1st Battalion 22nd Infantry

 

The First Machine Guns of the 22nd Infantry

 

 

 

The U.S. Machine Gun Maxim Model 1904 with ammunition box and 250 round belt of .30-03 cartridges loaded in the weapon.
In 1906 the machine gun platoon of the 22nd Infantry was created and issued two of these guns. This was the first machine gun
issued to the 22nd Infantry with the express purpose of becoming an organizational part of the Regiment.

Photo from US Warhorse ~ The US Cavalry 1898 – 1920

 

 

 

Though the U.S. Army had conducted trials with rapid fire weapons for many years it did not adopt a machine gun
for universal issue to the Infantry and Cavalry until 1904. The Gatling gun had been used since the Civil War but was
a large and heavy piece of equipment which had to be transported by horse team or wagon and was therefore usually
relegated to Artillery units. The 22nd Infantry had utilized Gatling guns in the Indian campaigns on a few occasions
but always only when on expeditions involving the use of wagons. Parker Hitt in his memoirs mentioned having gained
combat experience with the Colt Model 1895 machine gun while serving with the 22nd Infantry in the Philippines,
but the Colt gun was only issued on a limited and experimental basis and was never an integral part of any Infantry unit.

On November 10, 1904 the Chief of Ordnance adopted the Maxim machine gun Model 1900 for service as the
U.S. MACHINE GUN MAXIM MODEL 1904. This became the first true machine gun employed by the Army
with the purpose of becoming a normal component of all Infantry and Cavalry organizations. War Department
General Orders No. 112 dated June 19, 1906 provided for the establishment of a machine gun platoon for
one squadron of each regiment of Cavalry and one battalion of each regiment of Infantry, to go into effect
on July 1, 1906. The authorized strength of the Army was increased by 943 enlisted men to allow
for the creation of these new platoons.

In his report to the President dated December 12, 1906 the Secretary of War explained that the increase in
number of enlisted men authorized for the Army was needed for these platoons:

1

 

Compared to European armies the U.S. Army was slow to recognize the value of adding machine guns to the
inventory of weapons available to infantry and cavalry units. The Secretary of War explained in his Annual Report
for 1906 why the creation of machine gun platoons was necessary to develop the U.S. Army into a more modern
combat arm comparable to other world class armies:

2

 

The Secretary went on to explain why the new machine gun being adopted by the Army should be a part of infantry
and cavalry units, as opposed to the artillery units such guns had been relegated to during the years the Army
experimented with them:

3

 

 

Headquarters 22nd Infantry issued General Orders No. 14 dated July 1, 1906 creating the machine gun platoon in 1st Battalion
22nd Infantry with 1st Lieutenant Henry A. Ripley of Company D designated commander of the platoon.

 

Right: 22nd Infantry General Orders No. 14
dated July 1, 1906 creating the machine gun
platoon in the 1st Battalion of the Regiment
with 1st Lieutenant Henry A. Ripley in command.

Webmaster's collection

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Above: 1st LT Henry A. Ripley
The first commander of the
22nd Infantry machine gun platoon

Photo from the Army-Navy Register
August 1, 1903

     

 

 

The 22nd Infantry’s machine gun platoon was issued two Maxim guns and consisted of one officer, one sergeant and
two gun detachments, each gun detachment being comprised of one corporal and nine privates. Company A provided
one sergeant and six privates; Companies B and C each furnished one corporal and six privates. On October 29, 1906
Special Orders No. 99 from Headquarters 22nd Infantry named the twenty-one enlisted men from 1st Battalion assigned
to the platoon and the 22nd Infantry machine gun platoon became operational.

 

     

Left: Headquarters 22nd Infantry
Special Orders No. 99
dated October 29, 1906
listing the names of the
enlisted men assigned
to the 22nd Infantry
machine gun platoon.
All were from 1st Battalion.

With the creation of this order the
22nd Infantry machine gun platoon
officially became operational.

