Buffalo Soldiers Research Museum

His Story

Harold S. Cole
9th U.S. (Horse) Cavalry Regiment and U.S. Air Force

George Hicks, III
Carmon Weaver Hicks

We were excited about attending the 133rd Anniversary Reunion of the 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association. When we registered for the reunion, we received a cloth blue bag filled with information about the reunion, Portland, and Vancouver. The hotel was located on the Columbia River and the reunion theme was “Down by the River.” Approximately 400 people attended. I had communicated with the National President, Harold Cole, for months so when I checked in at the hotel, he introduced himself and congratulated me on establishing the Heartland Chapter. I was given another opportunity to get to know one more Buffalo Soldier with a story to tell. Here is his story.

It was 1942 and Harold Cole, 17 years old, went to the recruiting office to enlist in the military to defend his country. On December 4, 1941, the Japanese Imperial Navy bombed Pearl Harbor. Two days later, the U.S. declared war on Japan, Germany, and Italy. Cole wanted to serve his country. He was born and went to school in North Pelham and New Rochelle, New York. Brothers, Rollins and William Stansberry, his North Pelham neighbors were cavalrymen at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In addition, Cole had experience riding horses. His oldest brother, James, worked at Hutchinson Riding Academy and rode horses everyday. He had been a boy scout and knew how to march in formation. When the military asked him which service he wanted to join – infantry, engineer, or cavalryman – Harold S. Cole was a perfect fit for the cavalry. At White Hall Station in New York City, he was sworn in and boarded a bus to Camp Upton in Long Island, New York. From Camp Upton, his next destination was Fort Riley, Kansas and from there, he went to Fort Clark, in Brackettville, Texas.

Cole was assigned to Troop F, 9th U.S. Cavalry. Black troopers could not go to the PX, theater, or any facility on the post except the hospital. Separate facilities had to be built. One day, the platoon sergeant told everyone to go to the corral and get a horse. Each trooper had a halter to bring the horse back to the stables. Since Cole loved horses, he got the horses for the troopers with no experience. They called their horses “Big Eyes” and the horses had to be clean at all times. Brushes, combs, dock rags, and a pick were issued to each soldier. The brush and comb were used for the horses’ fur and tail. The pick was used to clean their hoofs and the dock rag was used to clean under the tail. At the end of the day, they watered their horses before feeding them. If they fed the horse first, it would fill up on oats. Then, when the horse drinks water, it will drink until it is full and the oats in its stomach will swell and the horse could die. Cole’s horse was named “Bob” after a pet dog. The stable sergeant and the veterinarian checked each horse and if a horse was sick, the troopers could not ride it. They used horses off the picket line that did not belong to any one until their horse was well. Stable detail was performed by each platoon on a rotation basis. Stable hands were present but to clean the stables every morning was a huge task. The work started at 4 am and was completed by 6 am.

Every trooper was issued a saddle, bridler, horse blankets, stirrups, gun boot, girth, halter, shelter half with pints, fed bag, saddle bags, spurs, poncho, clothing boots, breeches, pistol holder, web belt, magazine holder, cartridge belt, gas mask, steel helmet liner, helmet liner cap, three kinds of gloves, and a general issue of clothing and weapons. Their living quarters were always spotless. A foot locker and clothing rack were used for uniforms and hats. Shoes were lined up under their cots.
Troopers were allowed to ride their horses on Sunday. They could ride at whatever gait they desired, jump the horses and ride wherever they wanted to go. In addition to field training, Cole was a drummer in the Regimental Drum and Bugle Corps and bugler for the 4th Brigade, 2nd Cavalry Division, a motion picture operator, and the platoon sergeant. On Saturdays that were free, men from the unit went to Mexico for rest and relaxation.

In 1943, the 2nd Cavalry Division moved to Oran, Algeria in North Africa. When the first sergeant told the troopers to dig a foxhole on rocky mountaintop, the soldiers complained and dug only a few holes. That night, around 2 am, a German aircraft flew over Oran and bombed the troop area. The next morning, every soldier could dig a foxhole. Cole still marvels at what black people can accomplish under adverse conditions.

In 1944, the 2nd Cavalry Division was transferred to the European Theater of Operations. After arrival in North Africa, the 2nd Cavalry Division was inactivated. Some troopers transferred to the 92nd Infantry Division but Cole was sent to from North Africa to Sicily, and from there to Naples and Anzlo, Italy. He participated in the invasion of Southern France and was sent to Carentan, France as World War II ended. Cole was discharged in 1946. His list of military awards includes Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two Bronze Stars, and a World War II Honorable Service Lapel Button.

In 1953, Cole enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was sent to Aircraft School. He served in the Air Transport Command, Air Defense Command, and Radar Early Warning System Command. In 1956-57, he participated in the construction of the North American Radar Early Warning System. In 1966, he participated in the recovery of aircraft from Vietnam.
He retired from military service with 22 years of service. He served in 17 countries and was awarded the following medals: Air Force Longevity Service Award Ribbon with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with two Oak Leaf Clusters, National Defense Service Medal with one Bronze Star, and Air Force Good Conduct Medal with three loops.
After retiring from the U.S. Air Force, Trooper Cole returned to aircraft work and retired (again) from Lockheed Aircraft. He was the co-founder of the Los Angeles Area Chapter of the 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association and was currently the national president of the association.

The Pacific Northwest Chapter was the 1999 reunion host and on Saturday, July 31 at 7:00 pm, the 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association held its dinner banquet. We were presented with a framed copy of the Heartland Chapter charter. There were speeches made by several guests and the National President read a letter from General Colon Powell (Ret.).

©Buffalo Soldiers Research Museum dot PO Box 531187dot Indianapolis, IN 46253
copyright restrictions