1st Battalion 22nd Infantry

 

22nd Infantry Machine Gun Platoon & School of Musketry

 

 

Parker Hitt served eleven years with the 22nd Infantry. He saw combat with the Regiment
in the Philippines, and also was there for the 22nd's duty in Alaska. He wrote the first manual on cryptology
for the US Military and retired from the Army as a Colonel. In 2011 he was added to the NSA's Hall of Honor.

In the following article, written for the Military Review of the Army's Command and General Staff College in 1961,
Hitt wrote his reminiscences of his early experiences with the 22nd Infantry's machine gun platoon, and the simultaneous
establishment of the Army's School of Musketry, in Monterey, California.

Photos, captions and comments added by the website editor.

 

1st LT Parker Hitt, seen here at Goldfield, Nevada, in command of the machine gun platoon
of the 22nd Infantry. Hitt commanded the machine gun platoon from November 1907 to June 1908,
and again from August to December of 1910.

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

 

 

 

 

Colonel Parker Hitt was retired from the United States Army in 1928 after 30 years of service. He served as an instructor
at the School of Musketry at Monterey, California, from 1906 to 1908; at Fort Leavenworth from 1912 to 1915;
at the School of Musketry, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, from 1915 to 1917; and at the Army War College from 1919 to 1924.
He was a pioneer in the theory of machinegun employment.

 

The School of Musketry was started at Monterey following one of the most significant military developments in the history
of the United States Army. This was the issue of two Maxim machineguns to each infantry and cavalry regiment in 1906.

I was a lieutenant in the 22d Infantry, with battle experience in the Philippines with the British one-pounder (pom-pom),
the Gatling and the Colt machinegun. In the fall of 1906 I was placed in command of the provisional machinegun platoon
which was authorized for the regiment. ( Ed., Note: Hitt's memory was tempered by 54 years. He was actually assigned to
command of the machine gun platoon in November 1907, not the fall of 1906.)

The platoon had just moved from Camp Lewis, Washington, to the Presidio of Monterey, California, where it was assigned
for duty at the newly organized School of Musketry. Shortly thereafter, the entire 22d Infantry was ordered to Goldfield,
Nevada, and the machinegun platoon went as an integral part of the regiment. Not until February 1908, was the platoon
back in Monterey on duty with the School of Musketry. My account of what followed consists mainly of personal
reminiscences; official records are sadly deficient for that period.

 

     

The model of Maxim machine gun as used by
Lt Parker Hitt and the 22nd Infantry, mounted
on the heavy tripod manufactured by Vickers.

Note the seat for the gunner.

 

Photo from the
James D. Julia Auctioneers website

 

The provisional machinegun platoon was an orphan. It consisted of 18 privates, two corporals, a sergeant, and a first
or second lieutenant. Owing to the type of regimental organization fixed by Congress at that time, the enlisted men of the
platoon actually were members of Companies A, B, and C of each regiment. These companies were authorized an increase
of seven men each to provide for this innovation.

The platoon consisted of two squads of a corporal and nine men each, a sergeant who acted as first sergeant, a lieutenant
of the regiment in command, 10 pack mules, and pack equipment designed for horses. Each squad had one gun weighing about
58 pounds and a tripod weighing about 52 pounds with tool, water, and ammunition load totaling about 800 pounds.
(Ed., Note: Most accounts place the weight of the tripod at closer to 80 pounds, not 52.)

The guns were fine. They were a British development of the Boer War, which were not considered heavy for those days.
The ammunition allowance was 500 rounds per gun per year,as fixed by the Ordnance Department. Training manuals consisted
of a single copy of a book by the Vickers-Maxim Company on the assembly and operation of the gun.

Assignment to Monterey

What an opportunity for a young man! The assignment of a detached battalion, and the provisional machinegun platoon
of the 22d Infantry to the School of Musketry at Monterey meant a freedom of action for a subordinate commander
which is inconceivable under present conditions. I felt after a few months at Monterey that no one knew more about
machineguns than I did. Any idea suggested by my men or by the school was tested with ammunition expenditure
(if necessary) that wiped out the annual allowance in a few minutes. Indirect fire, night firing, and improvised apparatus
were all played with.

The 20th Infantry was stationed at Monterey at that time and some time in 1907, Company A of that regiment was converted
into a three-platoon machinegun company. Colonel Marion P. Maus, commanding the regiment, had assigned to him
to command Company A, Captain John H. (Gatling Gun) Parker of Santiago fame. As lieutenants, the company had
Thomas W. Brown, Frank S. Bowen, and Leighton Powell each of whom commanded a platoon of Maxim guns
identical with mine. This was a fine thing for local competition.

