Most of the books I look at are primarily text-based, and today I figured we should do something a little bit different. Armor Plate Press, run by Tom Laemlein, specializes in photographic studies of various weapons (and vehicular) topics. Today’s book is The Yanks Are Coming! Firepower of the American Doughboy in World War One – a volume that appealed to me in particular because of the wide variety of gear used by American troops in that conflict (French, British, and American). Instead of researching the history and development of a particular piece of equipment, Laemlein has collected a plethora of photos of that piece of gear throughout its service use. He is clearly quite passionate about the work (publishing books came as an idea after many years of collecting photographs), and I think it adds a valuable extra dimension to a library of academic textual research.
As an example, consider the American use of shotguns for trench warfare. The evidence is quite substantial that US forces used them, between formal paper records, anecdotal troop recollections, and even German formal protest against the practice. However, in decades of searching, no photograph of one actually being used in combat has ever been found. Why not? Laemlein believes it is due to censorship – US leadership wanting to prevent German propaganda from being able to portray the US as using uncivilized weapons (whatever that means in the war that gave us poison gas and the flamethrower). It is only the search for photographs that brings this to light.
The pictures in The Yanks Are Coming! ranges from training camps to front line combat, and from candid to carefully posed. For the student of history interested in the era, it brings a touch of the human perspective to a topic so often relegated to dry text.