Allies Soldiering War

Men With Green Faces (1969)

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How Experience in WWI brought the U.S. Army to Victory in WWII BY ANGRY STAFF OFFICER

We’re in the early months of the centennial of U.S. participation in World War I, the so-called, “War to end all wars.” With the vantage of 20/20 hindsight, we now know that rather than “making the world safe for democracy,” as Woodrow Wilson hoped, World War I instead set the stage for the next round of global conflict.
The United States entered the war in 1917 as a relatively unknown quantity. The U.S. Army was tiny in 1917, and many wondered whether it would be able to mobilize enough men to really make a difference. In the end, the U.S. was able to put over a million military personnel in Europe – enough to sway the balance of power in Europe against the Central Powers.
November of 1918 saw the Armistice signed and a tenuous peace return to the world. And suddenly, America felt and saw the power of her military might. This came at the cost of hundreds of thousands of killed, wounded, and missing servicemen.
After the initial euphoria of victory wore off, Americans began to ask what had been gained from the war. As the Great Depression swept the world and Germany slid towards totalitarianism, this question became all the more pertinent. When war flared again in 1939, one can hardly blame those who advocated for U.S. isolationism given that U.S. participation in the Great War seemingly did little to prevent another conflagration. But what these people didn’t realize was that America would win World War II because of their experience in World War I.
When the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, the Army more closely resembled that of the Civil War than that of World War II. The horse was still the prime mover for the majority of the Army. The National Guard was still organized in state entities with no division alignments, ill-suited for modern warfare. The Army had few effective machine guns and virtually no modern artillery. There were no tanks or aircraft. Thus it was that machine guns, automatic rifles, gas masks, grenades, artillery, tanks, and aircraft all had to be supplied by the French and British in the first year of U.S. participation in the war.
While the equipment and organization of the Army lagged behind the rest of the world in 1917, there were greater and more serious gaps at the strategic level. Very few leaders had commanded or maneuvered anything larger than a brigade. Now the Army was designing divisions of 28,000 men – a massive and unwieldy organization.
The Army would struggle to keep command and control across these huge units throughout the entirety of the war. There was very little concept of command and staff operations in the U.S. Army at the strategic level at the outset of the war.
And the man chosen to lead the new American Expeditionary Force had some strong ideas about warfare that did not mesh with the realities on the battlefields of Europe. General John J. Pershing stated that, “the ultimate success of the army depends upon their proper use in open warfare…Aggressive offensive based on self-reliant infantry.” In other words, Pershing said that movement and maneuver in the open would be the foundation of U.S. tactics rather than the trench warfare of literally everyone else.
There was a problem with this, of course. The French and British had been trying this for years – with calamitous results. In fact, just as the U.S. was entering the war, the French were annihilating a large part of their army in the Nivelle Offensive. The enormous losses they incurred from this operation caused whole divisions to mutiny.
This led to massive reforms within the French Army. The Germans were already moving toward infiltration tactics. All sides were experimenting with combined arms with tanks, airplanes, artillery, and infantry working together. And here came the Americans, scoffing at the battle-hardened British and French, saying that trench warfare had made them immobile and scared to attack.
As one American brigade commander told his men in 1917, “The war will be won in the open; the Boche is in the trenches now and has been for four years. We have got to be able to drive him out and that is why this French instruction is valuable; but remember we are going to get him out into the open and then all the old and fixed principles of our school of warfare will come into play.” In the first American offensives of 1918 at Cantigny and Chateau-Thierry, thousands of Americans died in droves in front of German machine guns and under bursting artillery shells. Divisions were cleaned out in weeks and had to be revitalized with barely-trained replacements. It was an unsustainable form of warfare.
Throughout 1918, the Americans struggled to adapt their tactics to their adversaries. They fielded tanks at St. Mihiel, built up a formidable Air Service, and slowly learned how to fight war in the 20th century. Pershing and his staff began to learn that prosecuting war on the battlefield was not the only fight; as important was negotiating with allies. Unfortunately, Pershing was not a man cut out for diplomacy.
While he certainly looked the part, he lacked the temperament for dealing with his British and chaumont_1919French counterparts – with whom he clashed constantly. To his credit, he had been placed in an incredibly difficult situation: raise, arm, train, and field the largest American army ever created while staving off British and French attempts to take all his troops for their own offensives.
But he didn’t make it easier on himself by blowing up at his allied counterparts and creating what could have been international incidents, had the Allies not needed American assistance so badly. Fortunately, he had some good subordinates, such as George C. Marshall. It was Marshall who not only organized and planned the Meuse-Argonne Offensive – the war-ending battle – but who smoothed over Pershing’s relations with everyone from foreign generals to Pershing’s own irate division commanders who objected to his micromanagement.
It was junior officers – men like Marshall, George Patton, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower (although he was never afforded the opportunity to fight in Europe), Mark Clarke, Lesley McNair, and Walter Kruger, amongst so many – who looked at the lessons from World War I and realized that the U.S. Army needed to change if it wanted to be competitive on the battlefield in another war. They knew that the Army could not sustain the disastrous casualty rates that “open warfare” had caused.
So they began to change the Army after the World War. Change was slow because they were still fighting the general officers who had grown up in the pre-World War I Army. Patton and Eisenhower were threatened with court martial if they didn’t stop publishing articles about such heretical things as the tank being the basis for offensives rather than dismounted infantry.
Efforts of the World War I generation were not helped by popular distrust in the military as the Army battled small budgets, low manpower authorizations, and increasing responsibilities around the world. Marshall moved his way through the Army staff system, overseeing sweeping changes to doctrine and staff procedures.
By 1939, he was the Army Chief of Staff; the WWI officer corps was finally in a position to effect the changes that they had envisioned and written about for twenty years. It wasn’t a moment too soon: the same day Marshall was sworn in, Germany invaded Poland.
In 1940, Marshall – remembering the poor performance of commanders in World War I – began the GHQ Maneuvers in the southern U.S. He called up National Guard divisions and paired them with Regular Army divisions to create full-scale army maneuvers: hundreds of thousands of men moving around Texas, Louisiana, and the Carolinas.
Here he and other military leaders were able to evaluate new technologies, test new doctrine, and get a feel for whether commanders were effective or not. Many were not, and were relieved of command, probably saving many lives in the coming conflict. The entire maneuvers provided Marshall and other key leaders the informational snapshot that they needed in order to start building the Army to war footing. Just as the maneuvers were winding down in the winter of 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the U.S. was at war again.
One of the first things that the War Department did in 1942 was to operationalize the National Guard. One of the key lessons from World War I was that the Guard was needed on the front lines, but that they needed a time to train up. The other move was to get rid of the 28,000-man monstrosity of a division. The Army’s divisions were cut down in size, made more agile and adaptive, and given greater lethality through the addition of more enablers.
The Army got rid of the brigade and replaced it with the regimental combat team, composed of an infantry regiment, a field artillery battalion, and an engineer company. Infantry regiments gained antitank capabilities as well as their own organic artillery companies. These smaller and faster forces proved far more effective than their lumbering predecessors of World War I.
The Army adopted a tank corps as well and began training for combined arms warfare. Although the Army was still behind the 8-ball when it entered combat in 1942, the results would have been far more disastrous had it not been for the efforts of the generation of officers who had lived through the Great War.
Another key take-away from World War I was building relationships with Allies. Marshall and Eisenhower were far more patient men than Pershing had been, and were able to navigate the diplomatic pitfalls of being an allied commander far better than someone like Patton or MacArthur would have.
But Marshall did have his breaking points. For example, during a 1944 planning conference with the British, Prime Minister Winston Churchill was demanding an Allied invasion of the island of Rhodes, at which Marshall finally exploded, allegedly stating, “No American is going to land on that goddam island!” These outbursts were minimal, however, and the American and British coalition managed to stay together to defeat the Nazis and the Japanese.
There was one more way that World War I taught the U.S. people a lesson, and that was in the realm of veterans’ affairs. Between 1919-1920, the U.S. military sent millions of servicemembers back into civilian life. Many were wounded – both physically and mentally – and there was no real plan to take care of these “ex servicemen” as they were called at the time. Congress had passed a bill in 1924 granting a bonus to those who had honorably served during the war, but during the Great Depression the payouts had been

Police clash with Bonus Marchers (Wikimedia Commons)

cut back. In 1932, thousands of veterans descended on Washington D.C. in the infamous Bonus March. They were eventually evicted at gunpoint and with tear gas by Army units in one of the most shameful treatment of veterans in our nation’s history.
MacArthur, Patton, and Eisenhower all took part in this execrable affair. With that living in recent memory, veterans services organizations and WWI veterans in Congress resolved that nothing like it should ever happen again. The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 provided a whole range of benefits to veterans returning to society, the chief of which was access to a college education. This act is commonly known as the GI Bill.
From the battlefield to the staff room to the college campus, World War I veterans made their presence felt. While World War I would lead to World War II, it was American experience in the first that brought victory to the second.

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About the Author: Angry Staff Officer is an Army engineer officer who is adrift in a sea of doctrine and staff operations and uses writing as a means to retain his sanity. He also collaborates on a podcast with Adin Dobkin entitled War Stories, which examines key moments in the history of warfare.

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The “Trench Gun” of WWI from The American Rifleman

The Great War was notable for the carnage that resulted when 19th-century military tactics were pitted against 20th-century infantry arms—such as machine guns, poison gas and flame throwers—which were used by all belligerent nations. There was, however, one infantry arm employed in the war that was uniquely American: the shotgun.

Although shotguns had been used by individuals in the U.S. military for over 100 years, the guns were generally privately owned arms. After the Civil War, a few shotguns were again employed during the so-called “Indian Wars.” The U.S. Army procured a relatively small number of shotguns for “foraging” use, but some privately owned shotguns also saw action during that period. The use of shotguns for deadly serious purposes was well-ingrained in the American psyche as aptly related in a 1920s article published in Harper’s Pictorial:

The John Browning designed Winchester Model 1897 shotgun was first adopted by the U.S. military circa 1900.

