The Future of Warfare: Light Mechanized Cavalry



The heritage of American armored reconnaissance forces is firmly rooted in the horse cavalry. In 1930, the Army Chief of Staff General Charles P. Summerall, created the Army's first peacetime mechanized force with the terse order "Assemble that mechanized force now."(1) One component of that force, designed to perform the force's reconnaissance mission, was an armored car troop. This troop, Troop A, 2d Armored Car Squadron,(2) was the precursor of all armored reconnaissance units to follow. Its legacy to the mechanized cavalry of World War II was the doctrine of reconnaissance and the organization and equipment to support that doctrine.

The Mechanized Force (Experimental) did not receive unequivocal support from the Army which, like the rest of the country, was just beginning to feel the bite of the great depression. It was underfunded, underequipped, undermanned, and suffered from a general lack of priority. This changed with the arrival of a new chief of staff, General Douglas MacArthur, in 1931. MacArthur recognized the importance of mechanization but brought to it a viewpoint completely different from his predecessor. MacArthur believed that mechanization, rather than being a centralized War Department effort, should be pursued by the various branches and applied to their own distinct missions independently.(3) Toward this end the mechanized force was dissolved and in its place each branch established its own mechanized structure, goals and priority.

Further guidance provided by the War Department declared that cavalry would have the lead for mechanization. This guidance, however, stopped short of making the cavalry branch the single centralized Army proponent. The War Department also directed that the cavalry completely mechanize one horse mounted regiment. In compliance, the 1st Cavalry regiment was dismounted and mechanized in 1933.(4) The equipment basis of the 1st Cavalry (Mechanized) was the remenants of the old mechanized force (experimental), specifically the armored car troop which "was the only useable element."(5)

The mechanized manual issued by the cavalry school in 1933 was the first Army effort to codify the doctrine of mechanized forces. This manual reflected the general view of the Army leadership of the time, and specifically the view of the cavalry school and the chief of cavalry: "Mechanization, as applied to cavalry, seeks to transplant the cavalry characteristics of mobility, firepower and shock to completely motor-propelled fighting units largely equipped with armored vehicles."(6) The major question to be addressed in 1933 was, through experimentation with the mechanized cavalry regiment, to what extent mechanization could and should replace the horse as the means of cavalry mobility.

To execute its missions the first cavalry regiment was organized generally as indicated in Figure 1. Although through the years 1933 to 1939 the organization went through numerious changes, its major components remained the same. The regiment's major fighting elements were two squadrons composed of combat cars. Combat car were defined as "those types of armored vehicles having essentially fighting missions, including shock-action, and possessing firepower and comparatively heavier armor protection, and a high degree of cross-country mobility."(7) This meant light tanks. They were referred to as "combat cars" in order to circumvent congressional legislation which assigned "tanks" to the infantry branch. In addition to the combat car troops and squadrons, the regimental structure included a variety of combat, combat support, and combat service support units among which was the regimental armored car troop.

Figure 1. Cavalry Regiment (Mechanized), 1938.

Although the mechanized cavalry regiment was organized and employed to execute the traditional missions of cavalry, the armored car troop had only one primary mission--reconnaissance. Armored cars were defined as: "Those motor vehicles essentially of high road mobility and long radius of action, having fire power and protective armor, and whose mission is essentially reconnaissance."(8) Toward this purpose the troop was organized in 1933 with three platoons of five armored cars each (see figure 2-2). The platoon was the basic tactical organization of the unit, with the capability of further breaking down into two autonomous sections of two and three armored cars each. The mission of the platoon was to conduct reconnaissance for the regiment. The armored car platoon was manned with 25 men armed with rifles and submachine guns. (9) Although referred to as an "armored car", the vehicle was armored only against small caliber weapons, and initially was not armed.

Figure 2. Armored Car Troop, 1933-1934.

