The Army’s Labor Union: Winchester 94s for the Loyal Legion of Loggers & Lumbermen

Today we have a rifle from a really neat forgotten corner of American military history. During World War One, the Pacific Northwest was the source of prime lumber, in particular Sitka Spruce that was ideal for aircraft production. The US military wanted that spruce for its own aircraft, and there was also massive demand form France and the UK for their production as well. As part of the American war effort, the Signal Corps (which oversaw military aviation) set about increasing spruce production severalfold.

The Corps sent a Colonel to investigate what would be necessary to do this, and he found that logging work was being significantly disrupted by labor union organizing, ranging from strikes to active sabotage. In response, the Army essentially created its own labor union, the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen which both provided some of the labor reforms sought by groups like the IWW and also succeeded in massively increasing timber output for the war. The LLLL is a mostly-forgotten organization, and most of the documentation on it is from very left-wing organizations that paint it as a government attempt to quash labor rights. The reality appears to be far more nuanced, with several very legitimate reforms instituted in good faith. Unfortunately, the best reference on this period is completely out of print, “Soldiers and Spruce: Origins of the Loyal Legions of Loggers & Lumberman” by Harold Hyman (

At any rate, part of the effort included the creation of the Spruce Production Division – 25,000 soldiers (mostly with backgrounds in logging and lumber) to Vancouver. They were seconded to private logging companies with Army-subsidized wages, but retained a military structure and officer corps. The Signal Corps purchased about 1,800 Winchester Model 1894 rifles in .30-30 caliber to arm a segment of the Division for security and military police type duties. Winchester 94s were in production and readily accessible, and the Division’s mission did not justify giving them Enfield or Springfield rifles needed by troops in Europe. These Winchesters were marked with a “US” property stamp and flaming bomb, and had serial numbers between 835,000 and 853,000 (specific numbers are not known because Winchester’s records form this period were destroyed). When the war ended, the guns (along with the Division’s other equipment) were sold as surplus, and they are found to this day in the Northwest. Many are in poor condition from decades or hard use, and they can be difficult to identify (and are also faked…) but they are a really neat artifact of a long-forgotten part of World War One history.


      • Likewise,

        German Measles, became “Liberty Measels”

        Edward Bernase, twice nephew of Sigmund Freud, and author of “Propaganda” was at the right hand of Woodrow Wilson…

        The prez who’s platform was keeping America out of Europe’s stupid war.

        • Ah, no… That wasn’t the actual platform. That was the promise, though.

          The actual platform was undoing the Civil War, and empowering the Progressives to run through the institutions, promising fundamental change and bringing back the good old days of the aristocracy.

          Thing was, those were the things that Wilson could not say out loud, and still get elected. You can tell what he meant to do by his actions, which included founding the FBI and a host of other totalitarian institutions like the implementation of the propaganda ministry, for “our own good”.

          Wilson doesn’t get enough credit for what he did, which was not-by-coincidence studied and emulated by many notable totalitarians in Europe. The reaction to it all was a fever-dream of madness that lasted years and years, influencing everything from post-WWI culture to the Lindberg Baby kidnaping. It’s really amazing to recognize that the same sort of “de-personing” that they pulled off against what was then and now the majority immigrant community of Germans is being attempted today, using many of the same techniques. The irony that many of those German immigrants left Germany as an attempt to escape German Imperial militarism apparently escaped everyone concerned.

          • “The irony that many of those German immigrants left Germany as an attempt to escape German Imperial militarism apparently escaped everyone concerned.”

            This is almost always the case. I was by my supervisor called at occasion, in inept joke attempt, a “commie” regardless of the fact I called myself a political refugee. By same rule the new arrivals from Afghanistan will be called “Taliban”. That is he way it goes on this continent and everyone should be ready for it. Dupes galore.

            On my last trip to the mid-west of USA I had four encounters who turned out o be of distant German origin. Nice folks indeed, I hooked up with them as naturally as it gets. I was impressed with this fact and no one with minimum knowledge should try to deny it – the are the America builders. I think the prime motivation for their immigration was population growth without decent prospect for sustainable living in countries of origin. True, some might have been adventure seekers. I met two guys in Canada who were of Swiss origin (one of them worked in past for Oerlikon) – and why not.

          • Denny,

            I think you have to look at opposition to the growing German imperialism and the conscription as the motivating force for a really huge swath of the German migration. I’ve seen original documents and letters, and they all refer to keeping their sons out of the military as a motivating factor for coming to North America.

