luew2: That would be the most terrifying job. Staring at the sky while hundreds of gun shots are happening around you.
Freefight: Well, time to try it in Battlefield 1.
TooShiftyForYou: They first tried tennis players in the trenches but it wasn’t working out.
LudovicoSpecs: So….if you enlist, don’t let them know you’re good at trap shooting or you’ll end up in a trench at the front for the entire war.
codece: That’s actually quite interesting. I teach trap and skeet, am also a wingshooting instructor. We do about 8-10 clinics each year, and I had never heard this before. I’m definitely gonna be using this factoid from now on! Also going to pick up a copy of *Winchester: The Gun That Won the West* (1952) by Harold F. Williamson, which is attributed as the source of this information.
Cloverfieldstarlord: That’s like bringing a gun to a bomb fight..
TheTVDB: Here’s a related article that I found the content of, but not the original source online:
New Tactics Required New Arms
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 US 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 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. 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: “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.
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: “His 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.”
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. 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 “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.”
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 shot-guns 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. A postwar 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.
Modern combat shotguns are in front-line use by American troops today in Iraq and Afghanistan – just as they were in the trenches of France over 85 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!
neonghost: Over on youtube [C&Rsenal](https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClq1dvO44aNovUUy0SiSDOQ) tried this out.
Crixus991: Ehhhh I’m pretty sure they just kinda handed the guns out in WW1 lol.
ElBomberoLoco: [Taofledermaus](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2t_RW1z7pUs) from Youtube showed that this is pretty much a myth. It’s next to impossible to be good enough to be effective.
hrf3420: Yep, I’ve got my great grandfather’s 1897. Has a Bayonet on it as well!
cleopatrudo: I’m a huge WW2 history buff, but in another thread they recommended Dan Carlin’s Blue print for Armageddon podcast and it blew my mind ho oblivious I was to WWI.
Highly recommend it.
orochimaincent4salt: super damn cool read. wont lie, kinda lol’ed at the fact that Germany was like “hey bro not cool” towards them used in war
Mistersinister1: Not sure I want exploding shrapnel raining down on me. At least there’s traps and holes to kick grenades in the trenches. What do I know, I didn’t fight in WW1 trenches and never been trap shooting
newPhoenixz: > The Model 1897 was so effective, and feared, that the German government protested (in vain) to have it outlawed in combat.
Would you please stop using that highly efficient gun there? We’re trying to invade you here and you are making it very difficult!
The_Possessor: Did the Germans have anything equivalent, do you know? (Besides that strategic genius Hitler running messages.)
ManBearPigTrump: How many common soldiers were into trap shooting before entering the military in WWI? I am doubting it was significantly high percentage at all.
Also I am skeptical of them shooting grenades out of the air into the opposite direction.
datbeerdude: I am surprised this tactic isn’t banned from war. /s