Cavalry means operational maneuver that wins battles not land battleship duels

"Armor across country" by Jim Dietz

Official 11th ACR "Blackhorse Regiment" combat veterans web site:

In 1957 the unit was assigned to Germany as part of the Nato Forces protecting the border from communist aggression until it returned to the United States in 1964. In March of 1966, the unit was alerted for movement to the Republic of Vietnam. It then began redesigning it's equipment for a new type of warfare. Adding additional armor and two more 30 cal. Machine guns to the armored personnel carrier which had one 50 cal. Browning machine gun. The addition of protective gun shields for the crew and track commander. The result was a very rapid all terrain fighting vehicle which could deliver devastating firepower. It was called the Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicle or "ACAV". The Blackhorse troops arrived in South Vietnam on September 7, 1966, and quickly engaged the enemy with tanks, ACAV's, artillery and helicopters. The success of the ACAV in battle prompted the army to convert personnel carriers in other units in a similar fashion..

The main operational area was the provinces around Saigon and up to the Cambodian border. The unit clearly demonstrated it's rapid mobility when Saigon came under siege during the 1968 Tet Offensive. The unit raced over 100 kilometers in eight hours to the defense of the city and fought street by street to overcome the attacking Vietcong. History now points out that the Vietcong were virtually annihilated during these battles. From that time forward, the war was fought almost entirely by a well equipped North Vietnamese Army supplied by the communist superpowers.

In July of 1968, Colonel George S. Patton, the son of one of our countries greatest military heroes, assumed command and soon applied his expertise in armored combat and moved the armor off the roads and into the jungles in search of the enemy. So successful was the unit's search and destroy missions within the enemy's main supply routes between Cambodia and Saigon, that the enemy could no longer move freely and were forced to seek sanctuary inside neutral Cambodia. Patton coined the phrase, "FIND THE BASTARDS, THEN PILE ON."

From well established bases inside Cambodia, the communist's would strike out into South Vietnam, then return across the border to resupply and regroup. On May 1, 1970, the 11th Cav. spearheaded the historic attack across the Cambodian border to deny the enemy of these safe havens. The unit battled for more than 60 kilometers to capture the town of Snuol and suffered the first two American casualties by anti-tank fire.

The Cambodian Incursion was the last significant flexing of U.S. ground combat muscle in the war. The capture and destruction of tons of enemy weapons and supplies so devastated and demoralized the communists, that little future resistance was encountered. This resulted in a smoother transition of responsibility to the South Vietnamese military as the American combat forces continued to withdraw. Countless American and allied lives were saved by this operation which left the North Vietnamese Army unable to mount an effective offensive for some time.

After almost six years of combat, on March 7, 1972, the Blackhorse Regiment departed Vietnam after earning eleven battle streamers. One year later on March 29, 1973, the last American combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam. Within two years, on April 30, 1975, Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese as Soviet made tanks crashed through the gates at the Presidential Palace. Tanks that were never brazen enough to stand toe to toe against the Blackhorse Regiment while it stood watch for the people of South Vietnam. South Vietnam's military, without the support of American combat troops was not able to defend it's country.

The Army of TODAY--needs to take that superb M113A3---up-engined---and apply applique armor to it so its RPG resistant and supply them to the 2d ACR "Strike force" so it can be the AIRmechstrike force for the XVIII Airborne Corps. I am a current Soldier/Paratrooper with M113A3 experience and have written extensively about why we need a LIGHT ARMORED capability in the Army now that can be AIRDROPPED along with the fighting Paratroopers of the 82d Airborne Division.

Its also about QUALITY---a M113A3 can go places the heavy M1/M2 force cannot go. The M113A3 swims, the M1/M2s do not. The M113A3 can be airdropped, the heavy AFVs cannot. This all-terrain x-country agility was lost when we went to the HEAVY M1/M2 force and we need it desperately especially if we fight in far east asian jungles again or in cities. As a BFV experienced Soldier, being cooped up in the back of the BFV is a recipe for disaster the Russians already learned in Grozny. Infantry in the M113A3 as you know can fight with their heads out, weapons facing outwards for situational awareness. WE NEED THE M113A3 ACAV WITH APPLIQUE ARMOR.

