Academic journal article Military Review

Riders of the Apocalypse: German Cavalry and Modern Warfare, 1870-1945

Academic journal article Military Review

Riders of the Apocalypse: German Cavalry and Modern Warfare, 1870-1945

Article excerpt

RIDERS OF THE APOCALYPSE: German Cavalry and Modern Warfare, 1870-1945, David R. Dorondo, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD, 2012, 336 pages, $36.95

FROM THE EARLIEST forms of shock-and-awe-style warfare, to today's modern battle tank, none draws more romanticism and mysticism than that of the horse in combat. Images of the Egyptian war chariot to the armor-clad medieval knight bearing down on a line of infantry resonate in current thought through its profound and revolutionary effect on the battlefield. Throughout the ages, horsemen and those of similar special units were regarded as the elite of the modern battlefield. Riders required training in horsemanship to guide their 1,000-pound animal into a deadly abatis, as well as the ability to conduct reconnaissance, surveillance, and screening of enemy movements without detection or destruction. These skills enabled an army to gain, almost instantly, a decided tactical advantage over another. Acknowledging that all weapon systems eventually become obsolete by advancements and/or battlefield conditions, one that has miraculously survived is the horse.

To understand horse survival in light of advances in weaponry, David R. Dorondo takes us back to their use in German warfare. He sets the stage with the German Uhlan in the Franco-Prussian War. The Prussians used horses to disrupt operations, perform valuable reconnaissance, and in some circumstances, stave off defeat in order to allow the main field armies to regroup and survive to fight again. The French did not share in these same successes and in one contest thousands of horsemen perished; the Prussians had to put to death nearly 10,000 of their horses due to injuries. However, the German generals analyzed what they did wrong, to include the French lessons in different contexts and thereby designed a different purpose for which the horse arm is more uniquely suited. …

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