On the History Channel show Modern Marvels: Engineering Disasters 2 (S05E30) there is a segment on the French Chauchat rifle. Dr. Jack Atwater, former director of the US Army Ordnance Museum, makes the claim that American soldiers were issued inferior Chauchats even though the Army had the much superior Browning Automatic Rifle. He claims that the BAR was “such a good weapon that the decision was made that, if it fell into German hands, the Germans could pruduce [it] and use it against us.” For this reason, the show claims, the BAR was kept from American troops.
I can’t find any other reference to back up this claim. Wikipedia says that Browning was given the contract for the BAR on Feb 27, 1917 and on July 16 an order was placed with Colt for 12,000 of them. The order was switched to Winchester when Colt was unable to begin production right away. BAR’s began to be issued to troops by July 1918 and by the end of the war 52,000 of them had been produced.
There are numerous sources on the history of the Browning Automatic Rifle available on the internet, but I can’t find a single one that makes the claim that they were not issued to troops for fear of them falling into enemy hands. Why would Modern Marvels and Atwater make this claim and is there any evidence to back it up?