol.|
|Myron Keith Ricketts on furlough visiting with his mother, Ruth, in Miami during February, 1945.|
|Myron Ricketts on the dock at the Wolfgang See, near Strobl, Salzburg, Austria, shortly before his death.|
Technician Fifth Grade Myron K. Ricketts (July 4, 1924–July 22, 1945), was born in the small farming town of Lexington, Illinois. He arrived in Europe in early 1945 and joined the 106th Cavalry Group, 121st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron as a late replacement on April 17, 1945. This unit of 600 men had fought from Normandy, France to Salzburg, Austria. Troop B, my cousin's troop, consisted of 120 men. For the remaining weeks of the war, they fought through western Germany. On 21 April A Troop of the 106th Squadron was charged with leading the 2nd Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division about 260 kilometers (160 mi) south to the Danube River, and to secure and hold a crossing near Neuberg, Germany.
During the next two days, the 106th Cavalry Group fought its final major engagement. From Neuberg, the unit attacked southward towards Augsburg. Leading the 45th Infantry Division rapidly east 60 kilometers (37 mi) down the autobahn towards Munich as it tried to locate the rapidly retreating Germans, Troop C along with two light tanks from Company F, drew a concentrated attack from German forces only 9 kilometers 5.6 mi) from their objective. The German self-propelled guns, tanks, and small arms fire left four dead and destroyed four armored M8 vehicles and four Bantams.
On April 29, during the assault towards Munich, the 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Division liberated the Dachau Concentration Camp. The 45th Infantry Division for which the 106th had reconnoitered for several months, battled diehard Nazi troops and took Munich on April 30, 1945. After helping to capture Munich, the 106th lead the XV Corps into Austria, where it finished out the war and began occupation duty. Because Myron spoke German, he had many opportunities to use his language skills.
According to Raymond H. C. Teske, Jr., son of Troop B veteran Sergeant Ray Teske, Sr., "In eight months of unrelenting, frontline combat they suffered 113 casualties, according to my calculations. Twenty-eight died. Another 85 were seriously wounded, captured, or, perhaps, suffered serious illness."
In 1943 the 106th Cavalry Squadron was shipped overseas and there it was redesignated as the 106th Cavalry Group, Mechanized. The Squadron was broken up with half of its officers and non-coms making up the newly formed 121st Cavalry Squadron. Hence, the 106th Cavalry Group consisted of the 106th and 121st Cavalry Squadrons. Each Squadron's complement of Troops and vehicles consisted of a Headquarters and Services Troop and three Recon Troops: A, B, and C with machine gun (MG) jeeps, mortar jeeps, and M8 armored cars. E Troop, the Squadron's mobile artillery, had the Assault Guns (short barreled 75 mm howitzers in an open turret on a tank chassis). F Company was the heavy arm of the cavalry and consisted of the Stuart light tanks early in the war and later changed to the M24 Chaffee light tank (far superior to the Stuart).
The 106th entered WW2 about D-Day + 12, shipping out for Normandy. From there they fought continuously throughout the European campaign ending their tour in Salzburg, Austria. The 106th were the first American troops to enter Salzburg, securing a truce from the defending German Army until the German High Command surrendered on May 8, 1945. Upon entering the European continent, they were attached to the 3rd Army. After the Battle of the Bulge, they were attached to the 7th Army, 45th Infantry Division, which had entered Europe through Italy and fought their way up into France. They finished out the war with the 7th Army, XV Corps. Maintaining contact with the enemy and maintaining liaison between Division lines were the prime assignments of the cavalry. How do you maintain contact with the enemy? "Simple, you get in your vehicle, drive down the road until somebody shoots at you. Now you have contact with the enemy. If you were lucky, the guy was a bad shot. If you were really lucky, you saw them first and you got to shoot first."(1)
In a speech to the Cavalry Group on Memorial Day, 30 May 1945, commanding officer Colonel Vennard Wilson described the Group's and specifically Troop B's 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.(2)
The Regiment's final victory was the rescue of the King and Queen of Belgium. Held in internal exile by the Germans since his small nation had withstood a German attack for three weeks in May 1940, German-speaking members of a small recon party of the 106th, including Myron, learned while searching the towns of St. Wolfgang and Strobl that King Leopold was under guard in a villa in Strobl. Traveling in a six-wheeled Mercedes previously owned by Germany's Foreign Minister Joachim Von Ribbentrop, the soldiers located the villa. The S.S. Guards were still present, and the men of the 106th disarmed them without any resistance, freeing King Leopold. He was later a member of the platoon that served as guard for the King and Queen of Belgium.
Particulars Regarding the Death of Myron K. Ricketts
From the Lexington Herald newspaper:
The sad facts regarding the death in Austria on July 22 of Corporal Myron K. Ricketts, youngest son of Mr. and Mrs., Ray H. Ricketts of Lexington have been received by, the family in three letters from the scene of the tragedy.
The letters which were written by the Personnel Officer, the Protestant Chaplain, and a soldier friend of Myron's are as follows:
Headquarters 121st CAV RCN SQ (MECZ) APO 403,
c/o Postmaster, New York, New York.
