World War II US Cavalry Groups, European Theater
Series: Elite * 129
Author: Gordon L. Rottman
Artist: Peter Dennis
This is one of those book that when I acquired it I thought, Ho-hum, this will be tedious.
Was I wrong! I tend to appreciate small units and mobile units, and I really never understood that US cavalry units were independent formations. This book has been a pleasure to read and very engaging. I’ll try to tell you why I am very impressed with World War II US Cavalry Groups, European Theater
United States Army cavalry units that fought in WW2 trace their heraldry to the pre-American Civil War, and exist even today. The cavalry regiments of the US Army were in the process of being transformed into a mechanized force when the USA entered World War II. Cavalry regiments deployed to Europe were employed with light armor in the cavalry’s traditional spearhead roles – reconnaissance, the screening of advances and flanks, and the pursuit of beaten enemy forces.
The role of the US cavalry was multifaceted and mainly on the pointy end. Naturally, cavalry units were highly mobile. Equipped with jeeps, halftracks, M5 tanks, and M8 armored cars, they were very adaptable and often formed the core of task groups with other units attached. However, while cavalry units may appear to bristle with firepower as they contained organic light tanks and howitzer tanks, the ir main weapons were short range carbines and submachine guns, and the tanks had small guns.
Not only did they execute spearhead roles, cavalry units also provided defense and police duties. Their role in ‘snooping’ included not only reconnaissance by fire – shooting up suspicious points to flush out any bad guys – cavalrymen also conducted dismounted reconnaissance.
Mr. Gordon L. Rottman has packed a great deal of information between these covers. It is mainly a brisk read although trying to synchronize troop
in lieu of platoon
bogged me down a bit, despite the author defining these terms well. Mr. Rottman spent 26 years in the US Army; this shows in his formal and technical style of writing; some parts seem like and after-action report or an OER. (That is not a criticism.) World War II US Cavalry Groups, European Theater
is brought to you in 64 pages of nine chapters and subsections:
1. THE PRE-WAR CAVALRY REGIMENTS
a. Regiments, squadrons, and troops
2. THE CAVALRY GROUP (MECHANIZED)
a. Organization: Headquarters and Headquarters Troop
b. Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadrons (Mechanized)
d. Cavalry Group armament and vehicles
3. CAVALRY GROUP MISSIONS
a. Doctrine and practice
b. Group and squadron tactics
c. Task-organization for combat
4. CAVALRY GROUP DEPLOYMENTS
5. THE TEST OF BATTLE
a. Representative examples of cavalry groups in action: 113th Cavalry Group reconnaissance mission
b. 4th Cavalry Group screening mission
c. 113th Cavalry Group in the defense
d. 6th Cavalry Group in the offensive
e. 2nd Cavalry Group in defense of a river
f. 2nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron in a river assault
g. 316th Cavalry Brigade in the offensive
h. 101st Cavalry Group, miscellaneous missions
i. 3rd Cavalry Group in the pursuit
b. The post-World War II mechanized cavalry
7. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
Described in good detail is the composition of the units, their background back to the Civil War, organization, doctrine and practice, group and squadron tactics, task-organization for combat, and equipment. Cavalrymen were acknowledged for being flexible and adaptable to the mission at hand, although their lack of complete infantry training lead to tactical deficiencies. However, cavalry units were trained to avoid decisive fights. Too frequently this was not how they were employed.
Army symbology is deciphering, such as how many dots above a symbol indicates a platoon verses a section, and how a unit with sub elements attached or detached is indicated.
No excerpts from reports or personal accounts are included. The author does reference wartime and post-war Army analysis of the cavalry. Cited are the strengths and weaknesses of the table of organization and equipment (T/O & E). The squadrons and troops lacked organic logistics making them very short-ranged; personnel for reserve; and powerful personal weapons; likewise some crew-served weapons were found to be too many for too few troopers. Explored with detail is how other units would be attached to cavalry groups to augment their combat power to accomplish a mission: armor, artillery, engineers, Rangers, tank destroyers and more.
A brief synopsis of the seventeen committed cavalry groups is included, featuring a unit history and the unit’s motto. Finally, several sections detail cavalry operations on nine missions.
Photographs, Artwork, and Graphics
I admit that I have not kept up with the flood of newly released original photography. Thus, the images in this book are almost all brand new to me. The majority of photographs is credited to Armor Plate Press and is fascinating. Almost every page features at least one black-and-white image. Most were shot in the field although there are a few that seem to have been staged for instructional purposes. Only a few are not sharply focused. The selection does a fine job of demonstrating the variety of vehicles, equipment, and scenes of cavalry deployment. Modelers – great inspiration for your next scene waits within this title!
Artist Peter Dennis created several full color scenes to demonstrate concepts.
A. The Mechanized Cavalryman’s Mounts: An M8 and machine-gun jeeps blasting a hedgerow in reconnaissance by fire.
B. The Reconnaissance Platoon: The three armored cars and six jeeps of a platoon, plus equipment.
C. Formations – Reconnaissance Teams: the six main formations employed by a platoon.
D. Cavalry Troop Conducting Reconnaissance: sections of a troop snoop an enemy position, with support and command units.
E. Formation – Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron: Five examples of the cavalry recon squadron with other units attached.
F. Cavalry Squadron In Defense: 113th Cavalry Squadron reinforced with other arms defending a wooded hilly area on the Dutch – German border.
G. Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop In Dismounted Attack: Demonstrating two platoon, reinforced with tanks, assaulting a dug-in German position with personal and crewed weapons.
H. Fire Support: M8 HMCs, Troop E, 17th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, 15th Cavalry Group (Mechanized); Germany, March 1945: 75mm M8s in a tree line in a firing position.
Numerous sidebars of data and tables support the text, i.e., Cavalry and infantry unit firepower comparison, 1945;
and Examples of cavalry group task forces
. In the front of the book is a table of abbreviations and linear measurement conversions.
I found World War II US Cavalry Groups, European Theater
to be a very informative and enjoyable book. It presents information in a concise manner and, I think, in the right degree of detail. It presented me with a good degree of history and information, while forming a base for further research. The photographs, diagrams, and tables do a great job supporting the text, and the artwork is very good, too.
I certainly recommend this title to students, historians, and enthusiasts of WWII US cavalry groups, US European operations, armored operations, and fans of US vehicles.
This book is available in PDF and ePub eBook also.