I well recollect a club controversy which I had with Captain Parker over the relative merits of the Gatling and Maxim guns.
It developed into an accuracy firing test in which two of my men fired a new Benet-Mercier gun sent to the school for test;
the rest of my men fired two Maxims. Two picked squads of the 20th Infantry company fired two Gatling guns on artillery mounts—
under Captain Parker's extremely personal supervision. Each gun fired 100 rounds at an A target at 200 yards.

I do not remember the exact scores but my Maxims put every shot in the four ring, the Benet-Mercier put every shot
in the target, and the two Gatlings failed to account for about 50 of their 200 shots.

At Monterey I developed a friendship and professional association with Lieutenant T. W. Brown, which was continued
at Fort Sill in 1915. I considered Brown one of the greatest in the machinegun game—a man of advanced ideas and yet one
who never let his ideas run wild. He and I carried on the cult of the machinegun at the new School of Musketry at Fort Sill
in 1915-17—in the days when the Army had no machineguns, when the Benet-Mercier automatic rifle was king, when war
was approaching. We fought to get classes of noncommissioned officers to attend the school. No officers could be spared
for that kind of foolishness.

What would it mean to a company commander in these days if the Department of the Army were to direct that he work out
his own ideas for a set of drill regulations, firing regulations, and field service regulations, and after a year's trial, submit them
to the Department of the Army for consideration? This is substantially what happened in 1906.

My predecessor had sound ideas from the start. I do not remember making any recommendations for change in his
provisional regulations, except in the firing regulations. And in this case, I had reason. I have said that the ammunition allowance
at that time was 500 rounds per gun per year. In the Fiscal Year 1907-08, I expended about 20,000 rounds per gun for my two guns
in every sort of experiment and test. Naturally, I saw the folly and inadequacy of any such allowance as 500 rounds per gun.
I saw the need for more extended firing in machinegun training and made rather extensive recommendations to the commandant
along this line. These recommendations were worked into the 1,000-inch firing course and the machinegun regulations
by Captain Brown and myself at Fort Still in 1916-17, some 10 years later.

No Machinegun Theory

The rifle was king in those days and a man went to the School of Musketry to have his chance to get in the Pacific Department
rifle competition. I fired in the 1907 competition where we had the 40-round skirmish run and got a bronze medal with a score of 744.
The machinegun was a curiosity to the classes at the school. We let each member of the class fire a few rounds, showed them
how to reduce jams, and had inspections of the platoon in field equipment, but otherwise I can remember no classwork.
There was no theory of machineguns that had been put into print; John Henry Parker was in the officers club any day
to tell all that was worth telling about their history. Practically, the machineguns were complicated engines exploited by
youthful cranks who expected them to dominate the battlefield of the future.

There was a 600-yard range right in the upper or school section of the post and the quarters of the bachelor officers
ran close along one side between the 500- and 600-yard firing points. A pistol range paralleled the main range,
the pits being continuous. The range was very well-equipped and was used for the Pacific Division competitions
in 1907 and 1908.

Experiments of all kinds went on there. I remember taking readings for a week on a transit set up at the 600-yard
firing point and on thermometers and hygrometers to try to determine some law for mirage. Night firing was tried there
both with machineguns and rifles. Captain F. G. Stritzinger, Jr., made 20 consecutive bull's-eyes at 500 yards one black night,
the aiming point being a lantern hung on the upper corner of the target. (Ed., : from 1902 to 1911 CPT Frederick G. Stritzinger
commanded L Company 22nd Infantry.)

The first models of the Colt pistol were tested there and I found a way to make the pistol go off by juggling the safeties alone
without touching the trigger. Colonel Marion P. Maus, president of the test board, was incredulous and on trying it for himself
the gun went off and the bullet chipped a neat nick in the toe of his boot. (Ed., : Marion P. Maus was Lieutenant Colonel
of the 22nd Infantry from June 1902 to January 1904.)

First Drop Targets

I think I was responsible for the first successful field targets used by the Army which would fall when struck by a bullet
and yet stand in a wind. I made several models at Monterey, including a rotary one which turned over automatically
when struck, exposing a fresh target. The drop targets were afterward taken up by the Ordnance Department,
which manufactured them for a time.

 

One fault of the water-cooled Maxims was that after firing several hundred rounds continuously they began to steam.
The steam came up in a beautiful white plume from two to five feet high, exposing the gun and often cutting off the line of sight
as well. It was as if we had hung out a sign, "Here is a machinegun." The British had this trouble during the Boer War
but nobody devised a remedy for it.

One day this happened in some test firing at the 500-yard firing point in front of my quarters and I got a piece of rubber tubing
out of my bathroom and inserted one end in the steam vent and the other into a water box on the ground. The tube
did the trick of eliminating the steam at once. Later we made a metal nozzle with a holding-on catch and used this device for all firings.
I recommended the device to the War Department by letter in March 1908. The reply came in a typical official letter of those days.

