Col. Ramsey's Interment at Arlington, 06/28/13
The Last Cavalry Charge
By Chris Schaefer
Philippine Islands, January 1942. In the mid-day heat on the West Coast of Bataan Peninsula, twenty-seven horsemen picked their way along a narrow dirt road toward the coastal village of Morong. As the trees and brush subsided near the edge of town, their commander, First Lieutenant Edwin Price Ramsey, ordered his men to “draw pistols” and form “as foragers”—a straight-across line of cavalrymen with weapons at the ready. Ramsey’s senses were aroused by the lack of natives to greet his men, and a few perceptible movements deep within the village.
Shots rang out! One of Ramsey’s men snapped back in his saddle and clung desperately to his horse, severely wounded. Ramsey raised his pistol and yelled “Charge!”
The U.S. cavalrymen spurred their horses forward and rode into the village firing from their saddles. As the galloping horses rounded corners of buildings near the town church the cavalrymen confronted the advance guard of a Japanese infantry regiment that was about to occupy the town.
The startled Japanese, surprised and unprepared for this sudden onslaught of whooping, firing, mounted cavalrymen, broke and ran.
Ramsey’s men pursued the Japanese to the Batalan River. As the Japanese soldiers scrambled into the water and hid along the riverbank, Japanese reinforcements poured out of the jungle across the river. The twenty-seven cavalrymen dismounted and formed a defense line along the riverbank. They held the Japanese back for five hours until their own reinforcements arrived to take over.
Lieutenant Edwin Ramsey and his men, all members of the U.S. 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts, had successfully conducted the last horse-mounted cavalry charge in United States military history.
However, the fight on Bataan ultimately proved to be hopeless as the Japanese Army and Navy surrounded and starved out the 80,000 U.S. defenders there. By April 1942 the U.S. forces were emaciated and racked with malaria.
On April 9, under pressure from an all-out Japanese assault, the commanding general of American forces on Bataan surrendered in order to save the lives of his sick and starving soldiers.
But Lieutenant Ramsey’s war was not over. Rather than surrender, Edwin Ramsey took off into the jungle, moved north onto Luzon island with a few other escaped American officers, and began to recruit Filipino guerrillas into an organization called the East Central Luzon Guerrilla Area. The Japanese launched numerous operations to capture and kill the guerilla leaders, and Lieutenant Edwin Ramsey ultimately became commander of 40,000 guerrilla fighters as he was the last of those U.S. officers still alive—with the Japanese offering a large reward for his body, dead or alive. In 1945, when General Douglas MacArthur returned to take back the Philippine Islands, Ramsey’s guerrilla forces were a significant factor and MacArthur personally awarded Edwin Ramsey the Distinguished Service Cross for his extraordinary leadership, the Silver Star for his heroism under fire, and the Purple Heart for his combat wounds.
After World War II, Edwin Ramsey bore no grudges against the Japanese who had pursued and tried to kill him in the jungles of Luzon. He launched an outstanding career as an international businessman in Japan itself, then in Taiwan, and later in the Philippine Islands. He died in Los Angeles in March 2013 at age 95. On June 28, 2013, his body was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors, including a beautiful riderless black horse to commemorate the hero who led the United States Army’s last cavalry charge.
- Photo by ©Paolo Cascio Photography 2013 (www.paolocascio.com)
- Riderless horse: Photo by ©Paolo Cascio Photography 2013 (www.paolocascio.com).
- Ed Ramsey portrait shot: from Forgotten Soldiers, Platinum Multimedia LLC
Photographs at Arlington National Cemetery
Photos below courtesy of Paolo Cascio.
Photos below courtesy of Victor Verano, Thadd Turner and Coleen
Videos at Arlington and at Sheraton Pentagon City
Last modified: 13-Oct-2013