Webmaster's collection

 

 

The Maxim Model 1904 as used by the U.S. Army and as issued to the 22nd Infantry

Note the seat for the gunner on the rear leg of the tripod. That long wire looking thing mounted underneath the rear leg
is a cleaning rod for the barrel. The ammunition belt was loaded into the right side of the weapon. The empty fabric belt exited
from the left side of the receiver. Spent cartridge cases were forced down the T-slot in the receiver and then out of the weapon
by the succeeding empty cartridges through the opening at the front bottom of the receiver to fall on the ground.

Photo from US Warhorse ~ The US Cavalry 1898 – 1920

 

 

The Maxim gun was a recoil operated (with gas assist booster at muzzle) water cooled belt-fed tripod-mounted weapon
in U.S. caliber .30-03. Rate of fire was 450-600 rounds per minute and effective range was recommended by the
Ordnance Department as 1000 yards. The gun with water jacket filled weighed just over 65 pounds and the tripod weighed
nearly 80 pounds. Ammunition was fed to the gun by a non-disintegrating fabric belt which held 250 rounds and was reloadable
with a special machine issued with each gun. The belt came in a wooden ammunition box with folding carrying handle and
hinged cover. The same size boxes but with a tin lining inside were used to carry water for the gun.

 

 

Left: water box, denoted by its white painted stripe. Note filler cap. Right: ammunition box with hinged cover.
Foreground: ammunition belt. Protruding metal studs on the belt every third round aid in the feed mechanism.

Photo from the Small Arms Defense Journal website

 

 

     

The muzzle end of the Maxim gun.

The large round gas booster
is not a flash hider. The booster
added gas assist to the recoil
operated mechanism.

The sights of the gun
were offset to the left.

Photo from
US Warhorse ~ The US Cavalry 1898 – 1920

 

 

A total of 287 Maxim guns were ordered by the Army. Vickers, Sons & Maxim Ltd. in England manufactured the first 90 guns
with the rest being manufactured under license by Colt in the U.S. The guns issued to the 22nd Infantry were made in England by Vickers.

In 1906 the Army changed the caliber of the service rifle from .30-03 to .30-06. During the years 1906-1908 all of the 90 guns
made by Vickers were converted by U.S. arsenals to the new caliber. Colt did not begin manufacture of the gun until 1908
and all of its guns were made in .30-06. All tripods were manufactured by Vickers.

 

Top: .30-03 cartridge, bottom: .30-06 cartridge.

The .30-03 round fired a 220 grain round nose bullet at 2300 fps.
The .30-06 had a slightly shorter case neck and fired a 150 grain pointed spitzer bullet at 2700 fps.

Photo from the Culver's Shooting Page webpage

 

 

 

The year the gun was adopted there were no field manuals or training manuals for machine guns in the U.S. Army
and no established doctrine on their employment or training with them. In April 1906 the Army hurriedly printed its
first manual concerning machine guns. That manual consisted of 16 articles from European manuals which discussed
the tactical use and value of machine guns. The final article which explained methods of training was translated from
the German by Captain Jacob Kreps of the 22nd Infantry.

 

Right: The first manual printed by the Army
concerning machine guns.

It was nothing more than reprints from
European manuals including those from
Great Britain and translations from articles
from France, Germany and Holland.

     

 

 


Above: The heading of the article in the above manual concerning training with the machine gun was a translation
of the report filed in 1904 with the Prussian Minister of War, Karl von Einem under the reign of Kaiser Wilhem II (William.)
This was the final of 16 articles in the manual and was translated from the German by Captain Jacob F. Kreps of the 22nd Infantry.

 

 

 

The machine gun platoon of the 22nd Infantry was issued a single copy of the manufacturer’s handbook on the assembly
and cleaning of the gun. In June 1906 the Army began printing its own version of the handbook with photos and instructions
added concerning the transportation of the weapon and its equipment on the pack mules. That handbook would be revised
four times over the next ten years. For several years after its adoption initial use of the gun and training methods were left
to the development of each individual platoon.

In March 1907 the School of Musketry of the Pacific Division was organized and established at the Presidio of Monterey,
California. Company C, 22nd Infantry, officered by Captain P. W. Davison, 1st Lieutenant E. W. Terry and 2nd Lieutenant
Dean Halford, and the regimental machine gun platoon under 1st Lieutenant Henry A. Ripley, were detailed as a part of the
school cadre. The School of Musketry at the Presidio during that time (1907-1913) is considered to be the forerunner of the
modern day Infantry School later established at Fort Benning, Georgia.

