The Three Musketeered

08Jun08

I think it might be interesting to post photos — non-copyrighted ones, of course — that I’ve stumbled across during my archival trips (both online and in the real world). This one here is a prime example. As far as I know, it’s never before been published anywhere. I found it in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. — a truly amazing place, if you’ve never been  — and I wanted to use it for the photo insert for American Rifle. (A thousand apologies for these self-promoting plugs — that’s just the first of many — but we writers gotta eat, you know.) Unfortunately, it didn’t make the final cut. 

So, if you’re wondering who these brave breastplated gentlemen are, they are American soldiers participating (voluntarily, I guess, or hope) in Ordnance Department armor experiments around 1917 or 1918. The photo demonstrates the remarkable firepower of the machine-gun, signaling that the era of rifle marksmanship was temporarily waning. Next-generation rifles would be semi-automatic models capable of much more rapid fire than the traditional bolt-actions.

The man on the left has been shot with a pistol, in the middle, with a standard Springfield or Enfield army rifle, and on the right, with a heavy machine-gun. Notice, however, that the rifle hits are much more accurate than those of the machine-gun. Marksmanship advocates argued that good training reduced ammunition wastage and rendered American troops more lethal than their overseas counterparts. (Medal of Honor-recipient Sergeant Alvin York famously demonstrated this point to its full effect when he singlehandedly shot more than 20 Germans in the head, put 35 machine-guns out of action, and captured no fewer than 132 prisoners while armed only with a rifle and a spare pistol.)



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