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Were regular soldiers issued M1 carbines?


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#1 BCap

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 10:27 PM

I was watching The Pacific, and I noticed that a lot of the Marines were carrying M1 carbines instead of Garands. I thought that the Garand was issued more frequently than the carbine, with the latter only being given to officers, senior NCOs, rear-area guys, airborne, and special duty guys. What's the deal here, Hollywood history or reality?

Also, M1911A1s were given to all officers and NCOs, correct? But did they ever issue them to regular enlisted men armed with M1 Garands or B.A.R.s? My grandfather said he was never issued a pistol (he used a P38 he took as a trophy), but a History Channel documentary (WWII in Color) seems to indicate otherwise (and itself is contradicted by Band of Brothers, which states that enlisted men had to get their own).

Edited by BCap, 20 July 2010 - 10:52 PM.
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#2 brndirt1

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 11:16 PM

Even in the documentaries which were shot at the time by the US military shows a great number of carbines being used in the PTO. They were light, and most combat was done at closer quarters than in the ETO. Jungle fighting just is, by nature less "long distance" shooting, and a fast firing easy to "whip around" carbine is a good weapon.

They remained so popular in "jungle fighting" that post war the French requested them as the weapon of choice while they were fighting the Viet Mihn. Nice little jungle weapons. And BTW, the little .30 Carbine was the most numerous produced "long gun" of WW2. In the three years between 1942 and 1945 over six million were produced.

Enlisted men, as well as officers could carry personal weapons in the side-arm area. They could be issued a pistol in some instances, but as a general rule it wasn't policy as far as I know.
Happy Trails,
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#3 Mussolini

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 11:35 PM

I imagine the light weight and shortness of the weapon also helped - lugging around a Garand would be much heavier and more likely to get snagged on vines etc. I know carrying a short-barreled gun is much easier to 'rise up and acquire target' then with a longer barreled gun - even out here in the swamps of Orlando, my M4 Stubby is much easier to maneuver then my G3 - which constantly snags on things.

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#4 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 11:41 PM

Even in standard TO&E's many "regular" soldiers were issued carbines. Typically these were men in sections that had heavy machineguns, mortars, or other support weapons where their personal firearm was more for defense than regular combat use. The carbine being lighter than an M1 rifle was also issued to them due to their often increased pack load of ammunition or portions of the weapon they served.

#5 brndirt1

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Posted 20 July 2010 - 11:53 PM

Even if you call up an image of the first flag raising on Iwo Jima's Surabachi, you will find a Marine kneeling "on guard" with a little .30 Carbine. Not the famous Iwo shot, which was the second flag, but the first one. I forget that Marine's name (the one with the Carbine), Williams?
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#6 BCap

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 12:16 AM

What I mean is, a regular rifleman in a regular unit (not like a weapons unit or anything), did he have a choice between rifle or carbine, or what? And for enlisted men, what instances would they get a pistol (i.e. would riflemen in the ETO or PTO get a .45 through official channels)? Thank you anyways though, this has been helpful so far.

My grandfather claims he ditched his rifle during the Battle of the Bulge so as to take a carbine, since he had come down with some bad frostbite (which incidentally saved his life).

#7 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 12:49 AM

No. In infantry squads each man was issued an M1 rifle, M1903 Springfield, or BAR. Pistols were not issued to basic infantry. The typical issue is one BAR, 1 or 2 Springfields (either for grenade launching or sniping depending on the TO & E) and 9 to 11 M1 rifles (11 if no Springfields are present).
In such units carbines were not generally prefered due to their different ammunition requirement. The other possible switch is that the squad leader draws a M1 Thompson from the company HQ general stock (each company had 14 to issue as needed).
So, if an infantryman had a carbine he would have to 'aquire' it unofficially. Likewise, pistols. For the most part an infantryman has near zero need for a pistol unless he just likes hauling a few more pounds of stuff he will rarely, if ever, use around with him.

#8 formerjughead

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 01:05 AM

The other thing that is overlooked with "The Pacific" is that they were not Riflemen, they were mortarmen and machinegunners.

