Editor’s note: The launch of the Harding Project signaled an important effort, backed by the Army’s leaders, to reinvigorate the culture of professional writing and the service’s professional publications. This article is the first in a series of profiles of those publications, including its branch magazines and professional bulletins.

ARMOR is the oldest US Army service journal and perhaps the second oldest continuously published publication in the United States—only National Geographic is older. Volume one, number one of the Journal of the United States Cavalry Association came off the steam press of Kecheson and Reeves in Leavenworth, Kansas in March 1888. Early editions connected cavalry officers on the frontier, who were separated from each other by at least a day’s ride. The journal linked cavalry troopers, allowing them to engage on their craft and share ideas, tips, techniques, and, of course, debate.

In 2013 ARMOR celebrated its 125th anniversary, announcing its last printed edition and a move to web publishing via eARMOR. Editor Lisa Alley wrote that she could not find a better description of ARMOR than the one British Field Marshall William Slim articulated for his own army’s journal in 1949 (the British Army Journal, later renamed the British Army Review): “This is not just another training pamphlet; it is a magazine, and like all good magazines, it will be interesting, stimulating and, I hope at times amusing. In it you will find current military thought, tips on what training and the lessons of war illustrated by experience in battle. You will be the authors of the articles; you will contribute the ideas and suggestions that will make alive your training and leadership. We [all have] a lot to learn and we [all have] something which, out of our own experience and study, we can teach. This magazine is to enable us to share the results of that experience and that study. I want every officer and NCO to read the [journal], and I want a lot of you to contribute to it.”

Alley adds in that 125th anniversary edition that “ARMOR reflects the force it serves. As such, it serves to educate mounted soldiers encouraging them to think more deeply about their profession. Every edition of ARMOR is a brief sound bite of an unbroken dialogue that began in 1888. Long before we knew anything about knowledge management or communities of practice, our mounted ancestors came together on the pages of this publication to learn from each other. We are very proud of our branch’s professional journal and constantly seek ways to improve its quality and relevance to the armor force. Frank, but professional, discussions will always find a welcome home in this publication. We constantly seek articles that promote thoughtful and professional discussion on any subject that affects the armor force. If you have an opinion on a particular issue, take time to organize your thoughts, conduct some supporting research if necessary and write them down. In the end we will all benefit from your efforts.” Jon Clemens, one of ARMOR’s former managing editors, noted the irony that one of the smallest branches in the Army sustains a truly remarkable professional dialogue, that began in 1888. ARMOR chronicles the branch’s progress from boots and saddles to tracks and turrets as mounted warfare evolves.

When it debuted in March 1888 as the Journal of the United States Cavalry Association, the publication’s authors and readers debated the utility of the saber over the revolver (an enduring debate that did not fade away until the 1920s), problems associated with acquiring and caring for horses, as well as cavalry operations in current and recent conflicts, including the Indian wars and the Civil War.

The Spanish-American War, Philippine insurrection, and Mexican border crisis conflicts would severely strain the journal, and it suspended publication on several occasions. Later, US mounted units would play minor roles in World War I and in the years following the Armistice it was restarted as the Cavalry JournalWorld War I was not a positive experience for the American horse cavalry, and the newly relaunched journal reflected the ongoing debate between cavalry traditionalists and those arguing that mechanization would play a wider role in warfare and that cavalry must adapt.

World War II gave birth to the armored force; mounted units were disbanded, and their personnel sent to armored and infantry units. At the end of the war mechanized units were organized into a new arm—the armored cavalry. This reorganization spurred the United States Cavalry Association to rebrand and the Cavalry Journal became the Armored Cavalry Journal, shifting focus to the Army’s mobile arm.

The Army Organization Act of 1950 put the another step in the evolution of the mechanized arm in motion, decreeing that the newly named armor branch would be a direct continuation of cavalry. This declaration prompted the United States Cavalry Association to recast itself as the United States Armor Association and the Armored Cavalry Journal became ARMOR with the July/August 1950 issue.

ARMOR would continue to meet challenges, including in 1974 when the Armor School took over publishing it after Defense Department policy demand that active duty officers be removed from association staffs. In 1987, when the Army reduced the number of journals published, ARMOR countered by continuing as a training bulletin. Later on, ARMOR would lose its military editor billet and, most recently, in 2013, budget constraints eliminated publishing ARMOR in hard copy; still ARMOR continues its mission by web publishing and shift to eARMOR.

How has ARMOR not only survived but thrived through a hundred-plus years—years dictating major changes and reorganizations to the army and the mounted force? First and foremost, ARMOR remains a meaningful, professional journal riding the strength of its armor leaders, leaders who wisely invested in and supported a critical, reflective platform that serves the mounted force.

