Tuesday, September 29, 2020

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National Archives

1Lt Paddock was coming down the trail to where 1st Squad was bivouacked, he had a new man with him. Hebert was the first to notice, he nudged Gammell and said, "Check it out Charlie, new meat."

Gammell gave his buddy Bear an annoyed look, "We're all new at some point, but this guy doesn't look new, not even a little bit."

"Hey Bear, where's your squad leader?"

"He's over in that dugout we've been working on."

"Thanks, come on Gentile. Oh, yeah, this is Flavio Gentile, he's in your squad now. He's just getting back from hospital, he took one in the chest on D + 10. He's all better now."

The new man chuckled and said, "Two inches to the right I'd be dead, an inch to the left I'd be back in the States. But here I am, all better now."

Paddock and the new man found Sgt Jack Wilson deep in conversation with his assistant squad leader, Cpl Melvin Katz, "Cat" to his buddies. Cat was pissed off, Duck had managed to damage his B.A.R. and the company armorer had told them it was unsalvageable.

"Well, that's just wonderful, but hey, we're not supposed to have two..." Wilson noticed his lieutenant standing by, waiting. "Oh, hey L.T., what can I do you for?"

"Cuppla things, first, we received some new guys this morning, this one is yours, Private First Class Flavio Gentile." The lieutenant pronounced the new guy's name "gen tile," which immediately made Cat laugh.

"Hey, L.T., to me you're all gentiles!"

Before Paddock could respond, the new guy spoke, "Hey lootenant, it's pronounced 'gen tee lay,' come on, don't they teach youse guys Italian at West Point?"

"Where you from?" Wilson thought the accent sounded familiar.

"Philly."

Jumping back in so that the men didn't wander too far down the "old home week" path, the lieutenant said, "Okay, PFC Gentile," he pronounced it correctly this time, "was hit on D + 10, he's been in the hospital since then. He was in another battalion in the division, now he's ours. He's been a rifleman since day one, which was?" He glanced at Gentile.

"North Africa lootenant."

"So yeah, he's been around. I'll leave you to get acquainted. Oh, by the way, I have good news and bad news."

Wilson and Katz both sighed, Wilson spoke, "Tell us the bad news first L.T."

"You've got to turn in one of your B.A.R.s, sorry but you're only supposed to have one."

Katz started laughing, then stopped and said, "That's okay L.T., apparently Duck broke his, the armorer says it's a wreck. I'm gonna need another Garand now."

"So what's the good news L.T.?" Wilson chimed in.

"Gentile, hand me that bag I gave you to carry."

"No problem lootenant, it was gettin' kinda heavy anyways."

"Open 'er up Jack."

Wilson proceeded to do just that, inside were two Thompson submachine guns, new webbing for both weapons, and extra magazines, already loaded. "Damn. Who gets these?"

"You get one, Cat gets one. Cap'n wants his NCOs to carry these. Kraut sergeants all seem to have submachine guns, Cap'n felt we should too. So he traded for 'em."

"What did he trade?" Cat had to ask, he was the curious type.

"You didn't hear it from me, but he traded battalion's extra Jeep."

"Whoa, the major ain't gonna be happy." Wilson commented.

"I know, right now he thinks the Belgians stole it."

"Why would he think that?"

"Because our First Sergeant told him that. I have no intention of questioning that, I mean the First Sergeant knows everything, right?"

As Wilson and Katz were both examining their new weapons, they had been semi-ignoring the lieutenant. "Uh, right Sir, whatever you say Sir." Wilson grinned as he said it.

"So where is that B.A.R. that Duck broke?"

"The armorer, Tech Corporal Bastien kept it. Said we had too many anyhow. Bastard wouldn't give me another Garand though." Katz was still a little pissed at that.

"Well, you have two extra Garands now. Give him one of those." PFC Gentile offered that suggestion.

"There you go." the lieutenant said. "Your new guy is already fitting right in. I'll leave you gentlemen to it. Carry on."

"Yessir, L.T.!" Both Wilson and Katz barked that out.