            Acquaintance of mine was working on a doctoral thesis in sociology that went over all this–It was his contention that Germany and Europe would have been very different places, and that WWI might never have happened, had the “relief valve” for dissenters not been there. Bismarck himself supposedly said something like “Let them go; they’re troublemakers, anyway…”.

            It’s an interesting question, to try to imagine a Europe where the populations that fled… Didn’t. What would the place look like? Better? Worse? It was the contention of my friend writing the thesis that the actual effects were unknowable, but he did do some projections about the various plebiscites and elections that went on during that era, and they all would have turned out very differently than they did, had the voting been done with those that left still there.

            It’s something to ponder on, that’s for sure.

          • Kirk,

            there was same or similar system of taking young men into military service in Austria-Hungary, between the wars and same after the end of WWII in the country I come from. Draft was the way of life, only few managed (mainly on medical grounds) to avoid it. My grandfathers were called for several weeks to periodical training, just as I was under completely different regime.

            Call it “militarism” if you wish, I consider it “a standard way of life”; I grew up in it. There are merits in citizen-soldier status, I have no doubt.

          • @Denny,

            Not a value judgment that I’m making, there… Just reporting the motivations for the emigrants that left.

            From a military perspective, the German system worked. The Austro-Hungarians…? Maybe not as well, but it did work and served as a mechanism to unite the various ethnicities. Somewhat–Turns out, long-haul? Didn’t work out so well.

            The social stuff I’m referring to is the jingoism and the expansionism. Had all those people stayed in place, what changes would have been made to the outcome of it all?

            We had a bunch of small communities around here in the mountains that were settled by immigrants from your neck of the woods. Nearly all of the stuff I’ve seen where they were discussing why they left home to come here makes mention, somewhere, of the “keep our sons out of the army” idea. I don’t think they trusted the leadership, at all.

            It’s odd, too–You look at it from your point of view, and they look like cowardly slackers shirking their duty to the Kaisers. They looked at it as “Those bastards get us killed, for their benefit… Screw that.”.

            The other data point on this? The enthusiasm that the various German and former Austro-Hungarians took up arms to go fight the two Kaisers. They did not have fond memories, and yes, they did want to prove themselves to their new country, but… There was a lot of residual disdain and outright hatred.

            I wish I could lay hands on it right now, but there was a letter in some of the material I saw where a guy from Schleswig-Holstein was writing to relatives still in Germany about why he was fighting on the American side, and it pretty much boiled down to the same reason he emigrated from there–The conscription into the service of the country that had killed both his grandfathers.

            I think the whole thing looked a lot different from their perspective. A considerable number of Germans were not on-board with the Prussian program, and wanted nothing to do with it at all. If they’d stayed, would Prussia have been successful at uniting Germany?

  1. Stika spruce is still used in aerospace. The nose fairing and nose cape of Poseidon and Trident missiles are made from stika spruce plywood. To lift a Poseidon or Trident in an out of the tubes, the nose cap is removed and a lifting fixture installed. The plywood fairing then support the weight of the missile

    • If you draw a graph of stiffness versus density

      All of the strongest practical materials plot on roughly the same straight line

      From osmiridium, to lithium, with steels aluminium alloys and Woods plotting on the same line.

      There are very few materials that plot above the line, carbon fibre composites and boron fibre composites, and that’s about it.

      When it actually comes to structural strength for weight, nature usually wins

      Spruce, Ash beech and walnut are very difficult to beat, even now

      Actually, Douglas fir and larch have higher density and greater strength than sitka spruce…

      But yeah, higher density, so more weight.

      In gliders/sail planes, weight and stability are absolutely critical

      The German guys have glide ratios of ~40:1 WITH GLASS and laminar flow aerofoil

      French aeronauts and their American disciples, got the same performance using smarter designs and wood. Even in this century.the French designs were also fully aerobatic, which is an Interesting departure for gliders.

      I’m not going to pick any favourites, from Nordic Sami/Suomi, through Scandinavians, all the way to Latins, they all have their lovable abilities

      The French have it on aerospace. Fauvel, and his American disciple, Marske, really had it

      Marske is into carbon fibre these days, and the performance of his carbon gliders is up there at the top end.

