JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
My browsing came to a sudden halt when seeing this small inset photo in an article in Popular Mechanics for October 1915. "My Four Years in the Navy" was a fairly long feature piece, and it showed a series of rather crowded images of life at sea with overtones of "readiness" should something happen to bring the U.S. into the year-old WWI. It was the picture at the bottom of p. 567 that gives you great pause--first of all, the sailors are armed and on land, but they're also forming a "hollow square", a defensive position used when a large force attacks a smaller one. The tactic has been around at least since Roman times and used steadily through the early 19th century (especially it seems during the Napoleonic Wars), but it gradually wore away from the face of battle, and was hardly employed in the late 19th c, except against irregular forces (like against warriors in the Zulu Wars). What made it an antique notion was the machine gun, and tank--mostly though it was rapid-fire assault weapons the crushed the square, the collection and stacking of soldiers close together (and in layers) made them easy targets to an opponent with such weapons). Nobody was using this technique in the Great War, but there they were, these poor sailors, demonstrating the formation to fight against hundred-year-old ghosts. The U.S. was nowhere near being ready to fight in WWI in 1915.