The 1933 mechanized manual discussed techniques for successful reconnaissance by the armored car troop and its platoons. The armored car unit was not envisioned as a fighting organization.(10) Its stated purpose was "to obtain combat information to facilitate the successful employment of the regiment."(11) The troop was rarely employed together as a unit. Rather, the tactical element was the platoon, and when required, the two vehicle section. (12) In order to reconnoiter rough terrain and maintain stealth the manual advocated dismounting. (13) The armored cars were to use their speed to avoid decisive engagement.(14) The manual advocated the armored car for reconnaissance because of its speed and radius of action, but pointed out its vulnerability to terrain and enemy fire.(15)

During the 1930s the 1st Cavalry Regiment (Mechanized) was one of the premier units of the U.S. Army. This image was fostered by its various commanders, but most vigorously by its second commander Colonel Adna Chaffee. Largely through Chaffee's efforts, mechanization was slowly but consistently expanded, in spite of the lack of funding, and command support that was often unenthusiastic. In 1936 a second mechanized regiment, the 13th Cavalry, was added. The two regiments then were combined into the 7th Cavalry Brigade (mechanized), stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The brigade was subjected to rigorous training and exercises in which the combat car squadrons were typically employed as the brigade's striking forces, guided by the regimental armored car troop on reconnaissance.

The concepts for employing the reconnaissance troop in conjunction with the combined arms of the rest of the brigade were most vividly demonstrated during maneuvers in June 1936 in Kentucky and Michigan. The 7th Cavalry brigade, task organized with a single mechanized cavalry regiment, an attached motorized artillery battery, and motorized infantry regiment, was pitted against two divisions of non-mechanized troops, including horse cavalry.(16) The employment of the armored car troop of the mechanized cavalry regiment to conduct reconnaissance for the brigade contributed significantly to the brigade's success. The 7th Cavalry Brigade consistently avoided decisive engagement, harassed the enemy with long-range accurate artillery fires, and attacked the flanks and rear of his columns with the combat car squadrons. Brigadier General Bruce Palmer, the brigade commander, noted "how this troop moved rapidly around the flanks and rear of the Blue forces and between Blue columns. Seldom being observed or attacked yet always locating the important hostile units and promptly reporting them."(17) These maneuvers and others made the important point that decisive mounted action required rapid and accurate reconnaissance that only could be provided by specialized armored reconnaissance elements mounted in armored cars. The successful maneuver of the armored car platoons also validated the doctrine that advocated stealth and avoiding contact. The slow but steady expansion of mechanization is largely due to the success of such operations.

By 1938 each horse cavalry regiment had an armored car troop, organized similar to the troop in the mechanized regiment. The primary focus of this unit was reconnaissance.(18) It was used to execute deep strategic reconnaissance, taking advantage of the armored car's increased range and speed. Compared with small, horse-mounted cavalry reconnaissance elements, the armored car unit had a lot of fire power. However, it was limited by the requirement that it be augmented by horse-mounted rifle troops which would compensate for the armored car's lack of stealth and cross-country mobility.

In 1938 the Cavalry School published field manual FM 2-10, Mechanized Cavalry, the second manual presenting the organization, training, and doctrine of the mechanized cavalry. This manual reinforced the elements of the 1933 manual and captured the techniques and lessons learned by the 7th Cavalry Brigade at Fort Knox. The manual confirmed much of what had been projected five years earlier: in the conduct of reconnaissance, the philosophy of stealth, the importance of dismounting, and the fundamentals of section and platoon movement were all reaffirmed.(19) The mechanized cavalry regiment was viewed simply as a fully mechanized version of the horse cavalry regiment,(20) and its roles and missions remained traditional. The combat car squadrons were still the heart of the regiment, with reconnaissance support provided by the armored car troop.(21)

The armored car troop expanded to four platoons of four armored cars (see figure 3), but the platoon was still the maneuver element.(22) The organization of the troop had also changed with the addition of five motorcycles in the troop headquarters.

Figure 3. Reconnaissance Troop, 1938.

