13 July 22
“I’m always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.”
WWI, Ready or Not!
American General Jack Pershing kept BARs out of the hands of American troops until the very end of the War, fearing they would be captured and “reverse-engineered” by Germans.
So, American Troops were instead issued the flimsy French CSRG (“Chauchat”) automatic rifle, manufactured in France and chambered for 30-06 (now with a traditional curved magazine, instead of the classic “half-moon” magazine of the earlier models chambered in 8mm Lebel) .
30-06-chambered CSRGs were rushed into production, and their reputation for reliability and effectiveness in the field was very poor!
American troops were also supplied with the French Hotchkiss “strip-fed” heavy machinegun, chambered for French 8mm Lebel. Supplying ammunition to these guns became a logistical nightmare, although they enjoyed a better reputation than the CSRG!
American Benet-Mercie light machineguns and 1895 Colt/Browning “Potato Digger” (later manufactured by Marlin) light machineguns were used in training stateside, but none ever saw service in France. In any event, American forces never possessed more than a few hundred copies.
All this time, German-made Maxim heavy machineguns were doing enormous damage on WWI battlefields, and Americans entered the War with nothing that compared! Germans also had sound machinegun tactics down pat.
Americans (when they finally arrived in Europe in the summer of 1918), had no idea how to deploy, nor use, any kind of machinegun and had to learn on the fly!
Conversely, both British and Germans had long-range machinegun fire down to a science and were routinely using Maxim and Vickers guns essentially as artillery, to great effect!
The very reliable 1917 Browning water-cooled heavy machinegun did not come into service with American units until the very end of the War and saw only minor deployment before Armistice was declared in November of 1918 and fighting stopped.
Ballistic table and charts issued with the 1917 Browning had been hastily calculated mathematically, but never tested before deployment. They proved to be way off, and this problem persisted even after the War!
The 1917 Browning was improved during the 1920s and re-designated the 1917A1.
The air-cooled version, Browning 1919, was still the standard when American troops entered WWII at the end of 1941.
Germans had long-since moved on with their vastly superior MG34!
“His soul sat up. It met me. Those kinds of souls always do – the best ones. The ones who rise up and say ‘I know whom you are, and I am ready. Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come.’”