28 July, 1945
Mr. Ray H. Ricketts,
Dear Mr. Ricketts
It is hoped the extreme regret I feel at the loss to our organization of your son Technician Fifth Grade Myron K. Ricketts, 16120854, Troop B, who was drowned in Wolfgang See, near Strobl, Salzburg, Austria, on July 22, 1945, will, in some measure comfort you.
Myron and two other soldiers were in a sailboat on the lake which is adjacent to their quarters. As they were approximately 30 yards from the shore, your son dove from the boat to swim to the dock. He called for help and one of the soldiers in the boat, Private Thomas D. Lee, 31088373' Troop B, dove into the water to assist him. Before Private Lee could reach him, your son disappeared from the surface of the water, apparently seized with a cramp.
Private Lee continued to dive under the water for him but was unable to locate your son at that time. The body was recovered and identified as your son on July 27, 1945.
Technician Fifth Grade Ricketts was courageous and steady in battle, and his thoughts were always for the welfare of his troop.
A Protestant Chaplain officiated at the burial. His body lies in a military cemetery.
May I express my own personal sympathy in your loss.
M. W. Sundquist
106th Cavalry Group
APO 403 USA
6 August, 1945
Mr. Ray H. Ricketts
Dear Mr. Ricketts:
You have been officially notified of the death of your son, T/5 Myron K. Ricketts ASAN 16120854, Troop B, 121st Cav. Rcn Sq (Mecz).
Myron with Pvt. Thomas D. Lee and Pvt. John H. Bray were sailing on the Wolfgang See, Austria on Sunday 22 July, 1945. While the boat was about fifty yards from the shore, Myron dived into the water and started to swim toward shore. He was stricken with cramps and before Pvt. Lee could reach him had disappeared under the water.
After dragging the lake for two days after the drowning, the body came to the surface about noon of the 27th July. I was asked to identify the body and he was then evacuated to our Corps Cemetery for burial.
Memorial services were conducted by me, Saturday 28th July, 1945 at 1000 hours in the troop area. Six men from the troop acted as honorary pallbearer.
There is little I can say in the feeble words of man at this time of loss. May I direct you to the Great Comforter of all souls, Our Father in Heaven.
May God comfort and bless you always.
In His Service,
Harold L., Bixler
Captain (Capt) Protestant.
|M8 Armored Car of the 121st Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Myron's unit. Image courtesy 106th Cavalry Squadron.|
It's extremely hard for me to write this letter, because I really don't know what to say. I would have written sooner, but I had to wait for a reasonable length of time to pass, so the government could be the first to inform you of the accident.
There isn't much that I can say, but I would like to extend my utmost sympathy, and I want you to know that we all thought that he was a swell fellow.
Enclosed is a money-order in payment of a debt of fifteen dollars which I borrowed from Myron just prior to the day of the tragedy.
Before I close, I again say, I'm terribly sorry, I remain as always.
A Friend of His,
(Pfc., St. Louis, MO.)
|The final resting place of Myron Ricketts at the World War II Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial, in Saint-Avold, Moselle, Lorraine, France. (Image from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)|
106th Cavalry Group
|The French Croix de Guerrere with Palm awarded to the entire unit by Charles de Gaulle for their heroism in the Battle for Luneville and Moselle.|
The entire unit was active in the following World War II campaigns:
- Normandy 1944
- Northern France 1944
- Rhineland 1944-1945
- Central Germany 1945
From the web site of the 106th Cavalry Group:
"The 106th Cavalry Group embarked for the coast of France on June 29, 1944. Much of the 106th and 121st Squadrons were landed at Utah Beach, just three weeks after the epic invasion had begun and were moved to an assembly point some 38 miles into the interior of Normandy. Unfortunately, the transport ship carrying A Troop of the 121st Squadron hit a mine in the English Channel soon after their departure. Remarkably, no lives were lost in the unit, and the men were safely evacuated by a Red Cross LST that came alongside. These men would not join the rest of the 106th until July 18...."
"The 106th spearheaded the advance across the Rhine, and moved rapidly through Ashaffenburg (on the Main river), Bad-Orb, Bamburg, Nurnburg, and then across the Danube and on to the autobahn to Munich. Here the 106th accepted the surrender of the 9th Hungarian Division, which comprised some 8,800 men. Their advance continued into Austria and on to Salzburg in May, where the local German garrison surrendered to the commander of the 106th. One notable mission during this time involved a rapid advance into the Alps to recapture King Leopold of Belgium from his Axis captors. [Myron's Troop B participated in this action.] Members of the 106th also were among the first Allied soldiers to enter Hitler's resort compound at Berchtesgaden."
The entire unit received the honors below for the following campaigns:
- Croix de Guerrere with Palm - Luneville 1944
- Croix de Guerrere with Palm - Caen-Falaise 1944
EDICT NO 872
instance of the Minister of War
PARIS, the 24th of June, 1945
Signed: de GAULLE
(Signed) A. Juin.