The John Browning designed Winchester Model 1897 shotgun was first adopted by the U.S. military circa 1900.

“… [The shotgun] is not a new man-killing arrangement. For years, the sawed-off shotgun has been the favorite weapon of the American ­really out gunning for the other fellow or expecting the other fellow to come a-gunning for him.”

Despite the well-known effectiveness of shotguns for certain situations, the first procurement of shotguns specifically for combat use by the U.S. military did not occur until the dawn of the 20th century. Circa 1900, the U.S. Army purchased an estimated 200 Winchester Model of 1897 slide- action repeating shotguns for use in the on-going “pacification” campaigns in the Philippine Islands following the Spanish-American War of 1898.

The addition of the ventilated top handguard and the bayonet lug are what sets the “trench” guns apart from riot guns.

The addition of the ventilated top handguard and the bayonet lug are what sets the “trench” guns apart from riot guns.

There was a clear need for an arm to help battle the fierce Moro tribesmen, who were exacting a deadly toll on American troops in close-quarters combat. It was recognized that a short-barreled, 12-ga. shotgun loaded with 00 buckshot was the most formidable tool available for such applications. These “sawed off” shotguns soon proved their mettle and were used with notable effectiveness in the Philippines.

When the United States entered World War I in the spring of 1917, General John Pershing and the U.S. Army General Staff were determined not to repeat the same mistakes that were made by both sides during the previous three years of the war. As stated in an American Rifleman article published after the war:

Most were marked with “US” and the ordnance “flaming bomb."

Most were marked with “US” and the ordnance “flaming bomb.”

“When the A.E.F. began to take over portions of the front lines it brought with it General Pershing’s predetermined decision to break up the enemy’s use of its trenches as take-off points for such assaults, to destroy such attacking ‘shock troops’ as they came on, and so to compel the open-ground warfare for which Europeans had little liking but which was wholly in the character of the American spirit and in which it was foreseen the latter would give an extremely effective account of themselves.”

The new tactics that were to be employed by the American “Doughboys” required new arms. Many of the senior officers of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), including Gen. Pershing, had pre­viously served in the Philippines and had first-hand knowledge of the ­effectiveness of the shotgun. It was soon recognized that they possessed much potential for both offensive and defensive trench warfare.

The U.S. Army Ordnance Department was ordered to evaluate which shotgun would best suit the needs of the American troops deploying to France. The consensus was that the Winchester Model 1897 would be the logical choice. The Model 1897, later designated the “M97,” was a reliable gun that had been around for some 20 years and had acquitted itself well in the Philippines.

Remington Model 10 “Trench” Gun

Remington Model 10 “Trench” Gun

The variant of the Model 1897 selected by the Ordnance Department had a solid frame (non-takedown) with a riot-length (20”) cylinder bore barrel. The gun had a total capacity of six rounds (five in the magazine and one in the chamber) and lacked a disconnector. This meant that it could be fired by holding down the trigger while rapidly manipulating the slide, which resulted in a high rate of fire when used in that manner.

While a 20”-barreled Model 1897 shotgun could be obtained literally “off the shelf” from Winchester, the Ordnance Department stipulated that the new combat shotgun must be capable of mounting a bayonet. Although that may appear to have been a simple requirement, it posed some vexing problems. While the typical rifle barrel was small enough in diameter to permit it to fit inside a bayonet guard ring, the large diameter of a 12-ga. shotgun’s bore precluded that method of attachment. The problem was solved by the use of an offset bracket attached to the end of the barrel for attachment of the bayonet.

Remington Model 10 “Riot” Gun

Remington Model 10 “Riot” Gun

Another problem to overcome was the fact that a shotgun’s barrel would become extremely hot after firing only a few rounds. Since it would be impossible to effectively wield a bayonet without being able to firmly grasp the barrel, some form of protection was required. A ventilated metal handguard was designed that allowed air circulation between the guard and barrel and permitted a bare hand to control a hot barrel. Springfield Armory worked in conjunction with Winchester on the design of a handguard/bayonet adapter assembly. In a relatively short period of time, the proposed new combat shotgun was officially adopted.

The new arm, soon dubbed the “trench gun,” was given the ordnance code designation number “G-9778-S.” The guns were typically hand-stamped with a “US” and “flaming bomb” marking on the right sides of the receivers in front of the ejection ports to signify acceptance by the U.S. Army Ordnance Department.

Winchester Model 1897 “Riot” Gun

Winchester Model 1897 “Riot” Gun

The new “trench gun” was designed to be used with the M1917 “U.S. Enfield” rifle bayonet, presumably because there were larger numbers on hand as compared to the M1905 bayonet used with the M1903 Springfield rifle. The fact that Winchester was also making the M1917 bayonet at that time may also have played a role in its selection. The new trench gun was fitted with sling swivels that permitted the use of standard service rifle slings, primarily the leather M1907 sling. The guns were initially issued with commercial-production paper-case 00 buckshot ammunition.

As shotguns were not previously in the Army’s Tables of Organization and Equipment (TO&E), limited numbers were issued to selected infantry units in France for preliminary field testing and evaluation. An Ordnance Department memo dated June 8, 1918, stated:

“… 1,000 shotguns, referred to herewith, together with ammunition are now available in Depots in France … . Instructions are requested regarding the issue and distribution of these weapons. It is suggested that they may prove a most valuable arm for the use of raiding parties, and that a practical test be made in the 26th and 42nd Divisions, and that full information be furnished this office within 30 days, showing the difficulties experienced in maintenance, the susceptibility to jam under trench conditions, and the effectiveness of the weapon. Fifty guns should be issued to each Division mentioned above, with 100 rounds of ammunition per gun … .”

Winchester Model 1897 “Trench” Gun

Winchester Model 1897 “Trench” Gun

Other divisions that were issued trench guns during the war included the 5th, 26th, 32nd, 35th, 42nd, 77th and 82nd. Most of the reports from the units that were issued trench guns for preliminary testing were positive in nature. Typical responses included: “It is the general opinion of those who have used shotguns that they are effective weapons for scouting and patrolling purposes. Col. H.J. Hunt, Sixth Infantry,” and “Shotguns in this regiment have given very satisfactory results. Their effectiveness at short ranges, on raids and patrols makes them a most desirable weapon, and I would recommend that they be adopted. Captain H.P. Blanks, 61st Infantry.”

The most common complaints against shotguns pertained to the propensity of the paper-cased ammunition to become wet in the muddy trench environment, which could cause the shells to swell and become unusable. The lack of belts or pouches to carry the shells was also cited as a problem in several reports. This was discussed in a post-World War I American Rifleman article:

“[I]n the trenches the cartons (of shotgun shells) were set on the long shelf under the parapet … and the doughboys would put a couple of handfuls in their breeches pockets, just as they were accustomed to ‘at home on the farm.’”

This painting of U.S. Marines in France during the September 1918 St. Mihiel offensive depicts a Gunnery Sergeant of the 6th Marine Regiment armed with a Winchester Model 1897 “trench” gun.

This painting of U.S. Marines in France during the September 1918 St. Mihiel offensive depicts a Gunnery Sergeant of the 6th Marine Regiment armed with a Winchester Model 1897 “trench” gun.

Canvas looped shotshell belts were considered for use with the guns but were not the optimum method of carrying shotgun shells in the constantly damp and muddy trenches. A canvas pouch with internal loops (holding 32 rounds) and a shoulder sling was designed and procured to carry trench gun ammunition, but few were likely sent overseas before the Armistice.

Since the major culprit was the paper-cased shells, all-brass 00 buckshot ammunition was ordered. Such ammunition would be less susceptible to moisture and could better withstand the battering from constant loading and unloading of the guns. Some of the all-brass buckshot ammunition of that era was characterized by an unusual “saw tooth” crimp.

U.S. Ordnance Department records indicate that Winchester delivered 19,196 Model 1897 trench guns to the government during the First World War. It is likely that several thousand more guns were procured from wholesalers and jobbers for conversion to trench guns during that period, and, perhaps, as many as 25,000 M1897 trench guns were eventually manufactured during the war. World War I Winchester Model 1897 trench guns were serially numbered in three “blocks”: E433144-E474130; E514382-E566857; and E613303-E697066.

Magazine tubes of the 3,500 Remington Model 10 trench guns obtained by the government during the war bear ordnance markings.

Magazine tubes of the 3,500 Remington Model 10 trench guns obtained by the government during the war bear ordnance markings.

These blocks were obtained from ordnance documents and reports, and some slight variance on either side of the ranges may be expected. Most of World War I M1897 trench guns were in the third block of serial numbers.

In order to augment the supply of combat shotguns, the Ordnance Department contracted with the Remington Arms Co. for a trench gun variant of its Model 10 12-ga. shotgun. The Model 10 was a hammerless slide-action repeater that loaded and ejected from a port in the bottom of the receiver. Rather than utilizing the metal handguard/bayonet adapter assembly of the Winchester Model 1897 trench gun, the Remington Model 10 trench gun was designed with a metal bayonet adapter that clamped on the end of the barrel and a separate wooden handguard. The Model 10 adapter was also designed for use with the M1917 bayonet, which was also manufactured by Remington during that period.

The Model 10 trench gun had a 231⁄2” barrel and was fitted with sling swivels. The guns were stamped with a “US” and “flaming bomb” insignia on the left sides of the receivers. Remington delivered 3,500 Model 10 trench guns to the government during World War I. The serial number range of World War I military Model 10 trench guns was 128000-166000. Again, this is an approximate range and some slight variance on either side is possible.

The receivers of Remington Model 10 trench guns were marked with “US” and the “flaming bomb” insignia on their left sides.

The receivers of Remington Model 10 trench guns were marked with “US” and the “flaming bomb” insignia on their left sides.

In addition to the trench guns, the Ordnance Department purchased a quantity of Winchester Model 1897 and Remington Model 10 “riot guns.” These differed from the trench guns in that they were not fitted with bayonet adapter/handguard assemblies and did not have sling swivels. While some combat use cannot be ruled out, the riot guns were primarily intended to be utilized for guarding prisoners and similar duties.