After the lieutenant left, Cat looked at Wilson and said, "How 'bout that, we got ourselves a couple of Tommy guns!"

"Yeah, we'd fit right in in Chicago."

"Philly too." Gentile offered.

Both men laughed, then Wilson said, "Okay, Gentile, you're going to Cat's section, Cat send McWhorter over here, tell him he's Cajun's assistant on the B.A.R. seeing as how Duck is now just another rifleman."

As Katz and Gentile started to walk away, Wilson spoke up again, "One last thing, Gentile you gotta nickname?"

"The guys in my old squad called me Philly."

"All right, Philly it is, unless you earn a new one."

"Gotcha Sarge."


"Why did L.T. give you guys Thompsons?" McWhorter, one of the new recruits they'd received before getting into Germany, wanted to know.

"Well, Mac, Garands have the range, so does the B.A.R., but in these woods, range doesn't mean all that much. Sometimes you just want to bring down fire on the Krauts as fast as possible. Thompsons are good at that. The .45 round won't carry that far, but if it hits you, you're going down."

Pvt Virgil Kennedy chimed in, "They're good for city fighting too."

Having heard of the fighting in Aachen, which had just begun, everyone got real quiet.

"Wonderful, just wonderful. I hadn't thought of that Virg, but you're right. For now we're out here on the flank, but we could get drawn into the fight for the city."

"Yeah, wonderful."

The men all looked at each other, no one wanted to say a word. The loss of Red Thomas was still on their minds. They knew that Aachen would be tough. As Bear said, "Krauts will fight hard to hold that place, any bets on Hitler already promising to shoot anyone who quits?"

No one took that bet.

Sherman and M-10 in Aachen, October 1944
(Source)




88 comments:

  1. Among my bucket list items - were I to keep such a thing - the firing of a Thompson figures prominently, if for no other reason that it seems like it would be fun and historical.

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    1. That's on my list as well, as is firing an MP 40.

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    2. I don't know how things are today but last year you could do that in Las Vegas at a rental place...

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    3. Hadn't thought of that. Something to look into!

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    4. Don't have to go to Vegas - the range I work at here in NC rents several types of full auto guns, including a Thompson. Also included are an AK, an M4, a P90, an MP5 (my favorite), and a SAW (!!) among others. LOTS of fun!! but they do drain your pocketbook for the ammo, especially now. In fact, we may have put a hold on shooting some of them until ammo becomes more available.

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    5. The place in Vegas seems to have very reasonable prices.
      Shoot a Thompson Machine Gun in Las Vegas | The Range 702www.therange702.com

      But hey, North Carolina is way nicer!

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    6. Old shooting buddy has one. It IS hard to control on full auto but is lots of fun to shoot. I even hunted jackrabbits with it on our West Texas deer lease many, many years ago. And no, I didn't hit a one.

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    7. Sounds like fun, not for the jackrabbits, but I think you knew that.

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    8. We had some on the old FRAM Destroyers for the Landing Party and would occasionally familiarization fire everything we had (Carbine, Garands, BAR, Thompsons, .30 Browning M1919A4, and .45 autos). Thompson was really sexy looking, but heavy, and mostly uncontrollable after 2-3 rounds. GOod for intimidation factor, but not confidence building on the ability to hit much after the first shot.
      JB

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    9. Short bursts are your friends.

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  2. Those suckers are heavy. I shot a semi once, and I hardly felt it. Dad said it would walk on you when you fired it. I always wanted an M3. Those looked just right and fired pretty slow. I still do want, very want.....

    I got a chance to walk in the "armory" at the LPD with dad once. They had four Thompsons sitting in a rack with a gas gun (I didn't know what that was then.) I asked if anyone would notice if they lost one, and then grinned... No one got upset they just smiled... I was among similar minded guys.

    I miss the good old days when police were civilians, and didn't walk around with superman complex.

    A few years later, one of the captains went to monitor a barricaded suspect call. He wanted to shoot the gas gun. He put the round over the house and into the alley where the rest of the police were staging. Some one took it away from him and sent a round into the window. The house burned, but I don't remember if they got the guy out or not. Simpler times....

