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Old January 2, 2013, 11:14 PM   #1
tahunua001
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airborne outfitting in WWII

hello all,
I have been watching a great mini series 'Band of Brothers' that depicts the 506th of the 101st airborne during WWII. from everything I've seen it is probably the most accurate depiction of the war, at least based on what I remember from history class but I do have some questions concerning some of the guns depicted. in a certain segment of the show where the 506th is dug in around Bastogne, and later in belgium a couple of the troops are using BARs. I was under the impression that the BAR was considered too bulky, heavy and burnt too much ammo to issue to paratroopers?

from any of the accounts you guys and gals have read, are there any cases of paratroopers being issued or 'appropriating' BARs for prolonged combat operations?
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Old January 2, 2013, 11:29 PM   #2
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Nope. For one thing, not all airborne were paratroops, as the term included glider troops as well. As for weapons, parachute troops had not only BARs but belt fed machineguns and light mortars as well. The heavier equipment was not carried by the trooper but was dropped separately by other chutes. The color of the chute told the troops what was in the attached containers - food, ammo, heavy weapons, commo gear, etc.

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Old January 2, 2013, 11:34 PM   #3
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Nope. For one thing, not all airborne were paratroops, as the term included glider troops as well. As for weapons, parachute troops had not only BARs but belt fed machineguns and light mortars as well. The heavier equipment was not carried by the trooper but was dropped separately by other chutes. The color of the chute told the troops what was in the attached containers - food, ammo, heavy weapons, medical suppliles, commo gear, etc.

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Old January 2, 2013, 11:39 PM   #4
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James makes good points.

Also, remember that the 506th was in France for R&R and were sent to Bastogne by truck. Their last jump, I believe, was Market Garden. During the Bulge I'm sure they used whatever they could get their hands on.
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Old January 3, 2013, 06:07 PM   #5
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I have seen only one photograph of a WWII soldier carrying an M-1A1 Carbine, while he appears to be wearing Corcorans he is not wearing a jump suit.
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Old January 3, 2013, 09:19 PM   #6
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Quote:
have seen only one photograph of a WWII soldier carrying an M-1A1 Carbine, while he appears to be wearing Corcorans he is not wearing a jump suit.
I've seen dozens. Here's one from a quick search. 17th airborne, operation Varsity
http://ww2db.com/image.php?image_id=12042
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Old January 3, 2013, 09:29 PM   #7
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Most parachute/glider troops carried M1 rifles, not carbines. In general, carbines were issued to company grade officers, millitary police and those whose principal weapon was not a rifle. The soldier in the photo cited is armed with a 57mm recoilless rifle; the M1A1 Carbine would get in his way less than a rifle or a full length carbine.

In the older (pre-1941) TO&E, such troops would have been armed with a pistol or revolver; the Carbine was adopted because it was felt that it would be more effective than a pistol without the weight and burden of a rifle.

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Old January 3, 2013, 09:37 PM   #8
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Most parachute/glider troops carried M1 rifles, not carbines. In general, carbines were issued to company grade officers, millitary police and those whose principal weapon was not a rifle. The soldier in the photo cited is armed with a 57mm recoilless rifle; the M1A1 Carbine would get in his way less than a rifle or a full length carbine.

In the older (pre-1941) TO&E, such troops would have been armed with a pistol or revolver; the Carbine was adopted because it was felt that it would be more effective than a pistol without the weight and burden of a rifle.

