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Old January 14, 2021, 10:29 AM   #1
4V50 Gary
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WW II Paratrooper question

I need your guys' help in interpretating an 82nd trooper's misadventures in Market Garden.

"I carried a land mine in my left leg jump suit pocket and a Gammon grenade in my left leg pocket; two fragmentation grenades in my jump jacket pockets; K rations, sniper rifle, an ammo bag with 200 plus rounds of ammo, gas mask, pack and other items.

....(T)the plane started filling with smoke. As I looked across the plane I noticed that Lt. Rynkiewicz had been hit in the left knee and Hatfield, the BAR man, was hit on the back of his hand. To my right, a trooper was on the floor of the plane, again, I think it was Rideout. I remember saying, 'let's get the hell out of here,' and we started standing up. The Air Force sergeant dove out the door of the plane. Within seconds, the plane was so full of smoke you could not see anything. Some men near the cockpit of the plane started coughing and pushing for the door.At that time, others and I fell through the floor of the plane. We were hooked up and when my chute opened, I could smell flesh and see the skin hanging from my face and hands. I had released my rifle when the flames burned my hand."

He couldn't have been thinking of jumping with his rifle in his hands, could he? That scope was not durable and could break or get jarred. Additionally you need your hands on the riser and yank up right before you land to soften the landing (in college I jumped 5X). Could he have had the 03A4 in a modified Griswold bag but with burnt hands how does he release it?
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Old January 14, 2021, 11:13 AM   #2
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Like probably 95% of Americans, most of what I know about airborne operations is from watching Band of Brothers!
There's a scene prior to their Market Garden jump, where a rookie trooper is putting his Garand in a bag, and the grizzled sergeant pulls the rifle out and shows him how to secure it among the myriad straps of his other gear, across his chest: "Jump ready to fight", rather than vertically, else the rifle "break your jaw" on impact.
It does seem impossible that someone could jump holding onto anything, and expect to still have it when they hit the ground, and if they were all already hooked-up to the static line, they were just about to jump, so would have had all of their gear arranged and secured for it.
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Old January 14, 2021, 11:20 AM   #3
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I think he probably had the rifle held between his legs and had originally planned on slinging it before jumping out.
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Old January 14, 2021, 12:33 PM   #4
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I read from Walsh's Look Out Below! that as a rifle grenadier (M1903 w/grenade launcher) would jump w/rifle vertical. If it was horizontal, he couldn't get out the jump door. Per James Gavin Onto Berlin (or something) he jumped with it vertical and then once out of the aircraft, moved it horizontal (no broken jaw that way).

The "released my rifle" leaves me baffled. The Griswold bag had to be modified by a rigger to be longer to accomodate a M9103A4. As mentioned, some of the experienced 82nd jumped into Normandy w/out the Griswold. They wanted to be fight ready when they landed. The 101 was new and didn't know better.
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Old January 14, 2021, 12:44 PM   #5
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During the Normandy drop, most of the 'troopers lost much of their gear. They were heavily loaded and worried about injury on landing and possible drowning in the flooded fields.

They were using drop bags attached with a tether. Rifles such as the M1 Garand were taken out of the stocks and packed in separate pieces. The tethers ripped off in the slipstream (though many of the aircraft were going faster than the recommended drop speed as they were taking a lot of Flak and AAA fire). It is well documented that many of the Paras had lost their primary weapons during the drop.

In the movie, before the Market Garden drop Sgt Randleman takes the rifle out of the drop pack and stuffs it into the FNG's webbing. the soldier was not instructed to hold it in his hands. I'm not sure of the historical accuracy of that though. But the landing areas for the Market Garden drops were a lot safer terrain wise than they were in Normandy.
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Old January 14, 2021, 12:45 PM   #6
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Do a web search for 82nd Airborne WWII Reenactors. Just like Civil War Reenactors, you will find some that are very knowledgeable about who they reenact, to the point of even having interviewed veterans and invited them to reenactments. I've met some with stacks of books in their room about the period they represent. They're walking libraries. Visit them at a reenactment and you'll learn more than what the Media will tell you.
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Old January 14, 2021, 12:49 PM   #7
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They wanted to be fight ready when they landed. The 101 was new and didn't know better.
They might have heard a lot of stories from the Italy and Normandy drops and decided that they wanted to have weapons in hand. That doesn't mean it was SOP or even recommended by their NCOs.

Plus the guy with the DMR/sniper rifle may have been left to figure out things on his own more or less since he had unique equipment.
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Old January 14, 2021, 12:54 PM   #8
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If he was not prepared to jump, he may have just been holding it in his hands.
That excerpt does go from "plane started filling with smoke" to "started standing up" to "fell through the floor of the plane."
I would look at it differently if it were, "We were preparing to jump, and suddenly came under fire."

Your point about the scope, specifically, could also be a reason to hold it, rather than have it bagged and banging around on the flight. Keep it safe for the flight, and then secure it in the web gear just before the jump.
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Old January 14, 2021, 12:55 PM   #9
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I have w/both 82 and 101. Everytime I find someone who has knowledge, they're already dead.
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Old January 14, 2021, 12:55 PM   #10
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There is a really good book named:

US Infantry Weapons in Combat Personal Experiences from World War II and Korea

written by Mark G. Goodwin

This book is a compilation of many different soldiers' stories and in their own words talks about the training and use of various WWII and Korean War weapons. It's a very interesting read.
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Old January 14, 2021, 01:04 PM   #11
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Hey DMK - anything in the book about snipers and paratroopers with sniper rifles?
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Old January 14, 2021, 01:19 PM   #12
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Flipping through, I see a bunch of paras and some snipers (regular Army, Marine and one guy fielding an M1C Garand in Korea), but I don't see any sniper paras in there. There are some paras with BARs and crew served weapons though.

