Every unit sent to Vietnam deserves an official historian like Don Snedeker, who has served in that capacity for the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment for more than 30 years. Snedeker’s previous book, The Blackhorse in Vietnam, is a comprehensive history of the regiment from the time it arrived in-country in September 1966 to spring 1972 when it was deactivated during the drawdown of U.S. forces.
Snedeker, an officer in the Blackhorse Regiment after he arrived in Vietnam in December 1969, continues to put his three decades of work as the unit’s historian to good use in his new book, Blackhorse Tales, which he calls a “companion volume” to the previous work. In this exhaustively researched book, Snedeker tells the stories of scores of individual Blackhorse troopers, replete with photographs, drawings (by former trooper John Pretti), maps and documents. Altogether, the stories provide a vivid picture of almost every aspect of life for the 25,000 men who served in the regiment, a mechanized unit equipped with tanks and armored personnel carriers.
In his effort to provide the fullest possible picture of life in Vietnam for the Blackhorse men, Snedeker includes chapters on weather conditions in the war zone, South Vietnamese troops, civilians (primarily Donut Dollies and locals who worked at base camps) and the physical conditions of the jungles, rice paddies, plantations and roads.
There is also a chapter on the folks at home, primarily families, wives and significant others—not to mention one on pets and other animals the troops encountered in Vietnam, including monkeys, goats, lizards, snakes and chickens.
The heart of the book is a collection of combat tales told to Snedeker over the years by former Blackhorse troopers and fleshed out with his extensive knowledge of the regiment’s history.
Those accounts are woven into the narrative and contained in a series of what Snedeker calls combat “vignettes.”
The first deals with events the night of June 19, 1967, during Operation Akron when two Blackhorse squadrons fought alongside an Australian Task Force, the U.S. 9th Infantry Division and the South Vietnamese 18th Infantry Division in a battle with a Viet Cong regiment near Saigon at a rubber plantation south of Bien Hoa.
Others chronicle the fateful crossing of the Dong Nai River on April 25, 1968, during the post-Tet offensive; the Aug. 8-13, 1968, fighting north of Saigon; an all-day battle against a large enemy force in April 1969 as part of Operation Montana Raider in dense jungle near Tay Ninh City; and the 2nd Squadron’s fight near the Ho Bo Woods in the Saigon area during late April 1971.
Stories of 11th Armored Cavalry Troopers At War
by Donald C. Snedeker, AUSA/Casemate, 2021
Snedeker concentrates heavily on the positive aspects of the Blackhorse Regiment’s service, making Blackhorse Tales an unabashed paean to the Vietnam War veterans of the unit. He writes of the “sort of mystique” about the Blackhorse as it was “equal parts ‘riding-to-the rescue’ horse cavalry and ‘no-mission-too-difficult’ modern cavalry.” It was made up of men, he says, who “rode to war” on “modern day steeds of steel and aluminum.” They “were all part of the same brotherhood of war” and gained a “lifetime membership in this brotherhood.”
The Blackhorse, he writes, was “different from the others who we fought alongside in Vietnam. In a good way. In a very good way.”
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