#9 BCap

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 01:21 AM

The program I had seen on History Channel did say that enlisted men were eventually authorized a pistol. Also, didn't BAR ammo belts include stuff for a pistol? If so, then weren't pistols given to all non-riflemen? And officers and NCOs did get pistols, right?

#10 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 01:37 AM

The program I had seen on History Channel did say that enlisted men were eventually authorized a pistol. Also, didn't BAR ammo belts include stuff for a pistol? If so, then weren't pistols given to all non-riflemen? And officers and NCOs did get pistols, right?


No. The standard US infantry squad had men assigned as follows:

Squad leader (sgt) M1 rifle
Asst. Sqd leader (corporal) M1 rifle
2 scouts M1 rifles
6 riflemen M1 rifles + 1 or 2 grenade launcher attachments
1 BAR man
1 Asst BAR man M1 rifle

The BAR man and his assistant both have special ammunition pouches to hold BAR clips.

The only men in an infantry battalion typically officially authorized a pistol officially were machinegun gunners their assistant and officers. Ammunition bearers, senior NCO's (squad leaders are not senior NCOs) and, vehicle crews carried the M1 carbine. Everybody else got an M1 rifle.

#11 BCap

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 01:44 AM

I had always thought that senior NCOs and officers got a carbine and a pistol. In Band of Brothers, I think it was stated that the NCOs and officers all had pistols, and that enlisted men had to obtain their own. And didn't the sergeant in Saving Private Ryan have a .45 (that he used to threaten the BAR man)?

#12 formerjughead

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 02:01 AM

I had always thought that senior NCOs and officers got a carbine and a pistol. In Band of Brothers, I think it was stated that the NCOs and officers all had pistols, and that enlisted men had to obtain their own. And didn't the sergeant in Saving Private Ryan have a .45 (that he used to threaten the BAR man)?


Look pal, movies are movies. If you want to compare Maj. Winters( Band of Brothers) carried a Garand the entire time and was never seen with a .45 even when he was the battalion XO. There was even a private that carried a .45 and a Garand.

The TO&E (Table of Organization & Equipment) dictated what weapons were the minimum for an infantry platoon. Often due to one reason or another weapons would be aquired or reassigned.

You are thinking too hard.

#13 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 02:40 AM

Paratroops are a bit different. They were all issued a .45 because initially they didn't jump with their gun readily accessable. The issue was never recended so virtually any US paratrooper (not glider infantry) would have had a .45 if he wanted one.

Ranger battalions are even more strange. Due to their nature as special mission troops they had a battalion "stockpile" of all sorts of weapons both officially and unofficially. For example a Ranger battalion has 5 Boys anti-tank rifles officially assigned to it....

#14 Old Schoolr

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 01:08 PM

My Dad's uncle was in the 45th Infantry Div. He has been gone about 16 years but I do remember him telling me that they went into combat carrying what they were told to carry. He used an M1 Rifle but at one point in time was told to carry a Thompson SMG. No one “wanted” to carry a BAR on a march thru the hills of Italy but whoever was designated the BAR gunner did it. Once they were in combat men did trade or pick up a discarded weapon but this was unofficial.
A Boy Scout leader & one of my first bosses were both USAAC vets from the Pacific theater. The first was issued an M1 Carbine on New Guinea where he wished to have had the M1 rifle; the Japanese stayed just out of carbine range. The 2nd individual served on Guam. He had been issued a Thompson in the States but it was replaced w/ the M2 version of the carbine before they were sent overseas. He carried the carbine in the jungle but never had to use it. He liked the light weight & the high rate of fire.

Another uncle served in the US Army in Vietnam. He was issued an M14 rifle but was able to pick up a carbine. He was in a construction unit & preferred the shorter, lighter carbine while working.

I remember seeing a poster on another forum insisting that the BAR wasn’t used in the ETO. Why? Because he didn’t see any in Band of Brothers. People fall into a trap when they think that because they see something in Band of Brothers or The Pacific (or in a video game) that it is the definitive truth. Band of Brothers is probably one of the most accurate war films made & it is still full of errors & artistic license.


