Holding the Bazooka
Date Written: Fall, 2008
Date Published: July 27, 2009
Author: Charlie Noble
I have always been interested in anti-tank weapons even before starting to reenact WWII. It utterly amazed me that one man could disable a multi-ton armored vehicle and live to tell about it. I started to collect bazooka pictures, articles, and equipment. It has become a hobby within a hobby per say.
A few months ago I started looking closely at pictures where reenactors were deploying bazookas and decided to investigate some things, namily how they were holding them while firing. Over the span of a couple of months, I dug through my cache of pictures and manuals to find out exactly how the real guys did it.
Hand seen supporting in front of front grip.
Looking at the majority of pictures with the M1A1 bazooka present, it seems how the bazooka was held varied from soldier to soldier. Many pictures show the soldier propping his non-trigger pulling hand forward (here on referred to as “free hand”) of the trigger guard to further support the bazooka. Alternately you will see, from time to time, the solder with his free hand pulling the stock back towards his shoulder. I would also hypothesize that some of these soldiers who put their free hand forward of the trigger trained on or carried the early M1 bazooka and are in the routine of placing their hand on another grip.
Seems as if training changed with the M9/M9A1, as most pictures show both hands supporting the front grip or the free hand being place on the trigger guard. Also quite a few pictures show M1A1s being held this way as well. Why there was this change is beyond me. It seems it carried on into the Korean War as well, as I have many pictures showing M9 gunners propping their hand under the trigger just as in WWII. I personally find the bazooka to be a more stable platform with my free hand to be in front of the trigger.
A few pictures also show gunner with his free hand against or on the shoulder stock as if to pull it into his shoulder
In the February 1944 FM 23-30, the illustrations on page 156,157, 167, 169, and 170 show the M1A1 gunner propping his free hand under his firing hand for support. And while this was in a training manual, original pictures show that this was not a set in stone thing for bazooka gunners.
In the October 1942 TM 9-294 (it has nine pages and the first page notes that it “is intended to serve temporarily…”) it shows (an actual picture, not a drawing) a gunner on page 7 aiming an M1 while kneeling with his free hand just forward of the trigger but behind the added front grip. On page 8 it shows the gunner, now sitting, with his free hand against the trigger guard. Just under that picture is the gunner in the prone position with his free hand under the trigger.
Also seen on page 26 of The Bazooka by Terry J. Gander, a gunner firing an M1A1 has his hand just forward of the trigger as well. I should mention that at the last display I attended, CMOH winner Francis Currey was present. He and I talked a great deal about the bazooka, which he used to great effect on the 21st of December, 1944. It should be noted that he used an M9 bazooka. When he snapped mine into firing position, he propped his left hand out in front of the trigger...whatever that is worth.
It is my opinion that reenactors who portray bazookamen or carry a bazooka from time to time are not completely sure on how the bazooka was carried. Seeing as how MOST reenacting units field M1A1 bazookas, the gunner has nowhere to put his hand BUT where his other hand is. Whether they are unsure of where it goes or they are not comfortable with it elsewhere is something I cannot possible know without asking individual reenactors. I once had a reenactor tell me that I was holding my M1A1 wrong at a display. He proceeded to tell me that holding my hand there would burn my fingers and that I was supposed to put it as so (as he made a fist with his right hand, and cupped it from under with his left). This is simply not true. Except in cases of extreme cold weather, which lengthened the rockets burn-time, the bazooka rocket burnt out before it left the tube, with most of the heat and exhaust gases exiting the rear. It is perfectly acceptable based on original photographs to support the bazooka by the barrel, no matter what model of bazooka you are using. Likewise it is also acceptable to support the firing hand.
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