      • 1 to 40 glide ratio is 40 years old. It is now up to 1 to 60 with carbon fiber and 1 to 65 with 28 meter wing span.
        Titanium is on of that is above the line of density to strenght, but not density to stiffness.

  2. This 100 year plus gun would still be a viable weapon for troops even today! (New made of course.) Short, handy, good mid-range cartridge, and fairly light but rugged construction. It would not be a front line gun, but, more than enough for troops who needs weapons but would rarely use them. (This is my opinion, and I know the plus and minus of this gun, but still —)

    • Sweet baby Jesus, no. I won’t abuse you any more on Ian’s platform other than to state you are an idiot. Not even the Taliban would use a lever-action tube magazine gun today – and if they wanted em, the boffins in Darra Adam Khel would whip up some proper looking Winchester 94s marked Browning & Colt – but they never did…

  3. That chapter of national history sure seems like it should have been longer than a year+, but things were moving pretty damn fast. I think we’d still be filling out Environmental Impact statements 3 years after, these days, and the trees would still be in the forest…

    Interesting sidelight–Fort Lewis, now “Joint Base Lewis-McChord”, is where it is mostly because one of the centers for the IWW was down in the Centralia/Chehalis area of Washington state, about half-way between Seattle and Portland, Oregon. What reportedly happened, according to some of the descendants of the victims, was that the so-called “Timber Barons” who donated the land to the government got together and consolidated some of their logged-out holdings plus several homesteads north of the Nisqually River, and then magnanimously “donated” that land to be used as a military reservation–With the caveat that there would always be a full regiment of the Army stationed there, and if not, then the land would revert. The reason they did this? They wanted Federal troops available to deal with the Wobblies in nearby Chehalis/Centralia.

    If you’ve ever been roaming around the South Rainier Training Area on what was Fort Lewis, you’ll know quite well that you need to take precautions about wandering into former root cellars, basements, and other suchlike remains of the old homesteads. There are fruit trees, berry bushes, and all sorts of other signs showing what was there.

    The other thing you can run into are people who remember the stories their grandparents told about nightriders burning out the various homesteaders (many of whom were Nisqually indians or married into the tribe, and so “not quite right”), in order to “encourage” sales to the timber baron consortium putting the place into government service. There was a lot of reputed chicanery that you only hear about via oral tradition, because it’s all noble selfless generosity to the cause in the history books. Get to know some of the locals from along the Nisqually River, and you’ll hear differently.

    Not entirely sure how much of that is actual fact, but the oral traditions are still there, and the bitterness lingers on to this day. There’s a lot of interesting history around that area, not the least of which is the Dupont works there south of Steilacoom and all the Vietnam-era stuff up in the hills between North Fort and the Sound.

    History of the Pacific Northwest is interesting, to say the least–And, the chicanery involved! Holy smokes… Seattle being where it is mostly because they convinced the railways to go there, rather than Tacoma, which is where it is because “reasons”. Lots of the city siting there around the Sound is just nuts, and based more on politics than sense–Seattle was a horrible site for a city, and where it clearly should have gone is where Fort Lewis sits, up on the plateau that’s nice and flat, and which is also not going to get wiped out by the next lahar coming down the Puyallup. You look at the whole thing, and it’s actually a little nuts–Nobody doing rational regional planning would have laid out the Puget Sound metro corridor the way they did, but here we are.

    • Here’s another case of construction stupidity: When the Russians demolished Konigsberg Castle, they planned to put a brand new Communist Party HQ on the place where the castle used to be. But the problem, as they discovered too late, was that the soil was too soft for the heavy concrete office building that was going to be there. As a result, the building that occupies the castle’s spot now is nothing more than an empty shell!! Historians pretty much summed it up: Politicians, whether Eastern, Western, or Central, are not expert architects. I could be wrong.

      • Hard to say, really… Is it their fault for hubristic stupidity, or ours for following them all off the cliff?

  4. Soldiers and Spruce: Origins of the Loyal Legions of Loggers & Lumberman” by Harold Hyman. A reprint is available on Amazon for less than $20

  5. Additional information

    Winchester Lever-Actions Go To War | An Official Journal Of The NRA (

    The Winchester 94 in WWII -The Firearm Blog

    While Spruce was used for aircraft, Douglas Fir was used for ships. The USN built the “Splinter Fleet” – the SC1 class subchasers, while the Emergency Fleet Corporation had several designs of wooden freighters (as well as a line of concrete vessels!)

