48 Comments

  1. Probably machine gunners. Keep in mind that they’d be issued French Chauchats, so no wonder they were “clinging” to their .45s.

    A great-uncle of mine who was in “The Great War” said that the only way to hurt the enemy with the “Shosho” was to throw it at him. If you tried to shoot it, if it was an 8mm Lebel it wouldn’t work, and if it was a .30-06 it would probably blow up. And if you tried to use it as a club it would come apart in you hands.

    cheers

    eon

    • Okay, not trying to be a troll here and I AM a full-retard CSRG fan, but I have a hard time believing that any rifle is bad enough to make a man fall back on any handgun when the Germans hit No Man’s. I mean the CSRG was bad, but bullets usually came out… at far greater power and accuracy than any handgun of the day.
      Case in point, a mentor of mine in my early military career was an infantry officer in Viet Nam. He was given an M16 carbine of some kind and it was a DOG, just horrible. Well, he got his wish to be rid of it. He got a 1911 and was told to hand in the rifle. He said that after that first patrol without it, he would have given almost anything to get it back, even with all the jam. After that, he had to scrounge rifles because a handgun vs even a rusted out Mosinka is a pretty bad deal.

      • A lot of people issued Chauchats fired a round or two from them, then ended up using their handgun, be it an 8mm Lebel, a .32acp Ruby, an M1911 or a Colt or S&W M1917. By virtue of the hideous thing’s long recoil action, clearing stoppages tends to involve FIELD STRIPPING. I DESPISE the M-16A1, but I’ve never had to take one apart to clear a stoppage. I never even had to do that with the wretched M-60… of course it had a tendency to field strip ITSELF, but that’s another story…

    • Good observation — perhaps because they were posing for the camera for the last time before being actually sent to Europe?

    • Looks to me and a friend who wrote a book “In a Strange Land: The American Occupation of Germany 1918-1923” that the backdrop is of Coblenz and the Rhine river. I’m pretty sure they are a part of the occupation forces (MPs????).

  2. Chauchat-gunners I suppose.

    What a piece of work that “zhauzhaa” is!
    Easy to dissasamble but it takes one engineerofficer (capt), one masterarmourer (nco-lt) and one gunsmith (sgt) to re-assemble…

      • Putting it back together again generally required an armorer, though. And even he was unlikely to get it to work.

        Even more fun, that pin and that lever generally worked lose and fell out by themselves, just like the trigger-group retaining pin on the M60 once the leaf spring lost resilience (which it generally did pretty quickly, according to a friend of mine who humped one in Korea for two years). The difference is, on the ’60, the result would just be the trigger group coming off the gun during firing, causing either a stoppage or a runaway. On the “Shosho”, the entire gun tended to field-strip itself while you were trying to fire it.

        (Not-so) fun fact; the “Shosho”, under such trade names as “CSRG” and “Gladiator”, survived well into the 1920s as an export item. It showed up in Yugoslavia in WW2, and again in the Bosnian War. They apparently made so many of them during WW1, and sold off most of same at fire sale prices after the war, that the wretched things are probably still floating around the Balkans somewhere.

        cheers

        eon

        • CSRG and Gladiator were not post-war trade names. CSRG Mle 1915 was the official designation of the weapon, and the Gladiator was the name of a wartime contractor which was owned by one of the contributing designers, Paul Ribeyrolles (the ‘R’ in the acronym).

        • If could not putting it back together again after Field Strip an Chauchat. I suppose you could not put back together an Field Strip Colt 1911A1, AKM or Sten ….

          • Speaking as a guy who finally had the chance to disassemble and reassemble a CSRG for the first time yesterday, I can see both sides. It’s not rocket science, but it can be a pain in the butt to reassemble until you really get the hang of it.

    • That sounds more like the Becker and Holland Beholla pistol. In Ian Hogg’s Military Small Arms of the 20th Century, dis-assembly is said to require the use of a vise, a drift, a hammer, and possibly more tools (don’t have the book in front of me), which is somewhat absurd for a .32 caliber pocket pistol.

