New Review of “War Horse”

A Recent and I believe fair review of War Horse in Michigan War Studies Review byGervase Phillips, Manchester Metropolitan University :

A one-volume history of mounted warfare is a bold undertaking, for the scope of the topic is immense. As Louis DiMarco remarks in the introduction to this new study, “the war horse and rider was a viable military system for more than 3,000 years, far longer than any other military system” (ix). It is a challenge that has largely defeated the handful of historians who have attempted the task thus far: G. T. Denison, in the late nineteenth century, wrote what was, essentially, a polemic advocating the then current “mounted rifleman” school rather than a history;1 in 1961, James Lunt, a former cavalryman, published an elegy for his arm, too episodic to serve as a general history.2 In the 1970s, two works, one a collection of essays,3 the other a monograph by John Ellis,4 attempted a more comprehensive coverage, but these slim volumes provide only superficial treatment of their topic, and Ellis’s work is marred by his ideological prejudices against those social classes who (in the west at least) traditionally dominated the cavalry branch. DiMarco’s work is different: in his history, the horse itself provides the strong, central, unifying theme. The physical characteristics of the horse, breeds and types, horse equipment, equitation and horse mastership (care of horses) in the field—these are DiMarco’s concerns as he takes his reader from the earliest years of man’s blossoming relationship with equids, up through their use by American special forces in Afghanistan today.

I can recommend DiMarco’s work as the best single-volume history of cavalry….

Read the complete Review Here.

Advertisements

Book Review: A Chance in Hell

A Chance in Hell is one of the most important books written thus far on Army operations in Iraq.  The lessons in the book will be obvious and important to lieutenants and captains as well as colonels and generals.  It describes the close relationship between company and platoon tactics, brigade operations, and regional and national strategy.  It clearly describes the tactics, techniques, and procedures  of  the population centric approach to counterinsurgency.  Michaels demonstrates the criticality of cultural understanding to success at all levels of COIN operations. Finally, and most important, the book  highlights the importance of leadership to tactical and operational success.  The tough decision making, and the inspiring example of the leaders of the “Ready First” brigade come through as the critical element in the brigade’s success; a success that was the operational tipping point in the war in Iraq. 

For more information on this book click here for the book website.

A note on the blog.

Its been a very busy and hot summer here in Kansas and the blog has been neglected.  As the academic year cranks up in the next few weeks so will the blog.  Looking  forward to more updates on a variety of topics as well as some book and movie reviews coming soon.  LD.

Published in: on August 11, 2010 at 9:34 am  Comments (1)  

“History of the Horse” Coming Soon

Above is the trailer for a six part documentary entitled “The History of the Horse” that will be on most PBS stations later this year (dates and times TBD).  I helped out some with the episode on the horse warrior.  I have no idea what the final product looks like but the trailer promises a pretty interesting project.

See below for more information.

Saddle Up with Dennis Brouse is a television series airing on public television stations across the nation

The show celebrates the relationship between horse and human. Whether you own a horse or just love to watch them in the movies, we have a storied partnership with this magnificent animal. This series showcases everything from training tips for horse owners to trail destinations for recreational riders. We visit ranches and other locations where our bond with horses is illustrated in countless ways.

Click here to follow to the webpage.

Memorial Day Includes Four Legged Comrads

Reckless: “Pride of the Marines.”

The story of Reckless is not only remarkable – it is unusual. And once you learn about her, you will see why the Marine Corps not only fell in love with her – but honored her and promoted her every chance they got. And it wasn’t just the Marines that served with her in the trenches that honored her – her last promotion to Staff Sergeant was by Gen. Randolph McC Pate – the Commandant of the entire Marine Corps. You can’t get higher than that in the Marines.

Read the Rest of Reckless’ story Here.

Memorial Day War Movies

Saw all or parts of several classic war flicks yesterday and today. AMC was running a marathon. My thumbnail reviews:

Kelly’s Heroes. Four Stars. Uniforms and equipment are excellent. The Tiger Tank is awesome and the Sherman’s aren’t bad! Also, I love anything with Jack Bauer in it! 😉

Big Red One. Three Stars. I think it tries too hard to be serious and artsy. Lee Marvin is too moody and the squad is too cute.