The general theme of the 1938 manual was to confirm the view of the out-going cavalry chief Major General Leon B. Kromer and other senior mechanized cavalrymen, such as Major General Daniel Van Vooris, that mechanized cavalry was an integral part of the cavalry arm.(23) It also validated the concept of the mechanized cavalry regiment. The regiments and brigade were no longer viewed as an experiment in mechanization, but rather as equal partners with the horse cavalry elements of the branch. The final key point of the manual was the discussion of the supporting reconnaissance role of the armored car troops and squadron in the horse units. Armored cars were assigned to horse units because they were now considered to be very effective at reconnaissance. With improvements in technology came improvements in cross country mobility. This permitted the armored car units to conduct much more effective, stealthy reconnaissance. They had proven themselves to be, and were accepted as, superior in this role to the horse. Importantly, this was the only role they were assigned in either the horse or mechanized regiments.

The 1938 manual reflected cavalry's vision of mechanization. It was a traditional view of mechanized cavalry which saw the combat cars (light tanks) performing the traditional cavalry missions of pursuit, shock action, and exploitation, and the armored car elements conducting the traditional reconnaissance missions. This vision was not, however, shared by all cavalrymen. A significant faction of cavalrymen was beginning to become very inflexible and vocal in its opposition to mechanization in general, and any attempt to replace the horse with combat or armored cars in particular. This group was counterbalanced by another group, consisting mostly of mechanized cavalrymen, who envisioned an ever greater role for mechanized forces.

In 1938 a new Chief of Cavalry Major General John Herr was appointed. Although not initially actively opposed to mechanization, he was not a vigorous proponent. His stated view was that mechanization should not come at the expense of a single mounted regiment.(24) On the opposite side of the issue were the leaders of mechanized cavalry, principally Brigadier Generals Palmer and Chaffee and Colonel Charles Scott (former and present commanders of the 7th Cavalry Brigade, and commander of the newly mechanized 13th Cavalry Regiment respectively).(25) They saw the combat cars of the cavalry for what they were--tanks. As early as 1939 Chaffee was speaking of organizing mechanized cavalry into division size armor units. In a speech to the U.S. Army War College in September 1939, Chaffee stated that "mechanized cavalry [is] the newest fighting service."(26) The vision of these cavalrymen and the position of MG Herr were on a collision course. The Army maneuvers which would begin in 1939 would test the tactical soundness of both positions. Horse and mechanized units would be matched head to head and the leadership of the Army would side with one faction or the other based on the outcome.

The most influential events, in terms of Army organizations and doctrine, occurring in the years 1938 to 1941, were the large unit Army maneuvers, collectively known as the "Louisiana Maneuvers." In this series of maneuvers, which occurred at the division, corps, and field army level, the mechanized cavalry brigade and its regiments performed superbly. They demonstrated that mechanized cavalry was a decisive force on the battlefield, and to an extent, the maneuvers became an exercise in developing organizations, equipment, and doctrine to stop the mechanized cavalry and other mechanized forces. The exercises, combined with the continued championing of the influential 7th Cavalry Brigade Commander Adna Chaffee and the successes of German offenses in Poland and France convinced the Army leadership that an armored force was required--and quickly. Thus, in July 1940, at the conclusion of the corps-versus-corps maneuvers in Louisiana, the Armored Force was officially created. This began a chain of events and decisions which would greatly effect the development of cavalry and reconnaissance units through the end of World War II.

The maneuvers and world events demonstrated that armor, as mechanized cavalry was increasingly called, would be required to operate in division and corps size formations on the battlefield. The responsibility for organizing these large formations, since they would evolve primarily from the mechanized cavalry, was offered to General Herr, the Chief of Cavalry. General Chaffee supported that position. However, Herr was convinced that horses were still the key to cavalry's future and decided that cavalry and armor were not synonymous and therefore declined the mission.(27) This fateful decision would fundamentally affect the organization of the U.S. Army through World War II.