In November 1907 1st Lieutenant Parker Hitt from Company L assumed command of the 22nd Infantry machine gun platoon
at the School of Musketry. He brought the machine gun platoon on its first operational deployment in December 1907 when the
22nd Infantry was sent to Goldfield, Nevada in anticipation of trouble in connection with a mining strike there. The expected
outbreak of violence during the strike did not occur and the guns were not used in any confrontation. In February 1908
the machine gun platoon returned to the School of Musketry.

 

1st Lieutenant Parker Hitt with the 22nd Infantry in the Philippines.
Hitt led the 22nd Infantry machine gun platoon at the School of Musketry
and on the platoon's first operational deployment to Goldfield, Nevada.

Photo from the Parker Hitt photograph collection, University of Michigan

 

 

Parker Hitt would become a pioneer in the creation of machine gun doctrine for the Army. The autonomy given to him with regard
to formulating training methods and in developing the use of the machine gun was unheard of at the time for an officer of his rank.
Hitt found he could “push the envelope” with regard to developing doctrine and had no reservations about expending ammunition
to test out new theories. Any suggestion made by his men in the platoon was tested through actual firing of the guns. The Ordnance
Department mandated an allowance of 500 rounds per gun per year for training but in 1907-1908 Hitt exceeded that by expending
20,000 rounds per gun through each of his two guns. He recognized the need for extended firing of the gun in training beyond
the limited allowance of the Ordnance Department. In his reports to the Army his recommendations of such were accepted
and became employed at other schools and firing ranges.

Hitt ran the 22nd Infantry machine gun platoon through trials and testing to actually invent drill regulations, firing regulations
and field service regulations for his machine guns. He experimented with indirect fire, night firing, sighting and improvising
mechanical additions to the gun and its tripod. Hitt was one of the first to experiment with field targets which would stand
in a wind but fall when struck by a bullet. He devised a rotary target which would fall when struck and automatically bring up
a new target. The Ordnance Department even manufactured his rotary target for some time.

One problem Hitt noticed from the water cooled guns was the issue of steam emanating from the gun after continued firing.
The water jacket had a small steam condensing vent at the front of the gun to allow steam to escape from the jacket as the
water in it got heated by the hot barrel. If the gun was fired continuously for several hundred rounds the amount of steam created
was quite large, sending a white plume of steam several feet straight up into the air, obscuring the gunner’s sighting and calling
attention to the gun’s location on the battlefield.

One day when this happened Hitt got a piece of rubber hose and inserted one end of it into the steam vent and the other end
into a water box on the ground. The adaptation immediately eliminated the tall plume of steam. Hitt developed a leather strap
arrangement with chain and hook to hold the hose away from the gun and form a loop in the hose to keep it from binding
when the gun was traversed. He recommended the device to the War Department by letter in March 1908.

In July 1909 Brigadier General William Crozier, Chief of Ordnance for the Army directed that all Maxim guns in the Army
be supplied with Hitt’s device. Crozier’s directive mentioned LT Hitt and the 22nd Infantry as the originator of the idea.
Parker Hitt's assembly was added in further revisions of the Army’s handbook for the Maxim gun as part No. 161, the
“steam condensing device”. The device was also used on the Vickers/Colt machine gun introduced in 1915 and subsequently
on the Browning Model 1917 machine gun which later became the standard water cooled machine gun of the U.S. Army
beginning in 1918 and continuing through the Korean War.

 

A Maxim gun of the 2nd Infantry fitted with Hitt's steam condensing device ca. 1917.
The hose (or tubing) comes down from the steam vent of the water jacket and is looped
by a leather strap and chain hanging attachment, continuing on down into the water box
through the filler cap. Note painted white stripe on water boxes.

Photo from the Small Arms Defense Journal website

 

 

 

 

As one of the first units in the Army to be issued machine guns as an integral part of the Regiment’s inventory
the 22nd Infantry machine gun platoon under the leadership of 1st Lieutenant Parker Hitt led the way in the development
of training doctrine and field tactics in the employment of modern weaponry for the battlefield.

