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Old April 15, 2013, 09:00 PM   #1
Pathfinder45
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U.S. Infantry History Question

I figured someone here would likely know: How many rounds of 30-'06 would an American soldier typically carry during WWII? Any difference for Army vs Marines? The Bulge vs Iwo Jima?
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Old April 15, 2013, 09:08 PM   #2
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The M-1910/-1923 cartridge belt had ten pockets, each capable of holding one 8 round clip, so that's 80 rounds on the guys belt, plus a clip in the Garand.

Period photos show GIs most often wearing bandoleers, either one or two, criss crossed over thier shoulders. These, from what I've read, held six clips apiece.

According to Eugene Sledge's excellent memoir "With the Old Breed", Marines in the pacific were resupplied with a so called "daily load", that consisted of 100 rounds of .30 caliber ammo for riflemen.

Also, in some photos, you see guys with a couple of clips stuck in the sling of thier rifle, however, in my reading, that was a great way to knock the rounds out of alignment or get them dirty before loading.

Also, in Stephen Ambrose's "Band of Brothers", some of the photos of the 101st paratroopers are shown wearing normal pistol belts in lieu of cartridge belts, while being armed with Garands. These guys most often wore bandoliers and had pouches made out of spare canvas from guys in the parachute rigging shop.
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Old April 16, 2013, 11:42 AM   #3
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The cartridge belt was rarely used for cartridges; usually it held cigarettes or C-Ration chocolate bars. .30-'06 Ammo was supplied in bright (later OD painted) "spam" cans packed two to a case. The ammo was in 8-round clips, in bandoliers. Troops generally just picked up a couple of bandoliers and slung them over their shoulders. It was common practice in actual fighting to have at least one clip in the pocket or under the helmet strap or even in the off hand ready for immediate use. I have heard of using the sling, but it seems to me not a very good way to carry a clip.

Ammunition issued in combat was almost always AP, the reason being that it gave better penetration in cover material (dirt, sand bags, etc.) and light vehicles than ball. Ball was usually issued only for stateside training.

When I first started shooting, a friend was an armorer in the Marine Reserve, and we (I mean he, of course) sometimes had to "test fire" rifles on the local range. Sometimes there would be WWII vets around, still young men at that time, and they loved to get their hands on an M1 again. Those who believe the silly story about the enemy hearing the ping of an empty clip and charging never watched a GI load an M1. Even aside from the others in his company, I guarantee no enemy was going to take more than a step or two before that empty rifle was ready to go again!

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Old April 16, 2013, 02:08 PM   #4
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Generally two bandoliers and a few in the pockets, with two or three .30 cal cans of ammo being carried in the platoon.
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Old April 17, 2013, 01:27 AM   #5
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I have read reports of 200 rounds before an assault.
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Old April 17, 2013, 08:43 PM   #6
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I am sure there were times when GI's tried to carry as much ammo as they could, but generally, infantry likes to travel light.* I don't know of any action in which there was a shortage of ammo, but if there was there were always some of your side's soldiers who didn't need theirs any more.

I suggest a trip to a good library and a look at the WWII Time-Life picture books, as well as the "Willy and Joe" cartoon series. Don't trust re-enactors or even folks who were there, since memories fade.

*Which is why those stories about how "my uncle left me six German Mausers that he captured and carried with him until he came back...." are unlikely to be true.

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Old April 19, 2013, 02:16 PM   #7
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Bandoliers could get you killed. It was only with considerable effort that a clip could be removed from the pocket of a bandolier. Best carry was in the pockets of the field jacket or pants. The cartridge belt allowed freer access than a bandolier.

As to the .30-06, I never saw any, all we were issued was M2 AP. Ball ammunition, with a lead core, was never issued outside the continental United States. It was used for Statesdide training and guard duty.

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Old April 20, 2013, 02:05 PM   #8
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James K
Quote:
:............ but generally, infantry likes to travel light.*

*Which is why those stories about how "my uncle left me six German Mausers that he captured and carried with him until he came back...." are unlikely to be true.
Most of those who brought back Mausers were not Infantry, but Ordnance, Supply, Chaplain's Assistants, etc. My former next-door neighbor, a captain in Engineers, I believe, did bring home nine Mausers. At least two of these were converted to sporters by Memphis gunsmith H.L. Highsmith for African hunter Berry Brooks. And I believe Mr. Highsmith converted one for himself. My neighbor kept two, which disappeared at his death.