  3. Being an old Cav. Man”10th black unit” Blackjack Pershing had set the goal of all troops being armed with a pistol. These guys could be any unit.
    Dean

  4. None of the pistols is cocked, so that’s something. These troopers look unusually mature to me. I only see two NCOs , Corporals, standing on each side. Maybe a National Guard unit with some older soldiers?

  5. Trigger discipline training/habits is different for using a gun for practical use than it is when the gun is only for recreational shooting. When recreational shooting safety is more important than success or failure.

    When the gun is being used for practical use, success vs failure is all important. Look at US military rifle adapted since the 1930’s and some US commercial rifles like the Mini-14. All of them put success over trigger safety. Some by were the safety is placed. The M-16 by removing the trigger guard.

  6. I pity these fellows. American policy with respect to equipment plagued the dough boys once they reached France.

    Why did the Chauchat come into the picture? Well, personal conflicts between Isaac Newton Lewis and some other officer in the US Army made Lewis leave for England and sell his gun chambered for .303 British. Hiram Stevens Maxim’s gun was not accepted in the USA until some block-head over-engineered the gun and made it too heavy (even heavier than the Vickers gun, I imagine). The 1895 Colt-Browning wasn’t fit for the trenches due to its swinging arm at the muzzle, though the Marlin version was much better with a piston in place of the arm. And to think that all of this Chauchat trouble could have been avoided with better quality control and better magazine design.

    Isolationist and conservative views hampered the American armed forces to no end prior to 1941, placing peace and relative security above readiness for anything that could possibly happen (remember Pearl Harbor). Bear in mind that America is protected from conventional invasion by two oceans, Canada, and Mexico (I’m not sure anyone would go through Mexico in order to invade America, since the invaders would have to get past trigger-happy Southwestern Republican states)… I’ll think up more later.

    • Speaking of over-engineering resulting in gross excess weight, probably the supreme example in connection with a Maxim ( and therefore Vickers ) design was the Japanese Type 96 7.7mm heavy machine gun ( NOT to be confused with Kijiro Nambu’s Type 96 6.5mm light machine gun ) of 1938-1939. It was, in actuality, a 7.7mm Type 89 fixed aircraft MG ( again, NOT to be confused with the Type 89 7.7mm flexible aircraft MG, itself a derivation of the Type 11 6.5mm infantry LMG ) equipped with a heavy barrel and water jacket for sustained ground fire from fixed fortifications, specifically in Manchuria against potential Russian incursions. The Type 89 fixed aircraft MG was itself simply a Vickers air-cooled aircraft MG, so re-introducing the heavy barrel and water cooling should really have constituted restoring it as a standard Vickers water-cooled MMG, or at least something very close.

      However, somewhere in this reverse-engineering process, the Type 89 HMG ended up weighing 115 lbs / 52 kg (!!!) — an absurd weight even for fixed position usage. Even if this figure includes a hefty tripod, it would still mean that the gun itself weighed almost twice as much as a standard Vickers water-cooled gun.

    • Andrew;

      As for the M1918 BAR, it never saw service in France even though 5000 were ready to be shipped over in March of ’18. Why? Because some (expletive deleted) in Ordnance didn’t want them in the front lines, for fear the Germans would capture one and start making copies of it for their own troops. No, seriously.

      I’ve long suspected that reasonably intelligent Ordnance chiefs, like Gen. Alexander Dyer, are remembered mainly due to their rarity. The more common pattern seems to have been closer to Gen. James Craig and his successor, Gen. James Ripley. Neither one of whom should have been in that office to begin with.

      cheers

      eon

      • “As for the M1918 BAR, it never saw service in France even though 5000 were ready to be shipped over in March of ’18.”

