Below are my pictures of a Marine trench sweeper in a German communication trench somewhere in the Argonne in 1918.
The figure and equipment are stock, but weathered, from the SST Marine figure unless otherwise noted. The helmet has been painted in a 4 tone earth tone. Many Yanks painted their helmets in an early attempt at camouflage. The camo was strictly non-regulation, but was done by about 5-10% of the Doughboys. Interestingly enough, I got this pattern from a helmet being sold on eBay. During any given week, you can usually find a good WWI camo helmet for inspiration. Our Marine is fighting Close Quarters Combat in a trench, some of the nastiest on up close fighting that ever was and is “loaded for bear”. He has equipped himself with two liberated German stick grenades and one club. (The SST German trench raider was converted to an AT rifle gunner and no longer had a use for them.) Many authors have commented that Yanks love to use captured equipment and since my lad is a Marine who is concerned about getting the mission accomplished it’s realistic that he would use any captured Hun equipment. He has also picked up a 21C Luger and armed himself with a SOTW .45. The .45 holster was completely repainted and weathered and looks pretty good. His main armament is a Winchester 1897 M97 shotgun equipped with a bayonet. The shotgun is kit-bashed from a SOTW shotgun that I believe is a Winchester 1912 model. I trimmed the barrel, added bayonet fittings, repositioned the trigger guard, reworked the stock, added a cloth sling and made a slot for the shell ejection on the side. The military version on the M97 really had a bayonet attachment and I thought it would look cool for the Marine to have his attached. The bandolier and shotgun shells are custom. The discarded German equipment at the bottom of the trench is a 21C case, Cotsworth gas canister, and SST wire cutters, Mauser and bayonet. The wine bottle is 21C and the defeatist Graffiti is strictly from my imagination. The trench environment is custom and described in an earlier posting.
The Marines primarily served in one brigade, the 4th, attached to the 2nd ID. They gained great fame in the fight at Bellau Wood in which they played a pivotal role in stopping the Germans on their last attack toward Paris in 1918. 2nd Division troops dig in along a defensive line just north of the village of Lucy-le-Bocage. Marine Captain Lloyd Williams when advised to withdraw, replies, "Retreat, Hell! We just got here!" Ordered to clear the woods, the Marines stepped into a hornet’s nest of concealed machine guns. First day casualties were in excess of 1087. This would represent the greatest single day loss for the Marines until Tarawa in WWII. During the attack Sgt. Dan Daly rallied his men who were pinned down with the now immortal phrase, “Come on ya' sons-of-bitches, ya' want to live forever?” Inspired, his men moved forward at great cost, but they took their objective. During the battle the Marines didn’t display great offensive tactical finesse, but they more than made up for that with shear guts and determination. German intelligence paid them the greatest tribute by rating them as Stormtroopers, the highest rating in the German Army. The Marines also earned another nickname from the Germans --- the Teufelhunden or Devil Dogs, which stuck to the Marines to this day.
A more detailed description of the battle of Belleau Wood can be found below:
The history of the shotgun in WWI is fascinating. An entirely American idea, the shotgun was so effective that the Germans treated to execute any Yanks found with shotguns or shells in the possession as a violation of the Hague Convention as causing undo suffering. Of course this is from an army that gave us poison gas and the flamethrower. The best history I’ve read on the Net is reprinted here:
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
... 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!