General Marshall, based partly on Herr's position, created the Armored Force as an autonomous force with status equal to the existing combat arms branches. Brigadier General Chaffee was named its first commander. Simultaneously the 1st and 2d Armored divisions were authorized to be formed from the cavalry's 7th Cavalry Brigade (mechanized) and the infantry's provisional tank brigade respectively. These two units were then organized as an armored corps which General Chaffee also commanded.

Within weeks of General Marshall's decision, the cavalry lost most of its mechanized elements and many of its brightest leaders. Marshall's decision sent ripples throughout the cavalry as bright officers either serving in horse units, or coming from West Point, swarmed to the Armored Force and ignored cavalry. Armor had captured not only the eye of the chief of staff and the Army, but also that of the public. With the departure of the 7th Cavalry Brigade (mechanized), mechanized cavalry was left virtually in the same position it had been in 10 years previously: predominately horse mounted. The mechanized forces of the cavalry in the summer of 1940 consisted primarily of two horse-mechanized regiments, one armored car squadron (in the 1st Cavalry division) and the armored car troops organic to each of the eight remaining active horse regiments. In addition, the decision had already been reached by General Headquarters to create an armored car troop to be organic to each of the new triangular infantry division which were being formed during this period.(28) None of these units contained any light tanks save one company organic to the armored car squadron of the cavalry division.(29)

With the departure of the mechanized regiments, the most modern cavalry units were the 4th and 6th Cavalry Regiments (horse-mechanized). These units were a unique combination of horse cavalry and mechanized cavalry. Each regiment consisted of one squadron (horse-portee), consisting of three rifle troops, and one squadron (mechanized), consisting of two armored car troops and a motorcycle troop (see figure 4).(30) This organization was largely a product of General Herr's attempt to achieve the mobility of mechanized cavalry while retaining the horse. The unit was envisioned as the possible savior of the horse cavalry. However, in practice it was found to retain many of the disadvantages of the horse units, while losing some of the advantages due to its increased and complicated logistics requirements. Rather than being the best of both organizations, it was the worst. Unfortunately, it was the only alternative that met MG Herr's requirement of retaining the horse. It had a mixed record of success during the Army maneuvers.

Figure 4. Cavalry Regiment (Horse and Mechanized), 1941..

The Louisiana Maneuvers, in addition to being the impetus for the creation of the armored force, offered many tactical insights into the performance of mechanized reconnaissance. It was found that armored cars were more versatile than previously thought. All mechanized units quickly came to understand that any mechanized or motorized movement had to be preceded by rapid thorough reconnaissance that only armored car equipped units could provide. Armored car units were found to be very vulnerable to enemy infantry, antitank, and artillery attack. The solution to this threat was increased emphasis on stealth. Reconnaissance units were recognized as providing extremely effective artillery forward observers.


Figure 5. 107th Cavalry (Horse and Mechanized), Louisana, 1940.
Source: U.S. Army photo reproduced from The Cavalry Journal (November-December, 1941) 77.

Organizations were also reviewed and tested. During the New York Maneuvers of 1939 a completely new type of mechanized cavalry regiment was first tested when the mechanized squadrons of two horse mechanized regiments were combined to form one totally mechanized regiment consisting only of armored cars. This unit was very successful, but significantly, its role was limited to reconnaissance.

FM 2-15, Employment of Cavalry, was issued in April 1941. This manual was representative the cavalry's changed self-image. The most important characteristic of that image was the central position of the horse. FM 2-15 reflected the view of MG Herr of cavalry as a predominately horse organization supported by a limited number of mechanized elements. The manual addresses mechanized units throughout, but the theme is consistently horse cavalry supported by mechanized cavalry, usually in a reconnaissance role. The comments about mechanized cavalry during offensive operations are typical: "The mission of the scout car or motorcycle elements is primarily reconnaissance and security. They maneuver on the hostile flanks and rear to discover and give timely information of changes in hostile dispositions, primarily of movement of reserves."(31) FM 2-15 in 1941 reflected the dominance of the horse cavalry view, and, with the formation of the Armored Force, there were no longer any strong opposing voices.

