United States 2nd Cavalry Rescued Rare and Noble Lipizzaner
year, 2009, we proudly celebrate the 63th Anniversary of both
General Patton and the US 2nd Cavalry's rescue of the Lipizzan
Lipizzaner Stallion has galloped boldly out
of the pages of 400 years of European history into
the hearts of millions of Americans. Walt Disney's motion
picture, The Miracle of the White Stallions, depicting the rescue
of the horses by General Patton's men during World War II, did
much to publicize and to create sympathy and admiration for the
Lipizzaners in the United States.
April 1945, the heroic efforts of the 42nd Squadron
of the United States
Army's 2nd Cavalry were responsible for the rescue and ultimate
preservation of the Lipizzans. The rescue
of the horses was conducted under the orders of General George
S. Patton and was carried out under the direct command of Colonel
Charles H. Reed.
The story of the rescue operation
is most dramatic. In early 1945,
Vienna was under attack
by allied bombers. Colonel Alois Podjahsky, head of the famed
Spanish Riding School in Vienna, feared the valuable Lipizzaner
Stallions would be destroyed and arranged for the stallions to
be transferred by train to St. Martin's in Upper Austria, 200
miles from Vienna. Fodder was scarce and starving refugees attempted
to steal the horses for food.
Coincidentally, elements of the
U.S. Third Army moved into St.
Martin's at the time Podhajsky had quartered the
horses there at the estate of a friend.
An officer recognized Podhajsky and the stallions, and sent word
to General Patton's headquarters. Patton and Podhajsky had been
old friends; they competed together in equestrian events at the
Podhajsky arranged to show the Lipizzans
to Undersecretary of War Robert
Patterson, and General Patton the following day. Patterson
and Patton were so impressed by the performance of these aristocratic
white horses that the General, at the request of Podhajsky, promised
to make the stallions wards of the U.S. Army until they could
be safely returned to their home at the Spanish Riding School
While the stallions were sheltered
at St. Martin's, the mares
and foals had been separated from
the stallions and were being held at the
German Remount Depot in Hostau, Czechoslovakia. American forces
became aware of their location through Colonel Reed.
April 26, 42nd Squadron captured a German general
and his staff near Hostau. Reed and the General dined together
and developed a friendship. The General
showed Reed photographs of the Lipizzaner horses. When questioned
further, the General confessed that the horses were being held
at the German Remount Depot along with allied prisoners of war
who cared for the horses.
Later that day Reed contacted Patton
to ask permission to attack
Hostau to liberate the prisoners
and horses. Permission was granted. Later, an
agreement was made with the Germans to allow American forces to
go into Hostau and rescue the horses from the oncoming Russian
troops. German officers, great admirers of the Lipizzans, willingly
cooperated with the Americans fearing that approaching Russian
troops would destroy the breed.
On April 28, members of Troops A,
C and F of the 42nd Squadron attacked
the German lines and accepted the surrender of the Germans at
Hostau. The surrender, according to Reed,
was "more a fiesta than a military operation, as the German
troops drew up an honor guard and saluted the American troops
as they came in."
The Americans found at Hostau a
population of some 150 Lipizzans,
including a few stallions,
mares and their colts of two and three years of age. The
first day was spent inspecting the horses. Two days later, German
SS troops organized a counter attack on the 42nd Squadron as it
moved eastward along the Czechoslovakian border. The Germans were
driven off and a week later, the war had ended. Plans were then
made for the disposition of the horses.
Colonel Podhajsky was flown in to
inspect his horses. It was at this
time that the Russian
and Czech governments argued over possession of the horses. To
prevent the horses from falling into their hands, the Lipizzans
were quickly moved across the border to safety in Germany. Shortly
thereafter, the Lipizzans were returned to the control of Colonel
Podhajsky at Linz.
Patton was not the first to rescue the
Lipizzans from the exigencies
war. In 1781, during the Napoleonic Wars, 300 horses were evacuated
in a forty-day march to Stuhlweissenburg.
They returned to Lipizza after peace was established. In 1805
they were moved again to Slavonia, and in 1806 to Karad, a Hungarian
village with a population of less than 4,000. They returned to
Lipizza, only to flee the advancing armies of France.