As increasing numbers of the trench guns began to be deployed to the front-line trenches, their effectiveness became apparent. There were numerous references to the efficiency of the shotguns.

A post-war American Rifleman article contained the following statement regarding a U.S. Army officer: “[H]is men had one good chance with them (shotguns) at a German mass assault upon his trench—a charge obviously intended to overwhelm the defenders with its solid rush of men. (They) let them come on; and when those shotguns got going—with nine .34 caliber buckshot per load, 6 loads in the gun, 200-odd men firing, plenty more shells at hand—the front ranks of the assault simply piled up on top of one awful heap of buckshot-drilled men.”

Unlike the familiar ventilated, stamped steel top handguard of the Model 1897 (above), the Remington Model 10 trench gun (top) used a wooden handguard as well as its own pattern of bayonet lug to accept the U.S. Model 1917 bayonet.

Unlike the familiar ventilated, stamped steel top handguard of the Model 1897 (above), the Remington Model 10 trench gun (top) used a wooden handguard as well as its own pattern of bayonet lug to accept the U.S. Model 1917 bayonet.

Laurence Stallings related the following in his classic book, The Doughboys: “[A] Chicago sergeant, undergoing much hostile fire to reach a concrete pillbox, made his entrance through the stage door of the pestiferous machine-gun nest bearing a sawed-off shotgun. Two buckshot blasts and the twenty-three performers left on their feet surrendered.”

The shotgun’s effectiveness did not go unnoticed by the German government, which viewed the use of shotguns as a serious breach of international rules of warfare and lodged an official protest on September 14, 1918. The Germans sent a telegram to U.S. Secretary of State Robert Lansing, which stated, in part: “The German Government protests against the use of shotguns by the American Army and calls attention to the fact that, according to the laws of war, every prisoner found to have in his possession such guns or ammunition belonging thereto forfeits his life.”

The Germans were referring to a passage in the Hague Decrees, ­predecessor of the Geneva Convention, which stated, “It is especially forbidden to employ arms, projections, or material calculated to cause unnecessary suffering.” The Kaiser’s minions also sought to exploit the issue for propaganda purposes, and several German newspapers wrote scathing editorials against this “barbaric” weapon.

Paper-hulled shotshells didn’t react well to wet conditions in the trenches, so brass shotshells were adopted—as were specialized pouches to carry them in combat.

Paper-hulled shotshells didn’t react well to wet conditions in the trenches, so brass shotshells were adopted—as were specialized pouches to carry them in combat.

For example, the Cologne Gazette opined that “… tommy-hawks and scalping knives would soon make their appearance on the American front … ,” and stated that “… Americans are not honorable warriors.” The Weser Zeitung newspaper was of the opinion that “… the barbarous shotguns have not been served out because they are likely to be effective but because the ill-trained Americans cannot use rifles and are badly supplied with machine guns.” It is reported that some of our Doughboys were rather amused by these editorial rants!

The United States government’s response to the German threat was swift and to the point. Secretary Lansing firmly replied that the use of shotguns was most assuredly not prohibited by the Hague Decrees or any other international treaty. He also made it known that if the Germans carried out their threats in even a “single instance” the American government knew what to do in the way of reprisals and stated that “notice is hereby given of the intention to make such reprisals.”

As correctly summed up in an American Rifleman article after the war: “Uncle Sam did not intend to have his trench-gunners massacred simply because he had given them a weapon which even the pick of the Prussian ‘shock troops’ dreaded more than anything that four years of war had called on them to face.”

Remington and Winchester used similar methods to attach bayonets to their World War I-issue trench guns. This design drawing shows the mechanism for attaching bayonets to Winchester trench guns.

Remington and Winchester used similar methods to attach bayonets to their World War I-issue trench guns. This design drawing shows the mechanism for attaching bayonets to Winchester trench guns.

Apparently, the American response had the desired effect as there is no indication that the Germans ever executed any Doughboys for possessing a shotgun or shotgun shells. It is perplexing as to why the Germans, who introduced and regularly used poison gas and flamethrowers, were so incensed about our use of shotguns. It is probable that the enemy actually feared the American behind the shotgun as much as the shotgun itself.

The United States considered the matter closed and continued to send trench guns to France as fast as production and shipping permitted. As stated in a publication after the war: “The shotguns went right on at their business—so terrible a success that message after message from G.H.Q. to America begged: ‘Give us more shotguns!’”

In addition to use in trench warfare and for guarding prisoners, some shotguns were reportedly employed in front-line positions in an attempt to deflect incoming German grenades. Some have questioned whether this actually occurred, but a number of World War I and post-World War I accounts confirm this practice.

Attaching bayonets on the Remington trench gun involved a similar mechanism to that of the Winchester shotgun, as seen above.

Attaching bayonets on the Remington trench gun involved a similar mechanism to that of the Winchester shotgun, as seen above.

A post-war American Rifleman article stated: “An interesting if amazing purpose which these guns (trench guns) were supposed to serve was that of shooting from the trenches, a la trapshooting, at hand-grenades, ‘potato mashers,’ and the like thrown over by the enemy, with a view to knocking such missiles back, to fall and explode ­outside the parapet. The procedure was taught and practiced at training camps during the war, using dummy Mills bombs as the aerial targets.”

Due to extensive use prior to World War II, original World War I Winchester and Remington trench guns are scarce today and are coveted by martial arms collectors. All World War I-era ­shotguns were originally blued, and any Parkerized examples have been refinished, possibly as part of a later arsenal overhaul.

A number of 1918 vintage M1897 trench guns may be encountered today without martial markings. The most logical explanation for such guns is that they were purchased by the government during World War I but the war ended before the guns could be issued, thus they were not stamped with the “US” and “flaming bomb” markings.

The popularity of shotguns is not restricted to collectors. Modern combat shotguns are in front-line use by American troops today—just as they were in the trenches of France more than 100 years ago. The shotgun is still a uniquely American combat arm. In certain combat applications, it is a fearsome arm with unquestioned effectiveness, just as the Kaiser’s troops first discovered in 1918 “in the trenches.”

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Behind Enemy Lines: Guns of Vietnam’s SOG Warriors by Maj. John L. Plaster, U.S. Army (Ret.)

Behind Enemy Lines: Guns of Vietnam's SOG Warriors

This article, “Deep Behind Enemy Lines: Weapons of Vietnam’s Covert Warriors,” appeared originally in the April 2015 issue of American Rifleman. To subscribe to the magazine, visit the NRA membership page here and select American Rifleman as your member magazine.

It’s unlikely that any other U.S. military unit ever fielded such an array of weaponry as did the Military Assistance Command Vietnam, Studies and Observations Group.

Behind that innocuous name, MACV-SOG ran top-secret, covert operations across Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, especially U.S. Army Special Forces-led reconnaissance missions along the enemy’s Ho Chi Minh Trail road network in Laos, into his sanctuaries in Cambodia, and sometimes into North Vietnam, itself.

These SOG recon teams, usually four to six natives led by two or three American Green Berets, roamed deep behind enemy lines, searching out—sometimes attacking—North Vietnamese truck parks, ammunition dumps, storage sites, truck convoys, command centers and the base camps where enemy units refit between battles in South Vietnam.

Vietnam-era SOG warrior shown in thick jungle with a cut-down RPD machine gun.


Since Hanoi insisted it had no troops in “neutral” Laos or Cambodia, the United States, too, denied that SOG operations were underway. To support this deniability, recon teams were required to go “sterile”—meaning no ID or dog tags, unmarked or non-U.S. uniforms, and unattributable arms. Thus, SOG’s armory stocked many foreign firearms with which a team leader armed his men according to how he saw fit to accomplish each mission.

Initially, SOG’s primary weapon was the 9 mm Luger Karl Gustav Model 1945 submachine gun, nicknamed the “Swedish K.” Obtained through the Central Intelligence Agency, these untraceable guns sported a pale green enamel finish, a side-folding stock and a 36-round magazine. The typical combat load was 13 magazines—one in the gun and 12 more in pouches—for some 468 rounds. That may seem like a lot, but SOG teams often fought all-day, running gunfights against untold enemy pursuers.

Eventually the Swedish K’s 9 mm ball cartridge was found inadequate for knocking enemies down and keeping them down. Many teams up-gunned to the more robust 7.62×39 mm, Chinese Type 56 AKM with a fixed or folding stock.

The AKM was not without its own shortcomings: it was slow to reload since the bolt did not lock open with the last round, and its wooden fore-end—oil-saturated by repeated cleanings—could become too hot to grasp. Still, it was an improvement.

Recon Team Adder’s Hurley Gilpin practices firing a suppressed “Swedish K” 9 mm Luger submachine gun, a CIA-supplied, untraceable arm. Useful for ambushing trackers, removing sentries and seizing prisoners, the integrally suppressed Swedish K was SOG’s most accurate submachine gun.

Some AKM-armed teams added a degree of deception, disguising themselves in North Vietnamese uniforms. During a chance meeting, the enemy hesitated to engage a masquerading team, giving the SOG men a brief advantage.

Had they been captured in enemy uniforms they could have been executed as spies; however, not one of SOG’s 57 Missing in Action (MIA) Green Berets—nearly all of them undisguised—came back as a live prisoner. The issue was moot.

Some arms were old enough to be deniable, allowing World War II veterans to carry their favorite firearms. For instance, First Sergeant Lionel Pinn, a cigar-chompin’ World War II Ranger, proudly packed an M1A1 Thompson submachine gun. Master Sergeant Charles “Pops” Humble, a veteran of the 1st Special Service Force, wanted a German Schmeisser; SOG got him one.

Swedish K submachine gun shown left side on white.

Foreign arms figured in SOG’s night parachute infiltrations—the world’s first combat skydives. Captain Jim Storter armed his recon skydivers with Fabrique Nationale-made Uzi submachine guns because they, “fit nicely strapped atop the reserve ‘chute,” a consideration where compactness and a streamlined load mattered.

His team also packed slim Walther PPK pistols which, like the Uzis, had detachable suppressors. Some SOG skydive teams also carried golf-ball-size V-40 Mini Grenades, acquired secretly from the Netherlands, which weighed just 3.5 ozs.

