Abolishment of the Horse Cavalry in the U.S.

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rayarthart
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Thu Apr 24, 2014 9:51 am

Okay, Simple question. I need the exact date when the U.S. Cavalry (horse) was abolished. The Office of the Cavalry Chief was abolished in the Spring of 1942. I know that units of the Horse Cavalry was functional until mid to late 1950's. That the 1st. Cavalry Division has a Platoon of pretend ceremonial Horse Cavalry. I just need the date of when the Combat arm of Cavalry was abolished and was converted to Armor/Mechanized.
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Thu Apr 24, 2014 4:11 pm

rayarthart wrote:Okay, Simple question. I need the exact date when the U.S. Cavalry (horse) was abolished. The Office of the Cavalry Chief was abolished in the Spring of 1942. I know that units of the Horse Cavalry was functional until mid to late 1950's. That the 1st. Cavalry Division has a Platoon of pretend ceremonial Horse Cavalry. I just need the date of when the Combat arm of Cavalry was abolished and was converted to Armor/Mechanized.
Well, it probably isn't quite as simple as it might seem at first.

This is my off the cuff understanding, which might be in error.

There was never a "U.S. Cavalry (horse)". When we see the parenthetical with cavalry, it was with something that was other than horse, as in "Cavalry (Horse-Mechanized)" or "Cavalry (Mechanized)". Cavalry was simply assumed to have horses unless parenthetically provided otherwise, up until some point when it didn't. Cavalry as a branch was absorbed into the armored branch as a result of the Army Reorganization Act of 1950. So you could say that it sort of ended as a stand alone branch then, but in 1950, there were no horse equipped U.S. Cavalry units. There were some units with horses, but they weren't cavalry units. In 1950, those units would have been the Pack Artillery unit referenced here in other threads, the Constabulary unit stationed in Berlin, and perhaps some units using pack animals in Korea, unofficially.

What the day in 1950 was when the cavalry branch was folded into armor, I don't know, but it would be the effective date of the act, which provided that the armored branch retained the heritage of the cavalry. Of course, the Army continues to use the term, even though cavalry is not a stand alone branch, so a person can argue that the cavalry never really ceased.

That would be a separate question, of course, from when did the last cavalry branch horse go, which is also a more complicated question that it would seem to be. 1943 is given as the year that cavalry was dehorsed, but that's incorrect as the Army still trained some cavalrymen to be horse cavalrymen as late as 1945 (I once met one). It seems the training focus changed by 45, but it still existed, and the Cavalry School still seems to have had horses. Perhaps, then, the cavalry school was the last cavalry infrastructure that had horses. But then some cavlary officers were detailed to training missions overseas related to horses after the war, which has to be considered as well. And the cavalry branch managed to have some captured horses brought back from Germany right after the war, although these were soon transferred to the Department of Agriculture when the Remount program was shut down. So perhaps the date in the 1940s when the cavalry school quit having horses, or perhaps the date in the 1940s when the Remount program was shut down, or perhaps even the date when the last cavalry officer ended an overseas cavalry related mission would be the right date. Or perhaps the date when the last actual cavalry unit no longer had horses, some time during World War Two, and I don't know what that date would be. All of this, of course, predates the last date a combat unit in the U.S. Army would have had horses, which would have been some date in the 1950s, if you go by TO&E, or up to the present date, if you consider irregular use in Afghanistan.
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Fri Apr 25, 2014 6:46 am

Ray,

Contact the U.S. Army Center of Military History Force Structure and Unit History Branch at http://www.history.army.mil/unitinfo.html.
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Fri Apr 25, 2014 6:50 am

I'll try that Couvi. I have to take care of some things this Morning. I hope that ZI can find answers to my Question there.
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Fri Apr 25, 2014 7:09 am

I almost always agree with Couvi, who knows a lot more than I do, and I agree this is a good idea, but my guess is that the answer won't be much clearer. When you do get an answer, let us know what they say.

But, what my guess will be is that you'll hear that the horses were removed in 43, and the branch eliminated in 1950, with lineage rolled into Armor. That's sort of true, but we know that the horse part of that story isn't fully accurate. As with anything having a very long, or wide, history, the end is never clean.
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Fri Apr 25, 2014 7:16 am

Also, I'm pretty sure this topic is explored to some depth in a prior thread here. It might be a pretty old one, so it might be fairly hard to find.
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Fri Apr 25, 2014 8:12 am

I'll somewhat side with both Pat and Couvi - Couvi in the sense that there will be a great deal of detail and info through Army center, but as will any military history (esp. official US military history), there is a certain level of 'scrubbing' that should be expected to have occurred. To have a more complete picture, you will have to go to un-connected sources. There are any number of sensitive or confused topics where this is good standard operating procedure. Post-war confusion and force reduction caused all kinds of unusual situations - many of which were never officially documented or recorded. At the risk of Couvi correcting me with a smart rap across the nose, I'd dare to say that the American military has rarely shown much of a concern for their own history and it's preservation, at least in any systematic fashion.

