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MARK R. HENRY, MIKE CHAPPELL
THE US ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. THE PACIFIC

Guadalcanal, 1943: this Garand-armed rifleman is commonly identified as a Marine, but his shirt with pleated pockets is first pattern Army HBT, and his ID tags are of the oblong Army shape rather than the much rounder USMC pattern. M1 Garands were also standard issue to the Army but not to the Marines at this date. Note also the thick, pale brim of his early issue helmet liner.

M1 carbine

Becoming available in 1943, this handy weapon was issued as a supplement or replacement for the .45 pistol, intended for officers and second line troops such as drivers, artillerymen, MPs, etc. The M1 carbine - sometimes called the 'baby Garand' - was made by ten different manufacturers, including IBM and Underwood Typewriters. It had a 15-round detachable magazine, and its weight loaded was a light 61bs (2.7kg). Compared to the Garand's 30-06 round, the carbine used an anaemic .30cal cartridge that was little more than a souped-up pistol round; it was nicknamed 'the peashooter', and its lack of stopping power was always of concern. GIs liked the carbine for its light weight and its 15-round capacity, which gave it significant firepower; it rapidly became a common front line infantry weapon, being carried by many soldiers instead of the Garand. Riflemen were about evenly divided as to whether they preferred the Garand or the carbine; their opinions presumably depended on whether or not they had personally found themselves endangered by its lack of range and punch.

M3 trench knives were usually issued to GIs who carried carbines; in late 1944 the M4 bayonet, based on the M3 knife, became available. This had a leather grip, and was carried in the M8 plastic scabbard. The carbine was not modified with an add-on bayonet lug (T4) until after the war. The folding-stock M1A1 became available in 1943 and was used primarily by paratroops. A two-magazine pouch designed to be worn on a pistol belt was also unofficially mounted on the buttstock of the carbine. The fully automatic M2 version of the carbine slowly became available in 1945, with a 30-round 'banana' magazine. The experimental T3 version, mounting an infra-red scope, was used at night in the last weeks before VJ-Day.

Sub-machine guns

Produced in 1919 as a 'trench sweeper', the blow-back operated Thompson sub-machine gun remained unwanted by the US Army until 1939. The fin-barrelled M1928 version of the .45cal 'Tommy-gun' was a complex and powerful machine pistol. Its identifying features were a top- mounted cocking handle, a 50-round drum magazine, and a slotted Cutts compensator on the muzzle to help control its tendency to climb during firing. The austere wartime M1/M1A1 versions had a side- mounted cocking handle, no barrel cooling fins, no compensator, and a simplified bolt. All variants took 20- or 30-round box magazines, but only the M1928 could use the 50- or 100-round drums. The Thompson's (M3) khaki canvas sling was a modified Kerr rifle sling.

Bougainville, 1943: two GIs operating a jeep evacuation service for casualties. The 'hood ornament', wearing cut-off camouflage shorts and a billed soft cap, is armed with the M1 carbine; the driver wears a helmet liner. The jeep has been modified to take stretcher cases and, as was common in the jungle, has tyre chains fitted for traction.

The Thompson was well liked not only by GIs but by the British and Australians to whom it was also supplied in large quantities. It was commonly carried by squad leaders and junior officers. Its drawbacks were the high cost of manufacture; its short accurate range - about 50 yards; and a taxing loaded weight of about 141bs (6.3kg). It fired between 600 and 700 rounds per minute, but feeding problems developed if it was not kept scrupulously clean. Its rate of fire and short-range stopping power were both appreciated; but in the jungle its report sounded dangerously like that of a Japanese light machine gun.

The 1943 M3 sub-machine gun or 'greasegun' was a simplified weapon made from easily stamped metal parts, and cost Uncle Sam $20 apiece. The M3 featured a handleless bolt that was charged by means of a thumbhole. It took the same .45 cartridge as the Thompson, but a different 30-round box magazine. It was commonly issued to AFV crews and was sometimes carried by infantrymen. It fired slower (400rpm) and, with its more crudely industrial appearance, was perceived - unjustly - as less reliable than a Thompson. The slightly improved M3A1 came out in 1945. Ugly, but light (81bs - 3.6kg) and reliable, it was not universally admired but it had its faithful adherents.

Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR)

The M1918 BAR reached the trenches in 1918; it weighed 161bs (7.25kg) and could be fired semi- or fully automatic, using the standard US 30-06 rifle cartridge. It was designed to be fired from the hip while moving rapidly forward in direct support of attacking riflemen. By World War II the modified BAR could be fired fully automatic only, at a slow 400 rpm or a fast 600 rpm setting. With a bipod, hinged buttplate and carrying handle (M1918A2) it weighed over 201bs; in the field it was commonly stripped down to its basic 16 pounds. As the rifle squad's main support weapon it tended to be used both as an automatic rifle and a light machine gun. In the former role it was an excellent and popular weapon; its shortcomings in the latter were that its barrel could not be field-changed when it overheated, and the 20-round magazine was a limitation on its firepower. A slightly shorter and lighter M1922 'Cavalry' BAR was also used in limited numbers.

M97/M1912 shotgun

Rarely available, these military 12 gauge pump-action 'riot' shotguns had their uses; they had limited range, but excelled in close combat, and were also used by MPs guarding prisoners of war. Limited numbers were definitely used in Pacific combat - Gen Patch was seen to carry one on Guadalcanal - although Gen MacArthur attempted to restrict their use. Ultimately, six different models of shotguns were accepted by the Army. The more common Winchester M97 and M1912 had a 20in (50.8cm) barrel, weighed about 81bs (3.6kg) and carried six 00 buckshot shells in the tubular magazine under the barrel. The cardboard shells sometimes swelled in the damp climate; full brass casings had solved the same feeding problem in France in 1918, and these were once again tardily made available in 1945.

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