RAW AMERICAN RECRUITS TAUGHT HOW TO SHOOT BY THE FRENCH
American Training Camp in France (JFK+50) One hundred years ago today, July 27, 1917, American raw recruits were learning how to shoot a rifle from "poilus"* or experienced French infantry soldiers.
Floyd Gibbons of the Chicago Daily Tribune asked an American staff officer if it would have been better for our soldiers to have been given instruction in English by British soldiers.
The staff officer answered....
"The French are great actors, and I find that American soldiers are able to understand the French soldiers...much better than the American officers can understand the French officers."
He added that instruction from the French were "object lessons...in which gesticulations and pantomine are used..."
The unidentified officer said he believed that "Sammies" would be better able "to teach the tactics to the new divisions that are to follow" than if they had speedily passed through training camp "like the British did."
Mr. Gibbons began his front page article with a description of a raw American recruit on the firing line shooting at a target while getting instructions from a French soldier. The recruit, who had no experience with rifles, fired 10 feet over the target. French soldiers, standing nearby, laughed and said that the American should be in the anti-aircraft service.
To the young man's credit, as well as his instructor's, after firing 50 rounds he was able to hit the target once out of every three shots.
*Poilus is a term used for French infantry soldiers of World War I. It's literal meaning is "hairy one(s)"
"Old War Dog Being Taught New Tricks, Poilus Tell Sammies How It Is Done in the Trenches," by Floyd Gibbons, The Chicago Daily Tribune, July 28, 1917.