One of the U.S. military's most enduring soldiers has been the bolt-action M1903 Springfield in .30-06, a rifle that saw front line use in both world wars and continues to serve today.
First prototyped in 1900, the Mauser-style bolt-action Springfield service rifle was intended to replace the only recently adopted .30-40 caliber Krag-Jorgensen series of rifles, which were found to have been less than perfect in service when fighting the Spanish in Cuba in 1898.
There had been over 800,000 M1903s produced by the time the U.S. entered World War I in 1917.
Serving in France during the Great War in 1917-18, the M1903 was augmented in service by Remington, Winchester, and Eddystone Arsenal-produced M1917 Enfields, also chambered in .30-06. However, the Springfield was still considered the primary rifle of the U.S. Army until the semi-automatic M1 Garand was adopted in 1937.
When the U.S. entered World War II in 1941, although the M1 was officially the standard for use in the Army, the Marines still carried their M1903s throughout the early campaigns in the Pacific including the defense of Wake Island and Guadalcanal. Meanwhile, Army troops in the Philippines met the Japanese in Bataan with a mix of both new "gas trap" Garands as well as the legacy bolt guns.
Even after millions of Garands had been produced, and despite the production of further millions of M1 Carbines and assorted Thompson and M3 submachine guns, the M1903 continued to see use even late into WWII with engineers, signals units, and the like.
Americans fighting Germans in France, 26 years apart almost to the day. The uniforms change but the rifle remains the same:
A modified version of the rifle, the M1903A3, was produced by Remington Arms and Smith-Corona during WWII for issue to support units and as military aid to allies. In all, more than 3 million 1903s came off the assembly lines by 1945, ending the rifle’s 42-year production run.
Banner image: "Bayonet instruction with Sergeant Bardwells, Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia." (Photo: NH 114710 via the Naval History and Heritage Command)