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Old April 21, 2013, 09:42 AM   #9
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Official "basic load" was 105 rounds for the M1903AX or M1917 or 88 rounds for the M1 Garand (loaded belt plus a loaded rifle). The M1923 cartridge belt was used through the Korean war and by the NG and other services using the Garand. In addition 2 grenades and if the squad had a BAR every man was supposed to carry 2 loaded magazines.

When the feet hit the dirt that official plan like all plans was revised as necessary according to situation and supplies.
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Old April 22, 2013, 06:02 PM   #10
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Your friend was certainly an exception.

Despite many "war stories", I have heard many times from GI's who brought back Mausers that hey actually got them from depots and dumps just before they shipped back to the States. Even "non-fighters" like Ordnance, etc., did not have unlimited space for transporting souvenir rifles, and had the same rules as other GI's (often one rifle and/or one handgun per soldier) depending on local policy. (RHIP, of course!) Some commanders banned souvenir handguns, one saying that he lost more men to accidents with such unfamiliar pistols than he did in combat!

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Old April 23, 2013, 02:27 PM   #11
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As with so many things military, especially infantry, there is pre-war Regular Army/parade ground/ Official TO&E then there is the Cold Blast of Reality from The Real Thing. In the ETO in WWII it was found the troops needed twice as many automatic weapons as orginally provided for.
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Old April 23, 2013, 03:23 PM   #12
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Maybe, but the TO&E said what they got, not what they would have liked to have. Some GI's decided to use captured enemy weapons, especially guns like the MP.38/40 SMGs or MG.42's. They found out pretty quickly that using captured weapons attracted unwanted attention (and bullets) from both sides and, if they survived, they went back to their issue weapons.

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Old April 24, 2013, 10:28 PM   #13
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Quote:
Ammunition issued in combat was almost always AP, the reason being that it gave better penetration in cover material (dirt, sand bags, etc.) and light vehicles than ball. Ball was usually issued only for stateside training.
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Ball ammunition, with a lead core, was never issued outside the continental United States. It was used for Statesdide training and guard duty.
While I'm sure that this was true for the people who lived through it, conversations with a Marine who fought in the Pacific from Guadalcanal onwards, and also in Korea, show it was not the case everywhere.

During his time on Guadalcanal, he said the only AP seen was belted, mixed with ball and tracer, and the guys with Springfields and even most of the BAR gunners got regular ball. Said there was some API, but all that went to the aircrews, like SBD rear gunners, etc. Later on in the war, BAR gunners usually got AP, and the "rest of us" got mostly ball, AP once in a while. In Korea, he said he never got ball, it was all AP, but he didn't know if that was a policy decision, or just that they were getting whatever was in the pipeline.

He also said his "basic" load when he carried the Garand was 96 rnds, the cartridge belts he had were 12 pocket, 6 on a side. Also that spare clips in the pockets were very common.

Also, when going into combat, he would grab a bandolier, or two, and reload out of them until they were empty, keeping his belt load intact as long as he could. Because it was easy to lose a bandolier (diving in a hole to shelter from an incoming shell or bomb could separate your from your bandolier right quick, but the belt almost always stayed with you.

He also mentioned that it was a bit difficult to extract the clips from the bandolier, but they were highly motivated at the time, and it didn't pose any serious problem for them. Also why there were so few bandoliers that survived intact, they were almost always ripped by GIs getting the ammo out of them.

I think its best to assume that while some people saw nothing but AP in combat, and ball in trainging, or even vice versa, making sweeping statements about "that's all that was used" in every theater throughout the entire war isn't accurate.
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Old April 25, 2013, 03:23 PM   #14
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Did your friend say what was issued later and in Korea? "The canal" was one of the first American operations in WWII, and the Marines were basically in a "go with what you got" mode, which was WWI vintage ammo in M1903 clips. Later in the Pacific, and in Africa and the ETO, the M1 rifle was general issue, though pictures from Africa still show some M1903's (not the sniper version).

In general, though, at least mid-war and later, AP was normal issue for the reasons I noted.