        That is a patently false statement. The reason for the delay in getting the BAR into action is simply that it was rushed into production starting in February, 1918 and the first 1,800 guns delivered by Winchester were so horribly out of spec that interchangeability their parts was impossible. It took until July of 1918 to get into full production of 9,000 guns a month.

        • Ok, I stand corrected. I was just going by what was said on “Tales of the Gun” by the deputy curator of the Aberdeen Proving Ground Museum.

          cheers

          eon

          • Never go by what you hear on TV, specifically not the History Channel.

            The line you’re talking about, about the BAR being withheld for the Germans might capture it is an apocryphal statement that originated after WWI in the “Great War Supplement” that was written by a collective of war department and civilian authors. There is no primary sourced basis for the statement, and in fact, there’s little evidence to do anything but disprove those claims anyhow. In June of 1917, when American troops were first arriving in France, the US government had already ordered “1700 Chauchats from the French Army”. This is was what Pershing wrote to the US Army Ordnance department in July of 1917. It was not until after the July 1917 inquiry that the very first runs of the prototype BAR were ordered.

            As Big Al stated, the BAR was late in getting to the party and the first delivered batches had their issues, but there was another reason that the BAR had to wait until the Meuse-Argonne offensive to be put into action: Logistics. People often forget that manufacturing the weapon is only one part of the process– the other part of the process is training. This meant that all troops in theatre previously who were issued the M1915 Chauchat or the interim M1918 Chauchat would need to be re-trained on the BAR when made available.

            Now, there were plenty of troops who were being trained on the BAR, both at home and in France, but the problem was that those troops were being held off in being deployed until the Meuse-Argonne offensive. General Pershing had instead decided to form the First American Army in France out of the most combat-tested divisions in France, and sent them off on his own crusade with the St Mihiel offensive. Most of said First American Army troops would still be using their Chauchats ’til wars end. However, those green troops who were trained on the BAR had to wait until the Meuse-Argonne offensive to be deployed, and that’s why the BAR had such a late showing.

            Logistics are a pain.

    • Actually, the M1904 Maxim was right on par with it’s German contemporary, the MG 08, and I imagine the British service version was of a similar weight (cannot find any data for it). Check out the specs at the following links:

      M1904 – http://sadefensejournal.com/wp/?p=265&page=2

      MG 08 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MG_08

      The weight was a function of the design, having the locking toggle break downwards, and the materials available to build the guns. The Vickers Mk I achieved it’s reduction in weight primarily by flipping the mechanism upside-down and using newly developed lighter and stronger steel alloys (and I think aluminum as well).

      Regarding the Colt-Browning M1895, the Canadians used them quite successfully in WWI until re-equipped with Vickers guns when it was decided to equip the Canadian army the same as the British army in order to simplify supply. Here are 2 pieces discussing the use of the Colt-Browning in WWI:

      The Emma Gees, by Captain Herbert W. McBride (Yes. That McBride. Author of A Rifleman Went to War)
      http://www.gutenberg.org/files/20655/20655-h/20655-h.htm#img008

      The Rise, Fall, & Rebirth Of The ‘Emma Gees’, by Major K.A. Nette, PPCLI
      http://regimentalrogue.com/emmagees/emmagees1.htm

      • Thanks for the info Al, but judging by the American “reluctance” to let the 1904 Maxim go to Europe, I guess that some dipstick in command totally called it useless for anything but training new gunners who were then going to go to Europe shooting Vickers guns, Hotchkiss 1914’s, and Chauchats. As it turns out, American Maxim guns did not ever see front line service. And the American Maxim was not adopted until the men of the US Army complained that the Marines and the Navy had a better weapon than the manually-cranked overweight Gatling. Said weapon was the Colt-Browning, of course. The British and European powers in general would have laughed at America’s lack of military prowess at the time.