While there were many attempts to kill off the horse cavalry, there was much clandestine resistance until the sudden end of the war. I had a professor in college who was sent off to learn Chinese early in the war, and in early 1944 ended up being sent to Ft. Riley to go through their horsemanship course - he stated the idea was that he would be sent to work with the Chinese and there was an assumed need to be able to use the primary method of transportation. He told of Joe Stilwell taking a tour of training facilities in the US around this time ('44), and flipping out when he found horse cavalry units at Ft. Bliss. Bliss personnel called up friends at Riley to warn them - all the stables were cleared out and filled with vehicles, and the horses were taken out to the huge north pastures and turned loose. When Stilwell showed up - he was shown the Potemkin motor pools and "what cavalry?" attitudes. As soon as he left, everybody went and rounded up the horses, and it was back to horse business as usual.

Regarding end of the horse cavalry, perhaps the best gauge might be an investigation of primary resources relating to post-war disposition of horses and related actions conducted with US Dept. of Agriculture. The Remount Service was taken over by the Ag dept. Given some of the rumors and stories I've heard about what happened at Riley in late '45, I'd say it may be very difficult to say that there was a specific order or date where horse cavalry was declared DOA. I have the impression that the demise was almost a psychological event, where everyone was abandoning their military lives and had internalized the notion that it was just over, obsolete, clearly an anachronism that needed to be pitched without thought or any deep consideration. I recall stories about the cavalry school library (with decades of books, curriculum, unpublished treatises, manuals, etc.) being unceremoniously dumped en masse into dumpsters.

Even contemporary accounts of the Constabulary units in Germany project this image of nostalgia and anachronism, mere months after the final class of graduates exited the school at Riley.

Lot of text, and probably not much useful info - you've found a good question where the real answer may be very elusive.
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Fri Apr 25, 2014 8:26 am

Todd wrote:I'll somewhat side with both Pat and Couvi - Couvi in the sense that there will be a great deal of detail and info through Army center, but as will any military history (esp. official US military history), there is a certain level of 'scrubbing' that should be expected to have occurred. To have a more complete picture, you will have to go to un-connected sources. There are any number of sensitive or confused topics where this is good standard operating procedure. Post-war confusion and force reduction caused all kinds of unusual situations - many of which were never officially documented or recorded. At the risk of Couvi correcting me with a smart rap across the nose, I'd dare to say that the American military has rarely shown much of a concern for their own history and it's preservation, at least in any systematic fashion.

While there were many attempts to kill off the horse cavalry, there was much clandestine resistance until the sudden end of the war. I had a professor in college who was sent off to learn Chinese early in the war, and in early 1944 ended up being sent to Ft. Riley to go through their horsemanship course - he stated the idea was that he would be sent to work with the Chinese and there was an assumed need to be able to use the primary method of transportation. He told of Joe Stilwell taking a tour of training facilities in the US around this time ('44), and flipping out when he found horse cavalry units at Ft. Bliss. Bliss personnel called up friends at Riley to warn them - all the stables were cleared out and filled with vehicles, and the horses were taken out to the huge north pastures and turned loose. When Stilwell showed up - he was shown the Potemkin motor pools and "what cavalry?" attitudes. As soon as he left, everybody went and rounded up the horses, and it was back to horse business as usual.

Regarding end of the horse cavalry, perhaps the best gauge might be an investigation of primary resources relating to post-war disposition of horses and related actions conducted with US Dept. of Agriculture. The Remount Service was taken over by the Ag dept. Given some of the rumors and stories I've heard about what happened at Riley in late '45, I'd say it may be very difficult to say that there was a specific order or date where horse cavalry was declared DOA. I have the impression that the demise was almost a psychological event, where everyone was abandoning their military lives and had internalized the notion that it was just over, obsolete, clearly an anachronism that needed to be pitched without thought or any deep consideration. I recall stories about the cavalry school library (with decades of books, curriculum, unpublished treatises, manuals, etc.) being unceremoniously dumped en masse into dumpsters.

Even contemporary accounts of the Constabulary units in Germany project this image of nostalgia and anachronism, mere months after the final class of graduates exited the school at Riley.

