The M1 Garand: Patton-ted “The Greatest Battle Implement Ever Devised”


M1 Garand Photo Album

A real M1 Garand from the collections of the Swedish Army Museum.

A real M1 Garand from the collections of the Swedish Army Museum.

When the M1 Garand entered production in September 1937 , it became the first semi-automatic rifle issued en masse to the military of any nation. As the standard-issue weapon for the U.S. Army, it offered significant advantages over the bolt-action rifles in the hands of enemy soldiers.

“In fact, one man, firing a Garand, can do nearly as much damage as three men using the old-type Springfield rifle with its hand-operated bolt,” says the narrator of this WWII-era training film produced by the War Department.

Further adding to its legacy, on Jan. 26, 1945, as the war was drawing to a close, then-Lt. Gen. George S. Patton called the M1 Garand “the greatest battle implement ever devised” in a letter to then-Maj. Gen. Levin H. Campbell.

John C. Garand, inventor of the M1 Garand rifle, at work.

John C. Garand, inventor of the M1 Garand rifle, at work. Photo from the Springfield Armory archives.

Developed by John C. Garand, the gun fired the powerful .30-06 Springfield cartridge at a much faster rate than the Kar98k, the Carcano, and the Type 38 “Arisaka”. Its eight-round “en bloc” clip held more bullets than each of these Axis rifles, and its ability to fire between 15 to 50 accurate shots per minute (depending on the target range and user’s skill) made it the fastest-firing service rifle of the war prior to the advent of the German StG 44.

According to information from the Springfield Armory Museum’s collection record, Garand submitted a patent for a light machine gun on Sept. 5, 1919. William H. Davis of the Ordnance Department later noted that there was no need for a light machine gun, but some “perceptive officers” thought Garand’s ideas could be used to create a semi-automatic rifle, so the department paid him $3,600 per year to do so.

While working for the Springfield Armory, Garand developed the M1922 rifle, a .30 caliber semi-automatic weapon that was tested against guns from other manufacturers in 1925. Inconclusive results led to a test between Garand’s M1924 rifle and the Thompson Autorifle that was also inconclusive.

In March 1927, Garand’s newest model was pitted against the Thompson and the M1903 Springfield, which was still the standard-issue rifle for the U.S. Army. There was no clear winner.

Following another inconclusive test on Sept. 21, 1928, Garand was asked to build a rifle chambered in .276 caliber, a measurement military officials were toying with adopting over the heavier .30-06 round.

Twenty of Garand’s .276 rifles were tested against the Pedersen rifle in the spring of 1931, winning handily. Garand also tested one .30 caliber model that worked well until its bolt cracked.

An unnamed Allied soldier in Landerneau, France, holds his M1 Garand.

An unnamed Allied soldier in Landerneau, France, holds his M1 Garand.

On Jan. 4, 1932, military officials recommended adoption of the .276 Garand, but, according to American Rifle: A Biography, by Alexander Rose, Gen. Douglas MacArthur ordered that the .276 caliber model be scrapped in favor of the .30 caliber version less than two months later.

Despite this official endorsement (and, in 1933, an official name), the Semi-Automatic Rifle, Caliber 30, M1 still had a long way to go.

Trials held in May 1934 found multiple problems, but these were fixed and the design was standardized on Jan. 9, 1936. The first mass-produced M1 Garand was test-fired on July 21, 1937, but production delays persisted until September 1937 when the first rifles were delivered to the Army.

Further issues prompted a redesign in 1940, but U.S. troops were fully equipped by the end of 1941.

In Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, Col. Stanley Hargrove tells Lt. Mike Powell that the M1 Garand’s clip cannot be removed until all bullets have been fired. If Powell finishes a firefight with a nearly-empty clip and desires a full clip before his next engagement, he must fire the remaining rounds before the spent clip is automatically ejected with the weapon’s distinctive metallic “ping” sound.

A soldier on Omaha Beach during the D-Day landings holds an M1 Garand as he speaks to Lt. Mike Powell.

A soldier on Omaha Beach during the D-Day landings holds an M1 Garand as he speaks to Lt. Mike Powell.

In reality, M1 Garand clips could be manually ejected at any time, as described in this 1965 M1 Garand operating manual, but the process required both hands and was somewhat complicated, as  was the case with loading single bullets into a clip already inside the gun.

It appears in the hands of countless U.S. soldiers throughout the game, as it would have during World War II, when more than 4 million were produced. However, Powell himself rarely uses it and is usually equipped with a sniper rifle of some kind instead.

Its firepower is most apparent during the first mission, when it’s Powell’s only primary weapon as he fights through the streets of an Algerian town. Its fire rate can easily dispatch multiple enemies in close quarters, and in the hands of a trained unit, it could be devastating. It’s also able to fire in excess of 200 rounds per minute in the game, while I found that I could fire accurately at about 100 rounds per minute, still faster than a real Garand.

“My squad was on patrol out in front of our lines when we were ambushed by an Italian platoon with flame throwers,” Sgt. Charles Steinberg said in the May 14, 1943 edition of the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle, recounting his time in Tunisia. “We went into action so fast that each of our 12 men was able to get off 16 rounds with his Garand rifle. Before they could do any damage we picked off the flame throwers. The shooting lasted only a few seconds, but when it was over there were 15 dead Italians, 2 wounded, and 17 standing there with their hands up.”

“They got in some fire, but not a single man in our squad was even touched,” Steinberg said. “I’ll take the Garand. It’s really got firepower.”

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~ by John on September 15, 2014.

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