Blackhorse Tales by Donald C. Snedeker

Donald C. Snedeker’s Blackhorse Tales: Stories of 11th Armored Cavalry Troopers at War (Casemate, 304 pp. $34.95, hardcover; $15.99 Kindle), is one of the best books I have read about U.S. combat forces in the Vietnam War.

Snedeker served in 1969-70 as a platoon leader with the 2nd Squadron of the 11th Armored Cavalry (Blackhorse) Regiment. The unit operated in the hotly contested War Zones C & D north of Saigon in places such as An Loc, Zuan Loc, Di An, Gia Ray, Bien Hoa, the Michelin Rubber Plantation, Nui Ba Den, Tay Ninh, and the Ho Bo Woods, and farther west into Cambodia.

Although he awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, Snedeker writes very little about himself in this, his second book about the regiment. The first was The Blackhorse in Vietnam, which came out in 2020. His new book is almost entirely about other Blackhorse troopers and a few attached units. Through scores of interviews, they share their experiences, perspectives, and evaluations.

While writing about one combat engagement after another, Snedeker, who is the unit’s long-time historian, includes many photos, maps, and drawings. Blackhorse Tales is well designed with seven chapters interspersed with “Combat Vignettes.” The chapters include many details about Vietnamese civilians and allies, animals, terrain and weather, and how all of that affected every aspect of the lives of the troops.

These men literally lived in their APCs and tanks. Some spent months in the bush before returning to base camp. They set up fire support bases that were more like night defensive positions, and frequently were on the move. One trooper said he felt like a gypsy living in his track and constantly moving to other positions. 

Reading Blackhorse Tales, I was even more impressed with the mobility and effectiveness of armored troops in the jungles and through the rice paddies of South Vietnam. It is estimated that in its 67 months in country, the 11th Cav drove their tracked and wheeled vehicles over some 23-million miles of terrain and that the unit’s air group had flown some 250,000 sorties.

I truly enjoyed and appreciated Don Snedeker’s work in Blackhorse Tales. I highly recommend it.

–Bob Wartman

The Blackhorse in Vietnam by Donald Snedeker

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Donald Snedeker’s The Blackhorse in Vietnam: The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam and Cambodia, 1966-1972 (Casemate, 336 pp., $34.95), as its title indicates, is a history of that unique fighting unit in the Vietnam War. The author, Don Snedeker, served as an officer in the Blackhorse Regiment in Vietnam after arriving in country in December 1969. Later, in 1974, he was the unit’s regimental training officer, an intelligence officer, and commander of Bravo Troop. Today he serves as the historian for the 11th Armored Cavalry Veterans of Vietnam and Cambodia.

This book contains a very detailed record of the Blackhorse’s experiences in the war. It includes many diagrams, three appendices (“History of the Unit,” “Firepower Comparison,” and “Blackhorse Medal of Honor Recipients”), along with a list of sources, end notes, and an index.

The 11th Armored Cavalry’s Blackhorse regiment arrived in Vietnam in September, 1966 and soon faced many challenges, mainly how to fight a jungle war with armored forces. The enemy was the biggest challenge, but so was the terrain, monsoonal rains, and an institutional bias in the Army that the fighting in Vietnam should be an infantryman’s war. “Hunting Viet Cong with tanks is like chasing a fox with a tractor,” said an unidentified “high-ranking” officer that Snedeker quotes.

After undertaking many successful missions, however, the troops of the 11th Cavalry Regiment showed they could operate effectively on and off roads, in the thick jungles, and during the monsoon seasons.  By the spring of 1967, Blackhorse armor was considered an essential part of the Army’s Vietnam War combat effort.

Former Blackhorse troops at Veterans Day 2013 wreath-laying at The Wall 

The Blackhorse in Vietnam details many of the battles that the 11th was involved in. That includes Attleboro, Cedar Falls, Junction City, Tet, Mini-Tet and Operation Montana Raider. Snedeker includes many interviews with former Blackhorse troops that augment his battle descriptions.

Donald Snedeker wrote the book to preserve for history the actions of the 20,000 members of the Blackhorse Regiment in the Vietnam War. The subject is meticulously researched and will be of interest to historians and to anyone who served with the Blackhorse.

–Mark S. Miller