 

 

The two Maxim guns of the machine gun platoon of the 22nd Infantry, at Goldfield, Nevada December 1907.
Note these guns taken to Goldfield by the 22nd did not yet have Hitt's modification of the steam condensing hose.

Photo from the P.E. Larson Collection, courtesy of the
Nevada State Museum, Carson City, Nevada
Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs

 

 

The Maxim gun was transported by pack mules utilizing special harnesses and pack frames. Five mules were authorized per gun.
The first mule carried the gun in a leather case, the tripod folded up, a pick mattock and several shovels. The remaining
four mules each carried ammunition and water boxes along with gun tools, accessories, the belt filling machine, spare barrel
and parts, picket posts and other tools such as a sledge hammer. Recommended total ammunition load carried by all the mules
together came to 7000 rounds per gun.

 

In the Annual Report of the War Department for 1904 the tests concerning machine guns conducted during 1903-1904
were recorded, along with the statement that the recommendation of the testing board that the Maxim machine gun be
adopted was approved by the Secretary of War on November 10, 1903. One year later the Maxim gun would officially
be adopted for service, on November 10, 1904.

Note in the passage below from that 1904 report that the first 90 guns were already being manufactured and note also
the suggestions made for transporting the gun and its associated ammunition and components on pack mules. The final
line records that 40 Gatling guns had been procured during the year in the caliber of the service rifle of the time.
(The Gatling gun would not be officially retired from the Army until 1911.)

 


4

 

Below are scans from the handbook for the Maxim gun as issued to Army machine gun platoons.
This version of the handbook is the fourth revision, printed in 1917. As can be seen by the title page
the handbook was first printed in June 1906.

 

 

Above: the Maxim gun broken down into its component parts

 

 

Above: the tripod broken down into its component parts

 

 

 

Above: suggested load for the first pack mule (right side). Note the leather case for the gun.

 

 

Above: suggested load for the first pack mule (left side). The tripod is folded up.

 

 

Above: the suggested load of the second pack mule (left side). Note the frame for carrying the
ammunition and water boxes.

 

 

Above: the suggested load for the third pack mule (right side).

 

 

Above: the suggested load for the third pack mule (left side).

 

 

Above: the suggested load for the fourth pack mule (left side).

 

 

Above: the suggested load for the fifth pack mule (left side).

 

 

Above: the belt filling machine broken down into its component parts.

 

 

Above: schematic drawing of the belt filling machine.

Cartridges dropped one at a time from the hopper and were pushed into the cloth belt loops
as the belt was advanced, the whole process being operated by turning the hand crank.
The "C" clamp held the machine to a table or to the wooden storage box for the machine.

 

 

 

 

Footnotes:

1---- THE ABRIDGMENT 1906 CONTAINING THE ANNUAL MESSAGE OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES TO
THE TWO HOUSES OF CONGRESS 59TH CONGRESS, 2d SESSION WITH REPORTS OF DEPARTMENTS AND SELECTIONS FROM
ACCOMPANYING PAPERS IN TWO VOLUMES VOL. 1 COMPILED AND EDITED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE JOINT COMMITTEE
ON PRINTING

WASHINGTON GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE 1907 pp. 467

2 ----Ibid., pp. 330

3 ----Ibid., pp. 465

4 ----ANNUAL REPORTS OF THE WAR DEPARTMENT FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDED JUNE 30, 1904. •VOLUME II.
ARMAMENT, TRANSPORTATION, AND SUPPLY.

WASHINGTON: GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE. 1904.pp. 312-313

 

 

 

 

To hear the sound of an authentic Maxim machine gun firing click on the photo immediately below:

Members of the First Connecticut Field Company Machine Gun Troop, Fifth Cavalry, fire the U.S. Maxim Model 1904
along the Mexican boarder circa 1916 in this hand colored photo postcard.

Photo from the Small Arms Defense Journal website

Windows audio file of the same basic model of Maxim gun as the Model 1904 firing taken from the You Tube video The Maxim Machine Gun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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