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"US airborne: bipod LMGs and BARS, do they go together?" Topic


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Capt John Miller16 Jul 2013 11:40 a.m. PST

Hi all,

I am working on an American airborne unit. I am using OG and PP minis. I have both BAR and bipod LMG in the mixed baggie from OG as well as BAR from PP (PP minis look great BTW). I have thought about putting a BAR guy on each command stand to give them a "tougher" appearance, but did the airborne guys have both the bipod LMG and the BAR within a squad? So far, all the searching points to the bipod LMG was used in 43 or 44 onwards but nothing about the BAR. Any ideas?

TIA,

Marc

Gary Kennedy Inactive Member16 Jul 2013 12:16 p.m. PST

Get's kicked about quite a bit this one. If you can get the search function to work there are some old threads here on the same subject. Officially US Para Inf were authorised the M1919 as the Squad LMG, while the Glider Inf had the BAR. The Dec44 T/O allowed for a BAR or an LMG in the Para Squad. Unofficial equipment augmentation (scrounging) is ascribed to some Abn units fielding BARs they weren't supposed to have.

Gary

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member16 Jul 2013 12:18 p.m. PST

If you take it to mean anything they had MGs only in Band of Brothers.

kevanG16 Jul 2013 1:25 p.m. PST

US Para de-briefings' in Leicester on the Normandy campaign highlight the 82nd using bars on D-Day

vforvictory Inactive Member16 Jul 2013 1:48 p.m. PST

I seem to recall that the .30 cal LMG used until Op Market Garden was tripod mounted. The Bipod version not being issued until then although I could be wrong.

as for the BARs, The 505 PIR definitely had BARs during the Normandy drop. As evidence, during the battle of Neuville au Plain Sgt Niland led a BAR team covering LT Turnball's retreat.

LT Meyers of the 505 also stated:-

"Each rifle squad had a light machine gun and a Browning Automatic Rifle. One squad member was the assistant LMG gunner and the rest of the squad's riflemen had the additional duty of carrying added ammunition for the LMG. "

It may have been only the 505 carrying BARs as they were the only PIR with combat experience, however you would think that the 82nd commanders who were all battle tested would have passed on these lessons to the 507 and the 508. You would also think the 101st would have picked these lessons up as well.

Personally I'd base them both in your Squads but considering how much kit the PIRs lost you won't go wrong either way.

V

Uesugi Kenshin Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member16 Jul 2013 3:53 p.m. PST

Good info V. Thanks.

jowady16 Jul 2013 7:02 p.m. PST

There is a line in Band of Brothers at Hagenau (IIRC) where Webster asks one of the guys "where'd you get the BAR?" I think that way too little attention is given to the scrounging ability of the common soldier. My Dad always said that until VE Day the only time his unit had exactly regulation equipment was just before the ramp dropped on their LCMs . Note, they landed from LCMs but not on DDay.

Hornswoggler16 Jul 2013 7:51 p.m. PST

If you take it to mean anything they had MGs only in Band of Brothers.

There was at least one (later) episode of BoB where they had a BAR.

Toshach Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member16 Jul 2013 9:15 p.m. PST

Up through Normandy, the official org for an American Para platoon was two twelve-man squads, each with a 1919 LMG--no BARs. (Some 82nd units were equipped with BARs in Sicily).

Still as V says above, there are oral histories of the airborne in Normandy where a paratrooper described using a BAR.

So to get to the bottom of this, a few years ago I did some research. I gathered together every photograph of American paratroopers that I could reasonably verify was taken in England in the days right before the jump and in Normandy right up until the 82nd and 101st were shipped back to England for R&R.

I examined some 60 photographs which included over 150 paratroopers holding a personal weapon that I could confidently identify. I found that about 50% carried M-1 Garands, about 25% carried Thompson SMGs, and 25% carbines. I did not find a single BAR, not one.

Now, absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence, but it can make a pretty strong case for absence. While I would never say never, it seems unlikely that very many Paras would have given up the weapon they had trained with and trusted for a heavy BAR. Further, since BARs were not in the official Airborne org, ammunition would not have been issued.

