Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Weapons Wednesday - What LMG should the AEF have used?

In 1919, the American Expeditionary Force pushed deep into Germany, smashing the Hindenburg Line. Dough-boys poured into Germany proper, placing the Kaiser's empire under harsh occupation. The German Army was destroyed en masse. The Kraiser's Navy scuttled itself in port, fearful of the Royal navy bearing down upon them from the North Sea. Germany was utterly crushed. This victory was largely achieved by tank supported American infantry, armed with Pedersen device equipped '03 Springfields, BARs, -1917 Watercooled guns, Trench Guns, and -1911s.

And obviously the above never happened. Maybe had it; World War II would not have occurred. The value of a harsh military occupation is subject to debate. But, the above is a fun prelude, especially for those of us with an interest in small arms.

The American Army, or rather the National Army that was raised following the 1916 Defense Act was woefully under equipped. And yet they had access to some some of the premier small arms of their time.

The -1917 Water cooled machine gun, the M-1918 BAR, the M-1911 .45 pistol, and the M-1897 trench gun were if not world standard, then certainly on par with anything else the armies of the world could must.

I may be a bit heretical in my thinking, but the Springfield pattern -1903 rifle may have been outclassed by the SMLE. The '03 is a fine target rifle. Also, it is a passable sniper rifle. However, I don't know if it was the best battle rifle of the western front, circa 1917. Furthermore, the M-1917 .30 caliber rifle is a damn fine rifle. If I were my Great Grandfather, when mustered into National Service, after they took away my Krag and M-1909, I'd want a P-17 and a M-1917 revolver, because real men do it in six.

However, the AEF arrived in France half ass armed but well led. Even though, I sometimes make the case that General Wood would have led the AEF had anyone other than that bastard Wilson been President. But General Pershing was damn good, too. As an aside, I was always kinda pissed that the Army named a missile system after him that was traded away to the Soviets. He should have had a MBT or APC.

Every gun guy can tell you that the French made Chauchat was a bad gun. Even Sam Damon couldn't make the thing run. And in some regards, they ain't wrong.

But the thing is, in 8mm Lebel, as designed, the Chauchat ran. Go watch Ian shoot the heck out of some. French soldiers with 8mm Chauchats killed a bunch of Boche.

But the Ordnance Dept, the damnable Ordnance Dept, insisted it be re chambered in .30 Gov't for issue to the AEF. And I get that. Professionals and their logistics and what not. But jeebus, that was a terrible call. And that was the same Ordnance Dept that told the Marine Brigade to leave their Lewis Guns at home.

And that's some bullshit. I really wish I knew the back story on the below photo, but damn it looks good. Thanks Tam. Sidenote, that was the genesis of this rant.

We may have won the war sooner with better LMGs in WWI. Or maybe won a more definite peace. I don't know. And that's the thing. I can, and do, bad mouth the Ordnance Dept all day. But rarely do small arms influence big events. The Little Big Horn comes to mind, some of the actions of the Boer War, Rorkes Drift, and the 164th and their M-1s at Guadalcanal and that's about it. Also, because I'm a nerd, the Army helped defend another Marine airfield at Khe Shan, but the M-42 ain't exactly a small arm. Even though I mention it because that was the ADA's shining moment until Gulf War I.

History has shown that while Crozier was a dumbass; it is very hard to pinpoint how much of a difference it would have made. In summation, as much as I love John Browning, even if the AEF had been armed with BARs, we still would have had the Treaty of Versailles. And therefore WWII.

But speaking of WWII and small arms, a Coastie did pretty damn good for himself with a Lewis gun in WWII. And saved a lot of Marines. I like to think that would have brought a smile to Colonel :Lewis.

Petty Officer 1st Class D.A. Munro


  1. Hey Mack;

    The 1903 was based on the Mauser action and it was first rate. The M-1917 was a damm good rifle but I still think that the 03 was a bit better..So there :P I have shot both the 03 and the SMLE and both were excellent rifles, just methods of operation was a bit different. The biggest thing the SMLE had that was an advantage was the 10 round magazine, that made loading the SMLE easy compared of the stripper clip or feeding bullets into the internal magazine.
    As far as the ordinance department, that wasn't the first screw-up, having the troopers out gunned by the Indians for starters, then going to the Spanish-American war with black powder 45-70's rifles against the Spaniards 8mm mausers. And don't get me going with the ordinance dept with the shenanigans with the original M16 as they screwed up that rifle and troops died because the ordinance dept didn't have the best interest of the troops in mind. Excellent post BTW :)

  2. There's probably not more than one in a thousand Americans alive today who ever heard of the National Army, yet those units were vital to the war effort. Kudos, Sir.



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