Book Review: A Machine-Gunner in France: The Memoirs of Ward Schrantz, 35th Division, 1917-1919


by Ward Schranz

University of North Texas Press, 2019. Pp. xiii, 426. Illus., maps, diagr., notes, index. $34.95. ISBN: 1574417533

A Doughboy’s War

When called up for the Great War in 1917, Ward Schrantz (1890-1958), of Carthage, Missouri, had been a journalist, sometime Army enlisted man, and National Guardsman with service on the Mexican border.

During the war Schrantz became a machine gun specialist in the 35th (Missouri / Kansas) Division, in which Harry Truman also served. After a short stay in a quiet sector, the division was committed to heavy combat during the Meuse-Argonne and supposedly “collapsed” after only a few days under fire. This book consists largely of Schrantz’s memoirs of his time in the war.

Editor Patrick, who earlier worked on Schrantz’s Mexican Border memoirs, has added some material to set these memoirs within the “Big Picture”. In addition, he has also added notes to clarify the text and identify many of the people mentioned (although use of a different font would have helped distinguish Patrick’s material from Schrantz’s).

In reading A Machine-Gunner in France, a volume in UNT’s Military Biography and Memoir Series, we get a Doughboy’s look at the mobilization of the National Guard, training, deployment, the operation and tactics of machine gun operations, and some very hard combat.

Although Schrantz doesn’t offer much criticism of the Army’s failures – notably the unrealistic training regimen and West Point bias that led to the division’s “collapse”, this account is a worthwhile read not only for those interested in the AEF at war but for its excellent look at the day-to-day frustrations of life at the front and combat “in the brush and the weeds.”


Note: A Machine-Gunner in France is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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