World War II US Cavalry Units: Pacific Theater
ISBN: 978 184603 451 0
Reviewer: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 27 Oct 2009
Fighting men on horseback had always captured attention, history enthusiasts or not. European knights with armored steeds, Mongolian horsemen who threatened Europe, and even the cowboys of the "Wild Wild West" were subjects of a great many stories. By the time of World War II, although tanks, armored cars, and other motorized vehicles were to play a much greater role, at the start of the war, many armies that would take part in the fighting fielded a number of units on horseback. The book World War II US Cavalry Units: Pacific Theater by author Gordon L. Rottman provides a study for those who fought with cavalry units with the United States Army.
The author began his study back in the inter-war years, presenting the development and changes of cavalry units in the United States and the Philippine Islands. In the latter territory, the 26th Cavalry Regiment, also known as the Philippine Scouts, performed admirably as rearguards, disrupting Japanese advances in the Philippine Islands from their steeds as the main portion of the force fell back toward the Bataan Peninsula. Troop F of this unit also had the distinction of being the unit that participated in the very last cavalry charge in the history of the US Army.
As the war went on, however, cavalry units found their roles increasingly changing. Across the world, American cavalry units found that the need to fight on horseback was decreasing. The cavalry units fighting in South Asia and on Pacific islands found themselves largely dismounted, fighting as infantry. Without horses, the cavalry men fought in the Admiralty Islands, Burma, and back at the Philippine Islands, among other places. Though now serving in the role of infantry, the cavalry units retained a special bravado that uniquely set them apart from the typical soldier. As such, many cavalry units were chosen to embark on the fast-moving strike deep into Luzon in early 1945, reminiscent of penetration missions previously assigned to cavalry units on horseback, except now they were riding on the tops of tanks.
At the end of the book, Rottman briefly described the post-war evolution of cavalry units in the US Army through the modern times. As the steeds changing from the traditional horses to the modern helicopters and Humvees, cavalry units continue to serve as the mobile arm of the US Army.
World War II US Cavalry Units: Pacific Theater was a fine tribute to the cavalry troops, and it documented the start of their modernization in the WW2-era concisely.
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