These clips are from the New York Times of July 5, 1941. When this story ran Poland and France had both fallen, and the Soviet Union looked like it might well go next. All three had been savaged by a thoroughly modern German innovation: the attack by massed tanks. But despite all that, there were officers in the U.S. Army who still believed there was a place in modern war for horse cavalry.

The most prominent was General John Knowles Herr, the Army’s Chief of Cavalry. Herr was under severe pressure to give up his horses and mechanize the cavalry, but he, a die-hard traditionalist, consistently refused. As this article indicates, the farthest he was willing to go in that direction was in providing cavalry units with trucks and trailers — to be used to transport their horses.

The rest of the Army leadership grew so frustrated with Herr that when the U.S. finally entered World War II, they took the opportunity to do a reorganization that simply eliminated the cavalry as a distinct branch of the force. That left Herr, formerly Chief of Cavalry, as the chief of nothing at all. He took the hint and chose to retire.

Herr spent his retirement giving interviews and writing newspaper columns calling for the return of the horse cavalry. He persisted at this increasingly Quixotic mission into the 1950s.

The U.S. Army made its last cavalry charge on horseback in the Philippines in 1942.

Sign in to participate in the conversation

The social network of the future: No ads, no corporate surveillance, ethical design, and decentralization! Own your data with Mastodon!