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Good start but publisher's requirements keep it too short.
on December 8, 2009
When one thinks of the US cavalry in WW2 one usually thinks of tankers, especially those of Patton's 3rd army in their amazing drive through France in 1944. Certainly one does not think of the most mechanically advanced army in the world having a large number of horse mounted regiments but in 1941 as the US entered the Second World War they had 10 such mounted regiments and it is their story Rottman tells in this all too brief Osprey book.
While the 26th Cavalry was already in the Philippines and launched the last cavalry charge of the US Army the rest of the regiments were stateside and it proved too difficult to ship out and maintain horses in the far east and so the units were dismounted and fought as infantry.
In the 1930's the world's military's were trying to balance the development of armor with the known cavalry doctrines. In the UK they merely changed horse cavalry into tankers and carried on. In the US the tanks were developed separately and cavalry troops were allowed to maintain their peculiar numbers and customs. So although, for example, the 112th Cavalry regiment was deployed as an infantry regiment, their numbers were only half that of an infantry formation and they often lacked the heavy support weapons of infantry units, a fact area commanders were often unaware of as they made their plans.
As the war progressed these units often distinguished themselves in hard fighting and Rottman follows their career and battle honors through the end of the war when the regiments of the US 1st Cavalry Division occupied Tokyo.
Constricted by Osprey's requirements the book is much too short for the topic but it is a very good start. If I have a complaint it is two fold. Firstly there are NO maps. Not a single one. This certainly would have been a help to keep track of the action, especially in the Philippines where much of the action took place. Secondly, and here I think it's the constraints of the book more than the author's choice, the book follows the campaigns of the cavalry men but once ashore at Leyte they were, for all intents and purposes, infantry and are included in the order of battle as any other unit. As this can be covered in many other works covering the fall of the Philippines, I would have preferred more on the intricacies of the Cavalry units. Were there idiosyncrasies in gear beyond the lack of heavy weapons? Were there prejudices for or against them from `infantry' officers? For example some of the photos show troopers marching in riding boots, not combat boots, and even privates armed with pistols. How long did these `oddities' last under jungle conditions?
Since Rottman does mention a few problems with senior officers being unaware of the differences between infantry and cavalry units he clearly knows thy are out there but does not have the space to devote to that side he focuses on the combat records of the units he wishes to praise. I would certainly hope he'll be able to follow this up in a larger venue in the future.
Overall a good start on an interesting topic. It has it's weakness but I think these come more form Osprey's limitations than the author's choice.