    Remember how pungent those tents were? We had some in boy scouts....

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    1. Nothing like the smell of canvas which has gotten wet, only semi-dried out, folded up, then put up again. Some good memories there.

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    2. We had a war surplus tent growing up. First rule of unpacking at home was to hang the tent in the garage and spread it so as to air it out and dry it properly. The tent, WWII, maybe Korea issue, is still alive in the family with my oldest brother.

      Taken care of, a canvas tent is a wonderful thing.

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    3. Thanks for the reminder about the smell of the canvas tents - good Boy Scout memories!
      Thompsons are heavy, which really mitigates a lot of the recoil, and the proper grip and stance and trigger control helps keep the muzzle on target.
      I also miss the days when police were peace officers and not law enforcement officers - the distinction between the two is big - glad there are still a few of the former around, but they are too few. The latter is epitomized by the one arresting and tasing the lady outdoors at a football game for not wearing a mask. And other supposed adults just watch it happen without objection!

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    4. Worked at a prison for a while. During a large protest, the deputy warden was given a Thompson....and he kept trying to close the bolt, and eventually succeeded. Rank may have its privileges, but it can also be very rank.
      Frank

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  3. All it takes is $1500.00 up to to $4200.00(for the gold-plated version) of the 1927A1's from Auto Ordnance...but with the Pandemic and riots who knows the real cost now. Dad told me a couple of time he carried one when they went off base while he was stationed at Keflavik but he never had to use it. Pew pew pew Sarge!

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    1. Ah, if I only had the dough. Betcha the ammo would be the real show stopper though. No such thing as firing only a few rounds through a Thompson, is there?

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    2. But it's not the same being restricted to finger-pull pew. Stupid 'we're not infringing on your rights to keep and bear arms' infringements! Stupid NFA, GCA, etc!

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    3. All weapon laws are un-Constitutional. Not just firearms. Knives (on sticks and otherwise) and other things to keep the government honest.

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    4. you can add another zero before the decimal point for full auto versions - the law of supply and demand thanks to the gun control law of 1986 which prohibited sale of full auto guns manufactured after that date to 'civilians'

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    5. I often wonder which part of "shall not be infringed" these f**king politicians don't understand.

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    6. All of it!

      And, yes, all weapons and defense restriction laws are patently unconstitutional. Really makes it important to only appoint constitutionalists to the Supreme Court, not interpretationalists, if you know what I mean.

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    7. Yeah, not paying attention to the 2A bothers me. However,

      "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" has me livid. How the hell they justifying there "Laws" about size of church services. And why (with the only exception I know of the Pastor our in CA) aren't the clergy up in arms about it?

      The crap going on is EXACTLY what the Founding Fathers put that amendment in the Constitution and EXACTLY why it is the First.

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    8. Yup, overreach by a lot. Bastards.

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  4. What's that middle GI cradling? Looks like it might be a Reising...?

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    1. It's actually a Thompson, but it does look a little bit like a Reising doesn't it?

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  5. This story had me laughing! I once had a motor sergeant who would tell me, "Sir, ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies". I quickly learned to avoid "seeing" things whenever I walked into the maintenance bays in the Motor Pool. Heck, he kept the company's motor vehicles and generators in tip-top condition. Another time, during a Brigade IG inspection, it was discovered one of the companies (not mine) had an extra deuce-and-a-half truck (not on the Property Book) in their motor pool! Kept their readiness ratings higher since whenever a truck went down, they just didn't report it as they used the spare truck to accomplish the mission. Good times and memories...

    -Barry

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    1. In my time in aircraft maintenance it always surprised me how the old timers got things done. Not always by the book logistics-wise, but always with safety of flight in mind.

      A whole extra truck, nice.

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    2. It was not unheard of in the past that some units kept extra equipment, hidden of course, all spiffed up and ready for inspection. Like having spare belt buckles, but, well, larger. From what I heard, it was lucky units that had that.

