October 16, 2011

Honoring Our Horse Soldiers

From the Daily Caller:

It was the news the world breathlessly waited for immediately after the 9/11 terror attacks: a report of the first American troops on the ground in Afghanistan.

All at once the world’s attention focused on an iconic photo of those Special Operations Forces doing something no American military had done in nearly a century: They rode horses into combat.

Their secret mission: secure northern Afghanistan by advising the warring tribal factions that formed the Northern Alliance. During the 2011 Veterans Day Parade on November 11, a new monument to these men — and to all Americans in uniform — will make its way down New York City’s famed Fifth Avenue on the way to its final home, a stone’s throw from Ground Zero.
It is fantastic that our soldiers are being honored in this fashion. But it hasn't been 100 years since the thunder of horses hooves struck terror into the hearts of America's foes. Prior to the war in Afghanistan the last cavalry charge by US mounted troops was lead by Lt. Edward Ramsey of the 26th Cavalry Regiment (the Philippine Scouts) on 16 JAN 1942.
[...] in a charge against Japanese infantry in the village of Morong. Mounted on his horse Bryn Awryn, a chestnut gelding, Lt Ramsey led the last American cavalry charge to victory and was awarded the Silver Star after the war. The American cavalry carried no swords, since April 18, 1934, the issuance of swords to US cavalry troopers was discontinued, but they were packing the ubiquitous Colt 1911.
Fighting on horseback is not easy. In 1914 the US War Department issued a Saber Exercise manual which was prepared by Master of the Sword, Lt. George S. Patton, who himself designed the Model 1913 Cavalry Saber.

In the following excerpt, Lt. Patton explains the concept "thrust at the right moment."
24. In the charge the trooper is merely a projectile, the saber it’s point. He is a unit in a line rushing on the enemy with the one idea of riding him down and transfixing him with his rigid saber, held at the position of charge saber. In the mêlée, the trooper still goes at speed, riding down his opponent, but here the ranks are broken, and both he and his opponent have more room. In this case should he maintain the position of charge saber, he would have less control of his horse and might easily be attacked from either flank or from the rear, and he would be helpless except against attack in front. Hence, he takes the position of guard toward his nearest enemy, crouching slightly in his saddle and alive to all possible attacks. In this alert position he gallops on his adversary and makes a lunge to the right front or left front when he estimates that the point of his saber will reach it’s full extension about 6 inches before touching the breast of his adversary. If the trooper does this accurately his enemy will have no time to parry and the speed of approach of the two horses will instantly transfix him. This is called the thrust at the right moment.
Patton would later become famous as a visionary amored cavalry commander and tactician. But his first love was mounted cavalry.
The cavalry saber, Model 1913, was the last saber issued to and used by the U.S. Cavalry. The designer of the "last of the bright blades" was Lieutenant George S. Patton, Jr. At the time of the redesign, Patton was "Master of the Sword at the Mounted Service School" at Fort Riley, Kansas. Quite an honor for a young Army Lieutenant. Because of his involvement with and enthusiasm for the cavalry saber Patton was given the first of many nicknames, "Saber George."

According to The New Cavalry Equipment, an article appearing in the September 1912 issue of the Journal of the United States cavalry Association, the saber was designed to be a cut and thrust weapon. It had a two-edged blade with a chisel point. The blade was of forged steel and the sword was thirty-eight inches in overall length. It weighed two pounds.

The blade was manufactured with blood-letting grooves running down each side to within 4-3/4 inches of the point. The grips were black hard rubber with 13 per inch checking. The guard was made of 0.042 inch thick sheet steel.
Cavalry charge: thrusting a three foot long hunk of steel through the chest of your opponent while closing at a combined speed of fifty plus miles per hour. A ballsy concept that takes much practice, but by 1914 the use of the saber had all but disappeared from modern warfare.


Gorges Smythe said...

I read a quote once that said that a man on a horse was part of a more noble combination than was possible for either seperately (or something like that).

sig94 said...

Gorges - t'was written when war was nobler also, peradventure,