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Through Mobility We Conquer

Through Mobility We Conquer: The Mechanization of U.S. Cavalry

George F. Hofmann
With an Introductory Essay by Donn A. Starry
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 600
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  • Book Info
    Through Mobility We Conquer
    Book Description:

    The U.S. Cavalry, which began in the nineteenth century as little more than a mounted reconnaissance and harrying force, underwent intense growing pains with the rapid technological developments of the twentieth century. From its tentative beginnings during World War I, the eventual conversion of the traditional horse cavalry to a mechanized branch is arguably one of the greatest military transformations in history. Through Mobility We Conquer recounts the evolution and development of the U.S. Army's modern mechanized cavalry and the doctrine necessary to use it effectively. The book also explores the debates over how best to use cavalry and how these discussions evolved during the first half of the century. During World War I, the first cavalry theorist proposed combining arms coordination with a mechanized force as an answer to the stalemate on the Western Front. Hofmann brings the story through the next fifty years, when a new breed of cavalrymen became cold war warriors as the U.S. Constabulary was established as an occupation security-police force. Having reviewed thousands of official records and manuals, military journals, personal papers, memoirs, and oral histories -- many of which were only recently declassified -- George F. Hofmann now presents a detailed study of the doctrine, equipment, structure, organization, tactics, and strategy of U.S. mechanized cavalry during the changing international dynamics of the first half of the twentieth century. Illustrated with dozens of photographs, maps, and charts, Through Mobility We Conquer examines how technology revolutionized U.S. forces in the twentieth century and demonstrates how perhaps no other branch of the military underwent greater changes during this time than the cavalry.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-7142-5
    Subjects: History, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introductory Essay
    (pp. 1-38)
    Donn A. Starry

    Through Mobility We Conqueris a chronicle of the mechanization of horse cavalry in the U.S. Army beginning after World War I (the 1914–1918 war). It includes early mechanization experiments, mechanization of horse cavalry units for service in World War II (the 1939–1945 war), and mechanization and employment of cavalry units in the years immediately following World War II. It concludes with the merger of the cavalry and armor branches in 1950.

    Through Mobility We Conquerfollows an earlier book entitledCamp Colt to Desert Storm,³ which sets forth a history of the development of mechanized forces in...

  6. Introduction
    (pp. 39-42)

    This is a history of mechanization of the U.S. Cavalry during the first half of the twentieth century. The success of mechanization during this period flows from a sum total of measures not only in cavalry doctrine but also in politics, economics, budgets, and domestic and international dynamics, which in their entirety decided the future of the U.S Cavalry until 1950, when Congress passed the Army Organization Act. That law ordained that the cavalry be absorbed by the armor branch. This book is also a history of Fort Knox, Kentucky, where new ideas had germinated at times and been discussed...

  7. 1 Frank Parker: Early Mechanized Cavalry Theorist
    (pp. 43-76)

    In September 1939, Adolf Hitler launched what became known as the “blitzkrieg,” or lightning war. This German word was Americanized after the Wehrmacht’s rapid victory over Poland. The Wehrmacht employed a mechanized force where panzers were deployed as the main maneuver element supported by tactical airpower and infiltration tactics. Since then the word “blitzkrieg” has become a debatable legend over its origins as new doctrine on mechanized warfare. The German idea for a short, lightning war came out of World War I as an answer to the impasse caused by the harsh subterranean trench environment and the unfathomable slaughter that...

  8. 2 A Reason to Be!
    (pp. 77-120)

    When the war ended, a conflict arose over the transition to a peacetime military policy and doctrine, meaning how the United States would prepare for the next conflict if there was to be one. After the armistice, the army endeavored to develop in conformity with the lessons of the Great War, especially with the creation of the Tank Corps and Air Service on a temporary basis under wartime legislation. What were the visions for future combat missions for each combatant arm, especially the cavalry? What were the problems that muted cavalry innovation and leadership during the 1920s? These questions will...

  9. 3 The Struggle for an Innovative Doctrine and a Combat Car
    (pp. 121-156)

    By the end of the decade, the legitimacy of mechanization for the army as a whole was questioned. During Calvin Coolidge’s presidency, the country experienced general prosperity, which meant reducing federal spending, lowering taxes, and balancing the budget. In the year 1928, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed by twenty-three members of the League of Nations renouncing aggressive war; however, it made no provision for sanctions. In March 1929, Herbert Hoover became president and assumed the responsibility—as commander in chief—for national defense. His propensity for an orthodox economic theory calling for a balanced budget drove his policy on national...