So the evidence strongly suggests that few if any American paratroopers jumped into Normandy with a BAR. Further, the lack of photographic evidence showing the use of BARs by paratroopers in Normandy suggests that few if any chose to scrounge a BAR in exchange for their own weapon.

The only evidence I have found supporting the use of BARs by paratroopers in Normandy is a very few oral history cases, which are not always reliable.

So based on the weight of the data, I think we can conclude that very few, if any paratroopers carried a BAR in Normandy.

After Carentan, both divisions were shipped back to England and were reorganized along standard Army infantry TO&E, each platoon consisted of three 12-man squads, each with a BAR replacing the 1919s.

Griefbringer17 Jul 2013 4:38 a.m. PST

Further, since BARs were not in the official Airborne org, ammunition would not have been issued.

To my knowledge BAR used the same rifle cartridge as M1 Garand, M1903 Springfield and M1919 MG, so availability of suitable ammunition should not have been much of an issue.

On the other hand, obtaining spare parts, magazines, ammo bandoliers etc. might have been a little bit trickier, if needed.

kevanG17 Jul 2013 4:51 a.m. PST

"The only evidence I have found supporting the use of BARs by paratroopers in Normandy is a very few oral history cases, which are not always reliable."

"…were shipped back to England for R&R"

The Leicster debreif…straight from the horses mouth six weeks after the drop.

link

jgawne Inactive Member17 Jul 2013 8:32 a.m. PST

The problem was jumping with them. They are heavy and a load of ammo only adds to it. So the Army figured the added weight would make it easier for a guy to get hurt in the jump. Mark Bando at some point wrote about a fellow who proved it could be done on a practice jump in the UK pre-D-day.

In Normandy it was not common, and as I understand it the later T/O change was due to the fact that paratroops were more often in the lines than making a jump. Things could be swapped out for a jump if need be.

HarnessBlue Inactive Member17 Jul 2013 4:00 p.m. PST

All evidence I have seen for BARS in Normandy suggest they were dropped in bundles. I'll see if I can dig up the hard facts tonight. The reason you see them being carried is they were not dropped on the man, just like Bazookas (with a few exceptions that usually were accompanied by broken bones), M1919s, Mortars, and such. That would seem to explain the lack of them in photos. The 505th had them, there were a few in the 508. Seems to have only been in the 82nd, not the 101st.

Capt John Miller17 Jul 2013 6:24 p.m. PST

It was interesting to note that OG had BARs in the paratrooper pack. The LMGs were in the command/support pack.
This has been an interesting discussion. I am also thinking short of being there with both airborne divisions, we may never know the 100% truth.

There were also HMGs in the OG pack as well. I am assuming these were for the glider troops?

Griefbringer18 Jul 2013 8:11 a.m. PST

Glider battalions seem to have featured a single MG platoon with four M1917 MGs.

link

kevanG18 Jul 2013 10:55 a.m. PST

"I am also thinking short of being there with both airborne divisions, we may never know the 100% truth."

We know the 82nd had them and we don't know for sure if the 101st had any at all. We know that the battalion commanders were involved in getting them and that they wanted more than 1 per squad for future drops i.e 2.

It was also worth pointing out that they thought a loss of 3 out of 4 artillery guns was acceptable because even 1 gun was worth the effort.

HarnessBlue Inactive Member19 Jul 2013 12:49 p.m. PST

For .50s don't forget M2HB guns from the Anti-Aircraft/Anti-Tank battalions. For the 80th AA(AT) (82nd A/B) the HMGs were seaborne, while gilders dropped some of the AT batteries.

Number8 Inactive Member16 Aug 2013 1:07 p.m. PST

The book "An Irresistable Force" by Phil Nordyke about Lt-Col B. Vandervoort and the 2nd battalion, 505th parachute infantry (as part of the 82nd) mentions BARs being used in Normandy (p.69-70). In the first photo gallery there is a picture of parachute troopers moving along a hedgerow. There is one paratrooper looking back at the camera and he is carrying a BAR.

