By Travis Pike
via the Gat Daily web site
Imagine you’re a twenty to-year-old 2nd L.T. in the U.S. Army. You joined the American Expeditionary Force in Europe in 1917. The Great War is raging on. You have an infantry platoon to lead, so what weapons have the army issued you?
That’s an easy answer. You’re clearly armed with a Springfield M1903 and an M1911, right? Maybe, but in reality, the armament of the American doughboy was not toting M103s and M1911s into combat.
The American military wasn’t ready for World War 1. In fact, that’s a trope that’s so often repeated. America is ready for the last war. It’s why the push to Bagdad utilized soft-skin humvees and why troops in Vietnam were still carrying WW2-era weapons.
When we entered World War 1, there simply weren’t enough M1903 and M1911s to go around. The U.S. Army had to supplement the massive force they had recently built with alternatives. While the M1903 and M1911 were the official weapons of the U.S. Army, they were the minority of weapons issued. So what handgun and rifle armed doughboys in World War 1?
The Doughboy Rifle – The Enfield M1917
The Brits were fighting in the war for years before Americans entered the fray. They needed rifles, so they contracted with Winchester, Remington, and Eddystone to produce an Enfield variant known as the P14. This would be a .303 caliber rifle designed to help arm the British military in a time of crisis.
When the United States entered the war, they had less than a million Springfield M1903s. In their efforts to arm their doughboys, they turned to Remington, Winchester, and Eddystone. These companies were already tooled up to make those P14s and could produce P14s faster than they could transition to producing Springfield M1903s.
The Americans didn’t use the .303 cartridge but used the All-American, horse killing, shoulder thumping, freedom spreading .30-06. That was a slight modification they had to make, and they were up and running. Springfield produced the M1903 rifles, and everyone else began producing what became known as the U.S. Rifle Caliber. 30 Model of 1917, or M1917 for short.
They did eliminate the volley sights of the p14 and ensured it worked with U.S. made 5 round stripper clips. Slight modifications included lightening the weapon a bit, and the rifle used the sword-like M1917 bayonet. The M1917 armed about 75% of American Doughboys, including one Alvin York.
Sergeant York used the rifle when he earned the Medal of Honor after capturing 35 machine guns, killing 25 enemy soldiers, and capturing 132 prisoners. It worked well and was the rifle that won the war.
Read the entire article on the Gat Daily web site here:
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