Foreign handguns included the .25-cal. “Baby” Browning semi-automatic, complete with a wallet-like concealment holster as a last resort gun. But SOG’s most ubiquitous foreign handgun was the 9 mm Luger Browning High Power, favored for its 13-round magazine capacity. Several dozen SOG High Powers came home as chromed, boxed presentation pistols, awarded by SOG’s commander (“Chief SOG”), to his most accomplished team leaders.

The CAR-15

By 1967, the enemy had captured enough U.S. weapons in South Vietnam that weapon deniability was relaxed for missions into Laos, although the requirement continued another two years for Cambodia. Teams could now carry M16s, but they soon were rearmed with what would become SOG recon’s trademark arm—the CAR-15.

SOG recon’s trademark gun, the XM177, was nicknamed the CAR-15. This is the 10″- barrel version, the XM177E1, carried by Team New York leader John St. Martin.

Officially dubbed the XM177, the CAR-15 was a submachine gun version of the M16 and grandfather of today’s M4 carbines. Available in two barrel lengths—a 10″ on the E1 version and an 11.5″ on the XM177E2—it featured a retractable stock, a short, rounded handguard and a distinctive 4.2″ compensator-flash suppressor. SOG’s recon companies were the war’s only units armed entirely with CAR-15s.

As with all U.S. units, during much of the war SOG was stuck with ill-fitting M14 pouches to hold M16 magazines. Many recon men opted for old BAR belts, whose pouches perfectly held four 20-round magazines, or stretched canteen covers to accommodate six magazines.

Frustrated by SOG’s inability to supply 30-round magazines, a number of team leaders purchased them through a Guns & Ammo advertisement, outfitting each man with one 30-rounder. As his first magazine, this typically contained all tracer rounds for psychological effect.

Suppressed Long Guns

SOG stocked many suppressed submachine guns and rifles, useful for chance contacts, ambushing trackers, removing sentries and seizing prisoners. Only SOG’s Uzis had detachable suppressors, the rest having integral ones whose weight and length affected their handling characteristics. The Swedish K’s integral suppressor, for example, added 6″ to its length, which made it barrel-heavy; however, it was especially accurate.

Some recon men preferred the .45-cal. suppressed M3A1 “Grease Gun,” developed by the World War II Office of Strategic Services (OSS), predecessor to today’s CIA. Offering a very controllable 450-r.p.m. rate of fire—making single-shots possible—its suppressor boosted the gun’s weight by 3 lbs., and required cleaning the tube’s metal screen “wafers” to maintain effectiveness.

SOG’s quietest long gun was the Sionics Silent Sniper, an M1 carbine converted to 9 mm Luger and transformed from semi-automatic to a straight-pull. Outfitted with a barrel-length suppressor, telescoping wire stock and 4X scope, its closed bolt firing precluded any mechanical “clacking” while no sound of gas blowback escaped at the breech.

Recon Team Nevada’s Ron Mickelsen, supported by Montagnard teammates, positions his XM21 sniper rifle for an engagement behind enemy lines.

Such “clacking” seemed the only sound you heard when firing the Sten Mk. IIS suppressed submachine gun. Developed in 1940 by the British Special Operations Executive or SOE—whose secret agents operated in Nazi-occupied Europe—the Sten’s loose tolerances kept it firing even when filthy, but limited its accuracy to 8″ groups at 50 yds.

The problem with all suppressed submachine guns was their pistol rounds’ minimal deadliness; not only was that a disadvantage in a firefight, but (as I learned) amid the din of gunfire the enemy heard no muzzle blast to deter his assault or compel him to seek cover.

Instead of carrying a suppressed guns as their primary weapons, many SOG men instead wielded CAR-15s or AKMs, and kept the Stens disassembled into their four major groups—receiver, barrel, magazine and stock—and stowed them in their rucksacks until needed.

As for suppressed M14s and M16s, SOG had them but lacked subsonic ammunition. Medal of Honor recipient Franklin D. Miller and I tested a suppressed M16 and determined that in short-range shootouts its noisy supersonic “crack!” outweighed the benefit of its reduced muzzle blast. Some men thought otherwise, especially when using a suppressed XM21 sniper rifle at greater distances.

Suppressed Handguns

Although of very limited range, suppressed handguns saw considerable action. SOG’s quietest pistol by far was the .32 ACP Welrod, another product of the World War II British SOE. Its minimalist design—a tubular suppressor-barrel-action, a bent metal rod for a trigger and a rubber-covered Colt M1903 pistol magazine for a grip—didn’t even look like a gun.

Like the Sionics carbine, the Welrod was a bolt-action repeater, operated by rotating its knurled end with the palm of the hand. Of limited accuracy and range, the Welrod was more suited to assassinations in wartime Europe than combat in Southeast Asia.

SOG’s most popular suppressed pistol was the .22-cal., High Standard H-D semi-automatic. Another World War II OSS development, its 6½” barrel was fitted with a 73/4″ suppressor that eliminated muzzle flash and achieved 90 percent noise reduction. It was used primarily to capture prisoners, the plan being to disable the target with one, near-silent, well-placed shot. This sometimes worked and sometimes did not, igniting a conventional gunfight.

Franklin D. Miller, a Medal of Honor recipient and leader of Recon Team Vermont, holds a Gyrojet Rocket Pistol. This may be the same Gyrojet carried by SOG Lt. George K. Sisler during the action that earned him the Medal of Honor, posthumously.

Other suppressed pistols included Brownings, Walthers and Berettas, but SOG’s most revolutionary pistol—mistakenly acquired as “silent”—was the 13 mm Gyrojet Rocket Pistol. Constructed of plastic and stamped steel with the heft of a cap gun, the six-shot Gyrojet emitted a piercing, “whoosh!” when fired. Its thumb-size, solid-fuel rocket was spin-stabilized by two canted nozzles and generated almost no recoil.

In SOG tests, that rocket punched through 3/4″ plywood and then pierced one side of a water-filled 55-gallon drum to dent the opposite side. Although slow to reload and of limited accuracy, the Gyrojet saw combat service, especially in the hands of 1st Lt. George K. Sisler, SOG’s first Medal of Honor recipient, who had one when he died fighting off an enemy platoon; his Gyrojet was recovered and may have been the same pistol Medal of Honor recipient Franklin Miller used later.

Robert Graham, leader of Recon Team Pick, carried into combat SOG’s most outlandish “silent” weapon. A native Canadian and bow hunter, Graham had a 55-lb. bow mailed from home with broadhead-tipped arrows, which he indeed let loose during a fight in Cambodia. No prisoner resulted, but it did yield one of SOG’s most unbelievable war stories.

Modified Weapons

SOG’s Green Berets constantly tinkered with their firearms, often shortening barrels to improve handiness. Medal of Honor recipient Bob Howard, for example, sometimes toted a compact, selective-fire M14A1 rifle, its barrel and flash suppressor chopped by 8″ and a handgrip installed below the forearm. In it, Howard fired 7.62 mm M198 duplex cartridges, each containing two stacked 84-gr. Spitzer bullets with respective muzzle velocities of 2700 and 2200 f.p.s.. In effect, this doubled his M14’s output to 40 rounds per magazine.

Sawed-off shotguns saw SOG service, too, primarily the Remington Model 870. One SOG recon skydiver, Sammy Hernandez, somehow got his hands on a sawed-off Winchester Model 1897, which he strapped aside his body for a night jump into Laos. Another SOG recon man carried a sawed-off Browning A5 semi-automatic into Laos, which proved his undoing; it was fast to fire but slow to reload, and he was shot dead while reloading.

The belt-fed M60 machine gun, too, was much modified. Poorly balanced, heavy, and somewhat awkward to wield, Special Forces weapons men completely removed the buttstock, capped it, and then shortened the 22″ barrel, eliminated the bipod and installed a pistol grip below the gas tube, which notably shortened it and cut its weight by 5 lbs. (Three decades later, similar features were incorporated into the gun’s M60E4 version.)

Anthony Dodge, Recon Team Illinois, wields an SOG-chopped M60 machine gun and 500-round backpack drum. Note the aircraft-type flexible feed belt.

However, SOG’s most impressive M60 modification—dubbed the “Death Machine”—was a 500-round drum fitted inside the gunner’s rucksack, connected to his gun with a 5-ft., aircraft-type articulated feed belt. Fabricated at the China Lake, Calif., Naval Weapons Center, its total weight including the gun and ammunition was just short of 90 lbs., requiring a Rambo-sized man to carry it. Best suited to raids, recon teams rarely packed the Death Machine.

But many teams did carry another light machine gun, the Communist Bloc RPD. Modified by Special Forces weapons men, the RPD’s barrel and butt were chopped, reducing its length to 31″, shorter than a Thompson submachine gun. This also reduced the RPD’s weight to 12 lbs. and balanced it so well that you could practically write your name with it. SOG men also modified its 100-round belt to hold 125 rounds, and inserted a slice of linoleum in the drum to eliminate any rattle. Firing the full-power 7.62×39 mm AK round, the RPD was SOG’s deadliest small arm.

Sniper Rifles

Because SOG recon’s primary duty was intelligence gathering, there were few planned sniping missions, which would have compromised a team’s presence with the first shot. However, there was no shortage of sniper rifles when the need arose.

SOG’s most accurate sniper weapon was the heavy-barreled, Remington Model 700 rifle, in 7.62×51 mm NATO (.308 Win.), with a Redfield 3-9X Accu-Range scope, similar to the system issued to Marine Corps snipers. SOG recon was the only Army unit in Vietnam armed with the Model 700.

Recon Team Ohio’s Robert Kotin cradles a heavy-barrel Remington 700 sniper rifle. SOG was the only Army unit in Vietnam with the Model 700.

The M14-based XM21 Sniping System, too, was in SOG’s armory, many of them suppressed. These definitely saw combat service, especially for recon teams in central Laos where the jungle opened up. Special Forces Sgt. Kevin Smith used an XM21 while manning a roadblock overlooking Laotian Highway 922 and made a confirmed 1,000-yd. shot, as well as a number of other kills.