        Seriously, in each war up to the First World War, America was usually one tech level behind. And here’s something really embarrassing: American submarine tech before the Cold War was not up to par compared to that of Imperial Japan, of all countries. Japan even had submarine aircraft carriers (most were too small to launch airstrikes save the huge I-400 class, but this says a lot about a country short on raw materials making do with what it has) and more importantly, the Type 93 Torpedo whose long range was unmatched…

        • Oh, as a Cold War submarine veteran (and happy 24th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall) I have to disagree. I did my service in the 70s under Chief Petty Officers who were brought up from the ranks by old farts who were Battle of the Pacific veterans. We kicked Jap ass. After a year or so into the war the Pacific was a US pigboat picnic. Come to periscope depth at sunrise, fire a spread of MK 14s, surface and machine-gun the survivors in the water! (And bless your fuzzy little heart, Master Chief Angelo!)

          WW2 was such a submarine war… in the Pacific boats kept the Japanese from re-supplying besieged islands. And the war in Europe was essentially between Admiral Doenitz and American/ English surface ASW destroyers and destroyer-escorts. Doenitz lost, but it was a near-run thing.

          The MK 14 was a hell of a weapons system once they got the detonator problem – detailed in every novel about WW2 sub warfare – worked out. We carried a few of them racked with the MK -37 “Scorpion Specials” and pre-ADCAP MK 48s. I participated (as torpedo-room sound-powered phone talker, which was my battle station) in some of the last of the MK 14 warshots. The Navy didn’t have a place to store those old WW2 vets, so we just took them out in the North Atlantic and shot them at the horizon. Damn shame – you have never seen metal workmanship like the internal gyroscope on a MK 14. Makes a Merkel Helix look like a Raven .25 in terms of workmanship. Foot-tall sculpture of brass and wartime stainless, set it on the reload and give the horizontal orb a finger flick. Duck though the hatch and grab some midrats, play a couple of games of acey-deucey, go back to the torpedo room and the gyro is still spinning. I’ve had several jobs that involved bearings and finely tuned machinery, but I have never seen anything like the gyro on a MK 14 warshot. Which was the weapon that won the Battle of the Pacific.

          • The pre-war torpedoes were egregious and had other defects besides the awful fusing mechanism.

            * In addition to the firing pins breaking, the principal magnetic influence mechanism was ONLY tested in ONE place, off of Hampton Roads, if I’m not mistaken. Apparently it never entered anyone’s thought process that the earth’s magnetic field might vary with geography. It does.

            * Along with the fuse mechanism debacle, I believe the depth setting mechanism was inaccurate, the running depth averaging significantly deeper than indicated. Even if the impact fuse was functional, it was likely to just run hot, straight and true… UNDER the target.

            * Without looking it up, I believe that they live tested the torpedo something like FIVE times, and of those tests, only THREE were successful.

            The pre-war torpedoes were a disaster and saved a lot of… JAPANESE lives… costing a lot of American lives in the process.

            It was a shameful chapter in the history of naval ordnance procurement.

          • Jim, I think Chris has a point though you are correct about American tech getting better and American tactics working better. Japan did not correctly position its subs and cargo ships.
            But you’d probably freak if you saw the I-400 submarine. It was the largest submarine of its day. It had 3 attack float planes in a water tight hangar which connected to a catapult, 8 torpedo tubes in the bow, 4 anti-aircraft gun mounts, and a 14 cm deck gun. And it used very advanced imported German tech to avoid detection by sonar. I would hate to be on the receiving ends of the sub’s operations, since the sub was never discovered until the end of the war… If you research it, you will be surprised.

          • Chris – the pre-war real world testing of the MK 14 was pretty much not there, as you pointed out. Wartime realities ked to corrections that should have been made in peacetime. After the bugs were worked out, it was a hell of a weapon. Even though our front room was almost exclusively ASW we carried a few MK 14s well into the late 70s just in case we needed to sink a surface target. (Two kinds of ships – submarines and targets!) Torpedo procurement has always been iffy – I’ve never seen a high-tech system that worked as well at the early MK 48s, but the MK 37 was very dangerous contactor-with-pet-congressmen procurement fraud. I’ve heard all the theories about the USS Scorpion, but the one that makes the most sense is that a MK 37 in the reload (racks behind the tubes) fired itself up and (in its 1950s electronic brain) decided it was time to detonate. Just a junk system.