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Old April 25, 2013, 09:07 PM   #15
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While the M1 was general issue later in the war, some units carried the 1903 Sprinfgield from Pearl Harbor to VJ day (and not just in the Pacific). Some units in the Italian campaign were still entirely equipped with Springfields at the end of the war.

My friend said all the ammo he got in Korea was AP (carried a Garand then).

Another friend of mine was a telephone/telegraph lineman in Korea. He carried an M1 carbine and loved the light weight. He hated the winter there, because they took away his carbine and made him carry a Garand. He also made it a point to explain he never had to shoot anyone, and if he had, his opinion might be different.
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Old April 25, 2013, 11:32 PM   #16
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I was in the Army 1955-57, too late (thank God!) for the Korean war and too early for VN. But my platoon sergeant was a Korea vet and he told me something similar. He had been issued an M1 rifle, but it was heavy and at the first chance he threw it away and got a carbine. Then his Eighth Army unit got hit by one of the Chinese bugle-blowing attacks. He fired the carbine and it just didn't stop the enemy, due partly at least to their heavily padded winter clothing. As soon as possible, he threw away the carbine and got another M1.

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Old April 27, 2013, 06:42 AM   #17
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Borrowing this thread, what about hearing protection in ww2 and upwards? Used in the field?
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Old April 28, 2013, 12:00 AM   #18
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With WWII history as a hobby, I have seen a lot of photos over the years, and I do not recall seeing any troops of any nation with any kind of hearing protection. Tank, aircraft, and some naval crews with headphones, but for communication, not hearing protection, although they did affort some small degree of hearing protection.

Classic photos of German tank commanders wearing them with one earpiece off the ear, so they could hear what was going on around the tank are common.

I have read books translated from English (where mechanics are "fitters" and wrenches are "spanners") have mentioned how artillery "gunners" would somtimes shove "cotton waste" in their ears, and I have seen many photos of artillerymen covering their ears with their hands when the big gun was fired.

So I think that hearing protection was seldom issued, and less often actually used in the field in the WWII era.

During my service in the mid 70s, the US Army issued us orange plastic "arrowhead" type earplugs, for use on the firing ranges. While required to have them, actual use was up to the individual, at the whim of the officers and NCOs present. And I can tell you from personal experience that even when worn, they weren't much good when in close proximity to guns with 4, 5, or 6 inch bores...
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Old April 28, 2013, 05:37 PM   #19
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We were issued plastic earplugs in BCT at Fort Dix in the Summer of 1967, usually kept them in their container in the top button hole of our fatigue shirts. I recall an article by Bill Jordan in which he whole heartedly endorsed the use of hearing protection, said his last set of hearing cost over $1000. I think recognition of the value of hearing protection is a post WWII occurrence, I recall reading an article by Charlie Askins where he said cotton wads, cigarette butts, and in some cases whittled wooden plugs were what he and his peers relied on the 1930s,for those of us of later conflicts having the adrenaline pumping and all yelling at the top of our lungs made us oblivious to any ear damage. In Vietnam we were forbidden to use captured weapons and ammunition due to covert operations
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Old April 28, 2013, 08:08 PM   #20
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When I was in service 1955-57, no hearing protection was issued. Only after that was there concern about hearing loss and it was not until the late 1960's that any form of hearing protection was issued on the rifle ranges.

Actually, the firing of one's own rifle is not especially hard on the ears. But the blast from a rifle to the side or slightly behind can be very damaging.* In combat, of course, the situation is different. The need to hear commands and locate enemy fire is far more important than concern about future hearing loss. There have been devices that supposedly blocked the sound of firing without reducing normal hearing (the Lee-Sonic Ear Valve was an early example), but if the military has issued or is now issuing them, I have not heard of it.

*Ronald Reagan blamed his hearing loss on a blank fired beside his head when making a Western movie, and I have almost total loss of hearing in my left ear due to a .32 Walther PP fired a few inches from my ear.

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Old April 29, 2013, 03:02 PM   #21
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Years ago I bought a sealed case of '06 rounds. When I opened it I found that all of the ammo was AP and packed in bandoliers...I think eight clips of 8 rds. Those AP rounds were corrosive as heck...head stamped 1952 as I recall.
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