    SC-1-class submarine chaser – Wikipedia

    The standard wooden cargo steamships of World War I (

    Concrete ship – Wikipedia

    During the next war, the SC line was resumed, PT and crash rescue boats were wooden, as well as the LCVP (“Higgins Boats”), District Minesweepers (YMS), Rescue Tugs (ATR) and Coast Guard “83 Footer” coastal and harbor patrol boats

    WWII SCs – World War 2 Subchaser – PCSA (

    Crash boats of World War 2 – Wikipedia

    Welcome to U.S. Crash Boats (

    LCVP (United States) – Wikipedia

    Auxiliary motor minesweepers – Wikipedia

    ATR-1 Class (

    83-foot patrol boat – Wikipedia

    Almost all USN aircraft carrier flight decks were wooden

    As far as making use of personnel with civilian skills, in both world wars, the Military Railway Service was primarily composed of professional railroaders in civilian life. In WW2, MRS Operating and Shop Battalions were organized and manned by the civilian railroad companies from their employees

    Military Railway Service (United States) – Wikipedia

  6. “(…)LLL is a mostly-forgotten organization(…)”
    If you are ready to accept Thesis (Ph. D)–University of California, 1923 then you might read Industrial relations in the west coast lumber industry, available in LIBRARY LIBRARY OF CONGRESS here

  7. How to increase production of a tree that takes at least 50 years to reach sufficient maturity to harvest…

    There was something at the start of the first (disastrous) Iraq war, about Iraq “increasing agricultural production”

    How the feck do you do that? Where’s the seed corn been magic-ed up from? How does a crop that even in Iraqi sunshine, takes 3 months or so to ripen, suddenly increase production?

    Sure, Pharaoh caused the sun to rise (farmyard Cockerell would claim the same,if he could talk, that his crowing off the top of his pile of shite, causes the sun to rise),

    Pharaoh, causes the nile to rise

    King Canute could turn back the tides

    Hugely interesting rifle, I love 94s, and .30-30 (OK .30 Remington and .303 savage are able to use pointy bullets and perform better beyond 100 yards, and .300 Savage is in another category entirely)

    For what it is and for what it does (no more and no less), the .30-30 ’94 is a beautiful little rifle.

    Not sure I could say the same of America’s first PhD Prez, and his pre-fascism

    • Production here does not mean “making more trees”, but “getting more trees out of the forest…”. Different thing, entirely.

      The other thing you mention about Iraq… I know a thing or two about that, and the reality was that the Iraqi agricultural industries were woefully neglected. Saddam quite literally “ate the seed corn” for both the productivity of the oil industry, and agriculture. One of the primary missions my unit was supposed to perform, once the fighting stopped, was fixing that. The issues in both areas of the economy were legion; the Iraqis hadn’t bought basic updates for either industry in decades, nor had they serviced things the way they should have. The Iraqi industrial economy was running on baling wire, duct tape, and spit–And, that was before you factored in things like the sanctions. Case in point–Tikrit’s water treatment plant, built by the British back during the early 1960s. It was supposed to have been given refreshed filter media sometime in the early 1970s, only, somehow… It wasn’t a priority. It didn’t get serviced or really refurbished until we did it circa 2003. Before that, the city of Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown, was basically getting unfiltered river water from the Tigris/Euphrates river basin… Lots and lots of chemicals dumped in it, though. Our water supply people went ape, because they’d planned on using municipal water for the base we set up. Didn’t happen–They had to bring in ROWPU units from the US to fill the gap until they fixed it all. Which promptly led to the insurgents murdering the newly-appointed plant engineer and blowing up the plant, but, hey… Iraq.

      In the agricultural realm, I forget the details, but there was a lot of little stuff like undoing the politicized seed/fertilizer distribution–You couldn’t get either, unless you were “connected”, and of course, the actual competent farmers were not. The ones who were made their money selling everything on the secondary market, not actually using any of it to grow crops. I think that just going through and fixing all that crap actually managed to double output in just a year, and stats I saw in 2005-6 indicated that it was still growing.

      So, yeah… Increasing production is possible. You just have to shake out the idiocies.

  8. In Railway Age Magazine volume 65 number 19 page 806 is a long and detailed article of the need for and the supplying of spruce for WW I airplanes.. Apparently the easily available trees were already purchased by Great Britain and France. As a result the army sent thousands of men to log, build railroads, and saw these huge trees. Everyone stay safe and sane.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.