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Old 12-13-2017, 09:36   #1
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Use of machine Guns in WW 1

ARCHIE DUTY

BY DOUG BOWSER


As the 100 year Anniversary of US involvement in World War 1 is here, I remember the stories my Father told me about his service in France. He was a First Sergeant in the 3rd Ohio Machinegun Battalion. His Unit was part of the 42nd Infantry Division. It was called the “Rainbow” Division. The Division was comprised of National Guard Units from all over the Country. Units like the 14th Alabama, 3rd Ohio Machinegun Battalion and the 69th New York all fought together, side by side in defense of our Country.

In the early days, machine guns were not part of the Infantry Squad. They were used the same as Artillery Units. The machine guns were also used for barrage fire, when artillery was not available for short range attacks or when both front lines were too close and it made explosive shells dangerous to both sides.

My Dad told me they were behind the lines, getting some rest and their Officers came up and told them they would have “Archie” Duty. The French supplied the heavy Machineguns and the British supplied the anti-aircraft mounts for the guns. “Archie” was a slang term for anti-aircraft gunnery, coined by the British. Dad said they used the French Hotchkiss 11mm. The normal caliber for the Model 1914 Hotchkiss was the 8mm Lebel. The 11mm version used a rimmed cartridge called the 11mm Gras. It was the first cartridge used by the French in their Infantry Rifles in the 1870’s. The only differences in the modern 11mm cartridge was, it had a jacketed bullet and was loaded with smokeless powder. The larger caliber allowed the French to develop effective incendiary and explosive rounds for anti-aircraft and anti-balloon use. It was a Hotchkiss design and used trays or strips of ammunition to feed the guns. The loader would hook the fresh strip under the last cartridge in the strip before it entered the gun. It sounds like a difficult process but it was more reliable than the cloth belts our machine guns used. This gun was also used in a limited amount by the United States. It was called the Benet-Mercie, after the gun‘s designers.

The “Archie” Duty was protecting an ammunition train from German airplanes. The Germans would attack trains and strafe them with tracer and incendiary rounds. Dad’s job was to mount his anti-aircraft mounted machinegun on the top of a freight car and try to keep the German planes at bay. When they left the train yard there were 3 men assigned to each gun, a gunner, loader and ammunition carrier. It wasn’t very long before they were called to action. German airplanes spotted the train and the attack was on. The 11mm French bullets were incendiary explosive and he said they made short work of two of the German planes. Unfortunately the German pilots set the car in front of the car my Father was protecting on fire and the train stopped suddenly. When the train stopped, my Father and his two comrades jumped off the train and ran from the potential explosion. As they ran away, the car blew up and they were hit with debris. My Dad was slightly injured by shrapnel and was taken to the aid station.

At the aid station, they removed several small pieces of German steel and he spent 3 or 4 days recuperating. An incident happened later that would be a sharp reminder to my Father, of the train explosion. Thirty-eight years after he was wounded, a piece of German steel worked it’s way out of my Father’s back. We were living in New York at the time and he went to the Veteran’s Hospital for treatment. The piece of steel they removed was 1-1/2” long and about as thick as a 14 gauge wire. Dad had no more problems with this wound. As a matter of fact, he went to work after 3 days of recovery.

My Father finally told us of his experiences in France. It seemed as though the terror of warfare was tempered by time. He was sixty five when the steel worked it’s way out of his back and it seemed at that time he opened up and told us of his days in France. Before this happened, he never mentioned it.

We must be thankful for the sacrifices our Veterans have made for us. Without them, we would have nothing.

Doug Bowser



French Hotchkiss Machinegun in 8mm Lebel Caliber
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Old 07-04-2018, 07:53   #2
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In trench warfare, the German army built there infantry squad around the Maxim machine gun.

This worked quite well and two decades later the Germans built their infantry squads around the MG42.
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Old 08-15-2019, 17:25   #3
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Different armies developed different tactical ideas over the years and formed their military tactics around those tactical ideas. In WW2, the German Army formed their combat squads around their machineguns. The U.S. Army formed its tactics around the basic rifleman. The American Army wanted its individual soldiers to feel like they were the most important part of our fighting forces because they were. Another thing that differed between the two armies was that American soldiers were allowed to use their own initiative and, unlike the Germans, were not tied to a micro-managing higher command structure.

Many years ago a group of soldiers I was with got to talk to a WW2 German veteran who was then a NATO General. He was on a tour of Ft. Benning at the time. The General said, "With the Allies it was you Americans who drove us nuts. With the British, French and Russians when they probed our lines we knew where they were going to attack us. You people just wandered all over behind our lines like you owned them and we never had any idea of when and where you would attack us. We never knew if you were disorganized, being disruptive or sneaky."

From what I've been told, modern day tactics have gotten away from the machinegun as the primary weapon around which squads are formed. Now they use the anti-tank weapons for their primary weapons to form around for their teams. As I was once told, if it means the Company Commander and the First Sergeant dragging a TOW down the road, then that's what will be happening.
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Old 08-16-2019, 01:55   #4
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First, I must say that ww1 was responsible for the birth of mechanized warfare. Automatic weapons were available to both sides in significant numbers to be effective combat tools, but the tactics were in infancy. Mg.s were primary defensive weapons notorious for repelling large scale infantry attacks, and what became " no man's land" and the stalemate of trench warfare all so common.
I would like to here of infantry offensives using mg.s there are very little known.( don't even get me started on the chouchat!)
What is is that automatic weapons were first used offensively when adapted to armour and tanks and used on small scale effectively late in the war.
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