All we are asking for is 50 x M113A3s be supplied to the 2d ACR Strike force HQs to give it real teeth and 100 TCs/drivers on jump status to operate them. Then they could be supplied as augmentation to the 82d Airborne who would supply the Paratrooper dismounting infantrymen in back. 50 AFVs that NATIONAL GUARD units are turning in mistakenly for M2 BFVs. I am sure the U.S. Army can find 50 M113A3s out of its 1,600+ to supply the 2d ACR Strike force.

If we do not do this, we will have to relearn all those 11th ACR Vietnam lesson all over again, the hard way. What you guys did in Saigon for Tet, we need to be able to do today in modernized M113A3s to win on the increasingly urbanized battlefield. Special M113A3s with assault ladders and fire fighting gear/water hoses are needed to avoid WACOs where fire killed everything we were trying to save in the building assault...



After Vietnam, the Army targeted for destruction all the combat-experienced M113 ACAV officers to rid itself of all memories of "Vietnam" good and bad in favor of slugging it out with the Russian armored hordes at Fulda Gap. Armor branch is now wedded to the "land battleship" (70-ton M-1s which they are gold-plating with digital electronics, missile rounds etc.) and has resisted any light effort. Even the AGS did not have wide support among the Knox crowd. The money they are spending now to paper "STUDY" a 20-ton "Future Combat Vehicle/System" or a 8-km "wonder 120mm round" is the money that could have FIELDED THE M8 AGS in the 3/73d Armor at Fort Bragg, NC or the 2d ACR at Ft. Polk, LA. But that would have helped the Light Infantry divisions, and we can't have that! When 2 decades have passed, and all the money is wasted (no actual weapons or vehicles FIELDED), ehh spent...will the Army buy a 20-ton FCV(light tank) and supply it to the Light/Airborne/Air Assault Divisions? Will they assign some to have the support the 82d Airborne Division-airdrop mission if the FCVs are kept in heavy units? HELL NO! Its too "expensive" to airdrop" and other excuses I'm sure will surface.

I am sure the real reason is to in that time period of "R&D" a major war will take place, the light divisions will somehow get "egg on their faces" (Usually dozens of Americans in body bags), and the heavy-ists will have what they really want: which is the destruction of all light forces from the U.S. Army so they can fight wars their sit-in-a-fat, heavy armored vehicles, lazy-with all-their-Battlefield-Operating-System (BOS) toys in complete logistical comfort. Kosovo proved this bureaucracy can't get itself to the battlefield in time. The first "Battlefield Operating System" is DEPLOYABILITY. If you can't get there, your BOSs are ZERO, ZILCH, NADDA. The problem with this besides being unethical, immoral and devoid of ANY Army values is that the rest of the world isn't going to sit and wait for the heavy Army and boastful-but-without-substance marines leisurely deploy themselves to the battlefield by ships. They are going to use asymetric warfare and gobble up their neighbor in a matter of hours and days in a world that moves by AIR, not sea. "Saving Private Ryan" and D-day/Tarawa/Iwo Jima is over. I have always believed it was a mistake in the 1940s when the Branch of Cavalry was disbanded and the Armor branch born. It would have been better to have simply reoriented the old horse cavalry branch to the "mounted warfare branch" and retained the name Cavalry. This might have prevented the slide towards the "land battleship" mentality that exists at Fort Knox.

The need for an actual Calvary branch is clear thinking. I was a school trained tanker. I selected Armor very carefully because I thought it was the "wave of the future". When I got to my first unit I was sent to a Recon Plt. in an Armor Bn ( 4/69th Armor 8th ID) in Mainz Germany. At first, I was disappointed but in a short time I came to love the recon Plt. But in a Bn that only had about eighty percent strength (all the shops and every support unit ran at 100 percent) I went through two Tank Gunnery Cycles at Graf. When the Israelis got their asses kicked in the Yom Kippur war, many changes in doctrine and equipment were supposed to come about. One of my biggest gripes since first coming in AIT was the firing of two rounds at every target. The Israelis agreed (ass whippings focus everybody) and new directives came down about only shooting targets once if you hit but there were no changes in doctrine. We still shot each target twice, even if we missed, as if the fight would be over and we would be sent back to our barracks with low scores if we didn't hit it in two. Very poor training technique.