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  6. I wanted to add something I would quote to young Officers and NCOs:
    "Being faithful to the process is not the same as being successful. - STRATFOR"

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  7. A veteran of North Africa and still a private? Hmmm... may be a good trooper but there's a reason for no extra rockers. Wonder if he has 'discipline issues' when not in a war zone, or if he's a prolific scrounger. Looking forward to seeing him develop as a character, as it sounds like he is a character.

    And now I am wondering if I'm reading your mind again.

    And nice work on the accent.

    Good story, as usual.

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    1. How on God's green Earth do you do that?

      Might just be a case of great minds think alike?

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    2. I score very high at inferring meanings from surrounding words. Same with good stories. Wife and I play 'guess the plot' within 5 minutes of starting to watch a movie or tv show. We are not surprised very often.

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    3. I once worked with an Irish-descended Command Sergeant Major whose father, a WW2 European theater enlisted infantry veteran with multiple Silver Stars, was busted in rank three times for fighting. The fourth time he got into a fight, he was provided a field commission to 2LT. He stopped fighting his fellow Soldiers after that. I'll look for the source document that I read years ago. FWIW, the CSM was also an ass-kicker.

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  8. "The .45 round won't carry that far, but if it hits you, you're going down." a nice myth but far from the truth. All depends on bullet placement, like any other pistol caliber round. (Discounting the .454 Casull, the .460 and .500 Smith and Wessons, which are a bit over the top and which might live up to that belief since they are artillery cartridges fired from handguns! well, almost)

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    1. Explain that to the Moros, remember this story is set in 1944.

      Have you ever been hit by a .45?

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    2. In comparison to the .38Special, the .45Long Colt, the 9mm Europellet, yes, the .45 was the knockout king.

      Remember, everyone was supposed to be firing ball (FMJ) ammunition. So you end up with much the same situation as in black powder, size matters as past a certain point 'go really fast' small diameter bullets on a straight trajectory do less damage than a garbage can going 2/3rds the speed. Thus the lowly .45ACP was known, due to tossing more mass down range, albeit slower, as a man-stopper while the 9mm superspeedy was known to pop holes that were surprisingly survivable as long as nothing major was hit.

      A Thompson or M3 chug-chug-chugging was a controllable spray machine. This was covered in that stupid Warrior vs Warrior tv show, when the Yakuza was compared to the Chicago Mob. A fast spraying 9mm smg just doesn't have the penetration nor the physical damaging characteristics, nor the aimability, of the Chicago Typewriter.

      Now, yes, modern bullet design, yada yada yada, yes you can get great wounding and killing ability out of a smaller bullet. But apply those same design techniques to the old-school .45ACP, expanding ammo with talons/razors/mushrooming jacket, and the old man round still does more damage than a lesser round.

      Especially when fired out of a decent .45ACP gun, not some knackered, knocked-together, armory pos. My dad's squadron in Korea's armorer had 3 squadron's worth of M1911A1s issued to it to play with. Said armorer took all the guns apart, rejected all bad pieces and pieced together a squadron's worth of guns. At which the squadron started winning pistol competitions.

      The pistol rule of thumb is shoot what you can. The .45ACP? It has a lot of 'can' to shoot with, especially when everyone is restricted to FMJ.

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    3. No, I haven't been hit with a .45 ACP - and I wouldn't volunteer, either - wouldn't volunteer to be hit with any bullet! Just that the .45 is so surrounded by myths like "hit someone in the big thumb and they'll be knocked down". Granted, the sentiment would hold up at the time of the story is set - I wasn't taking exception to it in the context of the story, and it was certainly MUCH better than the .38's against the Moros and anyone else, especially given the ball ammo of the time. I agree with Beans that modern bullet design helps smaller bullets, and the modern design .45 bullets are at least marginally better in theory. But bullet placement is still key in stopping someone, and a lot of people shoot a 9mm better than a .45 ACP. Note also that there is a big difference in stopping someone and killing them. Many folks are killed with a 40 grain .22 long rifle bullet, yet they often don't die for quite a while (exceptions being when they are shot in the head behind the ear at close range).

