The Blackhorse in Vietnam by Donald Snedeker


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

Blackhorse Riders by Philip Keith

Blackhorse Riders: A Desperate Last Stand, An Extraordinary Rescue Mission, and the Vietnam Battle that America Forgot by Philip Keith has just been released in paperback (St. Martin’s Griffin, 368 pp., $15.99)

Here’s our review of the hardcover, from the March-April 2012 print edition of The VVA Veteran:

Blackhorse Riders focuses on one fierce Vietnam War engagement. It took place on March 26, 1970, in triple canopy jungle along the Cambodian border when 1st Squadron’s Alpha Company of the 11th Armored Cavalry (The Blackhorse Regiment) got into a never-named, all-day fight against the NVA.

The two-hundred-odd men of Alpha troop came to the rescue of an under-strength and under siege First Cavalry Division unit (C Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry) that had inadvertently bumped into a huge hidden NVA stronghold.

Keith, a one-time U.S. Navy aviator in Vietnam, tells the story of Alpha troop’s dangerous and successful mission quite well. He also tells how the unit fought for years to be recognized for what took place that March 26, 1970. That effort came to fruition on October 20, 2009, when 119 men of Alpha troop came to Washington, D.C., where they received the Presidential Unit Citation in the White House’s Rose Garden.

—Marc Leepson