I spoke out about this showing everyone articles in Armor, which made me very popular with some officers but not particularly well liked by most (my Bd CO loved me but my Bn CO wanted me dead or gone) officers. My knowledge of history was very good (I was too young to realize how good at the time, because I figured most officers would at least know as much as me and probably more) and I had a tendency to dispute popular tanker myths. This was in the early seventies and the M113 ACAV "Armored Cav" had been very successful in Vietnam which was beginning to be ignored by Armor branch as an "aberration". Within a year of me entering the service they RIFed every Cav officer in my BDE. No exceptions. Only tankers were left and none of them had any combat experience.

I started referring to the crossed Sabers as "crossed fence posts", and when some specialists got drunk one night and repainted the Bn sign with crossed fence posts I was immediately under suspicion. Fortunately I had gone to Switzerland for the weekend so my alibi was tight.

I came to regard the whaled tanker training cycle as a bad joke. The tactical training was non-existent and we were generally unprepared for anything other than challenging the Soviets to tank gunnery duels at Graf. My biggest problem with this is that tanks are not intended to fight tanks (I know, heresy). They are supposed to run around in the enemies rear and make life difficult for their more lineal thinking rivals. You will not find a single incident of Patton organizing tank duels. He fought tanks with TDs and Arty. and organized attacks with the intention of creating a breakthrough and forcing our enemy not to fight but to reorganize on a different line. You will never hear 3rd Army veterans complaining about the Tiger tank but 1st Army veterans use that as an excuse for all their failures. It's interesting to note that 1st Army was literally unable to move in bad weather (no CAS!) while Patton continually organized his attacks to take advantage of cloud cover and darkness. One of Patton's biggest complaints was we needed much more training in night attacks.

There has been a constant debate about tank size and weight since they were first introduced. This is the wrong argument in my opinion. The real argument is what can we do to enhance our mobility and destructive power. When the horse was the main form of mobility it was very successful for several thousand years. Then weapons advances made the horse unable to survive on the battlefield. This was taken to mean that mobility was dead. The slaughter of WWI was strictly a misunderstanding about mobility in my opinion, because of course it was the horse who was through not mobility. If we don't understand this, the Army will fail. Mobility is the key to victory. The "land battleship" is fast coming to an end. It will have to do with costs more than anything but it will still fail. The Merkava is having it's problems in Lebanon and it's probably the outer limit of weight- to-power in a military vehicle. It's not fast enough to get out of the way, so it's an easytarget for the newest missiles. We need a separate Cav branch. I've never thought that light All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Dragoons should be under Armor branch control, but I like to refer to them as Squadrons, Regiments and troops.

The "Land battleship" mentality is the Tiger tank fears of the 1st Army under infantry-mentality Hodges who had no operational maneuver. The fact that Patton never complained about Tiger tanks is so true--never realized it until recently--it clicks. 1st Army was on its ass (no operational maneuver) so Tiger tanks could COME TO THEM. So putting Dragoons into Armor branch is no guarantee they will be used with operational maneuver.... Today, we have our own "Tiger tank", the M1 Abrams 70-ton, fuel-gulping monster. Strategically immobile and requires fueling at least twice a day and before every mission.

After Vietnam, everything that had to do with ACAVs, Armored Cavalry-----was killed--including Cav officers with combat the process we lost the light-AFV-in-difficult-terrain-combined-arms-team concept. Everyone wanted to put Vietnam past them---lets get heavy and fight the Russkies. Land battleship. The tank duel. The failed armor theories the French had in 1940, when the German blitzkrieg defeated them with operational maneuver. We desperately need the Cav back--the ACAV M113A3 for AIRBORNEcav capabilities--the Wiesel for Air Assaultcav capabilities----these are what we need to save the day like the M113 ACAVs did at Tan Son Nhut airbase, the U.S. embassy at Saigon---take a peek at the HBO film---"A Bright Shining Lie" on John Paul Vann for a small treat. All a part of the 25th Light Infantry Division under General many light AFVs does the 25th LID have today? The 10th Mountain? The 101st Air Assault? The 82d Airborne? Can you say ZERO?