To Hell and Back. Two Stars. It looks like it was made in a training area (which is was) and just doesn’t have that “real” feel. You would think Audie would have said something to the effect of “This isn’t what it looked like!”  Murphey’s story is truly inspiring –the movie just doesn’t do it justice.

The Enemy Below. Four Stars. Good drama… one of first good movies of the German view.

Mr. Roberts. Four Stars. The best movie about the critical but sometimes dull job of strategic logistics. The acting (Fonda, Lemon, Cagney) is superior.

Heartbreak Ridge. One Star. I didn’t like it when it came out and it gets worse with age. I doubt its possible to make a decent about the invasion of Grenada.

Courage under Fire. Three Stars. A little hokey on the story but Denzel Washington is excellent and looks for all the world like a half dozen different armored cavalry colonels I’ve known. The night tank battle was nicely done.

Pride of the Marines. Four Stars. The true story of Marine Al Schmid who was blinded while winning the Navy Cross on Guadalcanal. A classic about why we have memorial day and why being a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine is not just another job. Reminds us all why today’s Wounded Warrior program is so important.

The Pacific – An Interim Review

My initial impressions of Pacific are positive.

 First, I don’t have HBO so I didn’t plan on seeing the series until after it came out on DVD.  However, because of a business trip I spent three days in a hotel that had HBO and I was able to catch  episodes 1-3 and 5.  So my observations are based on about 4 hours of the series.  I suspect I won’t see any more until the DVDs come out.  If so, I will try to remember to come back and update this post.

Like the Band of Brothers (BOB) series, Pacific is hyper realistic in terms of sets, equipment and uniforms.  So an A+ on those important traits.  I think, after Saving Private Ryan and BOB, however, the big battle scenes, such as the attack across the airfield in episode 5, were somewhat predictable.  I counted five arms or legs being blown off, at least one maybe two medics killed while treating wounded, and overall you knew that some of the most engaging of the characters weren’t going to survive.  The only question was who wasn’t going to make it.  I also am not impressed with modern  battle scenes were hundreds of troops mass for an attack.  That’s just not realistic for anything other than the beach landings (where, unfortunately, massing was a necessary evil).  Since I saw episode 5 first, and that’s where Marines storm the airfield on Peleliu, my initial impression of the series was not so hot, however, that changed as I viewed episodes 1-3.

Pacific is not BOB and that’s a good thing.  It is different because the war in the Pacific was very different from the war in Europe, and it is different because the source material is very different.  BOB is based on the Steven Ambrose book which is based on his interviews with the soldiers.  Pacific is mostly based on the written memoirs of the men of the 1st Marine Division.  In particular, it relies on Robert Leckie’s Helmet for my Pillow and With the Old Breed by E.B. Sledge.  Because it is based on memoirs, Pacific is much more personal than BOB.  It includes a significant story line that focuses on the personal lives and loves of the men.  This gives the series greater weight and makes you care even more than in BOB about the individual marines.

I didn’t see episode 4, and that is where the Marines land on Peleliu.  From what I’ve seen in the trailers and in the above documentary, the landing scene using AMTRACs is probably the most realistic ever filmed.

So, overall I’m very happy with Pacific.  Without seeing the next five episodes, I am guessing it is on its way to be a classic similar to BOB.  If you have HBO I strongly recommend that you catch up with the past episodes and invest in the next five.  If you don’t have HBO (like me) than, enjoy the making of the movie above, tease yourself with the trailers on youtube, and look forward to that boxed set that I’m guessing will be in stores just in time for Christmas 🙂

Here are the books I recommend to go with the series:

Published in: on April 21, 2010 at 11:26 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

New Book: Led by the Grey

One of my blog Readers just alerted me to this relatively new novel by Peter DeCosemo which looks to be very entertaining.  If you like science fiction and fantasy (which I do), military history (which I do), and horses (which I do), this looks like the perfect spring / summer read!

You can find out more about the book at this website: Led By the Grey. 