In 1941 the Army also issued the last mechanized cavalry doctrine it would publish prior to the start of World War II, FM 2-10, Mechanized Cavalry, dated April 1941. This manual recognized the changes which had occurred since 1938, the lessons learned in the Army maneuvers, and established the standard cavalry doctrine employed at the start of World War II. The first, and most fundamental issue implicitly recognized by the manual, was the change in the role of mechanized cavalry relative to traditional cavalry missions. With the departure of the majority of the tanks and the creation of the Armored Force, the missions of exploitation, pursuit, and shock action had been deferred to that organization and the horse elements of cavalry. Remaining for the mechanized cavalry was the reconnaissance mission, which was consistent with its organization and equipment, and clearly stated in the 1941 manual.(32) Horse cavalry retained its traditional missions, however, unrecognized by either FM 2-15 or FM 2-10 was that as of 1940 horse cavalry was not a significant player in the minds of the General Staff.

The 1941 manual also described the mechanized cavalry force as it existed in the spring of that year. The major organizations within the mechanized cavalry were the mechanized cavalry squadron organic to the horse-mechanized regiments, and the mechanized cavalry troops which were organic to the infantry divisions.(33) All mechanized troops had evolved from the 1938 organization, retaining four platoons of four scout cars each, and adding four motorcycle scouts to each platoon (see figure 6). This established two characteristics of reconnaissance and cavalry platoons that would remain relatively constant for the next four decades. First, the size of the platoon, at eight vehicles, was easily the largest combat platoon in that respect in the Army. The second characteristic was diversity. This platoon established the organizational precedent of mixing vehicle types to give the platoon the greatest diversity of capabilities. The squadron also included a motorcycle troop consisting of over 60 motorcycles organized into four platoons of fifteen each.

 Figure 6. Reconnaissance Platoon, 1941.

Consistent with the change in the focus of mechanized cavalry, the manual put much greater emphasis on the reconnaissance mission and reconnaissance techniques than previous manuals. Where the 1938 manual devoted only 15 pages of text to reconnaissance techniques, the 1941 manual devoted 25 pages, plus a new chapter on scouting and patrolling techniques. A final subtle, but significant, indicator of the doctrinal shift towards reconnaissance, is the manual's consistent reference to cavalry soldiers and small units as "scouts," connoting reconnaissance as their principle purpose. The manual leaves little doubt that in the three years since the publication of the 1938 manual the mechanized cavalry had made significant doctrinal shift from an all-purpose mounted combat force, to a force that specialized in pure reconnaissance.

World War II began for the U.S. in December 1941, eight months after the 1941 cavalry manual was published. In the months before and after Pearl Harbor the Army and the nation underwent full mobilization. The cavalry force was mobilized: all units being brought up to full strength; a second cavalry division authorized; national guard cavalry units reported for active duty; and new equipment was fielded. General Headquarters (GHQ) made several decisions during this time period which would affect the development of the cavalry force. First, GHQ decided to deactivate the four national guard cavalry divisions and their organic regiments.(34) Second, the remaining seven national guard regiments were converted to horse-mechanized,(35) While it was decided to leave the two active cavalry divisions horse mounted for the time being.(36) This left the Army with nine separate cavalry regiments (horse-mechanized) and eight divisional regiments (horse).

Figure 7. Scout Cars of the 13th Cavalry Regiment (Mechanized), 1939.

Source: National Archives Photo reproduced in Steven Zaloga, Stuart, U.S. Light Tanks in Action
(Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1979), 5.

