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

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Overview


Despite the enduring popular image of the blitzkrieg of World War II, the German Army always depended on horses. It could not have waged war without them. While the Army's reliance on draft horses to pull artillery, supply wagons, and field kitchens is now generally acknowledged, D. R. Dorondo's Riders of the Apocalypse examines the history of the German cavalry, a combat arm that not only survived World War I but also rode to war again in 1939. Though concentrating on the period between 1939 and 1945, the book ...
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Riders of the Apocalypse: German Cavalry and Modern Warfare, 1870--1945

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Overview


Despite the enduring popular image of the blitzkrieg of World War II, the German Army always depended on horses. It could not have waged war without them. While the Army's reliance on draft horses to pull artillery, supply wagons, and field kitchens is now generally acknowledged, D. R. Dorondo's Riders of the Apocalypse examines the history of the German cavalry, a combat arm that not only survived World War I but also rode to war again in 1939. Though concentrating on the period between 1939 and 1945, the book places that history firmly within the larger context of the mounted arm's development from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 to the Third Reich's surrender.

Driven by both internal and external constraints to retain mounted forces after 1918, the German Army effectively did nothing to reduce, much less eliminate, the preponderance of non-mechanized formations during its breakneck expansion under the Nazis after 1933. Instead, politicized command decisions, technical insufficiency, industrial bottlenecks, and, finally, wartime attrition meant that Army leaders were compelled to rely on a steadily growing number of combat horsemen throughout World War II. These horsemen were best represented by the 1st Cavalry Brigade (later Division) which saw combat in Poland, the Netherlands, France, Russia, and Hungary. Their service, however, came to be cruelly dishonored by the horsemen of the 8th Waffen-SS Cavalry Division, a unit whose troopers spent more time killing civilians than fighting enemy soldiers.

Throughout the story of these formations, and drawing extensively on both primary and secondary sources, Dorondo shows how the cavalry's tradition carried on in a German and European world undergoing rapid military industrialization after the mid-nineteenth century. And though Riders of the Apocalypse focuses on the German element of this tradition, it also notes other countries' continuing (and, in the case of Russia, much more extensive) use of combat horsemen after 1900. However, precisely because the Nazi regime devoted so much effort to portray Germany's armed forces as fully modern and mechanized, the combat effectiveness of so many German horsemen on the battlefields of Europe until 1945 remains a story that deserves to be more widely known. Dorondo's work does much to tell that story.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Dorondo's book has several strengths. First, he shows a knowledge of horses that is both deep and nuanced. The research is meticulous, based on documents from the National Archives, as well as a wide array of secondary sources. The writing is engaging, and the work is enhanced by some excellent photos, many from the author's personal collection. Although the cavalry only played a minor part in the German Army in the World Wars, its story was one that needed telling. Dorondo has succeeded most admirably in that endeavor." -- Journal of Military History

"I found this book to be very well researched, the author having a good command of the primary source material, much of it in German, and many with on-line references as well." -- Starshell Magazine

"…a good addendum to my military library." -- Army Magazine

"Dorondo's obvious passion for horses and his thorough research make this a book that will be of considerable interest to specialists of the German army or of mounted combat." -- H-War Reviews

"Dorondo's book has several strengths. First, he shows a knowledge of horses that is both deep and nuanced. The research is meticulous, based on documents from the National Archives, as well as wide array of secondary sources. The writing is engaging, and the work is enhanced by some excellent photos, many from the author's personal collection. Although the cavalry was but a minor part of the German Army in the World Wars, its story was one that needed telling. Dorondo has succeeded most admirably in that endeavor." -- Strategy Page

"Dorondo is a historian who knows his horses and a horseman who knows his history. This book is a wide-ranging and often enthralling narrative of the distinguished but ultimately horrific role played by the German cavalry in combat from the age of Bismarck to the downfall of Hitler." -- ANTHONY J. NICHOLLS, professor of modern German history (retired) at the University of Oxford; Emeritus Fellow, St. Antony's College, Oxford, and author of Weimar and the Rise of Hitler

"This fascinating and long overdue book provides startling new information on German cavalry from 1870 till 1939. Dorondo combines brilliant, primary research techniques with a riveting writing style to present brand-new insights on an important subject. His coverage of these units during World War II is astounding!" -- COL. WALTER J. BOYNE, USAF (RET.), National Aviation Hall of Fame member and author of more than fifty books, including Messerschmitt Me 262: Arrow to the Future

"The steadfast military horse, with its antecedents extending back into the mists of time, is the unsung hero of this compelling account of German cavalry engaged in close combat during three increasingly mechanized wars. David Dorondo's lively narrative is enhanced by his masterful grasp of European military history and his personal passion for raising and nurturing horses. A fascinating story!" -- COL. JOSEPH H. ALEXANDER, USMC (RET.), author of Utmost Savagery: The Three Days of Tarawa

"Minutely researched, this excellent work probes the development of the German cavalry from the mid-nineteenth century to its wide deployment in the field right up to 1945--a little-known fact. It contains astounding detail. A thoroughly absorbing work, it'll prove of great interest not only to the academic but to the lay reader being brought to life by its horseman author, whose knowledge of his subject lifts this from what might have been a dry tome to an utterly fascinating, richly composed one." -- JEREMY JAMES, author of The Byerley Turk

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781612510866
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2012
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author


David R. Dorondo holds the degree of D.Phil. from the University of Oxford. He is professor of modern German and European military history at Western Carolina University.
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Table of Contents

List of Maps xi

Acknowledgments xiii

1 The Day of the Horseman 1

2 The Legacy of 1870 15

3 Not Quite Sunset: The Cavalry in World War I 39

4 False Dawn: The Interwar period, 1918-1933 74

5 The Field of Mars: Cavalry Equipment, Horses, and Doctrine in the 1930s 91

6 Bucking the Trend: The Cavalry Rides to War, 1939-1940 112

7 Barbarossa: The 1st Cavalry Division in Russia, 1941-1942 141

8 Hell's Outriders: Cavalry of the Waffen-SS 166

9 Pale Horsemen: The 8th Waffen-SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer, 1942-1943 189

10 Last Recall: The 1st Cavalry Corps, 1943-1945 210

Epilogue: Whither the Horses? 234

Appendix A 243

Appendix B 246

Appendix C 248

Appendix D 251

Notes 255

Bibliography 291

Index 303

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  • Posted September 11, 2012

    Superb!

    Superb!

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