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Learning under Fire

The 112th Cavalry Regiment in World War II

By James S. Powell

Publication Year: 2010

Thrown into the heart of war with little training--and even less that would apply to the battles in which they were engaged--the units of the 112th Cavalry Regiment faced not only the Japanese enemy, but a rugged environment for which they were ill-prepared. They also grappled with the continuing challenge of learning new military skills and tactics across ever-shifting battlefields. The 112th Cavalry Regiment entered federal service in November 1940 as war clouds gathered thick on the horizon. By July 1942, the 112th was headed for the Pacific theater. As the war neared its end, the regiment again had to shift its focus quickly from an anticipated offensive on the Japanese home islands to becoming part of the occupation force in the land of a conquered enemy. James S. Powell thoroughly mines primary documents and buttresses his story with pertinent secondary accounts as he explores in detail the ways in which this military unit adapted to the changing demands of its tactical and strategic environment. He demonstrates that this learning was not simply a matter of steadily building on experience and honing relevant skills. It also required discovering shortcomings and promptly taking action to improve—often while in direct contact with the enemy.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press


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p. ix

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pp. xi-xiii

World War II still captivates the American imagination. It is remembered as a necessary war waged against indisputably evil foes, the “good war” fought by the “greatest generation.” For the country’s armed forces, it marks their finest hour in the minds of many—an unprecedented national triumph, its conduct the epitome of the American way of war. Formal ...

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pp. xv-xvi

Brian Linn has been a mentor for many years. He supplied early direction on the substance and scope of this project. Several times, I returned to the deep well of his experience and expertise, and he graciously offered the advice and reassurance I needed. Joseph G. Dawson III, Jim Burk, and Arnold Krammer all read the manuscript and provided insightful comments ...

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1. The Texas Cavalry Prepares for War

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pp. 1-24

In the spring and summer of 1940, the U.S. Army executed a series of large-scale maneuvers, to which the looming prospect of war added a sense of urgency and relevance. These unprecedented corps exercises tested the practicality of organizational changes and helped to reconcile the concepts of mobility and firepower with new technology and doctrine ...

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2. Closer to the Cauldron: Woodlark and Arawe

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pp. 25-54

Hard-earned victories in eastern New Guinea and Guadalcanal in the first months of 1943 checked Japan’s southward advance and set the conditions for an Allied counterstrike. After much debate over command relation-ships and resource allocation, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and theater commanders in the Pacific settled on a plan that focused on the isolation ...

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3. Into the Jungle of Fire

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pp. 55-81

While the 112th Cavalry mopped up around Arawe, the forces of General MacArthur and Admiral Halsey carried out the last stages of the reduction of Rabaul. Landings at Cape Gloucester and Saidor, New Guinea, in late December 1943 and early January 1944 paved the way for SWPA’s bold strike against the Admiralty Islands on 29 February. This invasion, com-...

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4. Aitape Interlude

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pp. 82-99

Returning to Aitape on 11 August 1944, the 112th entered into a well-deserved rest period and began to recover from its forty-five-day ordeal on the Driniumor. Meanwhile, Sixth U.S. Army doggedly continued up the coast of New Guinea as it progressed toward the Philippines, MacArthur’s ultimate objective in the Southwest Pacific. Though temporar-...

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5. “A Terribly Hard Campaign”

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pp. 100-134

In January 1945, a trooper writing from Leyte grumbled in a note home that “every bone in his body ached continuously.” Compelled by a sense of parental duty, his father forwarded this complaint to the Sixth Army commander and expressed his fear that keeping soldiers in the tropics for “too long . . . will injure their health permanently, and . . . make mental ...

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6. Combat on Luzon: Learning and the Lessons of Experience

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pp. 135-167

“The island of Luzon is the nicest spot I’ve been since coming overseas—much better than Leyte,” 1st Sgt. Melvin Waite scrawled in his diary. Recording his initial impressions, he gushed, “The trip from the beach to the bivouac area was wonderful. The road was lined with banana trees. . . . The country is open and beautiful. We had a delightful surprise—about ...

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7. The Occupation of Japan

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pp. 168-185

The announcement of Japan’s unconditional surrender on 15 August 1945 brought with it the appointment of Gen. Douglas MacArthur as Supreme Commander of Allied Powers (SCAP), as well as a dramatic change in mission for U.S. forces in the Pacific. Preparations for the projected invasion of the home islands ceased as staffs at theater and army levels initiated Op-...

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8. Conclusion

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pp. 186-196

Exploring the 112th Cavalry’s journey from Texas to Tokyo opens a window into the broader experience of American units that fought in SWPA. As Sixth Army made its way literally by leaps and bounds from New Britain, up the New Guinea coast, and across the Philippine archipelago, the 112th—like most RCTs—plugged into the next operation, performed its ...


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pp. 197-227


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pp. 229-234


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pp. 235-242

E-ISBN-13: 9781603443524
E-ISBN-10: 1603443525
Print-ISBN-13: 9781603441711
Print-ISBN-10: 1603441719

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 14 b&w photos. 9 maps. Bib. Index.
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 680622547
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Learning under Fire

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Subject Headings

  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Campaigns -- Pacific Area.
  • United States. Army -- Combat sustainability -- Case studies.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Regimental histories -- United States.
  • United States. Army. Cavalry Regiment, 112th -- History.
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