At this point the views and actions, or more accurately inaction, of the Chief of Cavalry MG Herr, are again important. Mechanization proceeded slowly in all cavalry units. Officially, horses were still the decisive component of cavalry. Herr believed that "horses had stood the acid test of war whereas motorized elements had not."(37) The separate horse-mechanized units were only partially mechanized, and their mechanized equipment arrived slowly. No thought was given to mechanizing the regiments of the cavalry divisions. The Chief of Cavalry defined cavalry as horses, and he was determined that that definition remained valid.

This situation continued until March 1942 when the office of the Chief of Cavalry, as well as that of the other combat arms chiefs, was abolished.(38) The powers of the branch chiefs was consolidated in the Commander, Army Ground Forces (AGF), Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair. The consolidation eliminated the obstruction of the Chief of Cavalry's views regarding the horse. The immediate impact of this change in the command structure was the accelerated mechanization of the separate regiments.(39) It was General McNair's vision to field a fully mechanized Army in every respect.

AGF soon made a number of important changes which affected the cavalry force. The first among these was abolition of the regimental system for nondivsional troops in April of 1942.(40) This effectively eliminated the nine separate horse-mechanized regiments. All non-divisional regimental headquarters were replaced by "group" headquarters, and all nondivsional troops were organized into separate battalions or squadrons. The AGF did not create any separate horse cavalry squadrons. This effectively mechanized all nondivsional cavalry, creating a force of eighteen newly designated cavalry reconnaissance squadrons (mechanized), organized under the operational control of nine cavalry reconnaissance group (mechanized) headquarters.(41) These squadrons added a support troop (light tank) and replaced the motorcycle troop with an additional reconnaissance troop (see figure 8). The organization was loosely organized on the model of the reconnaissance squadron organic to the cavalry division. The new unit title recognized the accepted doctrinal mission of reconnaissance.

Figure 8. Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (CRS), 1942.

In 1942 divisional cavalry and reconnaissance forces, aside from the horse regiments of the cavalry divisions, consisted of a cavalry reconnaissance squadron organic to the cavalry division, and the troop organic to each triangular infantry division, as well as an armored reconnaissance battalion organic to each armored division. The infantry division reconnaissance troop was organized similarly to the reconnaissance troops of newly formed mechanized cavalry reconnaissance squadrons.(42) It consisted of four reconnaissance platoons each made up of four armored cars and four motorcycles.

The armored reconnaissance battalions of the newly formed armored divisions differed somewhat from the mechanized cavalry squadrons. They evolved directly from the experiences of the 7th Cavalry Brigade regarding the importance of reconnaissance and the importance of combined arms. Thus the armored reconnaissance battalion was a more robust organization compared to the mechanized cavalry squadron. In 1940 the battalion's primary subunits were the two reconnaissance companies which were identical to the cavalry troops. Instead of a motorcycle troop, the armored reconnaissance battalion boasted a light tank company and an armored infantry company.(43) These two companies were designed to give the battalion a combined arms capability to fight through enemy reconnaissance elements and to conduct limited offensive and defensive operations. In 1942 the armored reconnaissance battalion was restructured making it similar to the cavalry reconnaissance squadron. The primary difference between the two being the presence of assault guns in the reconnaissance platoons. The battalion's doctrine was essentially that of the cavalry: conduct reconnaissance and avoid fighting. These reconnaissance units organic to the armored and infantry divisions, along with the nondivisional cavalry regiments, would be the cavalry and reconnaissance forces of the war.

The cavalry divisions remained horse mounted. This indicated that even General McNair did not seem to want to make the sensitive decision to unhorse cavalry forever. However, by the middle of 1942 it was understood that the U.S. Army planned to fight a mechanized war. Eventually the 1st Cavalry division would see combat and fight well as infantry in the Pacific Theater.(44) The 2d Cavalry division was deployed overseas in early 1944 where it was deactivated, although some of its regimental designations were reactivated as cavalry reconnaissance groups (mechanized) late in the war.(45)

During the years 1938 to 1942 the Army pursued a vigorous modernization program. This program also effected the cavalry and reconnaissance forces. The type of equipment chosen for mechanized cavalry was a direct reflection of its reconnaissance doctrine. Cavalry was not expected to fight; therefore there was no perceived need for medium armor. Stealth, speed, and cross country mobility were the characteristics considered most important for equipping cavalry. Fire power, though an important consideration, was secondary to mobility. Automatic weapons were considered sufficient at the platoon level, while light tanks were viewed as a squadron or battalion combat multiplier.