The Korean War-era M1D Sniper Rifle, topped by a 2.5X M84 scope, was considered outmoded by many, but SOG old hands who’d been raised on the M1 rifle thought it an excellent rifle and its .30-’06 Sprg. cartridge more suited to long-range sniping than the 7.62×51 mm.

Quite likely the first-ever flattop AR was an SOG-modified M16. Topped by an M84 scope, SFC J.D. Bath took the experimental sniper rifle to a Laotian mountaintop in early 1967, but no enemy appeared within 5.56×45 mm range. Although promising, that was that rifle’s only known combat service.

Exploding-Projectile Weapons

Some team leaders believed that the slow-firing, single-shot M79 Grenade Launcher reduced their teams’ firepower. Rearming their two grenadiers with CAR-15s, they mounted still-experimental Colt XM148 grenade launchers on their short-barreled CARs, which required a bit of jury-rigging. Later, these were replaced with XM203 grenade launchers.

However, all this bulk degraded the performance of both the CAR-15 and the launcher, which was unacceptable to other team leaders. Instead, they sawed off the M79’s butt and barrel into a “pistol,” which was carried unloaded and snapped into men’s web gear. Thus, 40 mm fire was still available when needed while it freed up everyone to carry CAR-15s.

Obtained secretly from Holland, the golf-ball-size V-40 “mini” grenade was popular with SOG skydiver teams and aviators.

SOG’s most unusual grenade launcher was an experimental pump-action, four-shot, that functioned like an oversized Winchester Model 12 shotgun. Developed by the Naval Weapons Center at China Lake, Calif., it weighed 10.2 lbs. and measured 34½” overall. It wasn’t too heavy, but notably bulky, poorly balanced and prone to short-stroking.

SOG lost more men to the blast and fragments of enemy RPG rockets than to any other weapon. Attesting to this lethality, several recon teams replaced their M79s with RPG-2 launchers, which fired the Chinese B-40 rocket. In SOG’s hands, it proved just as deadly.

Some considered the RPG too heavy a weapon for a small recon team, yet a few team leaders went a step further and also toted a 60 mm mortar. Normally found with a 120-man infantry company, it was the last thing the North Vietnamese expected in a SOG team.

Martin Bennett, Recon Team New York, taped 10- penny nails and tear gas powder packets to these B-40 RPG rounds (r.) to enhance their effect. He dubbed them, “porcupines.”

The 60 mm tube was carried by one man, with about 20 rounds distributed among his teammates. Recon Teams, such as Joe Walker’s RT California and Ed Wolcoff’s RT New York, regularly packed a 60 mm mortar, along with sawed-off RPD machine guns and RPG rocket launchers. Unsurprisingly, these were called “heavy” teams.

Whether heavy or just a half-dozen men, these SOG teams raised such havoc behind enemy lines that the North Vietnamese diverted 50,000 troops from the battlefield to rear area security. However, the cost was significant: SOG lost 243 Green Berets, which included 10 recon teams that went missing while another 14 were overrun.

In 2001—after its covert missions were declassified—SOG received the Presidential Unit Citation for, “Extraordinary Heroism … . while executing unheralded top secret missions deep behind enemy lines across Southeast Asia.”

This article includes images from Jason Hardy’s six-volume series on SOG Teams, which can be found at and from Maj. Plaster’s Book, SOG: A Photo History of the Secret Wars, at

Some Scary thoughts War

Simulation of a Nuclear Blast in a Major City – May the Good Lord Protect us from this Horror

All About Guns Allies Soldiering War

The Rifle Brigade – The 95th Regiment of Foot – The Peninsular War

The Green Machine War

A Story about the Old Army on the Frontier

Frontier Infantry 1866-91


Protecting the wagon train by Frederic Remington

Essay by Yankee Papa (all rights reserved)

In June of 1866 700 men of the 18th Infantry Regiment were marching out of Fort Laramie heading up the new “Bozeman Trail…” This would save hundreds of miles from the old route to the mines in Montana.

The weather was splendid and the troops were marching towards some of the most beautiful country in North America…at least in June. They were also marching into the hunting grounds of the Lakota, the Northern Cheyenne and the Arapaho.

That wasn’t supposed to be a problem. Peace Commissioners were meeting with the chiefs at Fort Laramie as they marched past. Unfortunately some of the chiefs were deeply opposed and nothing had been agreed upon when the troops showed up to build three forts in their territory. A couple of the most fierce, including Red Cloud called foul and rode off pledging war.

As they were too often wont to do, the commissioners decided to ignore the hostile or no show chiefs and just get the signatures of the ones present… even though it might not be their territory at issue. More than one war started this way.

But the word from the brass was that there would not be war… just some hotheaded chiefs… maybe some livestock raids on the posts. The high brass did not understand that as many as 4000 warriors might wish to dispute the matter with them.

The 18th had a proud record in the Civil War, but most of those lads had mustered out. Officers (who often had held higher rank during the war) and NCOs had seen combat… but not most of the common soldiers.

But… the brass indicated that there would be no major fighting. So many raw recruits and almost no training… just what little their NCOs could give them on their way. Drill and musketry not even scheduled until into the next year after the forts built.

The 18th was something new… it was not just made up largely of post-war men… but was among the first of the new blood on the frontier.

The remnants of the old marched past them as they neared Fort Laramie. The last of the “Galvanized Yankees”, former Confederates who volunteered to join the Union infantry to get out of the prison camps. Promised that they would fight Indians on the frontier, not their kin in the South.

Many were signed up for three years, and that meant that many were not discharged upon the end of the war. The last of the six regiments marched past the 18th on their way home to be discharged.

The soldiers of the 18th found that interesting, but were more concerned with their boots. Loss of weapons…illness and wounds… and bad feet could cripple an infantry unit.

Unless you paid a private boot maker, you bought “off the shelf…” In 1818 “lasts” were developed to enable production of specific left and right shoes… but this only came into common usage in the late 1850s… and with some minor exceptions, infantry in the Civil War and for some years thereafter (until Civil War stocks used up) had shoes with no left foot-right foot differentiation.

Prior to the march most NCOs would have shown the recruits how to fully soak the “boots” (up to the ankle and 4 sets of eyelets) and then let them dry on their feet before attempting to cover any distance in them. Easier to break in the boots than the feet.

Just as well that no fighting was expected…Colonel Carrington… well, everybody liked him, but he had never been in battle. Commissioned a Colonel from a law practice at the start of the war and handed the 18th Regiment… he was placed on “detached duty” for the entire war… staff duty in Washington.

If some of the officers thought that there might be a fight, they could not be happy at the Regiment’s strength… A new Civil War regiment contained 1000 men… the 18th only had 700… and of those all but 400 would be going to two forts… one at either end of the trail.

Actually they were lucky. A decade later and infantry companies on the frontier would not be at 70 like the 18th instead of the Civil War standard of 100… but down to a normal of 37.

And of course the rifles. The Ordnance Department had plenty of breech loading rifles in storage after the war… but chose to let the 18th head into the Powder River country with muzzle loading rifles (see  ) But then again, there was not supposed to be any fighting.

Only real Indian fighter around here, the Colonel’s guide… Jim Bridger. Even the recruits had heard stories about this old mountain man.

Bridger had his own assessment of what was going on. He thought that Red Cloud and some others would do more than just “steal some livestock…” A lot of horses, mules, and cattle that would have to be grazed outside the fort… Firewood to be cut some miles from the fort…something that required peace…

And then there were the women and children that the brass encouraged the Regiment to take with them. Total including workers of 400 civilians. Most would be at the fort in the middle of the trail… right in the heart of the Powder River hunting grounds. Colonel Carrington listened to Bridger… but the high brass assured Carrington that there would be no major hostilities…

[…The 18th had detachments build forts at both ends of the trail and built Fort Phil Kearny in the middle. Livestock indeed stolen and soldiers and woodcutters killed. On December 21, 1866, a Captain Fetterman… (had commanded the 18th at times during the war in higher brevet rank) put the seal on his disrespect to the Colonel and arrogantly disobeyed his orders.

Sent in relief of a wood chopping party, he instead rode after a party of Lakota to a ridge line. Ordered not to go past it, he did… with a mixed force of Infantry and Cavalry… 80 men. Just the number that he had boasted about… “With 80 men I can run roughshod over the whole Sioux nation.” Instead the Cavalry bolted to the front leaving the infantry panting behind… then more than 1000 Sioux rose up and caught them all in the open. It was over in a couple of minutes…

There would be other fights in the area, but the high brass in Washington decided what they should have in the first place… the soldiers could not guard the trail… only their own forts. Besides, Infantry needed to guard the trans-continental railroad that was being built.  A treaty was signed… the troops pulled out by 1868 and the Sioux burned the forts behind them. It was the last war that Indians would win in North America…]

“Good Marksmanship and Guts” DA Poster 21-45
Near Fort Phil Kearney, Wyoming, 2 August 1867. The Wagon Box Fight is one of the great traditions of the Infantry in the West. A small force of 30 men on the 9th Infantry led by Brevet Major James Powell was suddenly attacked in the early morning hours by some 2,000 Sioux Indians. Choosing to stand and fight, these soldiers hastily erected a barricade of wagon boxes, and during the entire morning stood off charge after charge. The Sioux finally withdrew, leaving behind several hundred killed and wounded. The defending force suffered only three casualties. By their coolness, firmness and confidence these infantrymen showed what a few determined men can accomplish with good marksmanship and guts.

These days you mention the Old West and the Indian Fighting Army and people immediately picture Cavalry. Usually John Ford Cavalry. West had wide open spaces and the Indians had horses… so troops had to have horses… right? Oh, maybe some Infantry to guard the forts, but otherwise…

History tells a far different tale. There were never enough Cavalry… there never could be. The gigantic Union Army was mustered out and in the end, only 25,000 soldiers were left in the entire Army… many in the South enforcing Reconstruction.

A Cavalry regiment cost twice as much to raise as an Infantry regiment… and a lot more to keep running each year. And in spite of Hollywood… Infantry had a major role to play.