The book is not going to answer your specific question, but an interesting view on how these guys employed their weapons and equipment.

One thing I found especially interesting is the varied training. Some units, especially activated NG units, totally did their own thing and trained together in family like units (like we see in "Band of Brothers"), then pulled the FNG replacements into their way of doing things. Other units were more "cookie cutter" Army.
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Last edited by DMK; January 14, 2021 at 01:32 PM.
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Old January 14, 2021, 01:28 PM   #13
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Maybe he had a dummy cord on his gun, but that is a guess and based on a vague recollection of seeing a video that may or may not be real (or a movie) of those WW2 paratroopers with lanyards on the gun.

I reread the post, and I don’t see mention of the rifle being lost or hitting the ground But I don’t know the story.
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Old January 14, 2021, 04:38 PM   #14
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When I was growing up, one of our neighbors (and family friend) was one of the guys who survived dropping on St, Mere Eglise (as in the Longest Day movie) and was also at Bastogne.

From what he said, he jumped with his rifle in his hands (chamber EMPTY) AND tethered to him with about 6ft (or so) of strap. Their instructions were to let go of the rifle a when they were a dozen feet or so above the ground. The rifle would fall to the end of the strap and land just before they did, and slightly away from them, so it wouldn't cause injury and yanking on the strap put it back in their hands.

he also said that not everyone did that.
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Old January 14, 2021, 05:12 PM   #15
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Yikes 44AMP. You're the second person to tell me that they jumped w/the rifle in their hands. However, dropping a scoped rifle isn't the best thing to do for a sniper rifle.
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Old January 14, 2021, 05:18 PM   #16
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Isn’t this same question a thread over on The High Road?
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Old January 14, 2021, 05:36 PM   #17
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Uncle and an acquaintance both in the para troopers. Uncle missed the invasion as he was communications group left behind in the UK. He was at Bastogne.

Just average guys, on the surface.
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Old January 14, 2021, 05:47 PM   #18
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Quote:
However, dropping a scoped rifle isn't the best thing to do for a sniper rifle.
I agree, but you are assuming facts "not in evidence".. the author says "sniper rifle" he doesn't say scoped rifle. Sometimes, the sniper rifle was a 1903 Springfield with open sights when everyone else had Garands or carbines. Sometimes it was a scoped 1903 and the scope wasn't attached until after they were on the ground. GI terms for things don't always match the correct names.

We simply don't know exactly what rifle he had or if it was scoped, he doesn't say, just "sniper rifle" so, we really don't know with certainty.

Yes, there were guys who dropped with rifles in bags or tied to them and some jumped with it in their hands. There were times when being able to use the weapon before you landed was important. Bad times, for sure, but you really didn't know exactly what would be waiting for you on your way down.

It was WAR and war involves a degree of risk and sometimes deliberately doing things that aren't in the best interests of your equipment. Equipment is, after all, expendable, hopefully more than you are, but that isn't always the choice.
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Old January 14, 2021, 07:04 PM   #19
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OneFreeTexan - yes, I posted the same question at THR. While both websites share a lot of the same people, not everyone belongs to both sites. Hence my posting at both sites.
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Old January 14, 2021, 08:58 PM   #20
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Quote:
I agree, but you are assuming facts "not in evidence".. the author says "sniper rifle" he doesn't say scoped rifle. Sometimes, the sniper rifle was a 1903 Springfield with open sights when everyone else had Garands or carbines. Sometimes it was a scoped 1903 and the scope wasn't attached until after they were on the ground. GI terms for things don't always match the correct names.
That's a good point. I was wondering myself if the optic might have been removable. Paras were the elite special forces of the day. They did have some equipment that other forces didn't have. They also could have manufactured (or had one made in England) a special mount themselves.

OTOH, they were known to use standard 1903s to shoot rifle grenades, maybe it was just one of those that the guy liked and found shot well.
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Old January 14, 2021, 08:58 PM   #21
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I can not recommend this man's four memoirs of the 101st highly enough.
Lots of his experiences were "borrowed" by the writers of Band of Brothers.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Burgett
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Old January 14, 2021, 11:30 PM   #22
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44AMP - the only time I've ever come across that an ordinary rifle was mistaken as a sniper rifle was the unscoped Japanese 6.5 mm Type 38 rifle. I've never read of any GI who called his M1903A3 a sniper rifle. Generally men of the 82nd or 101 had M-1 Garands, M-1 Carbines, M-1 Thompsons and M1911s. Until the grenade launcher for the M-1 Garand was issued, their grenadiers had M1903A3s.

BTW, Simo Hayha used an unscoped rifle.

Buzzcock - I've read all four of Burgett's books and cite one or two of them.
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Old January 15, 2021, 12:12 AM   #23
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The German Fallschirmjaeger jumped with their weapons in a separate container. One reason they suffered such high casualties in Crete was because when many of them landed they couldn't find their containers.
Those of use who have served know there's a big difference between what's prescribed in the manuals-and what the experienced do.
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Old January 15, 2021, 03:48 AM   #24
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Those of use who have served know there's a big difference between what's prescribed in the manuals-and what the experienced do.
The right way. The wrong way. And the way the book says to do it.
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Old January 15, 2021, 07:52 AM   #25
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Maj. Gen. James Gavin says that after Sicily the 82nd they (82nd) wanted to jump ready to fight and declined using the Griswold bags. Rifles were carried bolt handle outward between the body and the reserve chute. A muzzle guard was sewn by the riggers and the one Gaavin used can be seen in a photograph of him prepping to jump in his book, On To Berlin.
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