World War Two US Cavalry Groups – European Theater

Published: September 10th, 2012     
Author: Gordon L. Rottman
Reviewed by: Marc K. Blackburn - IPMS# 42892
ISBN #: 9781849087971
Other Publication Information: Paperback, 64 pages, period photos, full-color illustrations
Price: $18.95
Product / Stock #: Elite 129
Product provided by: Osprey Publishing

Osprey Publishing is without a doubt one of the most prolific publishers of military history on the face of the planet. Whether you build models, teach history, or are an armchair historian, Osprey has something for you. This new release is part of their Elite series which tend to focus on particular units or armies. This title has a tight focus - the US Cavalry Groups that fought in the European Theater of Operations during World War Two. The author makes it clear at the beginning of the book that this title provides a focus on the thirteen cavalry groups that fought in the ETO. The coverage does not include the two that served in Italy or Southern France or remained in the states.

What is a Cavalry Group? These are not the organic reconnaissance units that were included in infantry and armored divisions. In 1942, the US Army adapted the pooling concept. This allowed for specialized units to be held at a Corps or Army level Headquarters, and then be assigned missions that matched its capabilities. Moreover, additional assets could be attached to the group (usually towed artillery and tank destroyers) to augment their combat capabilities. These units were meant chiefly for reconnaissance, but once deployed they were tasked to do many things that stretched their capabilities to the maximum - flank security, headquarters security, screening movements of larger units, etc. As these missions suggest, the units were lightly armed (Jeeps, M8 armored cars, and M5A1 light tanks) and did not have the staying power of an equivalent infantry battalion. The author includes several vignettes from the campaign through northwestern Europe that illustrate how these units met the challenges encountered in the field.

The author spends a great deal of time reviewing the tables of organization and equipment, tactics/missions, and cavalry groups deployed to Europe. As with all Osprey volumes, US Cavalry Groups is copiously illustrated with period photographs of the units in action. Another feature of Osprey books is the addition of full color illustrations that concentrate on tactics and equipment.

While the text, at times, can be quite dry, there is a great deal that this title offers. For modelers, the photographs alone offer lots of fodder for dioramas. The photographs alone are worth the price of the book since they show well-weathered vehicles from the winter of 1944-45. For aficionados of World War Two, this selection from Osprey sheds light on the last vestiges of the US Cavalry to see action in the field.

I'd like to thank Osprey Publishing for the review copy and IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review it.

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