He was just a boy. No more than 16 years old. He called me Mom. And he was so sick, he died before morning.

WWI nurse Linnie Leckrone recalling the front

Leckrone was one of the first women to be awarded the Silver Star for her work in the Gas and Shock team during WWI. However, she was discharged from the Army before being awarded her medal, and it was posthumously awarded to her daughter in 2007 by the US Army.

American “Doughboys” man a Chauchat machine gun, c.1918.

After entering World War I, the US Army bought a considerable amount of Chauchat machine guns from France. Many of these were converted to fire the .30-06 round, which was the preferred ammunition of US forces, although the example in the photograph appears to be in its original 8mm Lebel chambering.

The Chauchat is widely considered to be the worst machine gun to ever see military service, although there is much debate as to how much of its shortcomings were due to the harsh conditions of the Great War. Nevertheless, it did not make a good impression on American troops; firing the .30-06 cartridge from the Chauchat often proved hazardous because it was not built to handle it. In addition, extraction problems were common, and later in the war, the US Army decided to withdraw most Chauchats from the front lines and limit them to training purposes.

By the end of the war, the Army had destroyed almost every example in .30-06.


The 369th Infantry marching down Fifth Avenue in honor of their return, Feb 1919

The 369th were known as the Harlem Hellfighters (and sometimes as the Black Ratters) and was an infantry regiment formed completely of African Americans and African Puerto Ricans. During the Great War, the men of the 369th spent the longest time at the front, earning the respect of the French soldiers they fought beside leading them to their name Hellfighter because they never lost a man to capture, nor losing a trench or a foot of ground to the Germans.

The parade thrown for their return in February 1919 began on Fifth Avenue at 61st Street, and proceeded uptown past ranks of white bystanders before turning west on 110th Street, and then swung onto Lenox Avenue to march into Harlem, where black New Yorkers packed the sidewalks for a glimpse of the men.