Initially, the primary vehicle of the reconnaissance forces was the M3 armored car.(46) It was a 4x4 wheeled vehicle with reasonable cross-country mobility. Its cross-country capability was a major improvement over the M1 and M2 armored cars that it replaced which were essentially commercial vehicles converted to military use. The M3 was also fairly heavily armed, mounting both .50 caliber and .30 caliber machine guns in addition to the personal weapons of the crew. It was also very fast: capable of sustained 45 miles per hour speeds on hard surface roads (see figure 9).(47)

In 1938 the cavalry also was equipped with a substantial number of motorcycles. These vehicles had good road mobility and were stealthy and enthusiastically received at first. Ultimately, however, they were found to be of only minimal use due to poor cross-country mobility, and safety and maintenance problems. In 1941 the Army began experimenting with "Bantams" (1/4-ton "jeeps"). These vehicles were considered far superior to motorcycles and the Army planned to replace most of the motorcycles with this rugged and versatile new vehicle (see figure 10).(48)

Figure 9. M3 White Armored Car.

Figure 10. 1/4 Ton Bantam - "Jeep."

Those units which were authorized light tanks began receiving the M3 Stuart in 1941. The Stuart was considered a very capable light tank design at the time of its debut. It mounted the standard 37-mm U.S. Army antitank gun, which was regarded as considerable fire power for a light tank in 1941. Like the M3 armored car, the Stuart tank was mechanically reliable and fast. It was considered ideal for the type of missions that a reconnaissance force would be expected to conduct (see figure 11).

A variety of factors affected the equipping of mechanized cavalry. The equipment was tested extensively during the Army maneuvers of 1939 to 1941. The equipment held up well under the simulated battlefield conditions and seemed to meet the needs of the missions.

Figure 11. M3 Stuart Light Tank.

In addition the lessons perceived from the early campaigns in Europe and North Africa indicated that a fast armored car force was an important ingredient to success on a mechanized battlefield. The Germans and French employed over 900 armored cars in the 1940 campaign for France.(49) The British, who did not field a single armored car in the British Expeditionary Force in 1940, rapidly produced and fielded an extensive armored car reconnaissance force in the 1941-42 North African battles.(50) They reported the mobile conditions and terrain of North Africa were ideal for armored car equipped reconnaissance forces.(51) Therefore, it appeared in 1942, that the armored car equipped cavalry of the U.S. Army was ideally suited for the war ongoing in Europe and Africa.

In November of 1942 U.S. forces were committed for the first time to combat in the war against Germany as part of Operation Torch. The American component of this operation was significant, and consisted of the best equipped, trained, and combat ready U.S. Army forces available. The major combat elements were initially the 1st, 9th, and 3d Infantry Divisions, and the 1st and 2d Armored Divisions. These units all contained their organic cavalry reconnaissance troops or their armored reconnaissance battalions as appropriate. Significantly, no nondivision cavalry reconnaissance groups or squadrons were deployed for combat until near the end of this operation. This despite the fact that reports from both Germans and Allies had indicated that the mobile warfare practiced in North Africa was ideal for fast armored reconnaissance.

