Another Positive Comment on War Horse

Another blogger has favorably mentioned War Horse as well as a couple of other new and interesting military equestrian titles.  See the “Ride to Victory” blog by clicking here.

Published in: on June 22, 2009 at 4:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Great Little Cavalry Squadron Returns

Recently the army activated the 1st Squadron 38th Cavalry at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.    Even cavalry enthusiasts might ask….38th Cavalry????  Where did the army come up with that number?   You might be forgiven if you guessed … “Out of a hat?”  The 38th Cavalry did not fight at Gettysburg, or the Little Big Horn, and was not part of the 1st Cavalry Division –none-the-less, it is one of the most distinguished cavalry squadrons (not regiments) in army history.

The 38th Cavalry earned its spurs and its place in history in World War II during the 11 month campaign in Northwest Europe.  It was one of two squadrons attached to the 102nd Cavalry Group (New Jersey National Guard) operating under the control of the V Corps.  It was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Robert O’Brien, West Point Class of 1936.  The squadron was the first unit into Paris (ahead of the 1st French Armored Division).  It also had the distinction of successfully defending the town of Monschau Germany during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.  The defense of Monschau, the anchor of the northern shoulder of the bulge, earned the squadron the Presidential Unit Citation –the army’s highest combat award a unit can earn.

So… though it is not often enough, a tip of the hat goes to the army for recognizing the qualities and exceptional history of the WWII “little cavalry squadron that could,” the 38th Cavalry, and bringing that history back to inspire today’s soliders.

    See the complete WWII history of the 38th Cavalry at this link.
Commanders of the 102nd CG, LTC Robert OBrien, CO 38th CRS on right.

Commanders of the 102nd CG, LTC Robert O'Brien, CO 38th CRS on right.



Below is a short description of the 38th Cavalry action during the Battle of the Bulge:

At the northern point of the German attack into the Ardennes were the lines of V Corps’ 102nd Cavalry Group. The group’s southern squadron, the 38th CRS, defended near the corps’ boundary in the area of the town of Monshau. The 38th CRS, unlike the 18th CRS to the south, occupied an integrated squadron defensive position with the three cavalry troops dismounted and dug-in east of the town, and on the high ground to the north. The tank company was also dug-in the main line of defense, and E Troop was in support. The squadron was arrayed A, B, F, and C from north to south. There was no squadron reserve behind the seven mile long line. The squadron had been in the position for forty days before the enemy attacked and had spent considerable time preparing their positions including setting up two completely independent and buried wire communications nets. As part of their preparation they had managed to exchange the authorized troop 60mm mortars for the larger more effective 81mm mortars at a rate of three for two. Thus the squadron had in its possession eighteen 81mm mortars –a significant increase in its indirect fire capability.

The Germans attacked the squadron with a battalion of the 326 Volksgrenadier Division, Sixth Panzer Army on the morning of December 16th. The squadron repulsed the initial attack and a subsequent attack by German infantry early in the morning –inflicted heavy losses on the attackers. On the morning of December 17 the Germans attacked again, this time in Regimental strength. One battalion attacked the Troop C positions while the main attack hit Troop B in the squadron center. Troop C stopped the attack in their sector with machinegun, tank, mortar and artillery fire. The main enemy attack hit a seam between two Troop B platoons and used the dead space to penetrate into the troop’s rear. The enemy attacked the Troop B command post but were driven away by headquarters personnel. The squadron sent a platoon of combat engineers and two F company tanks to reinforce B Troop, and with these reinforcements the enemy was forced out of the Troop positions and the penetration eliminated. The squadron counted eighty-eight enemy dead in the rear area of Troop B. In the afternoon the 102nd Group reinforced the 38th CRS with a company of armored infantry and a platoon of medium tanks. After the attacks on December 17, the 38th CRS broke up several more attacks before they began with heavy concentrations of mortar and artillery fire. In total the German left more than 200 dead in front of the cavalry positions and lost 31 prisoners. The defensive position in Monshau was never again seriously threatened.

