American Rifleman - August 2017 - 56

The Non-Commissioned Officer
Heritage & Education Center

GUNS OF THE DEVIL DOGS
In a 1960 interview, former Marine Lt.
Samuel Weeks had this to say about the
Chauchat automatic rifle: "That damn
Chauchat, it was a lousy weapon in many
ways, and it was another dirt absorber.
It was not very accurate, but it usually
worked ... . You could use it like a hose!"

Forces. Moreover, Lewis guns were badly needed by the
fledgling U.S. Air Service in France, and the Marines' Lewis
guns were used to arm observation biplanes. Marines in
the infantry battalions were then issued the French 8 mm
M1915 Chauchat light automatic rifle, and while some
Marines grudgingly approved of it, others reviled it. Due
to its ungainly and utilitarian appearance, some claimed
that it had been made of recycled sardine cans. The open
sides of the semi-circular magazines admitted dirt, and the
automatic rifle was not well set up for accurate marksmanship. Worse, if not held correctly, it could bruise the gunner's
face while firing. Nevertheless, it provided the Marine squad
with "walking" fire in an assault and served its purpose
throughout the battles of Belleau Wood, Soissons, SaintMihiel, Blanc Mont and the Argonne, until being replaced in
November 1918.
Marines enthusiastically embraced the M1918 Browning
Automatic Rifle, commonly known as the "BAR," when it
was introduced into the American Expeditionary Forces in
the autumn of 1918 to replace the Chauchats. Although
BARs were not formally issued to Marines until a few days
prior to their attack across the Meuse River during the
Argonne campaign-and then used literally on the last night
of the war-Marines had "borrowed" BARs from the Army's
36th Division when they fought alongside the soldiers at
Blanc Mont, a few weeks before. Marines put the selectivefire rifle to good use during the battle. Firing the standard
service rifle cartridge from a 20-round detachable magazine,
the BAR gave the extra firepower needed, and was much
more reliable-and manageable-than the French Chauchat.

The Marines continued using the M1918 BAR throughout the campaigns in the Caribbean and Central America in
the 1920s and 1930s, and had even more success with its
successor, the variable-fire (300 or 600 r.p.m.) M1918A2, in
World War II and the Korean War, until it finally was phased
out shortly before the Vietnam War. Drawing on experience
gained on street patrols in Shanghai during the 1930s, the
Marines developed the four-man "fire team" concept, and
reorganized its infantry squad tactics around the BAR in the
later Pacific island campaigns of World War II.
In addition to receiving automatic rifles at the platoon
level in the Brigade's six infantry battalions, the machine
gun companies of both the 5th and 6th Regiments, as
well as the entire 6th Machine Gun Battalion, were issued
French M1914 Hotchkiss machine guns, chambered, like
the Chauchats, in 8 mm French Lebel. The tripod-mounted
Hotchkiss guns were air-cooled, and fired 24 rounds from a
metal clip that fed horizontally through the feed mechanism. This type of feed strip was also used on the obsolescent Benét-Mercié machine rifles, and was later used on
several types of Japanese machine guns in World War II.
Like the "One Pounder" 37 mm M1916 Puteaux guns
that were held by the regimental headquarters companies,
the Hotchkiss guns were carried to the front lines by mule
power, but then man-handled into battle. Thankfully, the
introduction of the famous Browning M1917 .30-cal. machine
gun (that the 4th Brigade received just after the Armistice),
paved the way for man-powered machine gun carts, again
based on Cole's original design. While the Puteaux gun
subsequently only saw service in the Marine Corps up to the
outbreak of World War II, the Browning heavy water-cooled
machine gun served Marines well through World War II, the
Korean War and through the 1950s.
Another firearm that lasted in Marine Corps service for
years after World War I was the shotgun. In fact, modern
versions of it are still issued to select Marines today. Just
before the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, in September 1918, some
Marines were issued the pump-action, five-shot, 12-ga.,
Model 1897 Winchester shotgun, or as it was termed in its
military designation, "Model of 1917 Trench Shotgun." This
continued on p. 94

Marine machine gun "guru" Edward B. Cole spurred the Navy to
adopt the Lewis light machine gun, and Marines trained with
them in Utica, N.Y., and at Quantico, Va. Cole also invented a
handcart on which the gun could be taken directly to the front
lines. A recurring complaint about the Hotchkiss machine gun was
that, although it was carried in mule carts on the march, it had to
be manhandled into battle.

56

AUGUST 2017

AMERICAN RIFLEMAN

Courtesy of the Marine Corps History Division



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Rifleman - August 2017

Contents
American Rifleman - August 2017 - CW1
American Rifleman - August 2017 - CW2
American Rifleman - August 2017 - Cover1
American Rifleman - August 2017 - Cover2
American Rifleman - August 2017 - 1
American Rifleman - August 2017 - Contents
American Rifleman - August 2017 - 3
American Rifleman - August 2017 - 4
American Rifleman - August 2017 - 5
American Rifleman - August 2017 - 6
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American Rifleman - August 2017 - 8
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