Captain Sam Woodfill
Competition Marksman and Pershing’s Favorite Doughboy
by Darryl Davis

Rifle Marksmanship is an imperceptible process with results visible only to the practitioners and understandable only to other practitioners. Marksmanship is nearly impossible to describe to others. [Note 1]

General Pershing did not want American soldiers to learn to be cave-dwelling trench denizens. He wanted cross-country fire and movement to be the major calling, with trench adeptness as sideline. But “fire,” “shooting,” “marksmanship,” have no standard meaning. Those with equipment familiarity think it applies to what they can do. Those with rifle marksmanship skills (e.g., who have fired more than 1500 rounds, each carefully aimed, each result carefully inspected) hear it as referring to their much higher capacity. Pershing thought of it in the latter sense, hence his regard for Captain Woodfill, who had been a target shooter for many years before the war and had skills accordingly. He also was a skilled hunter.