          • “Japan did not correctly position its subs and cargo ships.”

            There’s a book called “I Boat Captain” by Orita Zenji. He’s pretty candid in his analysis of the overall failure of the Japanese submarine campaign. As I recall, he said they were far too passive in their approach as opposed to the USN which went out looking for Japanese rather than waiting for them to come to them, or acting strictly as a recconaissance asset.

            As far as the Japanese merchant fleet goes, the Japanese were singularly ineffective at using convoys and protecting them. The Battle of the Bismarck Sea was probably the single most catastrophic example, but it was a chronic problem until the end of the war. We learned from our mistakes. It was almost a point of pride for them not to. And even when they finally did, they usually waited so long that the resources needed to put them into practice were either inaccessible or at the bottom of the Pacific.

        • Colt-Browning 1895 machine gun was also used by Imperial Russia and later Soviet Union. Have you any information of this user opinions?

        • The M1904 was obsolete by the time the US entered the war. It had been replaced by the M1915 Colt-Vickers and was not a first-line weapon.

    • A big problem with the .30-06 Lewis was the failure properly to calibrate the camming action of the op rod to the pressure curve of the ammunition. The .303 had a properly calibrated camming ratio, and hence a smooth action. At least initially, the action of the .30-06 guns was too abrupt and violent, resulting in torn rims and stoppages.

      Too, there were personality issues between Lewis and Crozier(?).

      • Interesting you should mention General Crozier, the autocratic head of the Ordnance Department. His fixed mindset and the attitudes it engendered not only frustrated and angered a lot of people, but also caused organizational and logistical problems in the weapons acquisition process that often deprived the U.S. Army of weapons that might have made a major difference if they had been fairly tested, approved, developed and adopted at the time.

  7. The two (NCOs?) on the left and the right have a pistol belt only, whereas everyone else has an ammunition belt. Were the NCO’s not issued rifles? The ammunition belts look empty, the m1911 magazine holders do not. Maybe the just qualified on the 1911’s?

    The backrop certainly hints at this being WWI related, but on the other hand, I thought that 1911’s were in short supply and that 1917 Colts and S&W’s were common in the actual war–I suppose the point being that if this picture was from a group heading to the front that there might be a greater variety of guns.

    Regarding being prepared for WWII, there were a lot of issues: Some people (e.g., Charles Lindberg, who hard toured the Nazi air plane factories) thought that the allies could not win, others were under the influence of the communist movement (very much in vouge at the time) and the Soviets wanted the allies to stay out, and some were just taking George Washington’s advice to stay out of foreign entanglements. After the Soviets were invaded one group called for war. After Pearl Harbor the rest of them called for war. As an aside, out of spite Roosevelt did not honor Lindberg’s Army Air Corp commision, so instead Lindberg went to the Pacifc as an employee of Lockheed and proceeded to shoot down two Japanese fighters while “evaluating” air planes. But back to the issue raised, it was amazing how quickly the country turned on a dime and pumped out an incredible amount of war materials. The company I work for now started in WWII to make war materials, and in the original part of the plant the I-beams that form the structure are not I-beams, they are four pieces of angle iron and some flat strap held toghether with rivets–the country ran out of I-beams and then improvised and built the factories anyway. What makes it more amazing is that the workers themselves were drawn from women and some minorites who previously had not had factory jobs, and by war’s end the productivity per labor hour in the US was three times higher than Germany, and nine times higher than Japan. It was a booklet produced during the war part of the “training within industry” series on work methods that was later given to Japan after the war, and that booklet started the manufacturing revolution in Japan. If one is interested in those times there was a comic strip “Bull of the Woods” (has been available in book form), that was drawn by a machinist during that era, that gives some glimpses into industry at the time.