M5A1 Stuart Light Tank of the 102nd CG

M5A1 Stuart Light Tank of the 102nd CG

 For more information on the mechanized cavalry in WWII see my webpage here.

A photo album of the 102nd Cavalry Group featuring the 38th CRS is here:  102nd Album.

Click  here for my paper on mechanized cavalry doctrine.

Cavalry Classics: The best of cavalry books and dvd on amazon

Click on the link below for a compilation of some of the best cavalry related books and dvd available through amazon.  This is entirely of my own making and really reflects what I enjoy to watch and read. 

The key word being ENJOY.  There are a lot more cavalry related books out there, but these are my favorites.



Ender’s Game: Insights into Training Tactics, Strategy, and Critical and Creative Thinking

Just finished reading Orson Scott Card’s science fiction novel, Ender’s Game.   It is a recognized sci-fi  classic and my intent here is not to review it.  There are over 2,000 positive reviews of it on Amazon (as well as over 60 negative reviews) and I encourage that all who are interested in the book graze over what the Amazon readers have opined.  Despite the few very critical reviews, I found the book a quick, easy, and interesting read.  I recommend it strongly to those interested in sci-fi in general, military sci-fi in particular, and training military leaders.

My interest in Ender’s Game is that it is a sci-fi novel that is mostly about training for battle.  The actual war is wrapped up in the last 30 pages of the book.    I think the important points that the book makes are about training; and the most important points about training that it makes are the importance of immersion in the training environment and the focus on creative solutions.  It also makes the point that it is absolutely critical to focus on the development of individual leading and thinking skills.  Acquiring knowledge, technical skills, and collective training are important but secondary educational requirements.  The leader is the single point of failure in military endeavors.  Knowledge, skill, and collective training mean little unless uniquely trained and exceptionally competent leaders employ soldiers and units correctly and most effectively.  Ender’s Game makes the point that leaders make two vital contributions to military success:  first, effective decision-making and second, maximizing the abilities and potential of subordinates.    

The most intriguing aspect of the book is the use of simulation and technology to train critical and creative thinking and decision-making.  Written in 1985, this book advocates many of the training characteristics I did in my article “Training Tactics in Virtual Reality” ten years later. 

What I think is still frustrating to me is that, though I believe the technology is there to support it, the military in general still has not made the leap to using technology to train individual thinking and decision making skills.  Much like my earlier comments regarding Star Trek, Ender’s Game demonstrates that military sci-fi can be a creative inspiration for how we should be thinking about and using technology to make our military more effective.

Click here to go to Orson Scott Card’s Website.

War Horse on Amazon

War Horse  on Sales Rank: #46,576 in Books Popular in these categories:

#52 in Books > Home & Garden > Animal Care & Pets > Horses

#54 in Books > History > Military > Strategy

Published in: on June 7, 2009 at 9:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Book Review: Benevolent Assimilation

Benevolent Assimilation:  The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903,Stuart Creighton Miller, Yale University Press, 1982.

Benevolent Assimilation is one of the most referenced and consulted works on the American – Philippine war.  The book is a well-written general military and political history that falls into the group of new-left histories written during or shortly after the U.S. Vietnam war.  As such, it consciously evaluates the American experience in the Philippines within the context of the perceived American tragedy of Vietnam. Miller’s view is that American success in the Philippines represents the triumph of a world military power over the nationalistic aspirations of an oppressed indigenous population.

Miller’s is an important work to read and understand.  To many, the book continues to represent how the U.S. military repeatied mistakes made in earlier wars in Vietnam.  Currently,  it is also used to illustrate the flawed U.S. policy in Iraq.    For these reasons it is important that military professionals engage with Miller’s history, and are able to compare and contrast his history with the more nuanced, pragmatic, and realistic analysis of John Gates and Brian Linn.

Read Complete Review Here.