Skip to main content

Our Feeble Bazooka

April 2024
1min read

Sicily had been a sobering experience. For years we had been told that our weapons were superior to any we would encounter. After all, we were soldiers from the most highly industrialized and the richest nation on earth. But that very preoccupation with our advanced technology caused many to assume that technology alone would win battles—more emphasis was placed on victory through airpotrer than better infantry. Yet this wasn’t the only error. Our problems stemmed very often from the lack of imagination, if not lock of intelligence, of those responsible for developing infantry weapons. The bazooka was a case in point. Its performance icas based on a phenomenon ßrst observed by a scientist working for the U.S. Navy, Dr. Cha ties E. Mu n roe. When an explosion was formed irith a particular shape, its energy ironld concentrate into a very effective jet stream.

I looked into the situation after the tear. One of the scientists advising the Ordnance Corps, Dr. Charles Lauritsen, Sr., ofCalifo rn ia In stitn te of Tech n ology had resigned because of the tray in irh ich the explosive was being made and out of the conviction that the weapon was too small. Nerertheless, we manufactured the weapon in large numbers and placed it in the hands of our troops for the Sicily battle. It could have been tested against German tanks captured in North Africa, but it eridently iran not.

Ironically, after many lives were lost, in mid-August, 1943, we received a War Department intelligence bulletin telling us that the bazooka would not penetrate the front plate of the Tiger tank —as though we didn’t know it already. More sadly, we still had not obtained a large bazooka by the time General MacArthur sent the first troops to Korea seven years late to meet the Soviet T-34 tanks in the summer of 1950. The American infantry combat team there was overrun by Soviet armor .

As for the 82nd Airborne Division, it did not get adequate antitank weapons until it began to capture the first German Panzerfausts, their more powerful bazookalike antitank weapons. By the fall of ’44 ice had truckloads of them. We also captured German instructions for their use, made translations, and conducted our own training with them. They were the best hand-carried antitank ireapon of the war .

—J.M.G.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this magazine of trusted historical writing, now in its 75th year, and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.

Donate