 

WAR DEPARTMENT
Office of the Chief of Ordnance
Washington
38356-841
BSq July 30, 1909
The Adjutant General,
U.S.Army

Sir:-

1. I have the honor to invite attention to letter of 1st, Lieut. Parker Hitt, 22nd Infantry,-commanding the machine gun platoon
at the Presidio of Monterey, California, dated March 23, 1908, A.G.O. 1360437—(0.0.38356-537), wherein he recommends
a device intended to do away with the steam that sometimes issues from the water-jacket of Maxim automatic machine guns.

2. Extensive tests of this device have been conducted by the Ordnance Board at the Sandy Hook Proving Ground
under instructions from this office. It was found that the device accomplishes the purpose for which it was designed
within certain limits, viz: up to the point where it becomes necessary to refill the water-jacket. If then the tube which leads
to the water box on the ground be not disconnected, the time required for the pressure in the water-jacket to fall sufficiently
to permit filling is quite considerable; and if the tube be removed for each filling, a cloud of steam issues from the jacket
and the time required until firing can be resumed is still appreciably greater than if the tube is not used, being in the tests made
from 20 to 56 seconds longer.

3. In the firings made at the proving grounds no difficulty was encountered in sighting due to the steam either with
or without the tube, but this is largely a question of atmospheric conditions at the time. Observers were placed with telescopes
at distances of 1,000 yards and 2,300 yards during the firing. At 2,300 yards no steam was visible either with or without the tube.
At 1,000 and 1,200 yards the steam was visible from the gun without the tube and also, during the filling period only,
from the gun with the tube.

4. The visibility of the steam would, of course, be a factor only in cases where practically complete cover for the gun
and crew were obtainable, since the latter would be much more noticeable than the steam.

5. The question of the advisability of furnishing the attachment proposed is, therefore, one of the relative importance
of being free from any obstruction of the line of sight by steam, which should normally be only an occasional difficulty,
and of having the location of the gun in those cases where the men and equipment are concealed indicated by steam
about once in every 750 rounds instead of continuously as compared with the disadvantage of the extra time for filling,
the additional cost and the inconvenience of carrying. As the inconvenience of the extra equipment is slight; as the extra cost
is inconsiderable, and as the disadvantage of having the line of sight continuously blurred, even on exceptional occasions,
is great, the attachment will be supplied for all machine guns.

6. The original papers have been retained for use in connection with manufacture.

7. It is suggested that this letter be referred to Lt. Hitt and to the Commandant of the School of Musketry.

Very respectfully,
(Sgd) William Crozier.
Brig. Genl., Chief of Ordnance.

 

It was said that the British and German military attaches saw the test at Sandy Hook and that the British and German Armies
were equipped with these tubes in the fall of 1909, while we wandered off to the Benet-Mercier air-cooled automatic rifle
and never did get the steam tubes until the Browning came in 1918.

 

Machine Gun Squad, Company B, Second U.S. Infantry. The leather strap hanging arrangement for the steam condensing hose can be seen.
Underneath the gun the strap had a chain and hook to hold the hose and give it slack, to prevent it from binding when the gun was traversed.
The steam condensing hose was a modification invented by Parker Hitt while he was with the 22nd Infantry. It was used not only on the Maxim gun
as shown in the above photo, but also on the Browning guns which came into service later. The boxes in the photo with the white stripe painted
on them are water boxes. The boxes without the stripe are ammunition boxes. Both boxes were made of wood and were the same size.

Photo from the Small Arms Defense journal

 

 

There is one last story which does not really belong to Monterey but which shows the attitude of the Army
to the machinegun in those days. In May 1908 orders came for the 22d Infantry to go to six stations in Alaska for a two-year tour.
The machinegun platoon was to go with regimental headquarters to Fort Seward and I was given command of I Company
to go to Nome. The colonel, a fine gentleman of the old school, saw two long winters ahead and picked his official family
with care. There were, I believe, no bachelors in his garrison and my successor, Lieutenant W. G. Doane, joined on the dock
at San Francisco with his wife after a four-year detail in the Judge Advocate General's Department. A year later,
the Department Inspector found the machine-guns and equipment packed in their original shipping boxes. The platoon
was on "special duty" about the post. The transport gathered the regiment together again in July 1910 and on board
we got word that we were to go on maneuvers at Leon Springs as soon as we reached Fort Sam Houston. My good friend
George S. Simonds, then regimental -adjutant, told me the colonel wanted me to take the platoon again and get it in shape
for the maneuvers. "What is left of it?" I asked, thinking of what was the finest, best trained machinegun platoon in the Army
two years ago. "The equipment, one corporal, and one private," he replied.

 

Colonel Parker Hitt, as Chief Signal Officer, 1st Army,
American Expeditionary Forces, France, 1918.

Photo from the National Archives, 111-SC-23349

 

 

 

 

Military Review, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Volume XLI July 1961 Number 7

 

 

 

 

 

 


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