While mounted forces had played a role in every war from the Revolution on, there were no permanent regiments until the 1850s. Even then the mission a bit “fuzzy…”

Cavalry proper was supposed to fight almost exclusively on horseback. Dragoons were supposed to be able to fight some on horseback and some on foot. We had both, but at the start of the Civil War it was decided to call them all “Cavalry…”

Immediately after the Civil War a lot of regular and volunteer regiments were thrown into Kansas to put down Indian raids.  Thousands of soldiers tracked endless miles and only killed two hostiles.  Something else would have to be tried… and with a lot less soldiers… most of these were going to be demobilized.

Infantry would be needed for far more than to guard the forts.  Wagon trains and supply trains would need escorts. While some Cavalry with the trains were handy… too many and they became a logistic nightmare.

American stock, unlike Indian ponies could not subsist on grass… Cavalry remounts needed oats and the like…a lot of them.

Even “all Cavalry” offensives had a limited range… In 1882 the assistant Quartermaster of the Army reported: “Unless cavalry operate in a country well supplied with forage, a large amount of wagon carriage must be furnished for forage and in such cases, cavalry is of little value except to guard its own train… and to do that in the presence of an enterprising enemy it will need the addition of infantry…”

Covering the Cavalry’s Withdrawl by Frederic Remington

Horses are, for all their size, relatively fragile.  They can drop from a number of diseases and if worn out require an extended amount of time to recover.  At the end of the day men are tougher than horses.

One officer who served in large expeditions in the Sioux and Nez Perce campaigns involving major units of Cavalry and Infantry, Sixth Infantry’s Col. William B. Hazen wrote “After the fourth day’s march of a mixed command, the horse does not march faster than does the foot soldier, and after the seventh day the foot soldier begins to out-march the horse, and from that time on the foot soldier has to end his march earlier and earlier each day to enable the cavalry to reach the camp the same day at all. Even with large grain allowances horses quickly deteriorated under extended exertion…”

In 1876 a 50 man Cavalry troop dismounted had less firepower on the line than an Infantry company of 37 men. Every fourth trooper had to take four horses to the rear and hold them there until the engagement was over. In addition the Cavalry was using shorter range carbines while the Infantry was using longer range (and more reliable) rifles.

The image of the “Cavalry riding to the rescue…” could not have been farther from the truth.  In most cases, by the time that the Cavalry found out about a raid, the Indians could be fifty miles away… one hundred if they were Comanches.

Comanches might make a raid… then join up some miles off with couple of boys holding spare ponies… Alternate between them making distance.  Cavalry, even an hour away would never catch up with them… just wear out their mounts. Cavalry had to dismount and walk their horses for a while every couple of hours to give them a breather.  Meanwhile the Comanches kept swapping ponies.

One thing that cost the Cavalry was riding exhausted mounts into contact with Indians who were up for a fight… Reno almost lost his squadron when he had to retreat with blown horses (and exhausted, sleep-deprived troopers) at the Little Big Horn.

Map from “Winning the West The Army in the Indian Wars, 1865-1890” Army Historical Series

The only feasible military solution was to hit the hostiles in their villages… preferably in the winter when their mounts were scrawny.  There were a number of problems with that strategy.

In the first place, during the Civil War a regiment of Colorado volunteers (enlisted for 100 days only) under a fanatic named Chivington had murdered many Southern Cheyennes at Sand Creek.  Most of his men were bar sweepings and acted accordingly… rape, beheadings, “trophies” taken… slaves.

These Indians had followed the directive to camp by the nearest fort… but were ordered away by militia officers as a cynical prelude to slaughter.  Other Indians were making the trouble… but these were closer… and both Chivington and the Governor of Colorado were looking for a cheap victory.

By the time that the people back East figured out what had happened, the regiment was paid off and the Army could do nothing.  One regular officer who was going to testify was murdered in Denver.

So raids even into actual hostile Indian villages… though not as barbaric as Chivington’s would raise holy hell with people back East and their Congressmen.

And just what was a hostile village?  Custer’s assault on Black Kettle’s village on the Washita, while not the insanity of Sand Creek was bad enough and raised troubling questions.

Black Kettle himself was an honorable chief who wanted peace.  But war parties drifted in and out of his camp…some with hostages.  He was not keen to have them rest up in his village… but tribal custom prevented him asking them to leave so long as they did not cause major trouble. He had no actual *authority*… as with most Plains chiefs, he led by his personality.

The Eastern media learned that Black Kettle had attempted to speak with the soldiers before the first shots were fired.  He was shot and too many of the soldiers fired at anything that moved.  It was a “victory” that would cost the Army in political support and in the unending enmity of both major branches of the Cheyenne people.

The biggest problem was identifying hostiles.  Generally back when the Indian wars fought East of the Mississippi, a chief’s word would bind his tribe.  On the Plains it was different.

A chief might sign a treaty with every intention of honoring it.  But on the Plains both the war chiefs and the peace chiefs led by their personality and influence…not by compulsion.

Some members or clans of his tribe might decide to go their own way and raid.  This caused reprisal raids (often by civilians) against the nearest members of that tribe regardless of any possible innocence.  This of course led to those victims raiding the nearest whites… regardless of any possible innocence.

The reservation system was supposed to clear all this up.  Those on the reservations would be labeled as “peaceful” and those off would be considered hostile.

But not all Plains Indians treaty bound to live on reservations. Some clans might…other might not.  And some hostiles came to the reservations (mostly come winter) to rest up for new raids in the Spring. Some reservation occupants had permission to go off reservation on long hunting trips… Some were just that… others…

Shortly before the Little Big Horn campaign the government decided to reshuffle the deck.  Indian tribes would no longer be treated as “sovereign nations” but as wards of the government.  Certain tribes including the Sioux and Cheyenne were ordered (in winter) to report to a reservation or be considered hostile.

It is doubtful that many got the order…or would have considered moving in that weather… or even in the Spring.  They saw no reason to give up their way of life.

The Army moved…and bungled the entire campaign…Custer’s blunders just one part of a bad set of events. But from this point the role of the Infantry would increase.

Like other troops on the frontier, the Infantry had some real problems.  Their authorized strength too low… and usually could not meet that.  Something like 37% of all troops on their first enlistment deserted each year.

Not just the low pay.  Army preferred to pay in paper money at isolated posts.  Counterfeiting so rampant for some years that most merchants would only take at a discount.

New troops got very little training. Most years no more than 16 rounds of ammunition per man for target practice. Often used on endless details having little to do with soldiering.  If infantry present at a fort, they got most of the endless chores… most troopers work time centered around their mounts.

While officers preferred “Iowa farm boy” type recruits…they usually didn’t hang around.  Many of the best soldiers were the Irish and Germans… at least those who made it into the NCO ranks.

Many people have heard of the two regiments of black soldiers in the Cavalry.  But there were also two regiments of Buffalo Soldier Infantry on the plains.  On average they were a better investment than many of the white recruits.

Lot of drunks and loafers and other types likely to get into trouble and/or desert joined the white regiments… But there was a surplus of good quality men wanting to join the black regiments.

Desertion was a very small problem.  Training took longer because of their background (this happened in Rhodesia with the Rhodesian African Rifles as well), but once trained up, these men proved superb soldiers.

Most white officers outside the black units looked down on the regiments…prejudice… nothing more.  At the end of the Civil War Custer had refused the rank of full Colonel with a black regiment and chose to be a Lt. Colonel of a white one. (Actual commander, Colonel Sturgis always on temporary duty in Washington until after Custer’s death.)

Whether in garrison, or even in the field, the Buffalo Soldiers often looked smarter than their white counterparts.  Some of that was their desire, and that of their officers to look like proper soldiers.  Initially, part was because by the time that the black post-war regiments formed, the Army was out of their stocks of poorly made Civil War uniforms (bad contractors) and only had the later quality stuff left.

Company B of the 25th Infantry was stationed at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, from 1883-1888.
They pose here in their full dress uniforms. U.S. Army Signal Corps photo

After Custer’s famous luck ran out, the Army got orders to clean up the plains once and for all.  The Infantry now would show what they could do.

The Infantry did whatever it took… The Fifth Infantry’s Colonel… Nelson Miles… put some of his troops on confiscated Indian ponies to help run the hostiles ragged and keep them from assembling in mass numbers.

But the real mission for the Infantry was a foot job… Hitting the Indian camps in the winter.  The idea was not to win a big battle to the finish… Too often women (who often fought) and children caught up in the gun play and too many warriors would escape.

And a desperate fight for a village would often result in heavy casualties among the troops.  At Big Hole later against the Nez Perce, troops from another Department would learn that the hard way.

The object was to cause the hostiles to flee… leaving their winter camps behind them… their shelter… massive food stores… and often most of their spare ponies.  The best would be used and later sold… the rest shot.

The Indians would stagger into another village of the same or allied tribe… but they too could be hit by the “walks-a-heaps” tomorrow. One winter of the Infantry doing this broke the backs of the Sioux (many of whom fled to Canada…where only the Royal Navy prevented the U.S. Army from crossing after them…)and the Northern Cheyenne.  The foot sloggers could hold up better in appalling weather than Cavalry remounts.

There were other campaigns on the plains… the Nez Perce battles that often involved Infantry… including their final one.  Then in Northern California the Modocs in the lava beds where only the Infantry could operate. Others…

Against the Apache the Infantry had its work cut out for it.  If Wyoming and Montana cold in the winter… the heat of the Southwest could be hell on earth.  And the Apaches liked it just fine…

Other than the expedient of the Indian ponies, there were two primary ways that the Army could mount Infantry.  European mounted infantry rode horses but always fought on foot and carried rifles… not carbines.

But it takes time to get Infantry used to the bone breaking gait of a Cavalry remount.  Besides, especially in Apache country horses prone to dying even when cared for by specialists.

The answer was to mount the Infantry on mules.  Mules can be stubborn…but once one accepts the rider, their easy walking gait far easier for a novice to handle.  Add to that that other than camels (used for a time in the 1850s) they were the hardest critters to kill off in the desert. Unfortunately (from a Cavalryman’s standpoint) most mules will not charge into gunfire.  Smarter than horses… and maybe their riders.

