WW1: Three Years in the Trenches

The expanded exhibit of WW1 in the Bo Thomas room in 2011 focused on our local involvement & a survey of WW1 aviation. Featuring a full-scale reproduction of a Western Front trench, authentic soldier uniforms, military weaponry & accoutrements, the full exhibit also included a display of famous aviators & the planes they flew. Currently playing in the Archive Room of the Heritage Corridor is a one hour video loop containing amazing archive footage of the war, a tour of WW1 aircraft featured at the WNC Air museum & a fifteen minute biplane ride in it’s entirety – filmed in hi-def over Henderson County.

Come take a virtual plane ride over Henderson County in a 1947 Stearman PT17 trainer biplane!

“Ze British fight for territory
Ze French fight for honour
Ze Americans fight for souvenirs!”

…So exclaimed a reflective and observant French officer during World War I. Doughboys acquired tons of souvenirs during The Great War, some still moldering in barns and attics across Henderson County. Among the favorites:

P.08 9mm parabellum pistole. Invented by American Georg Luger and adopted as the German standard army sidearm, the beautiful Luger was the Doughboy’s most prized souvenir.

Exibit Photo C.96 Mauser 7.62 mm “broomhandle” pistol. The world’s first successful semiautomatic pistol, the ten-shot broomhandle (nicknamed because of its grip shape) was a German substitute-standard sidearm during WW I. Complex, it was fitted so its only screw held the grips. Attached is a wooden holster/shoulderstock making it a species of pistol-carbine. As a young officer, Winston Churchill carried one.

German army sergeant’s Mauser bayonet.

Dazzle camouflage German M.16 “coal scuttle” helmet.

Prussian M.1915 pickelhaube enlistedman’s leather and subdued-finish metal spike helmet. A doughboy favorite.

“Trench art”. To while away long hours of boredom, Doughboys picked-out sentiments and designs in their soft aluminum mess gear and into brass artillery shell casings.

9th U.S. Cavalryman 1918

Exibit Photo The “Buffalo Soldiers” of the all-Negro 9th U.S. Cavalry Regiment were initially recruited in 1866 from Black Civil War veterans and ex-slaves. The 9th had an outstanding record on the frontier, where members earned eleven Medals of Honor, and in the Spanish-American War of 1898. The unit had very few desertions and exemplary discipline. During WW I the 9th patrolled the volatile Mexican border, although the men petitioned repeatedly to be sent to fight in France.

The figure is wearing M.1911 riding britches, nickel steel spurs, and campaign hat with a cavalry yellow M.1898 enlisted hat cord. His shirt is a pullover M.1916. His M.1903 cartridge belt supports an M.1911 Colt .45 automatic pistol in a 1914-dated cavalry swivel holster, two spare pistol magazines in a 1918-dated belt pouch, and his Carlisle bandage in a 1918-dated pouch. His M.1918 bandoleer carries extra ammunition.

The trooper is wearing, as a unit affectation, the obsolete M.1906 sabre, the last sabre carried on the trooper’s person. His M.1918 mounted leggings are faced in leather to deal with wear and horse sweat.

In his hand is an M.1909 horse bridle and bit with brass rosettes bearing the Great Seal of the United States.

German Machine Gunner

Exibit Photo The deadliest individual threat to an American infantryman in the trenches in France in 1918 was the German machine gunner. These stalwart Boche sat-out artillery barrages in deep reinforced bunkers and emerged to murder Doughboys as they went “over the top”. Manning maschinengewehr MG.1908 heavy water-cooled 7.92mm machineguns (invented by the American Hiram Maxim), German gunners utilized interlocking fields of fire to violently reduce infantry attacks to bloody shambles. German machine gunners’ skill and bravery were legend: it was even claimed, falsely, their steadfastness was the result of being plied with alcohol and being chained to their guns.

This feldwebel (sergeant) is wearing a feldgrau (field gray) tunic, his rank denoted by the metallic lace on his collar and epaulettes and by his brass N.C.O. belt plate.

He is wearing a bullet resistant machinegunner’s steel breastplate and his M.1916 stahlhelm (steel helmet) is fitted with a heavy bulletproof steel brow plate.

This sergeant wears a 1918-dated long barreled 9 mm artillerie model Luger with detachable holster/shoulder stock for personal protection, it being useful as a pistol or as a species of light semiautomatic carbine.