"A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!" pleaded Shakespeare's King Richard III. His crying plea then is echoed today as we continue to search for a better means to increase the soldier's mobility, maneuverability and dominance over his dismounted foe.
My days at the Cavalry School in the early twenties taught me that mounted troops, covering the advance, flank or rear, finding the holes and exploiting enemy weakness, seizing key positions, striking the enemy's flank and rear and pursuing, are essential to an army's success.
They also taught me that the horse, our faithful mount through the centuries, could no longer survive the devastating fire on a modern battlefield, nor could it serve as a platform for the cavalryman's effective use of his weapons.
The search for a better "horse" intensified between World War I and World War II. It goes on today. The role of Cavalry is unchanged, the "horse" continues under development. My period of service put me in the center of this transformation, a period of bitter recrimination between "horsemen", who held that "Cavalry" means "horses", and "cavalrymen", who held that "Cavalry" means mounted soldiers capable of performing the Cavalry role. Because of this dissension we entered WWII with two forms of Cavalry: a heavy striking force called Armor and a lighter covering force called Cavalry (mechanized). This combination, with supporting troops, made up the armored divisions. The successes of our division owe much to the 86th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron Mechanized which so ably fulfilled its role.
Although the squadron was organized and trained as a unit to operate directly under division control, each situation required its own solution. Troops, even platoons, were regularly detached and given separate missions or were attached to combat commands or teams. This text is replete with situations that demanded quick decisions and actions by the separate troop and junior leaders.
When Cavalry found the horse inadequate, the desperate search for a suitable mount was only partially successful by the time we entered WII. The 86th, mounted on jeeps (peeps), armored cars and light tanks, did an amazing job, proving the need for, and the value of, high speed, maneuverability and punch, which were but partially available in our combat vehicles.
An intangible but indispensable element, called Cavalry esprit, inspired the 86th and each of its troops and platoons. Acting alone or in cooperation with other combat units they carried out every type of Cavalry mission boldly and with great success. The camaraderie has held fast for more than 35 years since the days of combat.
The following pages relate the thoughts and actions of the leaders who made the 86th a vital part of our division.
As Division Commander, and as a cavalryman, I am proud of the 86th and the manner in which it upheld the age-old traditions of Cavalry.
Major General, USA (ret)
Go to "Organization and Training" or "Table of Contents" page.