An elephant’s main strength is in pushing and pulling, but it can still handle a lot on its back.  A properly packed Army mule could carry two thirds of the load (weight, not size) on its back that an elephant could.

One of the better Generals was a Colonel named George Crook who had worn stars in the Civil War and after dazzling victories in Idaho and Oregon was promoted to Brigadier General over a great many heads.

“Crook refined the science of organizing, equipping and operating mule trains … selection of mules civilian attendants preferred… proper design  mounting and packing of pack saddles…” (Utley)

But the best partnership was Infantry on foot… with pack mules (no wagons that could not go into nasty country)and Apache scouts from the same tribe… day or two out in advance.

This partnership was put to the test in Mexico in the Geronimo campaign.  After the Apaches surrendered, they said that this combination gave them the most trouble.  They could always mount up and ride away from their hideouts… but American and Mexican Cavalry all over the place… sudden moves dangerous… Meanwhile the Infantry and mules would be maybe a day behind the scouts…as persistent as the scorching sun.

Grant’s troops in Virginia would not have recognized one of these companies.  No bugles on the march…bayonets left in barracks.  No glorious dark blue tunic over sky blue trousers.

Like Captain Henry Lawton’s company out of Fort Huachuca, they marched in white long underwear and campaign hats.

These companies marched without the drunks and the slackers.  They had some of the roughest on the job training on the frontier…that produced hard-bitten professionals.  They were a world away from the green 18th Infantry lads marching up the Bozeman Trail in 1866.


This period of the “Dark Ages” of the United States Army lasted from 1866-98.  But these Infantry companies in Mexico would not have been out of place in many Twentieth Century campaigns… from the Philippines to Nicaragua…

US Postage Stamp of Remington’s “Protecting the Wagon Train”

Dear Grumpy Advice on Teaching in Today's Classroom Gear & Stuff War Well I thought it was neat!

Not of the things that the USN isn't really proud of – The WWII Torpedo's disaster by My daily Kona

The “crappy” Mark 14 Torpedo and the effect it had on the American Sub Force.

.This was supposed to drop this morning, but I got the date wrong.
I had ran across this article on the internet doing research on something else, it discussed the torpedo debacle that the American Submarines had and to a lesser extent, the American Torpedo planes had because they basically were using the same technology and systems.   It was very enlightening to see the bureaucratic  stalling and shafting the sub crews and skippers who tried to tell BuOrd that their torpedoes sucked, whereas the Japanese had the awesome Long Lance torpedoes and their air arm had their own effective air dropped version.                                                                                            The Pics are complements of “Google”.

Fizzling fish, wrong tactics and incompetent commanders — ingredients for disaster simmering below the waves aboard American submarines — how many years did they add to World War II?
A strong case has been made, by authors as varied as Jim Dunnigan, John Keegan and George Friedman, that the leading cause of the eventual defeat of the Japanese in World War II was the choke hold on its commercial shipping achieved by the Allies. Friedman, in his thought provoking if flawed The Coming War With Japan, argues that aerial strategic bombing had little effect on Japanese production capacity. But production capacity is useless without raw materials. US submarines, ranging on the north-south routes from the Indies and along the Japanese coast, systematically interdicted the flow of strategic materials. By the end of the war Japanese imports of bulk commodities such as iron ore and oil had plunged almost 90% from prewar levels. Unable to get the supplies it needed to maintain its armed forces the Japanese were forced to submit to the demand for unconditional surrender. As Friedman points out, the lesson was driven home — the bulk of modern Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force is devoted to antisubmarine warfare.
For World War II’s submariners it was not a one-sided battle. While American submarines claimed 201 Japanese warships and 1013 merchant vessels (roughly 55% of all tonnage sunk), fifty four American submarines made their final dive to the floor of the Pacific, taking 3500 sailors to a watery grave. The loss rate — 22% — suffered by the Submarine Service was the highest experienced by any force of their size in the war. But the blood and iron lost in the shallows and deeps of the Pacific destroyed Japanese war making ability. It almost didn’t happen that way.
Run Silent, Run Deep
While salvage crews rescued what they could from the twisted wreckage of the Pacific Fleet in the aftermath of the raid on Pearl Harbor, the American Navy scrambled to strike back. Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Ernest J. King turned to the only branch of the service with the ability to damage the Japanese without risking the few precious carriers — the submarine service.
Before December was out, American submarines had struck back with a ferocity born out of desperation and a grim sense of revenge. One boat alone carried out attacks on six Japanese ships putting 13 “fish” (naval slang for torpedoes) in the water. Overall there were forty-six separate attacks on Japanese shipping, both civilian and military, involving the launching of 96 torpedoes. The scope and number of operations were a tribute to the determination and hunting skills of the submariners. The one problem, from the naval warfare point of view, was that all this activity resulted in the loss of exactly five freighters. Ironically, at the same time the Atlantic German submarine commander Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz was complaining to his captains that it took them took 816 torpedoes to sink 404 ships. Something was terribly wrong in the Pacific.
Commanders, Tactics & Torpedoes
As 1941 faded into 1942, then 1943, three things became obvious: American submarines in the Pacific were commanded by unsuitable commanders utilizing inappropriate tactics and armed with useless torpedoes.
It is axiomatic that those who rise to high command in peacetime are frequently ill-equipped to handle the rigors of battle. Peacetime is a period when competency is judged on skill at personal relationships, office politics and ballroom dancing rather than aggressiveness, battle experience or drive. At the start of the war, many submarine commanders were too old, too poorly trained and unready for the tasks they faced. In one noted instance a sub captain, assigned to his first combat patrol, turned the conn over to his Executive officer and locked himself in the cabin until it returned to port. The Navy recognized the problem and conducted a house cleaning — in 1942 thirty percent of submarine captains were relieved of their commands as unfit for duty. Their places were taken by men with more fire in their bowels.
Tactics were just as poor. Prior to the war American submarine doctrine saw the submarine as a forward scout responsible for the protection of battleships. Combat tactics called for submarines to attack fully submerged using sound rather than their periscopes to attack. It was unrealistic and what was worse, completely oblivious to the lessons of World War I and the naval war to that date. German submarines, employing much more aggressive tactics were on the verge of strangling Great Britain. Before Pearl Harbor the efficiency of the German U-boats had forced President Franklin D. Roosevelt to move warships from the Pacific to the Atlantic and use American vessels to protect British convoys.
The Germans understood the purpose and strengths of submarine warfare. Submarines operate best as aggressive attackers. Like sharks they are efficient killing machines that need to hunt. The role of scout is as poor a one for a submarine as passenger plane is for an F-15.
The American Navy learned quickly. Commanders were replaced and tactics altered. But still the number of Japanese ships sunk was embarrassingly low. Through 1943 the navy expended 14,748 torpedoes against 4,112 Japanese ships — sinking 1,305. At the same time Doenitz was complaining about using two torpedoes to sink a ship, American submarines were expending 11.3 per target sunk.
Torpedo Tribulations
The third problem lies with the submarine’s main weapon — its torpedoes. To start with, there weren’t that many around. The navy had started the war with a few hundred torpedoes; nearly half of which (233) were lost when the Philippines fell and the stockpiles there abandoned. Submarine torpedo production was all of 60 per month at the beginning of 1942. Submarines went to sea with two thirds of their optimum content with orders not to waste them. Ironically, in the middle of a war, submarine commanders were praised for not expending their ammunition on the enemy. The shortage might actually have been a blessing in disguise. There were some problems with the main torpedoes.
American submarines were equipped with two types of torpedoes. The older Mark 10, and the fifteen-years-in-development, top secret Mark 14. The Mark 10 was an adequate torpedo but outdated and not particularly powerful. Only the older S-boats were outfitted with them. The navy had been replacing it with the ultra-modern Mark 14.
Mark 14 Mayhem
The Mark 14 had three separate and distinct glitches. It ran 11 feet deeper than its setting, it had a faulty magnetic detonator which caused premature detonation, and the contact detonator was incredibly fragile. Compounding matters was the attitude of the Navy. Replacing incompetent commanders was done as soon as the problem was noted. Tactics and doctrine were revised when they proved untenable. But the torpedo problem would haunt the submariners for two years before the three problems were admitted to and solved by a hidebound Navy bureaucracy.
Design of the Decade?
The major difference in the models lay in their respective methods of detonation. The Mark 10 torpedo detonation design was as straightforward as a sledge hammer — it hit its target and exploded, opening a hole in the hull at or below the waterline. The Mark 14 was designed to explode while passing under the target’s keel, thus breaking the back of the ship. The magnetic detonator was supposed to explode the device at the exact place it would do the most damage. In theory it was a great idea. The reality was different.

The Mark 14 torpedo looked as if it had been designed by Rube Goldberg in a particularly creative mood. Its 92 pound Mark 6 detonator was a complicated affair complete with chains, spinners and a compass needle. It had poor structural strength and as fragile as a glass watch. To make matters worse the Navy had never really put the Mark 14 through any testing.