  8. Regarding the photo, 3 of the men (front row of enlisted men, seated leftmost; middle row of enlisted men, standing rightmost; corporal standing at right) actually do have their fingers off of the trigger.

  9. @ Jim In Houston and Chris Morton :

    Chris is essentially correct. Another frank appraisal of the IJN’s strategic and organizational shortcomings, especially in the latter half of the war, was written by Captain Tameichi Hara, who was very heavily involved in many of the most significant naval battles of the Pacific Theater, including the Battle Of The Java Sea, Battle of Savo Island, the Battle Of Ironbottom Sound, The Battle Of Guadacanal, and the Battle Of The Bismarck Sea. It was one of the destroyers, “Amagiri”, belonging to Hara’s DesRon that sank John F. Kennedy’s PT109 off Kolombangara in a night engagement.

    Hara’s book is entitled “Japanese Destroyer Captain” ( Ballantine Books, 1961 ) and well-known historians Fred Saito and Roger Pineau helped put the English version together. It is a fascinating and factual account that I would strongly recommend to all concerned. Equally interesting is the fact that he was a long-serving member of Rear-Admiral Raizo Tanaka’s “Tokyo Express” ( some accounts correct this as “Cactus Express” ), and had an insider’s detailed view of the planning and execution of the famous night runs down The Slot.

    As for the Mark XIV torpedo, there is little doubt that it was a very well-made device that functioned reliably and with deadly results once the bugbears of the early magnetic pistols and other functional parts were either bypassed or rectified. The recorded results, in concert with daring and aggressive U.S. submarine tactics, speak for themselves.

    However, the Mark XIV still could not compare to the oxygen-powered Type 93 Long Lance torpedo wielded by the IJN, and neither could anything else, Allied or Axis. It was the longest-ranged, most accurate and fastest torpedo of the war, and proved extremely stable and reliable under the most severe operational conditions. It also packed an incredibly effective warhead that carried twice the weight of Torpex or similar explosives compared to its rivals. This torpedo, when used correctly and combined with superior Japanese ship-versus-ship tactics, especially in the early to middle part of the war during night-time engagements, resulted in the almost lop-sided scores against the Allied navies — and often against much superior odds as well as bigger, more powerful adversaries— that are a part of the historical record.

    It was only when the U.S. Navy learned from the bitter lessons of the Guadalcanal naval battles and incorporated these lessons with the proper use of radar fire-control that the scales began to gradually tip in their favor ( from the start, the USN had the advantage of better radar, but this was often negated by inexperience in its use and inferior night-fighting capabilities ).

    As for the post-war, guided Northrop MK37 torpedo, I agree that it had a rather chequered career, but it was what was available in a time of need and served as a stop-gap before the early MK48’s reached production.

  10. I’ve also read “Japanese Destroyer Captain” and it’s an excellent account of the operations and culture of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

    At the start of the war, the Japanese were infinitely better at night surface operations than we were. However as time went on, we got better radar and got better at using it. The Japanese never got a really decent radar set (shipboard OR airborne). The story of the Yamato’s kamikaze mission, “A Glorious Way to Die” specifically mentions the mediocre and unreliable radar with which she was equipped. By the end of the war, the Japanese were sitting ducks at night and were often subject to devastating bombardments that came completely without warning.

  11. Lost the thread a bit? Submarines, chauchats, potato-diggers?

    No indication of when or where the picture was taken. Perhaps in the U.S. before shipping out. Perhaps in Germany after the Armistice.

    I’m surprised that many Americans would have ‘official’ Army weapons. How many 1911s were issued, compared to 1917 Colt or S&W revolvers? I’ve read that more than half the doughboys were issued the 1917 Enfield rather than the Springfield. And while the US Army had adopted the water-cooled Browning in 1917…by the Armistice, the arsenal of democracy had actually delivered FOUR of them.

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