This is it---Cav versus Armor "land battleships" this is what is wrong with Armor branch. Guderian versus DeGaulle, the maneuverist wins. I understand. Now I see why our numerous articles for the M113A3 have been ignored. Mental slugs have taken over Armor branch. Armor branch should be changed to Cavalry branch to bring back operational thinkers to the U.S. Army.

Another Armor officer adds:

No, I do not subscribe to ARMOR. I browse it occassionally in the library. Back in 19xx, when Uncle Sam informed me that I was excess to requirements (I got passed over for Major), I saw no need to continue subscriptions like Armor. Since then, I've watched Armor Force go lower and lower down the political tube with so much of the rest of the Army. In my estimate, the real problem is with TRADOC, which has accomplished nothing since its creation. All it has done is further "stovepiped" a broken organizational structure.

Consider: The Armor Force did not invent "combined arms".

Combined arms has been with us throughout history: infantry and cavalry, and later artillery.

In 1940, the Armor Force established an "armored" combined arms team to operate alongside the existing combined arms team. After several revisions, we ended up with the division level structure, with "Armored divisions" operating alongside "infantry divisions". Armor had tanks, armored infantry, armored artillery, armored engineers, armored cavalry, etc. In Vietnam, light divisions had tanks and M113 ACAVs, today they have nothing.

Today, Armor School is the proponent only for the tank battalion and the main battle tank, and it is sort of co-proponent for the M3 CFV and the 4.2" and 120mm SP battalion mortar. Yeah, some claim the ACR, too, but that's a stretch. Infantry School is proponent for IFVs, APCs, and mortars. Field artillery is proponent for SP armored artillery. Engineers... etc.

That was bad enough. Then, when Armor School started with the Tank Extended Range Munition (TERM), I knew that they were really screwed up. Why in God's name would you want to take the premier gunfighter of the close fight and turn it into an indirect fire system, when mortars and artillery--tube, rocket and EFOGM (15+km range versus TERM's 8 km) are more than adequately available? The M1 is already got a limited supply of 120mm ammo--just 44 rounds---and now we are reducing it by having it carry High-Explosive rounds because we didn't want to field a M113A3-based Combat Engineer Vehicle (CEV) to replace the old M728, and didn't want to field EFOGMs for precision guided counter-arty and air. We are making the EXACT same mistake the Russians did with their tanks in the Chechan Republic! The Russians had a few rounds of building-busting rounds per tank when they needed a dedicated CEV. Its ad hocery to think Armor units are going to building/obstacle/bunker bust when even at JRTC they are not allowed to use simulate tank main gun ammo to breach. It will not be trained on, and if its not trained for, its dead. Who says the 120mm HEP rounds will even make it to M1 units in the field? "Putting all our eggs in the Land battleship basket" to keep the land mastadon alive at all costs. Now we will have to get our asses handed to us seizing a runway just so we can land the land mastadons---the German Airborne's critical WWII weakness that annihilated them. Isn't this deep down inside what the heavy-ists in the Army want? To kill the Light divisions?

Now, I do not blame Armor School for GEN Reimer's sudden decision to kill the M8 Ridgway AGS, but I do contend that Armor's proposed solution was poorly contrived and arguable. Why is a 105mm good enough for the AGS if it needs to fight the very same enemy armor against which we claim to need the 120mm? There is a big disconnect in the logic, here.

What Armor School should have done is to create several light organizations. First, dump the "AGS" title.

- Establish the M8 Ridgway light tank battalion, retaining M113A3-based battalion with M1064A3 120mm mortars and M113A3 Gavin scout platoon, have the 11th ACR at NTC use these vehicles for a war-time function, not just force-on-force MILES war games. this will give us quickly technotactical insights how best to deploy this force in OPEN desert terrains. This would be our rapid-deployment AIRBORNEmechstrike force for the U.S. Army in the Pacific.