Jim
Yup. My uncle carried one in the war. He was in the 505th PIR, 82nd Airborne div. He was a machine gunner.
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Old January 4, 2013, 01:29 AM   #9
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Just finished reading another history of D-Day. For the most part, the BAR was the only automatic weapon the Airborne had for the first couple of days. Not counting the M1A1 or Thompson. Most of the equipment bundles were lost when they were released too soon. On Market Garden Galvin wanted all of his Airborne to have a sidearm, don't think he was able to fulfill that desire,but many of them were so armed. Basically, the only firepower they had was what was strapped to their bods. They had no heavy weapons other than a few bazookas, They even lost about 90 percent of their radios. They were unaware for most of the day of what was happening on the beaches. Market Garden was much better organized ( for the Americans, the British made a few colossal mistakes ) affair because it was a day light jump and they had learned some valuable lessons. One was, make damn sure everyone was dropped together rather than spread out. To quote Gavin when he briefed the pilot's "Drop us on target or drop us in hell, but drop us together". Book I've read 3 times and will read again is Ryan's " A Bridge too Far, I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in WWII.
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Old January 4, 2013, 03:23 AM   #10
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My uncle was a glider pilot in europe for all 3 glider operations. He was issued the GI Carbine Unknown Model. After landing he appropriated the first M-1 Garand available and deactivated and left his carbine.
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Old January 4, 2013, 06:19 AM   #11
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Quote:
Just finished reading another history of D-Day. For the most part, the BAR was the only automatic weapon the Airborne had for the first couple of days. Not counting the M1A1 or Thompson.
M1A1 is just a folding stock version of the M1 carbine and is a semi-automatic. The M2 carbine (after the war) was a select fire weapon. If you are interested in airborne operations of WWII General James Gavin's book On To Berlin is a good one.
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Old January 4, 2013, 12:01 PM   #12
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Oops. my error, and I was once issued one,
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Old January 4, 2013, 02:18 PM   #13
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As far as the uniforms go, by wintertime the regular field jacket and pants were on issue and mostly the original parachutist's outfit was not worn. However, I also believe those uniforms were retained by those issued them and not turned in.

The 11th Airborne Division operated in the Pacific and among other things, made a parachute assault on Corregidor Island in Manila Bay. They suffered a lot of casualties just from the jump itself, so the last wave went in by boat, along with a battalion from the 24th Division. Later, the Division was sent to Germany and was commanded by the same man who commanded the battalion from the 24th, after he went to jump school (as a colonel). Then the 11th Airborne was reflagged as the 24th Division. Anyway, I don't know if they ever wore the special airborne uniform.

The same man who designed the airborne uniform, whose name I don't remember just now, also designed the jungle uniform used in Vietnam and they look almost identical except for the color and the material.
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Old January 4, 2013, 07:49 PM   #14
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They say Bradley was a soldier's General, then General " Slim Jim " Galvin was a fighting man's General, He was respected by all who knew him and he left quiet a legacy. Not to start any wars, I have also read several times that we won the war in Europe in spite of General Bradley.
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Old January 5, 2013, 01:29 PM   #15
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Trying to research details of WWII miltary clothing and weaponry is getting difficult as veterans pass away and memories of those still with us fade.

I remember seeing on an internet site a picture of two men in the uniform of the 101st Airborne, photographed in Bastogne. A number of posters used the photo to point out how the insignia was put on and the uniform worn.

But I managed to find an uncropped version of the photo, showing parked cars, Christmas lights, shoppers, and no snow. It may have been taken in Bastogne, but it was a picture of two re-enactors in uniforms that only vaguely resembled the real thing.

Jim
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Old January 5, 2013, 04:33 PM   #16
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In the movie there is a scene where they ?confiscate? weapons from a retreating infantry unit. I believe this was based on fact.
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Old January 5, 2013, 10:50 PM   #17
tahunua001
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Quote:
In the movie there is a scene where they ?confiscate? weapons from a retreating infantry unit. I believe this was based on fact.
I just watched the entire series and never found the scene you are describing, prior to going to bastogne they did take any ammunition that retreating infantry soldiers were carrying because they were short supplied as it was and the mentality of a paratrooper was that you did not have supply depots so you better carry as much as you can because it's all you have.

similar instances were reported on both fronts of the war. Marines still using 1903 springfields in the south pacific stole crateloads of M1 Garands from Army supply depots.
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Old January 6, 2013, 09:21 PM   #18
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"Marines still using 1903 springfields in the south pacific stole crateloads of M1 Garands from Army supply depots."

I hadn't heard that and wonder about the source. Soldiers and Marines going into action in the PTO carried their rifles; the action was island hopping and depots were non-existent anywhere near the front, the closest being Hawaii and later Australia. Also, in only a few places were Marines and Army in the same area at the same time. I have heard of Marines on Guadalcanal being relieved by soldiers swapping their '03's for Army M1's but a unit armed with the 03 would not receive ammo packed in M1 clips or vice versa, so such swaps might not be too useful.