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    4. I was just reminding folks that people in 1944 thought highly of the .45 round.

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  9. A sergeant once told me that shooting a 45 is like throwing a brick through a plate glass window

    In close quarters I would think that Thompson would be devastating

    I don’t think in the army you ever saw anyone with a Thompson in that round magazine?

    And the thought occurred to me when you were in the army in World War II there was no rotating out when your time was up was there?

    You were in for the duration I think

    As always, good episode Sarge!

    Where would the military be in war time without the scroungers?

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    1. I've never seen any pictures of Americans in North Africa or the ETO with the drum magazine for the Thompson. Up close the Thompson is very effective. Aircrew did rotate out after X number of missions (X kept increasing during the war). If you were a ground pounder you were in for the duration, at the front.

      Scroungers are very useful.

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    2. The drum mag was found to be heavy and cumbersome and subject to malfunctions. Thus, the later Thompsons weren't even designed to fit the drum. A simple stick mag is simpler, less prone to malfunctions, and one can actually carry more rounds more comfortably.

      Still... drums are cool looking. But add a lot of weight to an already heavy gun, make it bulky sideways, etc.

      As to the effectiveness of the Thompson, surprisingly it was partially due to it's lower cyclic rate and it's weight, both making it an easier gun to keep on target and even do aimed fire with, rather than spray and pray.

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    3. You need the violin case to carry a drum magazine Thompson ;-) Interesting about the lower cyclic rate. In the Army the only time I fired weapons was in basic training - then it was radar scopes. But I never understood the usefulness of a full-auto M-16. Within 1/2 second that barrel was rising. I guess that's why they modified it later to just shoot 3 round bursts. The drill sgt would jump on you if he heard more than a few rounds go. I would bet in inexperienced hands that barrel would go---who knows where.

      Now the M-60? With the tracers and a bipod that was like pointing a long-range garden hose :-)

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    4. William - Heh, violin case, love it!

      As for tracers, they are a lovely way of saying "Here I am! Shoot me first!"

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    5. Tracers are also good for starting brush fires at the shooting range - DAMHIK :-)
      And Beans is spot on, as usual - we have a drum for range use and it is a PITA to keep working. The same also goes for almost every other type of drum magazine for other full auto guns like AK and M4.

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  10. Circa 1963 the diesel boat Icalled home carried 1911A1 pistiol and Thompsons in the weapons locker. Only one size cartridge. The ultimate in commonality. We would surface somewhere and muster topside for weapons refresher training. Empty 5 gal. cans (coffee, milk, flour,etc. were the targets. All hands fired one magazine pistol and Thompson. The torpedomen did all waepons maintenance. Old Guns

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    1. Nice!

      Commonality of ammunition eases the logistics burden a lot!

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    2. Pistol and long gun using the same ammo has been a thing for a long time for good reasons - very popular in the Old West ...

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  11. I forgot to mention we used stick magazines.

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  12. "Because they don't issue a .46"

    I always enjoy the great caliber debate!🙂

    I wonder if the German soldiers worried about the specifics of our U.S. weapons?

    The tale is really taking off and a fun morning read. Thanks Sarge!

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    1. Yes, the Germans did worry about the specifics of our weapons. The .30-06 was designed as a long-range horse-killer (no, really, shoot a horse at a thousand yards and still get a kill...) and had excellent penetration through concealment, cover, walls, light-skinned vehicles, other people. The Germans did exactly what we did when our armory guys got ahold of their stuff, tested the living daylights out of it to see why their troopers kept getting shot through walls, light skinned vehicles, other people...

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    2. Shaun - For my money, and based on experience, the Thompson was a better weapon than it's German equivalent, the MP 40. The M1 Garand was head and shoulders above the K98k AND the StG 44.

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    3. Beans - The 7.92 mm is a pretty good round, will go through damned near anything. But bolt action is so late-19th Century, .30-06 is awesome, coupled with a semi-automatic platform and you have a war winner.