Lot of text, and probably not much useful info - you've found a good question where the real answer may be very elusive.
I think this sums it up excellently.

On the clandestine efforts, I'd note that late war you'll seem some examples of very highly placed efforts of that very type. For one thing, you start to see comments from high ranking cavalry officers, who had been assigned to other roles during the war, that seem to be in the nature of campaigning for the horse's retention. One such example comes from Patton, who made statements to the effect that he hoped for the preservation of horses in cavalry after the war, even though he's come to be associated very heavily with armor. The best example of an actual effort in this area may be the actual importation of German horses by the Army. The official excuse was that they were going into the Remount program. Were they? They may have been, or it might have been a type of war prize with that being the excuse.

FWIW, years ago I deposed a man, now deceased, who had grown up on a ranch here and who was drafted into the Army late in World War Two. He had a very visible facial injury and during the deposition I asked him about. His reply was "a horse stepped on my face." I figured, as I knew he was from a ranch, that this had occurred on the ranch, but no, he went on to tell me that he'd been in a practice charge at the cavalry school at Ft. Riley, fallen off his horse, and another trooper rode over him. In 1945.

So here he was being trained as a horse cavalryman, in 1945. That's well after the 1943 date that is typically given as the "de-horsing" date. What's that mean?

At a bare minimum, that means that the Army still saw fit to train men as cavalrymen that late, even though it wasn't putting them in units where they were assigned to a horse for combat use (this fellow recovered in time to be shipped out as a medic, he was on the boat when the war ended, and then came back for a second round during the Korean War). That actually makes some sense to me, however. Lots of things hang on in military service well after they should be gone, according to what we think we know of history. And then a lot things have muddy endings in reality, rather than a sharp end like official records may suggest.
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Fri Apr 25, 2014 9:37 am

Just as a thought on this, we may wish to keep in mind the actual nature of the system, which will mean that its very unlikely that there's a real satisfactory answer to the question, in my view.

There won't be an end to "horse" cavalry date, as there was never a date in which "horse" cavalry came into existence. Cavalry did, but the horses were incidental to its existence, not descriptive of it. It ceased to exist as a separate branch in 1950, but it lived on as a description otherwise. Its termination as a branch has much to do with Herr's resistance to armor, but that's another story.

Prior to that, however, the would have been a date at which some TO&E was issued which did not include horses for cavalry. That would be the paperwork end. Cavalry would still have existed, but the horse wouldn't be part of its inventory. A person could find those TO&Es, for which there are an entire series. I just posted one for 44 in another thread.

But was that the real end? I doubt it, for the reasons otherwise described. There were probably no cavalry formations that received that TO&E that had to go out and send in their horses at that time. However, the cavalry school may very well have still be training cavalrymen to ride horses.

Not a satisfactory answer, I know, but then that probably reflects the dribbling nature of the end of most things. Most things last longer than we suppose, but have a more lackluster and slower end than we might imagine.
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Fri Apr 25, 2014 10:23 am

Having said all that, in this 1944 manual, horse cavalry is called just that.

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/ref ... /FM2-5.PDF

Note the 44 date, after the commonly asserted 1943 dehorsing date.
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Fri Apr 25, 2014 11:11 am

I don’t suspect this reference will answer the question however it appears to be a good reference for specific US Cavalry units.


http://www.cgsc.edu/carl/download/csipu ... e_Vol2.pdf
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Fri Apr 25, 2014 5:45 pm

Todd wrote:
At the risk of Couvi correcting me with a smart rap across the nose, I'd dare to say that the American military has rarely shown much of a concern for their own history and it's preservation, at least in any systematic fashion.
Todd is not the one that needs a rap across the nose in this, as he is exactly correct. I was involved in two small draw-downs and average person cannot imagine how much goes into such an activity.

The amount of paperwork it takes to inactivate one unit is astounding. Troops, 800 to a 1,000 in a battalion, must be re-assigned and moved to new stations. Equipment must be returned to the control of a variety of proponent agencies. My job was locating and insuring the turn-in of the heraldic property, e.g., colors, guidons, streamer sets and silver band sets. Next was triage and disposal of unit fund property, trophies, plaques and other awards of nominal value from unit historical property, such as silver, captured enemy property, obsolete Army property and other property worth saving. Up and down my chain of command there were at least a dozen people involved. Considering the size and complexity of a battalion, and the variety of its troops and equipment, there had to be hundreds involved.

That being said, the majority of the people involved are bean counters who have absolutely no interest in the unit’s history or the disposition of its property other than the class for which they are responsible. The draw-down after WWII had to have been chaotic with millions of troops wanting to go back home to make baby boomers, millions of tons of equipment, supplies and ammunition needing disposal, etc. In the mid-1990s I was still getting heraldic property from the guy who was the last one in the unit and was still waiting for disposition instructions.

