The United States military had hundreds of weapons to face off with in Europe. By the time D-Day came, our arsenal was just as modern and deadly as the German’s.
Perhaps the most famous handgun of all time, the M1911 was the United States Army’s standard issue sidearm from 1911 to 1985. Designed by John Browning, the M1911 is one of the best-known designs he released. World War II and the years leading up to it created a great demand. During the war, the U.S. Government procured about 1.9 million units for all its branches. Several manufacturers took up the challenge to supply the troops with their sidearm.
- Remington Rand – 900,000
- Colt – 400,000
- Ithaca Gun Company – 400,000
- Union Switch & Signal – 50,000
- Singer – 500
So many were produced that after 1945 the government did not order any new pistols, and simply used existing parts inventories to “arsenal refinish” guns when necessary. The pistol was a favorite among troops, as it still its today.
General George S. Patton called it “the greatest battle implement ever devised.” It was the first semi-automatic rifle generally issued to the infantry of any nation. The weapon allowed our soldiers to deliver accurate semi-automatic fire downrange in high volume. Many experts believe that giving individual infantrymen this amount of firepower helped keep the odds in the Allies’ favor. The powerful .30-06 round was more than enough to engage targets at any feasible distance. Compared to other rifles of the time, the Garand had very few drawbacks. One apparent drawback later turned into an allied advantage. When the 8-round en block clip was empty, it would automatically eject from the chamber, creating an audible ping. The German soldiers later learned to wait for this ping to know when the soldier was out of ammo. American GIs later began to throw empty clips on the ground to draw the German’s out; tricking them into thinking they were empty.
The M1 is a lightweight semi-automatic carbine that became the standard firearm for troops that otherwise could not carry the full sized M1 Garand. The carbine fired the .30 caliber round, which had about twice the kinetic energy of a .45 ACP. Most troops who carried the weapon appreciated its size and weight, but reports from the front suggested that a more powerful cartridge with greater range may have been better.
M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle
When the threat of a new war arose, the military belatedly realized it had no portable squad light machine gun, and attempted to convert the M1918 BAR to that role with the adoption of the M1918A2 by the U.S. Army on 30 June 1938. The military issued the BAR as the sole automatic fire support for an eight-man squad, and they trained all men at the basic level on how to operate and fire the weapon in case the designated operator went down. At the start of the war, most infantry companies designated two or three person BAR teams. These teams consisted of a gunner and one or two assistant gunners to carry extra ammunition. By 1944, some units were using one man BAR teams, with the other riflemen in the squad expected to carry additional magazines and/or bandoliers of .30-06 caliber ammunition. The average combat life expectancy of a World War II BAR man was about 30 minutes.
Thompson Submachine Gun
The Thompson sub machinegun gave the American G.I. a close quarters weapon second to none in the world. Early model 1928 Thompsons would accept large capacity 50 and 100-round drum magazines, in addition to the standard issue 20 or 30-round stick magazines. Drum-fed guns were highly prized among the troops. They mostly saw action in the Pacific theater. A simplified version, the M1, only used stick magazines, had simplified sights, and no recoil compensator. The allies used over 1.5 million Thompsons during the Second World War.
M3 Submachine Gun (Grease Gun)
The Thompson was an amazing weapon for close quarters combat, but it wasn’t perfect. The gun was expensive, heavy, and difficult to produce. The military needed a cheap and reliable submachine gun, and they got the M3. The basic function of the weapon was long action blowback open bolt design. It only fired 450 rounds per minute, but it was more accurate than the Thompson, while still firing the .45 ACP. There were about 700 thousand M3s built for service in the war. Unit cost was low, in 1944; they could make an M3 for $20, which is about $260 today.