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Riding through history

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A more than 70-year-old photo of a current Jamestown resident is helping depict military history in Georgia.

Ernie Hubacker, a Jamestown resident currently counting down the days to the start of his second 100 years on Oct. 16, is a veteran of the mounted cavalry. A photo of him from 1943 mounted on his cavalry charger and in a cavalry uniform recently became part of the decor of an officer's club at Fort Benning, Ga., called Fiddler's Green.

Fiddler's Green, according to an old folk song, is the final resting place for old cavalry troopers and is located halfway down the road to hell.

Hubacker spent about a year during World War II as a cavalry trooper at Fort Reno, Okla., and later at Fort Riley, Kan.

"Fort Reno was the remount service," he said. "It was a warehouse of horses; it was where we gave mules and horses their basic training."

At Fort Reno, Hubacker worked in the tack room keeping equipment organized.

"We were ashamed of what we were not doing," he said, referring to the overseas action of World War II going on at the time.

Later he was transferred to the Cavalry Replacement Training Center at Fort Riley.

"That was tough," Hubacker said. "You went from 5 a.m. to late at night. We learned cavalry skills. The horses went up and down hills I couldn't climb myself. They told us to lean forward and don't look down."

The training became a little exciting at times, Hubacker said.

"The biggest charge I made was when I was on a herd-bound horse and we were left behind the rest of the troop," he said. "I kept the horse under control for a bit, but he finally got away from me and charged through the brush after the rest of the troop."

Herd-bound horses are so attached to other animals within the unit that they do not behave well when alone.

Chasing down a runaway pack horse after the pack saddle that was carrying a machine gun slipped from the animal's back around to its belly also got a little wild, he said.

Hubacker said he learned to ride using a saddle in the cavalry.

"The cowboys didn't like the Army saddle," he said referring to the McClellan saddle. "No horn and they didn't sit just right. I didn't know the difference."

Hubacker's military experience with horses ended when he was transferred overseas.

"We went overseas in our cavalry uniforms," he said. "They took the cavalry uniform in Burma; that was a sad day in my Army life. We could send our cavalry uniforms home but I didn't. That was one of the biggest tragedies in my life."

In Burma, Hubacker was part of the Mars Task Force which succeeded Merrill's Marauders as the principal American combat unit in Burma fighting the Japanese. These units and other specialized combat units are considered forerunners of the U.S. Army Ranger units headquartered at Fort Benning today.

Jonnie Melillo Clasen, daughter of one of the surviving Merrill's Marauders, showed the picture of the mounted Hubacker to the commander of Fort Benning during a recent Ranger Rendezvous Week. That led to the photo being included among photos and paintings depicting the history of the Ranger units on the walls of Fiddler's Green.

Hubacker said his time at Fort Reno was the easiest of his military service. He noted his training at Fort Riley and being under bombardment for three weeks in Burma were among the most exciting.

"None fell on me," he said. "I didn't know I'd be that lucky."