19 Jan 2020
“Where there is trust, no proof is necessary. Where there is none, no proof is possible!”
American General Jack Pershing kept BARs and Lewis Machineguns out of the hands of American troops as troopers began arriving in France in the summer of 1918.
Curiously, many American troops had trained extensively on these very weapons prior to deployment, with every expectation they would take them into combat!
As soon as Americans arrived in France, BARs and Lewis Guns were snatched out of their hands and replaced with the vastly inferior French-made CSRG, better known as the “Chauchat.”
Chauchats were poorly manufactured, unreliable, unfamiliar, and extremely unpopular with American troops. In fact, this sudden and unannounced “weapons switch” represented a scandal, and was so described for many decades after the War!
Pershing considered the BAR and Lewis Gun so superior that he worried they would, when issued immediately, be captured and “reverse-engineered” by clever Germans. In any event, he wanted to keep their existence, as well as that of the “Pederson Device,” a closely-guarded secret, and then re-issue them, and thus “surprise” the Germans, just prior to the “Grand Allied Offensive” in the spring of 1919.
Of course, the Great War ended in November of 1918, so the BAR and Lewis Gun saw scant use, and only at the very end of the War.
The Pederson Device never saw the light of day!
Benjamin Hotchkiss, like Hiram Maxim, was an American and, like Maxim, found little interest in America for his wares, so, like Maxim, he went to Europe, settling in Paris, France.
The gas-operated “Benet‑Mercie,” America’s first LMG (1908), was a Hotchkiss design. Most were in 30-06 caliber.
The Benet‑Mercie, manufactured under license by Colt and Springfield Armory, was never used in combat during WWI. It saw use during stateside training only. There were 670 copies in the US inventory at the beginning of WWI. It was declared “obsolete” in 1918, largely replaced by the BAR
However, four Benet‑Mercies made a very respectable accounting of themselves during Pancho Villa’s raid on Columbus, NM early in the morning of Thursday, 9 March 1916. Between the four, they fired a total of 20k rounds at Villa’s raiders that morning. By all reports, all four ran just fine, and made their mark!
As is usually the case, US Troops stationed in Columbus, NM had little warning. They were completely unprepared, and taken by surprise. It took a while for them to get organized!
In fact, in what was a comical exercise, US troopers had to break‑into their own locked armory in Columbus in order to arm themselves with guns and ammunition, because not one of them carried guns routinely, and “the guy with the key” was, as usual, nowhere to be found!
Forty-four US Troops in Balangiga, Philippines (Spanish-American War), disarmed by their own commander, had been massacred on Saturday, 28 Sept 1901, during a nearly identical fiasco
Unarmed US troops and sailors would we forced into a similar, but much larger, debacle in the afternoon of Sunday, 7 Dec 1941 at Pearl Harbor!
… and again on Thursday, 5 Nov 2009 in Ft Hood, TX
… and again on Friday, 6 Dec 2019 in Pensacola, FL!
For our “unarmed forces” to be habitually subjected to this kind of tyranny is nothing new, as we see!
And, there is thus-far no on-going agenda to restore trust in our troops, even our magnificent officers and S/NCOs.
“What you have hunted me for is not my actions, but the thoughts of my heart. It is a long road you have opened. For now men will disclaim their hearts, and presently will have no hearts. God help the people whose ‘statesmen’ walk your road.”
Sir Thomas More (played by Paul Scofield), from the 1966 movie version of Robert Bolt’s “A Man for All Seasons”