A second critical factor to ARMOR’s longevity and success is its incredible contributors and authors. General Donn A. Starry noted this contributing factor in his essay on the magazine’s 100th birthday in 1988. “The great names of our branch have, almost without exception been contributors,” he wrote. “It has been their interest, concern, and willingness to contribute to the debate, to share their experience and knowledge with others, that have enabled our journal and our branch to survive, grow, and be the strength we are today.”

The journal’s contributors have come from prominent Army names including the Henrys, Holbrooks, Caffees, and Pattons as well as foreign writers including Heinz Guderian, J.F.C. Fuller, and Basil Liddel Hart and include the legendary John Wayne (or his agent).

The list of those who have contributed even includes a great American artist—Frederic Remington. The journal’s cover for its first several years was plain, containing the table of contents sided by a simple sketch of a guidon, bugle, and saber. Fortunately, this was revised around the turn of the century by Remington. Former ARMOR editor and historian Lieutenant Colonel Gardner Bell wrote, “Of the fine artists who turned their talents to painting the Great American West, Frederic Remington comes perhaps closet to being the United States Cavalry’s own.“ In 1898 Remington visited the camp of Third Cavalry near Tampa, Florida to see his friend Captain F.H. Hardie, commander of G Troop. The Spanish-American War had begun and the troop was to take part in the Santiago campaign in eastern Cuba. Remington was on assignment for Harper’s Weekly to draw scenes of the war. During the visit Remington was struck by the sight of the mounted John Lannen, a noncommissioned officer from G Troop. “Remington noted the ease and grace with which Sergeant Lannen rode and selected him as the most perfect type of American Cavalryman he had ever seen. At this time Sergeant Lannen’s hair and mustache were white. He had blue eyes and a dark, ruddy complexion. He was a superb horseman,“ wrote Remington’s friend Hardie, by then a colonel, in a letter to the editor of the Cavalry Journal in 1911. From Remington’s rough sketches of Lannen in Florida, two finished works were produced and presented to the journal in 1902. The first sketch of a frontier cavalryman appeared on the front cover of the journal in 1903 and would ride that position for another forty years. The second sketch depicted the rear view of a cavalryman riding away and appeared on the magazine’s back cover for many years. Remington’s depiction became known as “Old Bill.”

While contributors with legendary names are noteworthy, more important are the contributors from the field who share critical information, how-to articles, lessons learned, historical examinations, and articles that look to future role of armor. The Defense Technical Information Center says, “The primary purpose of ARMOR content is the professional development of Armor Branch soldiers.” These soldiers and their contributions to their professional journal, shared for others in the field, are the journal’s lifeblood.

The ARMOR brand remains strong. The twenty-ninth editor of ARMOR, Colonel Orville “Sonny” Martin a World War II veteran wrote, “A journal records deeds, and probably even more important, it puts forth words which are communication symbols of men’s thoughts. In a truly professional journal, this is done not to propagandize nor to grind someone’s axe but to stimulate honest and sincere thought leading to forthright discussion which will indeed result in professional thought.” That “professional thought” can be seen in the pages of this professional journal via analysis of battles, professional development, letters to the editor, tactical vignettes, columns such as “Saddles and Sabers,” and the amazing artwork of the gifted Jody Harmon.

Recent issues of the journal reflect the ongoing evolution of the combat arm of decision. In 2021 articles highlighted the first women armor officers to graduate the branch’s basic officer leader course and explored the challenges of command under the COVID pandemic. In 2022, articles discussed drones and robotics. The magazine remains the place for the Army’s armor professionals to engage with one another on the issues that affect them most.

Likewise, contributors remain the lifeblood of the journal and it actively recruits and seeks new writers and contributors: “We encourage everyone who has valuable information to share with the Armor and cavalry community to do so. We include articles written by officers, enlisted soldiers, warrant officers, Department of the Army civilian employees and others. Writers may discuss training, current operations and exercises, doctrine, equipment, history, personal viewpoints (with applicability Army-wide) and other areas of general interest to the Armor and Cavalry community.”

The professional-development bulletin for the Armor branch makes it incredibly easy for new contributors via its web site. This long-ranging dialogue, harkening back to 1888 and cavalry troopers on the western frontier, continues today with topics such as division cavalry in 2030, mortars in cavalry troops, the challenges and solutions associated with the observer/coach/trainer model, and how to be a better mentor. ARMOR continues to offer the opportunity to review books, write letters to the editor, and contribute to featured series such as “Saddles and Sabers.”

ARMOR rolls on, striking a unique balance as a steward preserving cavalry’s spirit, traditions, and the heritage of armor and the Army while looking to the future  and continuing to evolve for changing missions, doctrine, and threats.

Dave Daigle was commissioned in 1982 from Loyola University, New Orleans as an armor officer and served as ARMOR’s editor-in-chief from 1999 to 2002. Dave joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention upon retirement from the army in 2002, where he currently serves as a senior press officer and national spokesperson.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.