Right now the book is not available in the US but can be ordered directly from the UK through the website.

Another major attraction of the novel is that all procedes from sale of the Hardback will be to the Household Cavalry Casualty Fund.

I’ll post a review after I’ve read it.

Comanche, Old Baldy and their Buddies

There is a little known group of distinguished horses that to my knowledge has never been documented or recognized in any formal way as a group.  That group is the war horses whose remains have been preserved and are on display.  To my knowledge, there are only four American military horses that belong to this group:  Commanche, Winchester, Old Baldy, and Little Sorrel.

Old Baldy, General George Meade’s Civil War mount at the battle of Gettysburg and throughout most of the war was recently recovered and in the news.  He will soon be on display again.  Only Old Baldy’s head was preserved after his death.   See the story here.  Baldy’s display seems to be somewhat half-hearted and makes me a bit uncomfortable. 

Actually, I’m uncomfortable with the whole idea of perserving the remains of these fine horses.  But at least, if its going to be done it should be done completely as an honor, not partially, like a trophy.  The other three horses that I know of in this group are displayed with significantly greater care and honor.

Commanche was the mount of Captain Miles Keogh of the 7th Cavalry.  The horse was the only known survivor of Custer’s command at the Little Big Horn.  Commanche is displayed at the University of Kansas Museum of Natural History.  The museum has recently invested significant effort to ensure the integrity of the display and its preservation. 

Little Sorrel was the mount of Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson.  Jackson was killed by friendly sentry fire in 1863 and was riding Little Sorrel at the time.  Little Sorrel lived a long life, dying in 1886 at the age of 36.  His hid was mounted and is on display at the Viriginia Military Institute.  His bones were cremated and buried on the grounds at VMI.

The final of the four horse warriors is Winchester, the mount of Union Civil War General Phil Sheridan.  Winchester is the mount that Sheridan rode in the counterattack against Confederate forces at the Battle of Cedar Creek in 1864.  Union forces were surprised and in retreat.  Sheridan galloped twenty miles on Rienzi, the horse’s original name, and arrived just in time to rally the troops and lead the successful counterattack.  Winchester was a black Morgan and stood 16 hands.  Sheridan said of him: ““an animal of great intelligence and immense strength and endurance. He always held his head high, and by the quickness of his movements gave many persons the idea that he was exceedingly impetuous. This was not so, for I could at any time control him by a firm hand and a few words, and he was as cool and quiet under fire as one of my soldiers. I doubt if his superior as a horse for field service was ever ridden by any one.”  Winchester died after the war at the age of nineteen.  He was immortalized in a poem entitled “Sheridan’s Ride.”

Excerpt from “Sheridan’s Ride.”

And there, through the flush of the morning light,
A steed as black as the steeds of night
Was seen to pass, as with eagle flight;
As if he knew the terrible need,
He stretched away with his utmost speed.
Hills rose and fell, but his heart was gay,
With Sheridan fifteen miles away.

If you know of any other American or international warhorses that are on display let me know.

Age Old Issue of Stallions vs Geldings in Military Use

For centuries the armies of Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East used Geldings and Mares as their primary military horses. European armies, however, persisted in using Stallions until the early modern period. The obvious advantage of the Gelding/Mare was their calm in large groups and their trainability. European knights, however, preferred stallions because of their fighting ability. European knights believed that it was dishonorable to go into battle on anything other than a Stallion. Some new insights into this issue are gained from the news report below on the Terracotta Army:

Expert: Horses in terracotta army ‘castrated’

(Xinhua)
Updated: 2010-03-01 16:20

XI’AN – Most of the clay horses unearthed from the mausoleum of Qinshihuang, the first emperor of a united China, had been “castrated”, a Chinese archeologist said after studying more than 600 of the life-sized animals.

All the 520 horses that pulled chariots in the terracotta army, unearthed from the mausoleum on the outskirts of Xi’an, capital of the northwestern Shaanxi province, had penises but no testes, said Yuan Jing, an archeologist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The situation varied, however, with the 116 cavalry horses, he said. “Some of them were castrated but many others were not.”

Read the rest of article here.