Mark VI Exploder Version 1
In the interwar years of severe budgetary restrictions cash for testing was given a low priority. The Bureau of Ordnance (BuOrd) convinced itself that at $10,000 a piece, the Mark 14 was just too expensive to blow up during testing. So the warhead was filled with water and deliberately set to pass under the under the target to preserve both for reuse. A test firing was deemed successful if the exhaust bubbles passed under the target ship. Not a one was ever actually exploded. In the words of the Submarine Operational History: “The war began with an entire generation of submarine personnel none of whom had ever seen or heard the detonation of a submarine torpedo.”
Firing Failures
Seven days after Pearl Harbor the Navy should have recognized they had problems with their torpedoes. An American submarine found a Japanese tanker, put it in its sights and let fly one of the state of the art Mark 14 fish. The torpedo, fired from a range of 1000 yards, sped along straight and true then detonated 450 yards from the target.
The submarine commander, who had done previous service with BuOrd knew as much about the Mark 14 torpedo as anyone commanding a boat. Suspecting the problem might be the magnetic detonator he deactivated them on his Mark 14 torpedoes. Continuing his patrol he fired a total of 13 torpedoes at six different targets without a hit.
Once Nimitz’ subs stopped using the magnetic detonating feature it became obvious that most of the torpedoes were duds. One sub reported firing 15 fish at an anchored Japanese Whale Factory. Eleven torpedoes failed to explode though they hit their target. Lockwood ordered more tests, this time of the contact detonators. Mark 14s were fired at a cliff and dropped from a crane in an effort to get to the bottom of the problem.
By September the tests had proven that the Mark 14 contact firing pin was unfit for combat. The pin was so delicate that it would crush without detonating the torpedo on an optimal hit of 90 degrees relative to the target. At 45 degrees, 50% of the torpedoes failed. Lockwood ordered the submariners to target glancing shots at enemy vessels. Yes, he admitted, they were more difficult to make, but they had a chance of being successful while the problem was corrected
Totally frustrated the captain informed the Commander, Submarines, Southwest Pacific1 (COMSUBSOWESPAC) that he had disobeyed orders by disarming the magnetic detonator. Regrettably, he added, even this did not seem to help. He opined that the torpedoes were either running significantly deeper than their setting or the contact detonators were not functioning or both. Aware they had been only tested using a water filled warhead he hypothesized that the actual Torpex explosive, being significantly heavier, was carrying the torpedoes down to a lower depth. He requested that he be allowed to conduct test firings at a fish net to check the depth setting on the torpedo. His request earned him a reprimand and a visit from a BuOrd officer. This officer, after reviewing crew procedures and conducting an inspection of the ship’s remaining torpedoes, placed the blame squarely on the crew.
Still the problem continued. On April 1, 1942 USS Scuplin fired a spread of three Mark 14s at an unescorted cargo ship at 1,000 yards. The captain of the Scuplin was the only thing that exploded as he watched the torpedoes pass harmlessly under the target. By July 5th 1942 Scuplin had fired 45 torpedoes damaging all of seven ships.
Over the next months the misses mounted. USS Spearfish fired and missed with four torpedoes at a Japanese cruiser. USS Skipjack targeted two on a seaplane tender with no hits. Scuplin spent another six days missing three Japanese freighters with nine Mark 14 torpedoes.
Henry Bruton, commander of USS Greenling, fired four Mark 14 torpedoes at a Japanese freighter after a textbook approach. All of them missed. Bruton went ballistic. Ordering the sub to the surface he passed the Japanese ship, setting up for another attack at 1,350 yards. Two fish sped toward the helpless freighter in the bright moonlight. Bruton watched as they missed. Again Bruton ordered Greenling to the surface to set up for a third attack. By now the Greenling had been spotted by the target. During the ensuing battle Bruton fired two more torpedoes. One was clean miss, the other exploded — 500 yards short of the target.
In the late summer of 1942 USS Seawolf ended her sixth patrol having fired 17 Mark 14s to sink two ships. Freddy Warder, Seawolf ‘s captain then loaded his submarine with a combination of the old Mark 10 “sledgehammer simple” and the newer Mark 14 torpedoes. Finding a 8,000 ton transport at anchor with no tide or current he conducted a test. At 1,400 yards he fired 4 Mark 14 torpedoes. The first, set at 18 feet, ran under the target exploding on the beach. The second, set at eight feet, appeared to detonate on the transport’s side while the other two, set at four feet, failed to explode. Warder, with Japanese shells exploding around his periscope, withdrew, reloaded his tubes with Mark 10s and attacked again. Both ran “hot and true” and sank the transport.
Captains complained, but no one seemed to be listening. A number of senior officers had their suspicions but they ran into brick walls.

In June 1942, Rear Admiral Charles Lockwood became COMSUBSOWESPAC. After reading the war diaries of his submariners he became convinced that poor torpedo performance was the root cause of fleet’s poor sub kill rate. Lockwood asked BuOrd if they had recently tested the Mark 14. The answer was a curt “No.” Lockwood then purchased a 500 foot long fish net and tested the Mark 14 himself. The results were no surprise to the submarine captains. One torpedo, set at 10 feet, ran through the net at 25 feet, another with the same depth setting passed through at 18 feet. Another, set to ride on the surface, went through the net at 11 feet.
Lockwood notified BuOrd of his results and was told that no reliable conclusions could be drawn from his test. Lockwood then repeated the test with another submarine. Three torpedoes, each set at 10 feet, cut the net at 21 feet. In July, informed of Lockwood’s tests, King, ordered BuOrd to test the Mark 14. In August of 1942 the Bureau completed its tests and formally declared the Mark 14 ran 11 feet deeper than set.
Premature Explosions
Even after this problem was “solved” complaints on torpedo performance continued. Most concerned the issue of premature explosions. Lockwood endorsed these reports and sent them to Washington. Rear Admiral Ralph Waldo Christie, the BuOrd officer largely responsible for the development of the Mark 14 and Mark 6 magnetic detonator, then entered the fray.
When the failure of the attack was blamed on his beloved detonators and torpedoes. Christie wrote Lockwood: “It is not defective torpedoes nor exploders causing the dearth of sunken Japanese ships. It is ineffective submarine crews… and by the way stop your negative reports about the torpedoes.” Lockwood replied, “From the amount of belly-aching it (Lockwood’s note) contains, I assume that your breakfast coffee was scorched or perhaps it was a bad egg. You boys may figure the problem out to suit your favorite theories but the fact remains that we have now lost six valuable targets due to prematures so close to that the skipper thought they were hits.”
Lockwood made his feelings plain at a conference in Washington DC. He ripped into the BuOrd declaring “If the Bureau of Ordnance can’t provide us with torpedoes that will hit and explode, then for God’s sake get the Bureau of Ships to design a boat hook with which we can rip plates off a target’s sides.”
Lockwood was immediately confronted by an old friend, Rear Admiral WHP “Spike” Blandy, the BuOrd Chief. “I don’t know whether it’s part of your mission to discredit the Bureau of Ordnance, but you seem to be doing a pretty good job of it.”
“Well, Spike,” Lockwood retorted, “if anything I have said will get the bureau off its duff and get some action, I will feel that my trip has not been wasted.”
Christie Checks

In early 1943 the submarine command structure changed. Lockwood moved from being COMSUBSOWESPAC to COMSUBPAC at Pearl Harbor under Admiral Chester Nimitz, the Commander In Chief, Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC). Christie was named COMSUBSOWESPAC. Far from bowing to the obvious, Christie conducted a vendetta against skippers who slurred his torpedo. When two of his captains questioned the reliability of the Mark 14 they were transferred out. Word spread that to question the Mark 14 in Christie’s command was a sure way of being assigned shore duty.
To forestall criticism, Christie actually went on patrol with his most successful captain in order to observe the Mark 14 in action. Of three fired in the first attack, the first torpedo broke to the surface zigzagged and passed in front of the target while the other two hit and sank the ship. During the second attack on this cruise Christie watched as 18 torpedoes were fired at one ship. Only five hit but none of the blows was a killing one and the Japanese ship steamed off. Christie deemed the operation a success.
Nimitz Takes Action

The missed opportunities continued to mount. In April 1943 the USS Tunny had worked herself into the center of a Japanese carrier formation near Truk. On one side loomed a fleet carrier, on the other two smaller ones. Tunny launched four aft torpedoes at the small carrier and six at the big one at a range of 850 yards. Despite the spread and position only one of the small carriers was damaged while most of the other torpedoes detonated prematurely. Tunny had to flee for her life with little to show for her efforts.
On June 11, 1943 US submarines entered Tokyo Harbor, one of the war’s most daring feats. Salvo after salvo failed to sink any fleet units in the harbor’s confined spaces.
This and other failed attacks were enough for Nimitz. In June 1943, CINCPAC ordered the deactivation of the magnetic warheads on his submarines. Christie, still maintaining his faith in the magnetic detonator, continued their use in his fleet.
A Matter of Physics
Nimitz was right, Christie was wrong. The magnetic detonator on the Mark 6 was not working. After much investigation, it turned out to be a matter of physics. Every steel bottomed ship was encased in a magnetic field that radiated in all directions. Designers presumed that this field extended an equal distance in all directions, forming a perfect hemisphere under the bottom of the ship. But there was flaw in the reasoning. What was not understood (by anyone in the world) was that the magnetic field encasing a ship varied in shape depending in circumstances. Near the equator, this magnetic envelope flattened out until it resembled a thick disk more than a hemisphere. Since the torpedo would enter the magnetic field some distance from the ship it would explode harmlessly.

Drawing of the Mark VI Trigger operation.
The war was now eighteen months old. The Navy had already discovered that its state of the art torpedo was running eleven feet lower than its setting and that the magnetic detonator wasn’t working. What else could go wrong?

Admiral Kincaid

In November 1943 Christie was given a direct order by Vice Admiral Thomas Kinkaid, Commander of the Seventh Fleet to disarm all the magnetic detonators. It was a bitter blow and he refused to accept its logic. “Today,” he wrote in his diary, “the long hard battle on the Mark 6 magnetic feature ends with defeat. I am forced to inactivate all magnetic exploders. We are licked.”
During the same month a fix for the contact pin problem was introduced. Now when the submarines pulled out of port they were finally able to hunt and kill, not shoot fizzling fish.

Born again Cynic! Dear Grumpy Advice on Teaching in Today's Classroom War Well I thought it was neat!

Stalin's American Air Force – Operation Frantic 1944

Supposedly quite a few GI’s with training in Communications and other high skills were kidnapped by the NKVD and then abandoned  by the brass. Quite a few German POWs that were interviewed by us. Told of seeing American Prisoners in their former Gulag’s & Prison Camps.
Also almost all the Russian Troops that worked with the Americans were imprisoned. For the “Crime” of being exposed to Western Troops and ideas. All in all this operation was just another example of the saying. Sometimes a Good Idea should stay a Good Idea. For more information look up  Operation Frantic om Wikipedia. Grumpy

Operation Frantic 1944