The Last War-time Cavalryman

I haven’t posted the last few days since I was in upstate New York with my family, celebrating my wife’s parents’ 50th Anniversary.  We had a very nice party on Saturday and it was a terrific time.

When I came home yesterday, I opened our local Sunday paper and saw several interesting articles dealing with the last surviving veterans of World War I.  Some of you might know that there are currently only 12 veterans of that war still alive today (as of the beginning of this year, there were 24, but we’ve lost half of those already).  At an average age of 108 (108!), we’re sure to lose the rest of them very soon.

One particular article caught my eye – and the caption below the picture of an obviously very old man stated that this fellow was the “last surviving member of the U.S. Army Cavalry.”  106 year-old Samuel Goldberg of Rhode Island is apparently the last surviving mounted horse soldier to serve in a war.  Here’s the biographical paragraph of Goldberg, from the Scripps Howard News Service:

Samuel Goldberg, 106, lives in Greenville, R.I.  Immigrated at age 5 from Poland with his family.  Last surviving member of the U.S. Army Cavalry.  Joined the army for adventure and served at Fort Hatchita, N.M., and at forts along the U.S.-Mexican border in 1918 to defend against a possible invasion via Mexico by Germany.

Here’s a bit more from the general article, which talks about the status of surviving veterans of WWI:

These remarkable “Doughboys” are members of an increasingly fragile fraternity, relics of a world changing conflagration little remembered today.  Once they stood 4.7 million strong: American farm boys, factory hands and tradesmen itchy for adventure, all called by their county to fight “the war to end all wars.”
Now, when the 88th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I arrives Saturday, there won’t be enough surviving U.S. veterans of that defining conflict to fill a platoon.
When 2006 began, an unofficial roster of known remaining American WWI vets listed only about 24 names.  Eleven months later, those ranks have dwindled to 12, Scripps Howard News Service has confirmed.
With an average age of 108, it is unlikely these numbers will hold for long.

Unlikely indeed.  I’m 41, and when I was a kid there were lots of WWI vets in my hometown – it seemed as if every fellow over 65 was a vet.  Now, we’re losing veterans of WWII at an alarming pace as well.  My father, a vet of both WWII and Korea, will be 80 this January.

Here’s to all of them, and in a special way for Samuel Goldberg, the last cavalryman to ride leather during a war.  His passing will be the end of an era for this afficianado of all things cavalry.

Published in: on November 13, 2006 at 3:15 pm  Comments (11)  

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11 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. JD,

    I saw the same article, and had the same reaction.

    That he is the last surviving horse soldier to have seen action is really a sad thing. Unfortunately, the march of technology/progress made horse cavalry obsolete, but there is still something romantic and very traditional about the thought of a man and a horse going into combat together….

    Georgie Patton was one of the cavalry commanders during the expedition to the Mexican border, and it’s entirely possible that Mr. Goldberg served under him.

    Eric

  2. Interesting – I didn’t know about Patton’s expedition, so yes… Goldberg may have been one of his troopers. Goldberg is one fellow I’d love to be able to have a conversation with!
    J.D.

  3. Great post JD. What a real American hero. I lead a men’s Bible study at my church on Sunday nights, and have had the pleasure of spending 2 1/2 hours every week (for the last four years) with three older southern gentlemen, one who is a “young” 89 years-old. He still drives himself, and cuts his own grass, and is part of a priceless generation of manly-men that we cannot hold a candle to. It is amazing to hear him talk about Fredericksburg in the early 1900’s when Confederate war vets were still around. They were to him – what he is to me – and I feel very thankful that they are still here to teach us all about the REAL America.

  4. I often say that the Vets of WW2 are our greatest generation. WW1 vets are right there with them. Coming from a military family, I ALWAYS thank any vet I meet for serving our Country.

  5. Sad to think that the WWI Vets will all soon be gone. My Grandfather served in WWI with the 17th Machine Gun battalion. I’m proud to own some of his memorabilia including his WWI Victory Medal.

    Mr. Goldberg may well be the last of the WWI Cav Troopers, but the Army maintained a handful of mounted units through the early days of WWII. The last combat by a horse mounted US Army unit was by the 26th Cavalry, Philippine Scouts on Luzon, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. I don’t know if any members of the Regiment (55 Officers and 787 men as of 11-30-41) survived the war and may still be among us.

  6. Mike,

    You’re indeed correct – Eric and I talked about this yesterday, and we weren’t sure if any survivors of later actions were still around. If they are, they would be the last combat horse soldiers alive.

    The article touted Goldberg as the “last of the US Cavalrymen” in two different places, which is of course incorrect – there were still mounted units 25 years later, and I think the article meant to say the last of the WWI mounted vets.

    He’d be a nifty guy to have a chance to talk to.

    J.D.

  7. I was just about to post concerning the 26th Cav. the last recorded “official” mounted action of the US cavalry was a mounted attack on a Japanese outpost in the village of Morong, PI, January, 1942, but I confess that I also don’t klnow if any members of the wartime 26th Cav are still alive.

    The regiment had to destroy the last of their horses on Bataan, and thereafter those members who did not surrender and take part in the Death March were active in guerrilla ops in the PI – but not with cav mounts, apparently.

    Dave Powell

  8. Not so fast, little brother. The United States Army still has a single regiment of mounted cavalry. The Parsons’ Mounted Cavalry is a Reserve Officer regiment which forms part of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University.
    http://www.aggiecorps.org/home/corpscenter/tradexhibits/pmc/
    Yes, I know it’s a technicality, but what are big sister for?

  9. How wonderful that you and so many others recognized Sam’s remarkable history when you did. Sadly, Sam Goldberg passed away this past weekend. I happened to find your site and thought I would let you know. Sam was an amazing individual, sharp as a tack. In fact, he was an “independant” resident until the very end if you can believe that. Those of us at the assisted living community where he has spent the last decade plus, are fortunate to have known him and to have heard his many wonderful stories. Several years sgo I, along with a local reporter, interviewed Sam for a article on his role in the Cavalry. He was 100 years old and yet he remembered dates and names like the back of his hand. He really was a remarkable human being.

  10. The officer that led the last horse mounted attack was a Lt Col from Oklahoma whose last name was Ramsey. It was on Luzon in the Phillipines. He went on to lead the US & Phillipine Guerillas against the Japs. I doubt if he or any of the troops in the attack are alive today. It might be good for some interesting research.

  11. I interviewed Sam for a WWI documentary featuring the last U.S. veterans of WWI. It’s at http://www.thelivinghistoryproject.org. He was an amazing guy.

    Will


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