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    4. @ Beans "Yes, the Germans did worry about the specifics of our weapons."

      Interesting story about that starting at the 6:50 mark in this video--

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FF0qH_zvfdU

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    5. The Germans certainly worried about the US use of shotguns in WWI, complaining about how 'inhumane' they were!
      And Ken Hackathorn does have good stories. I'm glad I've had a chance to train with him. He has another video about the Thompson that's informative.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlM-ajb8G7o

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    6. That was very interesting what he said about the M1 carbine. About the range, the magazines and what the Germans preferred

      I always viewed it is kind of a toy gun

      Once you learn to deal with its idiosyncrasies it looked pretty good

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  13. The Tommy Gun ranks right up there as one of the coolest weapons ever, along with the Samurai sword, Flamethrower, A-10 Thunderbolt, the MOAB, F-14 Tomcat, Barrett M82, Colt 1911, Sherman Tank, and the S-3B Viking.

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    1. Ah yes, the Mighty War Hoover, an iconic symbol of American power. (Wait, what?)

      The F-4 Phantom was missing from your list, as was the Thud and the Jug. But it is your list, as Lex might have said.

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    2. Did you ever play Iron Hand on a Strike U det in the Viking Tuna? I rode along on a couple in about '83. Of course that was in the definitive mark, the S-3A. ;-)

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    3. Inquiring minds...

      Well, didja?

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    4. Well, we were doing Strike U dets, but nothing called Iron Hand that I recall. More info if you please. I knew I'd raise an eyebrow or two with the Hoover on that list. Tongue in cheek a little there, but I loved it of course. The list is not all inclusive so I am happy to add the Phantom. I have little familiarity with the others, although I'm sure I read about them on a Friday Flyby.

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    5. Iron Hand - suppression of enemy air defenses, a Vietnam era term, don't know if they still call it that.

      Or does it refer to the pilot's deftness on the controls?

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    6. Yep, Iron Hand was SEAD; in '83 we were still using a lot of Vietnam terminology. IIRC the term was still in use up until '94 in the airwings I hung out with. The profile I experienced in my ride alongs wad pure Veet-nam; drive in low level, pop to circa 8-10k, get a SAM up the ass, roll in and pickle blue death, debrief at the club. Iron Hand was usually reserved for the A-7's but on the big alpha strikes at Fallon the S-3s pitched in. It was fun but getting slow and getting shot made me realize that such an attempt in real live combat would perhaps not be survivable. But as I said, it was fun at Fallon.

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    7. PA #1 - It's what I like to call WWW -> Wild Weasel Work. For obvious reasons, well obvious to me. (Two seater Thuds specialized for Iron Hand were known as Wild Weasels, later a number of F-4Cs were modified for the role, we had a bunch on Okinawa.)

      Getting slow makes one a fine target, serious pucker factor I would imagine.

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    8. I assumed AGL, at Fallon the terrain is pretty high so AGL would make sense.

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  14. War-Hoover? Really?
    Have shot a number of US-issued SMG's and of WWII issue, I'll take the M3A1 as the best weapon. Easy to shoot, compact and simple.
    Boat Guy

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    1. agree about the grease gun - very easy to maintain and to shoot. Of the more modern sub guns, my favorite would be the MP5/MP5SD. Very controllable and accurate and lots of fun.

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    2. Boat Guy - The "grease gun" was handy for tank crews as well.

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    3. Tom - When I was with the Security Augmentation Force in Germany we were just about to transition to the MP5 from the G3. I missed it as I got promoted, apparently Master Sergeants don't pull guard duty. I told them I didn't mind, I really wanted to shoot the MP5 and carry it while on duty. I was told to shut up and keep coloring...

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    4. Uhh, did you SEE my avatar? I'm a Viking guy!!!

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    5. Sarge- yeah, as we grow up we don't get to play with the good toys anymore!

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    6. Tuna #1 - Well, it is a pretty tiny picture...

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    7. Tuna #2 - I know, but the money was better.

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