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Old January 6, 2013, 10:51 PM   #19
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Currahee

Can't think of the author, but the "Currahee!" book and the author's follow up (can't remember nothin these days) on fighting in Germany (he did not jump into Holland) are great Airborne books. So too is a chapter in "Six Flags Over Normandy"-John Keegan. Keegan's is a study and not a bio.

Another study with a bunch of personal accounts and suprising number of pics is "The 101st Airborne at Normandy"-Mark Bando. My copy is sort of oversize/soft cover and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it as a read.
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Old January 7, 2013, 08:30 AM   #20
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That's an interesting comment, Mr. James K., but I suspect that '03 Springfields and M1s may have been in use at the same time in some units, at least for a while. Snipers, if there were any, probably used Springfields well after M1s were common, although speed loading was less of a necessity for a sniper. I'm not even sure a clip can be used if a scope is in place. How was that allowed for with the M1-D?

On a separate subject, I have a theory about war stories. Immediately after a war, it is the generals and other high ranking officers who write books about their war experiences. Soldiers who were mere privates and junior NCOs only get around to writing their books something like 30 or 40 years later. They also write about totally different subjects, too.
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Old January 7, 2013, 10:51 PM   #21
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The Marines kept their M1903's until well into 1942 and every effort was made to make sure that all our troops had the right ammunition and clips. (Remember, unit supply officers were responsible for ordering ammo and they should have known what equipment their own men had.)

I can't say there were no SNAFU's but an M1 with no clips was effectively out of action. An '03 magazine could be loaded with loose ammo or ammo from M1 clips or MG belts (removing the latter was not easy!), but the M1 was a single shot rifle without clips.

Clips were not important for users of the M1903A4 since the scope prevented clip loading in any case.

In my experience, EM's war stories began as soon as they left combat and were well rehearsed by the time they got home. Many (most?) were pure BS; every Walther PP had been taken from Goering personally or at least a German Field Marshal, every Arisaka was captured in a bayonet fight with Tojo.

And of course the weapons stories were the same way.

But I did find out that one I disbelieved for a long time may have been (or at least could have been) true! Japanese 7.7 rifle (rimless) ammo not only will fit and fire safely in an M1903 but the Japanese clip will work as well. It will also fit and fire in and function an M1 rifle, but of course the M1 needs its own clip.

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Old January 8, 2013, 12:07 AM   #22
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But I did find out that one I disbelieved for a long time may have been (or at least could have been) true! Japanese 7.7 rifle (rimless) ammo not only will fit and fire safely in an M1903 but the Japanese clip will work as well.
Interesting, do you have a source for this?
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Old January 8, 2013, 01:21 AM   #23
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Interesting, do you have a source for this?
a member here recently posted complaining that 7.7 brass was bulging significantly in his newly acquired Arisaka type 99, when some other members asked if it had been rechambered for 30-06 he attempted and succeeded in chambering 30-06 in his rifle: the thing has been converted to 30-06 and he had been firing 7.7 jap out of it all along and the brass was fireforming to the 06 chamber.

I have no doubt in my mind that 7.7 will work in a 30-06, I only wish it could work in the reverse, much easier to find 06 than 7.7
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Old January 8, 2013, 07:32 AM   #24
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Interesting comment about the stripper clips. If you have enough different clips lying around, you could always experiment and see which ones work. The thing is, however, that even if the cartridge fits into the clip ever so nicely, it may not fit into the guide or slot on the rifle and vice versa. Some clips are marked with the caliber but hardly all of them. At any rate, there's a big variety of them for all the different cartridges and rifles in use. Even some Remington commercial semi-automatic hunting rifles used them, although in my own experience, they were difficult to use. You know, 7.62 NATO ammunition used to come packed in five-shot stripper clips and there was never any rifle that took them.

Clips, or chargers, for rimmed ammuntion are another story and you're lucky if you have clips for a Mosin-Nagant rifle that actually work but I never had problems with those for a Lee-Enfield, not that I used them very much. That's one of those things that never looked like it would ever work but it always did.
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Old January 8, 2013, 12:37 PM   #25
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I imagine Garand clips were pretty easy to get a hold of if anyone in the area was issued a Garand. I don't know what the life expectancy of one is, but mine have been reloaded quite a few times.

Thinking about this, it may be interesting to find out some of the other uses found for Garand clips. I am sure there were a number.
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