  10. 4 Cavalrymen Looking for New Mounts and a Tactical Doctrine
    (pp. 157-200)

    As expected, Colonel Van Voorhis was unhappy over the breakup of the Mechanized Force and the loss of tanks. Years later he commented that he had explained in person to General Douglas MacArthur and his deputy, George Moseley, “that to assign the mechanization mission of the army to one particular branch would be a great mistake; that mechanization was a problem which concerned all branches of the service and that they should not be deprived of the opportunity to develop mechanization as applied to their respective branches in a coordinated all-out mechanized effort; that I could not conceive of branches...

  11. 5 The “Great Cavalry Debate” over New Opportunities
    (pp. 201-258)

    By the end of 1936, the 1st Cavalry (Mech) and the 13th Cavalry (Mech) had merged into the 7th Cavalry Brigade under the command of now Brigadier General Van Voorhis, who had returned to Fort Knox after his tour in Hawaii. Colonel Charles L. Scott from the Office of Chief of Cavalry in charge of material and equipment was appointed commander of the 13th Cavalry. Meanwhile, Major General Leon B. Kromer began thinking about a table of organization for a mechanized cavalry division in anticipation of expansion, provided it was supplied with sufficient equipment and supporting assets.¹

    When Van Voorhis...

  12. 6 “So He Lost It All?”
    (pp. 259-294)

    It was evident that the conservative attitude of the line branch chiefs and their separate compartmentalized organizations was far from adequate in preparing the United States for war. During the 1930s, the U.S. Army was aware of military innovations in other countries, especially in Germany, England, and the Soviet Union, through the reporting of their own and other foreign military attachés. Reports were flowing into the War Department about a new form of military art being developed by the Soviet Red Army with large mechanized units that included fast Christie-type tanks deployed at an operational level. These large concentrations of...

  13. 7 “Sneak and Peek” or Fight
    (pp. 295-332)

    Doctrine was being rapidly developed around equipment on hand while the 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions were being organized. The arrival of new platforms for the mechanized force was anticipated as industry moved to a war footing. At Fort Knox an officer school was established to deal with leadership and tactical issues. One of the instructors, Major H. H. D. Heiberg, the former Christie combat car T1 troop commander at Fort Knox in the early 1930s, taught that the reconnaissance battalion’s primary role was to obtain a continuous, complete, and coordinated picture of terrain and the enemy’s situation in cooperation...

  14. 8 Mechanized Cavalry from Normandy to the End of the War
    (pp. 333-396)

    In this chapter the focus will be on leadership and on several organizational levels of mechanized cavalry. It will also emphasize changing doctrine, technique, and missions caused by adjustments made as a result of the chaos, tensions, and demands of warfighting. It is not intended to be a chronological history of mechanized cavalry operations in the European theater of operations (ETO) but an examination of the demise of traditional reconnaissance stealth “sneak and peek” doctrine and its replacement by one placing emphasis on defensive and offensive combat, special operations, security, and fighting for information with combined arms elements called task...

  15. 9 The Terrible Turmoil of Postwar Germany and the U.S. Constabulary
    (pp. 397-456)

    Unquestionably, postwar Germany was in terrible turmoil. The devastation brought about by total war produced numerous challenges in how to manage the chaos within the context of political, economic, and personnel turbulence. This situation was vividly described by Brigadier General Albin F. Irzyk, a cavalryman and tank battalion commander with the 4th Armored Division during the war. Irzyk wrote that after the defeat of Germany a staggering achievement occurred when a new organization was created mainly from armor and mechanized cavalry elements.¹ This new police-security organization, the U.S. Constabulary, was expected to be lighter, more mobile, and faster and to...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 457-472)

    How can the embattled period from after World War II until the Army Reorganization Bill of 1950 be summed up? What effect did postwar American attitudes and the international turmoil of the early cold war period have on the future of the U.S. Cavalry and its leadership? In answering these questions it is important to discuss and understand the historical developments that shaped the future American military landscape.

    It is said that when Henry Ford requested a loan in 1903, the banker told him “the horse is here to stay.” Years later, after the Korean War, the loosely antic television...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 473-530)
  18. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 531-550)
  19. Index
    (pp. 551-578)