- Establish a Light ACR with M8 Ridgways and M113A3 Gavins, Dragoon ATVs ALL AIRDROPPABLE to support XVIII Airborne Corps, using the 2d ACR "STRIKE FORCE" at Fort Polk, LA. This force would perfect closed-terrain technotactical details for the entire Army. This would ceate the AIRBORNEmechstrike capability for the U.S. Army for the Atlantic/European/Middle east regions.

- Establish a Composite Light Armor Brigade of an M8 tank battalion, an M113A3 mech Infantry battalion with specialized assault ladder/fire fighting vehicles, an M2 Bradley Infantry battalion (high angle 25mm cannon good in city fights) or a turreted 120mm mortar on a M113A3 to achieve high-angle fire capabilities, and an M109 155mm armored artillery battalion, with an EFOGM Company for surgical precision strike and a MLRS HIMARS company, and an attack/transport aviation battalion. This rapid deployment force would focus on URBAN BATTLEFIELD TTPs since infantry can use the M8 light tank as a moving shield since the M1's turbine engine is too hot to follow closely behind.This would be our force of choice for an urban fight.

- Establish an ultra-light Armor brigade in the 101st Air assault Division using the combat-proven German Airborne Wiesel 2 family of light tracked, armored vehicles, as Infantry and weapons carriers to create Air Assault MechStrike capabilities for the U.S. Army. EFOGMs and a trailer-mounted MLRS (T-MARS) would be fielded to support AirMechStrike maneuver forward of the FLOT. The 101st Air Assault Mechstrike force would be a contingency asset like the 82d Airborne's M113A3 Gavins anyewhere in the world in 18 hours.

Concurrently, they should have established a need for light mobility support (light AVLB, fixed and float bridging, armored earthmoving, etc.).

Overlay a modern command and control architecture over this light mirror image of conventional forces, and you have an interesting capability for rapid deployment based on existing (proven) doctrine. Much better than having all your "sheets flapping in the wind" with no doctrinal basis except for a technology "dream list".

Oh, well. Not my fight any more. Instead, I need to decide whether or not I should buy the new Class "A" uniform with its new shade of green. Such are the tough calls of a peacetime Army.



E-mail 1st TSG (A)

A U.S. Army Attack helicopter pilot writes about the AIRmechstrike the 11th ACR executed in Vietnam:

"Excellent notes,

From my readings over the years I have always felt that Vietnam was a tactical success for the U.S. Military overall, but a huge Foreign Policy debacle as well as a failure on the strategic and operational level (Violations Sun Tzu and the principles of War). But a tactical success story!"

A field-grade infantry officer writes:

"Great DIG on the greens - we can kill E-FOGMs while the great issues of the day are sensitivity classes and new greens - arrrrgh"

Great info Mike.

Maybe 11th ACR and 2nd ACR can re-examine their histories and get to AirMech and Dragoons.

My First Sergeant in Germany in 1978 was an 11th ACR Soldier in Nam and I was always impressed with his experiences.

It's interesting they're going to use the M113A3 OSV APCs to replace the Sheridan - irony or what?"

A former U.S. Army Combat Developer writes:

"Actually, we are in close agreement, but we are looking at different levels. No system is perfect. There are always tradeoffs. Sometimes, they are chosen wisely, and sometimes they are plainly stupid. Often, they seemed smart at the time but turned out otherwise, later. Unfortunately, we tend to be stuck for a long time with whatever decision is made.

The M1 Abrams is the best tank that we have, though it can be improved by other tradeoffs. I agree that the fuel consumption is a problem and that a lower hp conventional diesel engine would solve this. You can still retain the high top speed (your suspension supports it), but you will lose dash speed and acceleration. I have never been convinced that dash speed is worth the fuel price. You also need to reduce the electrical load and allow the vehicle to shut down without instantly sucking all of the batteries dry trying to run the thermal sights, hydraulics, and electronics. An APU is part of the answer, but we also need to simply turn more of the stuff off. When I was a tank platoon leader in my M60A1, in defense, we hot looped the tank intercoms through the external phone jack and shut off all the radios except for mine. All five tanks monitored my radio through their intercom, and everything else was shut off. This is just one example, but this is the sort of discipline that we need today.

