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The Army’s Labor Union: Winchester 94s for the Loyal Legion of Loggers & Lumbermen

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Today we have a rifle from a really neat forgotten corner of American military history. During World War One, the Pacific Northwest was the source of prime lumber, in particular Sitka Spruce that was ideal for aircraft production. The US military wanted that spruce for its own aircraft, and there was also massive demand form France and the UK for their production as well. As part of the American war effort, the Signal Corps (which oversaw military aviation) set about increasing spruce production severalfold.

The Corps sent a Colonel to investigate what would be necessary to do this, and he found that logging work was being significantly disrupted by labor union organizing, ranging from strikes to active sabotage. In response, the Army essentially created its own labor union, the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen which both provided some of the labor reforms sought by groups like the IWW and also succeeded in massively increasing timber output for the war. The LLLL is a mostly-forgotten organization, and most of the documentation on it is from very left-wing organizations that paint it as a government attempt to quash labor rights. The reality appears to be far more nuanced, with several very legitimate reforms instituted in good faith. Unfortunately, the best reference on this period is completely out of print, “Soldiers and Spruce: Origins of the Loyal Legions of Loggers & Lumberman” by Harold Hyman (

At any rate, part of the effort included the creation of the Spruce Production Division – 25,000 soldiers (mostly with backgrounds in logging and lumber) to Vancouver. They were seconded to private logging companies with Army-subsidized wages, but retained a military structure and officer corps. The Signal Corps purchased about 1,800 Winchester Model 1894 rifles in .30-30 caliber to arm a segment of the Division for security and military police type duties. Winchester 94s were in production and readily accessible, and the Division’s mission did not justify giving them Enfield or Springfield rifles needed by troops in Europe. These Winchesters were marked with a “US” property stamp and flaming bomb, and had serial numbers between 835,000 and 853,000 (specific numbers are not known because Winchester’s records form this period were destroyed). When the war ended, the guns (along with the Division’s other equipment) were sold as surplus, and they are found to this day in the Northwest. Many are in poor condition from decades or hard use, and they can be difficult to identify (and are also faked…) but they are a really neat artifact of a long-forgotten part of World War One history.

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