Monday, November 21, 2011

The M1 Carbine, by Leroy Thompson

As Army service troops, the men in my grandfather's port battalion were all issued the M1 Carbine. To better understand his war experience I have been meaning to I read-up on the weapon he carried. Lucky for me Osprey Publishing just published a book on the M1 this week.

Thompson's book The M1 Carbine details the rifle's use from WWII to Korea to Vietnam. My interest is limited to WWII, which is the main focus of the book. The M1 Carbine was developed specifically for troops who's hands were mostly occupied with non-combat tasks, but were still in a combat zone. It was thought these men needed a weapon more powerful than a pistol, but not as bulky as the standard infantryman's rifle, the M1 Garand.

The Army invited weapons manufacturers to submit designs based on a set of criteria for this light rifle. Thompson details the process and shares some interesting observations. For instance, one of the several companies that was awarded a contract to produce the carbines during the war was the Underwood company. So, a company clerk in the field may have typed reports on an Underwood typewriter, while his Underwood carbine leaned against the desk!

The book goes on to describes the use of the carbine in battle. It was employed most notably by Army paratroopers in Europe who benefited from the weapon's compact size and low weight. In the Pacific the M1 carbine was valued for it's resistance to corrosion, and it's size made it well-suited to close jungle fighting. I especially appreciated page 39 which discusses the M1 Carbine's role in the Army engineer companies. All the port companies taking part in the Normandy invasion were attached to Engineer Special Brigades. Men like my grandfather unloaded supplies with the M1 Carbine slung on their backs.

In addition to numerous photographs Osprey adds two specially commissioned double-full-page color illustrations and a third single-full-page illustration by historical artist Peter Dennis.

Here's a shot of my Grandpa Corty in Normandy posing with his M1 Carbine. During the chaos of D-Day my grandfather actually lost his carbine and spent the day with an M1 Garand. He said that during the November 1944 train ride to Antwerp someone knocked over some jars of jam that were shelved above their stack of guns. The carbines were literally "jammed." He fired his carbine only once, while guarding a supply train heading to the front lines in Belgium. That anecdote is described in my book.

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