By Tom Dare
REMARKABLE FOOTAGE has emerged showing American troops preparing for their entry into World War One by training their cavalry division, despite the units being obsolete by this point in the war.
Video shows soldiers from 1917 practising mounting and dismounting their horses, charging the enemy and tackling tough terrain in preparation for America’s entry into the war in April 1917.
This is despite the fact that, by the time America joined the war effort, cavalry units had effectively been rendered useless thanks to the emergence of trench warfare and the increasing use of the machine guns and tanks in battle.
The footage has re-emerged on the 100th anniversary of the battle of Passchendaele, a battle infamous for the horrendous fighting conditions endured by the soldiers in Flanders fields.
Many of the British and German armies had adopted similar tactics to the Americans early on in the war, with cavalry expected to play a much bigger role in the conflict than it eventually did.
However, while both the Germans and the allies had abandoned such tactics by the time America entered the war due to their high casualty rates, much of the United States’ involvement in the war was characterised by an over-reliance on dated tactics, one of which was the use of cavalry.
America had not fought a large land-based war since its own Civil War over 50 years prior, a conflict that took place at a time when the use of cavalry and cannons was very much at the forefront of military strategy.
And their reliance on outdated methods came at a heavy price. The United States committed approximately four million men to the war effort after joining in 1917, of which 110,000 were thought to have been killed.
And while around 43,000 of these were as the result of a deadly influenza epidemic, many lives were lost due to the American commanders’ failures to learn the lessons of the Allies mistakes in the early stages of the war.