The Rock of the Marne, 100 years ago today
A U.S. Army Machine Gun Team from Company A, Ninth Machine Gun Battalion, 6th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, AEF, man a machine gun set up in railroad shop in Chateau Thierry, France, on June 7, 1918, 100 years ago today.
This was during the Aisne Defensive, which in days saw the entire division take to the front line for the first time and three weeks later switched to holding the southern crossing of the Marne against the Germans even when surrounding units retreated.
Although the U.S. military had access to a number of machine guns going into WWI– including the 25-pound Model 1909 Benet Mercie, which was cranky but proved its worth in repelling Villa’s raid on Columbus, NM in 1916; as well as the 35-pound Colt-Browning M1895 “Potato Digger” which was mass-produced by Marlin during the war; and the excellent 28-pound Lewis light machine gun– the American Expeditionary Force to France was armed in large part with 7,000 French Mle 1914 Hotchkiss machine gun of the example shown above.
A 53-pound weapon, it was far from “light” though it was designed by the same Mssrs. Benet and Mercie as the M1909, but it was simple (just 32 parts, assembled with no pins or screws) and reliable. Fed through a 30-round metal strip, a three-man crew could keep em coming enough to get a 120~ round-per-minute cyclic rate and keep it up until the ammo ran out which it made a good complement to the vaunted (but twice as heavy) Browning Model 1917A1 water-cooled machine gun.
Though the U.S. Army would replace the M1914 with the much better Browning M1919 in the 1920s, the “Mitrailleuse Hotchkiss modèle 1914” remained in use with other countries through WWII and even into the 1950s and later with the Chinese and in various Latin American countries.
The unit shown above, the 9th Machine Gun Battalion was formed just for the war in October 1917 and fought with the 3rd ID through Chateau Thierry, and the Meuse-Argonne, leaving a number of its brave gunners “Over There.”
General Pershing called the stand of the 3rd ID along the Marne “one of the most brilliant pages of our military annals,” and today the division is known, of course, as “The Rock of the Marne.”