There’s a legend that once upon a time, around 1912, John Moses Browning of the Browning Automatic Rifle fame designed a weapon for the Chinese army. It was a semiautomatic rifle during a time when most militaries were using bolt-action. However, during the the shipment of the schematics and blueprints of the weapon to China, the ship was sunk.
The historical significance of this is great, knowing Chinese history. This weapon would have come into the hands of the Democratic Chinese government of the time that was modeled after the US. It would possibly have given enough firepower into the hands of the nationalists that they would have been able to fend off the Manchuko invasions, and ultimately the Japanese invasions during the Sino-Japanese war. 3 million chinese servicemen armed with a semiautomatic rifle vs 2 million Japanese using the bolt action Arisaka.
I have no doubt that such a scenario would have changed the entire course of history, leading to a future without a Communist China. A future where China and the United States could have been allies.
This was a gun that could have changed the world. And its details are lost at the bottom of the pacific.
The Chinese warlord Zhang Zongchang (1881 – 1932) was nicknamed “Three Don’t Knows,” because he did not know how much money he had, how many concubines he possessed, or how many soldiers were in his army. He also kept his aged mother with him at all times, except while he went into battle when she would be left at his palace. There were other colorful things about Zhongchang – seriously, read the Wikipedia article on him.
Under Sun Pin’s direction the Ch’i armies, which were advancing into Wei, followed the dictum “Be deceptive.”
P’ang Chüan arrogantly believed the men of Ch’i to be cowards who would flee rather than engage mighty Wei in battle. Therefore, Sun Pin daily reduced the number of cooking fires in the encampment to create a facade of every-increasing desertion. He also effected a tactical withdrawal to further entice P’ang Chüan into the favorable terrain at Ma-ling where the Ch’i commander concealed ten thousand crossbowman among the hills.
P’ang Chüan, apparently afraid that he would miss an opportunity to inflict a severe blow on the retreating Ch’i army, abandoned his heavy forces and supply train and rushed forth with only light units. Arriving at night, the combined Wei forces were ambushed as soon as they penetrated the killing zone.
In addition to being decisively defeated by Ch’i’s withering crossbow fire, 100,000 Wei soldiers needlessly perished because of their commander’s character flaws and hasty judgement.
The battle of Ma-ling is apparently the first recorded conflict in which crossbows were employed. The quote is taken from “Evolution of Conflicts and Weapons in China” in The Art of War by Sun Tzu.