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Saturday, December 25, 2004

It just wouldn't be Christmas without a weapons post! 
A US Army lieutenant colonel writes in:

Procurement was a mess [in WWI] The excellent M1918
BAR was not allowed to be shipped overseas, so American troops fought with
French Chauchault LMGs (the worst machinegun ever made) and most troops
(Sgt. Alvin York) had US-made M1917 Enfields rather than M1903 Springfields.

--(The M3 Grant was awful because the US didn't have the
factories to make castings for a large turret until 1942; the M3 was a
compromise of a riveted [and later welded] hull mounting the M2 75mm and a
tiny cast turret with a 37mm.)

[Moreover] The M4 Sherman was a fine medium tank with adequate armor,
suspension and firepower, it only improved with each mark. The main failing
was a 75mm main gun that was a modified M2 infantry howitzer (equipped the
infantry regiments' cannon company) and did not have enough velocity to
penetrate armor because it wasn't supposed to: Tank Destroyers fought enemy
tanks with their high-velocity 3-inch (a naval piece) or 76mm guns whilst
tanks fired HE at enemy AT guns, strongpoints, etc. This was a doctrinal,
not technological or logistical issue. The M4 tank caught fire because it
carried a lot of ammo (not gasoline as often thought, though the 100-octane
aviation fuel was a problem in the M4 and M4A1) that split open and burned
when the vehicle was penetrated; the M4A3 of mid-1944 had a Ford V-8 engine
and 'wet stowage' that surrounded the main gun (a third of which were now HV
76mm) ammo with a pressurised water jacket that doused the fire like an
early halon system of today's M2 Bradleys and M1 Abrams. All Shermans were
given an extra piece of applique armor in England prior to being shipped to
France; one can see the square plates welded on the sides of the hulls where
the ammo racks were located (two on the right and one on the left). When
the full inadequacy of the Sherman was realized by the US Army's Armor Board
in summer of 1944, the Ordanance Board was given the approval to begin
building M26 Pershings armed with 90mm main guns though these heavier tanks
required more shipping space to transport to Europe. 20 M26s made it to
Europe in January, 1945 and several tank battalions were equipped with them
by V-E Day in the 3rd and 9th US Armored Divisions, to include the 14th Tank
Battalion at Remagan.

It took 40,000 Shermans to defeat them. And 50k T-34s....

--US Marines fought World War II with Springfield .03's - a fine bolt-action
rifle, but of WWI vintage; only at Guadacanal, the USMC had Garands after
that. The Army went with the M1, which was the finest infantry weapon
produced up to that time, and only issued the .03's to snipers and
grenadiers as it was easier to mount the launcher and manipulate the
ballistite launching cartidge.

--Landing craft sank. A lot. And our torpedos malfunctioned due to
corruption and mismanagement in the Rhode Island fuse factory.

-- Myth- M113s, M2 Bradleys and M109-series howitzers are all made from aluminium armor that is strong,lightweight but will melt. [Drivers sitting on top of the vehicles were] rare and due to mines, not burns. A titanium plate was developed and issued to bolt on under the first third of the hull of M113 ACAVs and M551 Sheridan light tanks; some of my tracks still had these in Germany in '87-'88. This problem was addressed in the 1980s with the M2 Bradley with media hysterics (dramatized in HBO's Pentagon Wars), resulting in the up-armored M2A2 in 1990.

--The M16 and propellant issue is complex, but the rifle was never meant for Europe rather the jungles of SEA. The rifle was finely tuned to use a commercial powder (DuPont IMR 4895) but the Army issued it with ball propellant ("We've always done it that way!") without telling the manufacturer and the rifle fouled itself. The weapon was poorly issued in RVN as a self-cleaning rifle with no cleaning kits (M14 .30 cal/7.62mm bore rods and chamber brushes were too big) and little training was conducted. Congressional hearings followed, as did re-training issuing of small calibre cleaning kits and modifications to the rifle (chrome plated bores and
chambers, forward assists).


Thanks for the clarification.

I wish everyone a very merry Christmas, and plentiful ammunition.

Peace on Earth through strength,

Jason

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