One of the very first articles I published on Henri’s Web Space, back in December 2013, has for some reason shown an amazing staying power, regularly resurfacing among my trending posts. Entitled In Pursuit Of Truth: When Fiction Masquerades As Facts, it questioned the claim made in a movie produced by HBO back in 1995, In Pursuit of Honor, whose opening credits claimed it was based upon a true story.
The movie stars Craig Sheffer as a young lieutenant in the 12th Cavalry Regiment who buckles at orders from the War Department to have 500 remounts (extra horses) “disposed of” (i.e. machined-gunned in a pit somewhere in Mexico) in a cost-saving measure as the army is being mechanized. After witnessing the massacre of the first 100 horses, the young lieutenant decides to save the remaining 400 or so. Enlisting the help of three old-time sergeants, including the lead played by Don Johnson, he embarks on a 2,000-mile journey North to eventually lead the surviving horses across the Canadian border, all the while being pursued by a mechanized and mounted force trying to stop them.
When I originally wrote this article, I could not find any evidence supporting the claim that this film was based upon a true story. However, I did find a very convincing piece penned by Bob Seals, a retired Army Special Forces Officer, entitled In Defense of Honor: General Douglas MacArthur and the Horse Cavalry of 1934, which was posted on Military History Online back in 2008. This article, and another one published in 2002 by Pat Holscher on the Society of the Military Horse website, managed to convince me that there was little evidence supporting the claim that this movie was based upon fact rather than fiction, hence the title of my original article.
Still, doubts lingered in my mind, nurtured by the occasional reader comment questioning my conclusion – without offering any additional evidence, unfortunately. So I recently searched the Internet further to see if I could not find a way to contact someone who had actually worked on this movie. Looking for information about the man who had written the script, Dennis Lynton Clark, I stumbled upon an article published in the Los Angeles Times on March 12, 1995, a few days prior to the movie’s release by HBO.
The author of this article entitled A Few Good Cavalrymen, Susan King, had actually put to Clark some of the questions I would have asked him, had I been able to contact him. Admitting that “it’s oral history”, Clark had told King that he had learned about the incident as a 7-year-old living with his grandparents on their Montana farm. “I heard this story from three of the actual participants,” he said. “They worked for my grandfather. They had sneaked back in the United States and worked as cowboys. This was about 13 years after the actual event.”
Clark further mentioned that while he was serving in the U.S. Army from 1961 to 1964, his commanding officer was a former cavalryman. “One day in a drunken moment, he rambled on about (the incident) and said, ‘Oh, God. I must not talk about this’,” Clark recalled. “He had actually been in the cavalry in the ’30s when this was happening. He was not part of it, but he remembered the story and the very dear friends.” This comment by Clark echoes other comments I had received from a reader, which I dismissed for lack of actual supporting evidence.
So, who are we to believe? A government that has been shown time and time again to hide and distort the truth, or people who claim to have heard the account from actual participants in the events? Then again, maybe the actual truth is hiding somewhere in the middle? In any event, this goes to prove that the pursuit of truth is an ongoing process – more shall be revealed, as “Nothing is secret that will not be revealed…”
Henri Thibodeau Henri’s Web Space