Did the United States Army still use horses in WW2?

Giddyup! Move them out Rawhide!



In a word, no. They did use mules in the Pacific where needed. The last active Cavalry unit was stood down in 1942 and none were sent overseas as horse cavalry. The 1st Cavalry Division was converted to Infantry and sent to the Pacific.


What about the 10th Mountain Division?

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They were foot infantry.


The US Army only used cavalry in combat at the very beginning of the war against the Japanese 14th Army invading the Philippines. The 26th Cavalry Regiment (Separate - Philippine Scouts) was the last cavalry regiment in the US Army to fight from horseback. The last cavalry charge by an American cavalry unit occurred on January 9, 1942 when Lieutenant Ramsey leads G Troop in a charge against Japanese soldiers in the village of Morong. I have included the link if you are interested in listening to Retired US Army Col. Edwin Ramsey described how he organized the last cavalry charge:

Now if you go into the history of the United States Army in World War 2, you will see that there are a lot of cavalry officers serving in the United States Army. The reason for that was in the aftermath of World War 1; the US Army planned to mobilize a massive force of 13 Cavalry Divisions and 10 independent cavalry regiments for the next war. Even with a severe shortage of horses due to congressional budget cuts, the US Army kept extremely high training standards for the 18 active cavalry regiments, 20 National Guard cavalry regiments, and the officer cadres for the 24 Organized Reserve cavalry regiments.

And then came Chief of Staff Major General Douglas MacArthur in 1930. MacArthur set off a firestorm in the ranks of the US Army when he first addressed the Senate Armed Forces Committee and the press with the following statement:
“The era of the cavalry charge is at an end. The day of men fighting from horseback with saber and pistol is over. The motor vehicle, the tank, the airplane, and the armored car are the future of warfare.”

Douglas MacArthur failed in his attempt to mechanize and motorize the US which includes the cavalry due to the severe budget cuts that occurred during the Great Depression. He would only succeed in creating the 7th Cavalry Brigade (Mechanized) with the 1st and 13th Cavalry Regiments (Mechanized) which would become the 1st Armored Division in World War 2. He also faced ferocious opposition from Cavalry Generals in the US Army to his reforms so the cavalry won.

And then came Chief of Staff Major General George Marshall in 1940 who completely agreed with General Douglas MacArthur. General Marshall had the advantage of the full support of President Roosevelt, the money to make the changes, and the ruthlessness to implement it.

So on December 7, 1941; the US Cavalry has been reduced to the 1st Cavalry Division (5th, 7th, 8th, and 12th Cavalry Regiments) and the attached 56th Cavalry Brigade (Texas National Guard with the 112th and 124th Cavalry Regiments) patrolling the Mexican-American border; the 2nd Cavalry Division (2nd, 9th (Colored), 10th (Colored), and 14th Cavalry Regiments) at Topeka, Kansas; and the 26th Cavalry Regiment (Separate - Philippine Scouts), All the other Regular Army cavalry regiments had been converted into armored regiments or mechanized cavalry regiments. With the exception of the Texas National Guard, all of the other NG Cavalry Regiments had been converted into mechanized cavalry regiments, field artillery regiments, or coastal artillery (anti-aircraft regiments). The Organized Reserve cavalry regiments had been converted into combat engineer, field artillery, and anti-aircraft battalions.

There are two points of irony in the Philippine campaign of 1941-42. The first was that the last merchant ship to carry supplies to Manila was a British merchant ship which was transporting the Universal (Bren) Carriers for the 1st Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Canadian Rifles in Hong Kong. The Bren Carriers were handed over to the remnants of the 26th Cavalry Regiment which was then converted to a mechanized cavalry regiment while the horses were shot and used for food on Bataan. The second was the 111th Cavalry Regiment (New Mexico/Colorado NG) which was converted to 200th Coastal Artillery Regiment (Anti-Aircraft – NM NG) before the war also fought on Bataan.

In July 1942, the 2nd Cavalry Division was disbanded. The white cavalry regiments were changed to mechanized cavalry regiments and the 4th Cavalry Brigade (Colored) with 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments (Colored) was transferred to patrol the US-Mexican border. The 4th Cavalry Brigade was ruthlessly looted of experienced African-American soldiers to provide senior noncommissioned officers for the newly forming African-American tank, tank destroyer, combat engineer, chemical mortar, field artillery, and anti-aircraft battalions.

The 112th Cavalry Regiment (Texas NG) was the only cavalry regiment to be sent overseas with horses in World War 2. They arrived in New Caledonia in August 1942. The regiment was moved to Australia in May 1943 where the regiment was redesignated as Special. Special was the army designation for fighting as dismounted infantry. The 112th Cavalry Regiment would fight in the New Guinea campaign and the Liberation of the Philippines.

In February 1943, the 1st Cavalry Division was redesignated as Special (dismounted infantry) and then sent to Australia in June. The 1st Cavalry Division (Special) would fight in the Admiralty Islands campaign and the Liberation of the Philippines where the division was recognized as being one of the best US Army combat formations in the Pacific.

Also in February 1943, General Lesley McNair, commander of Army Ground Forces, convinced a very reluctant General Marshall to raise two more cavalry divisions but only one was activated. This was the 2nd Cavalry Division (Colored) based on the 4th Cavalry Brigade (Colored). Three horse mounted regiments were raised for the activation of the division. The 27th Cavalry Regiment (Colored) and 28th Cavalry Regiment (Colored) for the division, along with the white 29th Cavalry Composite School Regiment for the training of cavalry officers for the division at Fort Riley, Kansas. The 2nd Cavalry Division (Colored) was sent overseas to Algeria in March 1944 to pick up the horses to mount the division from the French. The trouble was that no General in the Mediterranean knew what to do with a Cavalry Division. They can’t use it in the Apennine mountains in Italy, nor in the mountainous terrain of southern France. Racism also played a part in that no one wanted another African-American division. So, the 2nd Cavalry Division (Colored) was disbanded in May 1944 with the men being transferred to engineer battalions and port disembarkation battalions.

The last horse mounted regiment of the United States was the 124th Cavalry Regiment (Texas National Guard). The regiment was sent to India in August 1944 where the regiment was designated as special and fought alongside the Chinese X-force in northern Burma against the Japanese. The regiment would then be flown into China where they are disbanded in July 1945 with the officers and enlisted being used afterwards as trainers for the Nationalist Chinese Army.