Legend of the Bit and Reins





Legend of the Bit & Reins

Headquarters 19th Engineer Battalion

Ft. George G. Meade, Maryland

26 March 1961



On display in Battalion Headquarters is a bit and reins that legend say a came from a seahorse. How this legend began is as follows:


It seems that on 22 January 1944, Lt. Col, Larson the Battalion Commander of the 3rd Battalion, 36th Regiment, from which the 19th Engineer Battalion is descended, was in a landing craft headed toward the port of Anzio. It was predawn on the fateful D-day and Col. Larson's instructions were to land with a Ranger Task Force and clear the port of Anzio, so that the rest of the Regiment with equipment could land there. Although unprepared for the invasion, the Germans did manage to get a few rounds of Artillery off at the approaching small landing craft. One round was so close that it threw Col. Larson's boat into the air and dumped Col. Larson into the sea. Weighted down by all his equipment, Col. Larson immediately started to go under. In his semi-conscious state, Larson reached out and grabbed at what he thought was a piece of rope, as a drowning man clutches at a straw. Still in a semi-unconscious state, he swears that what he thought was a rope was actually the reins of a bridle worn by, of all things, a seahorse.


When Col. Larson recovered consciousness he was lying on the dock with an aid man kneeling beside him. He started to tell the aid man of the experience when he stopped himself. He figured the story was too unbelievable. As he started to get up he looked in his hand and he still had the reins with the bit. Forgetting about it temporarily he got up, placed the reins and bit in his pack and took command of the Battalion again. So thoughroughly did his Battalion clear the port that the rest of the Regiment was able to land at the port rather than hit the beach as anticipated.


During a rest period, he mentioned the incident to the Regimental Commander who passed it off as a good story but hardly true. The Regimental Commander concluded that Col. Larson picked up the bit and reins at the dock where one of the many horses around the port may have lost them in the confusion of battle. However, as Col. Larson retold the story to some Italian workers, they said they had never seen such a bit before and that certainly none of the horses around Anzio ever had one like it, and also there were no teeth marks on the bit, as the horses took the bit in their teeth as they went along. Still being unable to fully resolve the story himself, Col. Larson gave the bit and reins to one of the workers around the dock.


The story, however, did not die and was told and retold so much that the story was still around at the end of the war when the 2828th Engineer Battalion, formerly the 3rd Battalion, was renamed the 19th Engineer Battalion.


When the 19th was activated in 1952 the legend was still around, but by this time it was just a vague memory. It remained this way until August of 1961. At this time Col. Regn assigned the Battalion Executive Officer the task of finding more information about the legend or contacting someone who had served with the old 36th or knew of it's exploits. One of the letters he wrote went to the mayor of Anzio. The mayor sent us the name of Antonio Batelli, the worker who claimed to be the one to whom Col. Larson gave the bit and reins. Further correspondence with Mr. Batelli revealed that he had kept the bit and reins as a souvenir and had never used it since it was different than any he had used. During September 1961 the bit and reins were returned to this Battalion and is used as a symbol of command. The old Battalion Commander presents it to the new Commander to signify that he now holds the reins to the "Little Seahorse Battalion", the 19th Engineers.






Adapted from story by 2LT Philip U. Bondi, Asst. Adjutant, 26 March 1961


NOTE : The original 19th Bit and Reins, made of British Silver, have been missing since the years 1970 - 1977. Anyone who knows the whereabouts is encouraged to contact an officer of the association so they can be restored to the 19th Battalion archives.

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)