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Steeds of Steel

Steeds of Steel Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review April 2008 Title Steeds of Steel
Author Harry Yeide Publisher Zenith Press
Published 2008 ISBN 978-0-7603-3360-0
Format 320 pages, hardbound MSRP (USD) $27.95

Review

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." So said philosopher George Santayana over half a century ago. If you'd like to read an example of that quotation, here is an interesting example. More on that later.

Actually, this title is about the development of mechanized cavalry. Cavaliers were historically the advanced guard that would reconnoiter enemy lines, emplacements, lines of communication, etc. These same cavaliers not only reconnoitered, they were an agile combat force that would disrupt those very lines of communications and key positions. Of course, until around 1940, US Army cavaliers drove one horsepower vehicles around the battlefield (horses). With the clouds of war looming on the horizon and news of Germany’s armored blitz across Europe, the US Army quickly transitioned the cavalry from horses to armored vehicles. The armored cavalry was born.

With that transition, the role of the cavalry became clouded in the new doctrine of armored warfare. It wasn’t until the first armored cavalry units arrived in theater that operational realities would override theory and doctrine. The soldiers quickly adapted and carried on the tradition of in-their-face warfare.

Author Harry Yeide has written several books on the armored combat during World War II, and this title expands that scope to cover these unique warriors. In this books 320 pages, you might expect detailed exploits, and there are indeed some examples, but the author has maintained a higher-level perspective on the roles and experiences of the armored cavalry forces not only in the ETO, but also in the Pacific theater as well.

  • Coverage of this subject includes:
  • From Horse to Horsepower
  • North Africa: A Concept Tested
  • Sicily and Italy: Mechanization Meets the Mountains
  • The Pacific Part 1: War of the Cavalry Reconnaissance Troops
  • The Pacific Part 2: The Mechanized Cavalry Finds Roads
  • Normandy: Cavalry in the Hedgerows
  • The Breakout From Normandy
  • Southern France: The Strategic Cavalry Charge
  • The Reich’s Tough Ride
  • The Battle of the Bulge
  • On to Victory
  • A Brilliant Legacy

When you get to the end of this interesting title, the author brings you quickly through history to modern days and the role (or lack thereof) of the cavalry as an armed reconnaissance force. At the end of World War II, the review boards concluded that the cavalry forces had performed their missions differently from doctrine, but clearly adapted to the situation at-hand and with great success. Nevertheless, the cavalry was all-but-gone by Korea, back in Vietnam, a cornerstone in the Cold War, and faced transitions into current operations. Today, the armored cavalry doctrine relies more on network centric remote sensors rather than getting eyes on target, but then again, as I said in the beginning, “those who cannot remember the past…”

This is a great read for military historians and history buffs that want a good baseline for how armored cavalry started and how the force was reshaped during the realities of war.

Definitely recommended!

My sincere thanks to Motorbooks International for this review sample!

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