#15 Lost Watchdog

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 01:29 PM

As anyone who has been around the military knows - what you are supposed to have and what you actually have can vary greatly. TO&Es are just a guideline. I've also read in a few sources that while the M1 carbine was popular (its a pretty classy looking weapon and not heavy) there was a real issue with stopping power.
Those who live by the sword will be shot by those of us who have progressed

#16 BCap

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 03:44 PM

Were enlisted men even allowed to have sidearms? And, soldiers weren't usually given new weapons in the field, were they?

#17 brndirt1

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Posted 21 July 2010 - 03:56 PM

Were enlisted men even allowed to have sidearms? And, soldiers weren't usually given new weapons in the field, were they?


Yes, the enlisted men were allowed to have sidearms. Generally speaking they weren't issued one, but they were free to carry them if they found, purchased, or swapped something of their own for them. My now deceased Uncle Bob carried a S&W .38 Special that he had owned before he enlisted, and had sent to him while he was in training for the Combat Engineers.

As to getting "new" weapons in the field, I think (as others have already mentioned) that this was dependent on various factors and not a hard and fast policy that covered everybody, everywhere.
Happy Trails,
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#18 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 22 July 2010 - 01:06 AM

I remember seeing a poster on another forum insisting that the BAR wasn’t used in the ETO. Why? Because he didn’t see any in Band of Brothers. People fall into a trap when they think that because they see something in Band of Brothers or The Pacific (or in a video game) that it is the definitive truth. Band of Brothers is probably one of the most accurate war films made & it is still full of errors & artistic license. [/FONT]


Of course he didn't. The BAR was not issued to parachute units in the US Army. They had M1 rifles and M1918A3 or 4 Browning machineguns issued.

#19 brndirt1

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Posted 22 July 2010 - 01:09 AM

Of course he didn't. The BAR was not issued to parachute units in the US Army. They had M1 rifles and M1918A3 or 4 Browning machineguns issued.


They also carried the special, made for them M1A1 folding stock .30 Carbines in the paratroops. As well as those you listed.
Happy Trails,
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#20 BoltActionSupremacy

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Posted 31 July 2010 - 12:40 PM


I remember seeing a poster on another forum insisting that the BAR wasn’t used in the ETO. Why? Because he didn’t see any in Band of Brothers.


You can see one in the Market Garden episode in Neunen (dont know how its spelt) when they all bunch around a corner just before they spot the tiger. This person clearly hadn't watched it in enough detail :P

#21 papabyrd

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 01:41 AM

Hand guns were issued to support personal like cooks ,clerks, supply personal,any behind the lines people.Then they found that most of these people had never seen a pistol let alone shot one and could not hit the side of a barn at 10 feet.So the pistols were taken back and carbines put in there place. It is much easier to teach a man to shoot a rifle than a pistol. papabyrd

#22 1ST Chutes

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Posted 01 October 2010 - 07:11 PM

One of my Uncles was a mortarman with 3/25 he was issued a carbine. Another was a wireman in the 3rd Armor, issued a carbine.

#23 belasar

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Posted 01 October 2010 - 09:13 PM

I have read, but cannot confirm, that the M-1 carbine was a popular war trophy for Germans. Supposedly they liked its lightness and ease of operation.
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#24 Spartanroller

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Posted 01 October 2010 - 09:32 PM

Check this thread; although it is underdeveloped so far, it'll get there.

http://www.ww2f.com/...ed-weapons.html
Cheers, Nigel :)

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#25 lordofmacedon

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Posted 25 November 2010 - 01:22 AM

The carbine was given to artillary men, jeep drivers, and medics to have better protection than a pistol. I read the book pacific and on the cover I saw some men carrying carbines. sadly I'm not sure if it was hollywood that incorrectly viewed it or if regular soilder were actually given carbines. Thier might have been some who looted or traded weopens with others but I can't positivley say that regular soilders were given carbines or not.




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