Returning to the original topic, it is likely that the demise of the horse cavalry was of little consequence to anyone involved in the activities post-August 1945 except a few old Sergeants in the NCO Club.
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Fri Apr 25, 2014 9:11 pm

According to Sports Illustrated:
The disinclination of Congress to appropriate money for horses in a day of mechanized warfare was understandable. "The horses were washed out," says Colonel West, "the cavalry turned into mechanized units, though still called cavalry. The last horse squadron at Fort Riley was deactivated on Feb. 8, 1945. I was head of the Department of Horsemanship, as my father had been before me, and I had to decide how many cavalry horses to keep. From many hundreds I cut down to 141."

An Army directive put a stop to all overseas horse shows after 1949. Colonel Wofford formed a civilian United States Equestrian Team to which Army horses were shipped. Among these was Democrat, a brown horse with a white blaze which General Wing rode in the Olympic Prix-des-Nations in 1948 and which William Steinkraus showed successfully thereafter. And in 1950 when President Harry Truman signed the Army Reorganization Bill, the U.S. Army, for the first time in its history, had no horse cavalry.
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Sat Apr 26, 2014 1:14 pm

Very enlightening. I have saved all the sites listed and will attend to them as I get a chance to. Thank you all! Another question. When did Truman sign the Army Reorganization bill of 1950?
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Sun Apr 27, 2014 6:41 am

This topic is apparently addressed in a book called "Through Mobility We Conquer". I haven't read it, and wasn't even aware of it, but here's some information on it:

http://muse.jhu.edu/books/9780813171425
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Sun Apr 27, 2014 6:43 am

rayarthart wrote:When did Truman sign the Army Reorganization bill of 1950?
June 28, 1950, published to the Army on July 6, 1950.
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Sun Apr 27, 2014 6:57 am

FWIW, the impact of the Army Organization Act on the Army was enormous. We've been speaking of the cavalry branch here, but overall it really changed much about the Army's structure, created new organizations, and eliminated old ones, across the board.
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Sun Apr 27, 2014 1:12 pm

I'm like Todd, I was also in two draw downs. One just after Vietnam and the other as the Cold War ended. It was not fun in one iota. Saw many friends that I made during the first one leave the Army that deserved to be there. Officers fell like leave in the fall season. I was at a McDonalds in Killeen, Texas and saw a Cpt. I had as Commander> He was there only a week, then gone. He got Riffed that quick. After Vietnam most of the people got let loose were Combat Veterans and they were discharged for minor reasons like just because they were in Nam.
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Sun Apr 27, 2014 3:53 pm

rayarthart wrote:I'm like Todd, I was also in two draw downs. One just after Vietnam and the other as the Cold War ended. It was not fun in one iota. Saw many friends that I made during the first one leave the Army that deserved to be there. Officers fell like leave in the fall season. I was at a McDonalds in Killeen, Texas and saw a Cpt. I had as Commander> He was there only a week, then gone. He got Riffed that quick. After Vietnam most of the people got let loose were Combat Veterans and they were discharged for minor reasons like just because they were in Nam.
In the 1980s Guard and Reserve units were full of rifted officers finishing out 20 years so they could draw retirement. In the Guard unit I was in was in we had a former Navy pilot who was serving as an NCO. He'd been in the Navy twice, once in the 50s as an enlisted man and then he'd gone back into the Navy as a pilot and served during the Vietnam War. He was a good soldier, but was pretty bitter about being rifted. We also had a Marine Corps major that was finishing out his years as an NCO in the unit.
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Tue Apr 29, 2014 5:26 am

Hey chaps.

Horse cavalry ceased to exist in the CONUS in 1947,the last tactical training was by "The Cavalry Squadron (horse)" Lt Col John F Polk.The Squadron was made up of a HQ and Troop "A" and "B".

The Sqn was was inactivated in December of 1947 on the 20th. All personal remained at Ft Riley. The Stables continued to operate at Riley well into the 1950s.

The "horsed" units in Germany and Austria got bundled into one unit under the title of the 7766th Horse Troop. The 7766th was inactivated in late 1949.The remaining hose platoon in Germany was the 16th Constabulary Horse Platoon,retitled in 1951 the 759th Military Police Horse Platoon and then retitled the 287th MP Horse Platoon.It was the 287th that remained "Horse" until it was inactivated in 1958.
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This is kind of like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted given my recent experience but i live in hope.
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