This was the legacy of MG Herr. The impact of his opposition to mechanization was not only the formation of the Armored Force, but was also the obsolescence of the cavalry force in 1942. It was not until the abolition of the Cavalry Chief's office in the spring of 1942, that structure, priority, and direction were applied to cavalry organizations. This was done from outside the force by the AGF. However, the restructuring and training required time and could only be accomplished on a limited scale prior to combat in North Africa. At the time of the Torch landings cavalry groups and squadrons were still receiving mechanized equipment, adjusting to new organizations and command relationships, and training toward their new reconnaissance role. Thus, cavalry and reconnaissance would be represented in North Africa primarily by the units organic to the deployed divisions. Still, these units were representative in terms of organization, equipment, and doctrine, of the mechanized cavalry force as a whole. In terms of training, they were some of the best trained units in the Army at that time. Therefore, their performance in combat would be representative of the cavalry force, its organization, equipment, and doctrine.


(1) Mildred Hanson Gillie, Forging the Thunderbolt (Harrisburg, PA: Military Service Publishing, 1947), 36.
(2) Ibid., 39.
(3) Ibid., 48.
(4) Mary Lee Stubbs and Stanely R. Conner, Army Lineage Series: Armor-Cavalry Part I: Regular Army and Army Reserve (Washington D.C.: Center of Military History U.S. Army, 1984), 56.
(5) The Cavalry Journal, "Mechanized Cavalry," The Cavalry Journal (November- December, 1931): 53.
(6) U.S. Army Cavalry School, Mechanized Cavalry, 1932-1933 (Fort Riley Kansas: The Cavalry School, 1932), 3.
(7) Ibid., 3.
(8) Ibid., 3.
(9) Ibid., 12.
(10) Ibid., 18.
(11) Ibid., 18.
(12) Ibid., 21.
(13) Ibid., 14.
(14) Ibid., 10.
(15) Ibid., 6.
(16) Bruce Palmer, "Mechanized Cavalry in the Second Army Maneuvers," The Cavalry Journal (November- December, 1936): 460.
(17) Ibid., 465.
(18) U.S. Army Cavalry School, FM 2-10, Cavalry Field Manual: Vol. II, Mechanized Cavalry, (Fort Riley KS: U.S. Army Cavalry School, 1938), 103.
(19) Ibid., 98.
(20) Ibid., 92.
(21) Ibid., 106.
(22) Ibid., not numbered, foldout page.
(23) Donald E. Houston, Hell On Wheels (Novato, CA: Presido Press, 1977), 22.
(24) Gillie, 112.
(25) Houston, 8.
(26) Ibid., 27.
(27) Ibid., 16.
(28) Kent Roberts Greenfield, The Organization of the Ground Combat Troops (Washington DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1947), 309.
(29) U.S. Army Cavalry School, FM 2-10, Cavalry Field Manual: Mechanized Elements (Fort Riley, KS: U.S. Army Cavalry School, 1941), 38.
(30) C. P. Bixel, "Cavalry Motorcycle Troop," The Cavalry Journal (January- February, 1941): 52.
(31) War Department, FM 2-15, Cavalry Field Manual, Employment of Cavalry (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1941), 7-8.
(32) U.S. Army Cavalry School, FM 2-10, Cavalry Field Manual: Mechanized Elements (1941), 70.
(33) Ibid., 70.
(34) James A. Sawicki, Cavalry Regiments of the U.S. Army (Virginia: Wyvern Publications, 1985), 114.
(35) Ibid., 114.
(36) Greenfield, 392.
(37) Stubbs, 70.
(38) Greenfield, 286.
(39) Sawicki, 118.
(40) Greenfield, 356.
(41) Sawicki, 114.
(42) U.S. Army Cavalry School, FM 2-10, Cavalry Field Manual: Mechanized Elements (1941), 37.
(43) I. D. White, "Reconnaissance Battalion, Armored Division," The Cavalry Journal (May-June, 1941): 48.
(44) Stubbs, 71.
(45) Ibid., 71.
(46) Gillie., 114.
(47) Ibid., 114.
(48) White, 86.
(49) R. M. Ogorkiewicz, Armoured Forces (New York: Arco Publishing Company, Inc., 1960), 433-434.
(50) Ibid., 433-434.
(51) Ibid., 437.