The Brooklyn Cowboy: American Jews on Horseback in WWII

Ehrenpreis-bootsThe worn Model 1940 riding boots of Private Harold Ehrenpreis evoke an Army man who’s spent countless hours on a horse. Most people associate combat on horseback with an earlier time, but when Harold Ehrenpreis was issued these boots in 1941, the horse cavalry was still an active part of the U.S. Army. Mounted cavalrymen were trained at Fort Riley, Kansas until 1944. As with every other part of the military, this included Jews. Some had prior riding experience, but for many from urban environments it was completely unfamiliar territory.

corman

Morris Corman, the “Brooklyn Cowboy”

Morris Corman was an early draftee before the U.S. had officially entered World War II.  He was sent to Fort Riley in 1941 where he earned the nickname “The Brooklyn Cowboy.” Corman described learning to shoot a handgun at full gallop as well as the lighter side of horse cavalry when they played polo with broomsticks.

Marvin Kastenbaum

Marvin Kastenbaum

Before Marvin Kastenbaum was sent to Fort Riley, his entire experience with horses consisted of seeing one pulling the milkman’s cart down his street in the Bronx.

In a letter home after his first days of cavalry training in 1944, he expressed surprise that “they’re big animals when you get up close to them.” He thought the riding would lead him “to be split in two before the week is out.” But it didn’t take long for Kastenbaum to become a solid rider, easily passing the mounted problem training, firing live ammunition while riding a course on horseback.

Kastenbaum was among the last of the soldiers trained as a mounted cavalryman. He was eventually sent to the China-Burma-India Theater with a dismounted cavalry unit and a field artillery battalion. The final U.S. horse cavalry charge in combat was in the Philippines in 1942. American horse cavalry units were gradually dissembled and those trained on horses were reassigned to mechanized cavalry or infantry units.

Sidney Fishman on horseback with two other soldiers. Caption on back: "Troop 'C', 1st Training Squadron, Ft. Riley, KS. Approx April 1941. All are Jewish."

Sidney Fishman on horseback with two other soldiers. Caption on back: “Troop ‘C’, 1st Training Squadron, Ft. Riley, KS. Approx April 1941. All are Jewish.”

An earlier version of the article previously was published in the Jewish Veteran.