Regards the ACEV, what I told you was the history of what happened. I did not say that I agreed with it. Remember, I thought ACEV was great, IF YOU NEED A CEV! Unfortunately, the engineers failed to make that argument. When the Army Chief of Staff directed retirement of the CEV, only CinC Korea voiced concern. All others were glad to see it go, because it had a low readiness rate that made them look bad.

Remember that combat support is a multiplier if it accomplishes tasks beyond the capability of the combat force. If the combat force can readily accomplish the task, then there is no need for support. For example, once infantry got organic machineguns, there was no longer a need for machinegun battalions or companies. Likewise, if a tank gun round can take out a bunker, there is no need for a special engineer vehicle to duplicate the task, ammo stowage limits not withstanding. Engineers liked to talk a lot about using the CEV in MOUT, but that is hyperbole. Sure, the 165mm can bring down walls and buildings, but is that really your intent? Do you really want to take out a sniper in a steeple by leveling the entire church, thereby creating yet another obstacle of debris and rubble? Also, aside from its low rate of fire and obvious signature, the CEV was too old and worn out for such a role, anyway. If the damn thing was such a broken down vehicle, then commiting it to MOUT would be criminal. Again, Army leaders were talking out both sides of their mouths.

Personally, I think that a turreted direct fire 120mm mortar on a M113A3 chassis should be more than adequate for MOUT, having a reasonably large warhead, a short barrel for tight streets, and a low signature overall. It would be part of the mech infantry or tank battalion's mortar platoon, and not an engineer unit.

The point to all of the above is that the Army fixates on the solution, in this case an Abrams CEV, before thinking through what it actually seeks to accomplish.

Regards light armor, I agree with you that I would rather have a whole bunch of top-attack indirect fire systems instead of direct fire tanks. Remember, I was advocating top-attack smart mortars. However, if I am to engage in a direct-fire battle and both are available, I would much rather have Abrams instead of twice as many M8 AGSs. The problem with the M8 [with Level I armor]is that it can be killed by almost everything else, to include a WWII 37mm anti-tank gun. Now, if I am constrained and cannot get the Abrams there at all, then that is different. I will accept the M8 and use it as an assault gun in the infantry direct support role. But I would not try to attack enemy armor in a classic tank battle unless I knew that the bad guys were really poorly trained and were lousy shots.

That's the tactical level. At the operational level, I will eventually bring in heavy forces, anyway. The problem we have is that we worry too much on the 250 or so tanks of a heavy division, and ignore the thousands of other vehicles in the force. For example, the division's aviation brigade burns far more fuel, expends far more tonnage in ordnance, and needs far more maintenance and repair, but nobody thinks about it. There is plenty of room for efficiency everywhere, and we should not focus so much solely on the MBT.

I believe in Airborne and Air mobile in support of the main effort ground maneuver, but I do not believe in independent Airborne ops on their own. Until some radically new capability arrives, I consider it a very high risk and resource-intensive operation. The wear and tear on aircraft (and fuel consumption) is enormous, not to mention enemy counterair and air defense along the aerial resupply route, as well as attacks on the landing zones and airfields.

Again, these are my opinions based on my experience and studies. I do not claim to be right all of the time, and I gladly adjust my outlook as new capabilities arise. I have tried to explain to you WHY I feel this way and illustrate how I arrived at my conclusions. My concern with Army leadership, on the other hand, is that there is no logical process or historical analysis at all, but just 'knee-jerk yes-sir-itis' to whatever idea spews forth. That, and 'newer is better' trumps all.

You are at the tactical level, thinking, 'this is all I really need to accomplish my task.' I am looking at the operational level, saying 'here's what can be made available, through proper planning and decision making, so that the poor guy at the pointy end of the spear won't have to muddle through.' We are not disagreeing so much as merely having a different scope."