In the 2nd photo gallery there is a picture of paratroopers before boarding (for Nijmegen, September 17, 1944). One of the paratroopers has a BAR enclosed in a padded case and strappen to his right leg.

See also: link

So I agree with vforvictory: base them both in your Squads! I will.

Kaoschallenged Inactive Member16 Aug 2013 3:57 p.m. PST

I posted this in an earlier thread,
"In the Airborne from December of 1944 1 BAR was added to the Rifle Squad replacing 1 of the 2 M1919A6s"

Robert

Capt John Miller17 Aug 2013 6:55 a.m. PST

The thanks, as usual, goes out to the TMP crew for answering my queries.

The final result was that I based the LMGs and BARs separately in the squads as I am planning on using the airborne for both mid and late war (mostly LW).

In the end, it does not matter since it is the stand that matters and not how many individuals present or necessarily what they are carrying. The BF police might hunt me down since I used *gasp* OG, PP and BF minis in this army!

Griefbringer17 Aug 2013 10:44 a.m. PST

"In the Airborne from December of 1944 1 BAR was added to the Rifle Squad replacing 1 of the 2 M1919A6s"

I don't really get this – to my knowledge the para squads only had 1 M1919A6 per squad to start with.

Steve Wilcox17 Aug 2013 12:08 p.m. PST

I don't really get this to my knowledge the para squads only had 1 M1919A6 per squad to start with.
Parachute Rifle Squads:
17 February 1942 (12 men)
1 x Sergeant Squad Leader w/.30cal M1903 Rifle
1 x Corporal Assistant Squad Leader w/.45cal Submachinegun
1 x Private Machine Gunner w/.30cal M1919A4 LMG
1 x Private Assistant Machine Gunner w/M1 .30cal M1903 Rifle
7 x Private Rifleman w/M1 .30cal M1903 Rifle
1 x Private Ammunition Bearer w/M1 .30calM1903 Rifle
- each Squad can be reinforced with one of the two spare .30cal M1919A4 LMGs held at Platoon HQ
- each Squad member also has a .45cal pistol

24 February 1944 (12 men)
1 x Sergeant Squad Leader w/M1 .30cal Rifle
1 x Corporal Assistant Squad Leader w/M1 .30cal Rifle
1 x Private Machine Gunner w/.30cal M1919A4 LMG and M1 .30cal Carbine
1 x Private Assistant Machine Gunner w/M1 .30cal Rifle
7 x Private Rifleman w/M1 .30cal Rifle
1 x Private Ammunition Bearer w/M1 .30cal Rifle
- each Squad can be reinforced with one of the two spare .30cal M1919A4 LMGs held at Platoon HQ
- each Squad member also has a .45cal pistol
- one M7 Grenade Launcher per Squad

1 August 1944 (12 men)
1 x Staff-Sergeant Squad Leader w/M1 .30cal Rifle
1 x Sergeant Assistant Squad Leader (also serves as Demolitions NCO) w/M1 .30cal Rifle
1 x Private Machine Gunner w/.30cal M1919A6 LMG and M1A3 .30cal Carbine
1 x Private Assistant Machine Gunner w/M1A3 .30cal Carbine
7 x Private Rifleman w/M1 .30cal Rifle
1 x Private Ammunition Bearer w/M1A3 .30cal Carbine
- each Squad carries an extra .30cal M1919A6 for optional use
- .45cal pistols were no longer on the Squad's T/O&E until post-war, but apparently remained in use through-out the war
- one M7 Grenade Launcher per Squad

16 December 1944 (12 men)
1 x Staff-Sergeant Squad Leader w/M1 .30cal Rifle
1 x Sergeant Assistant Squad Leader (also serves as Demolitions NCO) w/M1 .30cal Rifle
1 x Private Machine Gunner w/.30cal M1919A6 LMG and M1A3 .30cal Carbine
1 x Private Assistant Machine Gunner w/M1A3 .30cal Carbine
7 x Private Rifleman w/M1 .30cal Rifle
1 x Private Ammunition Bearer w/M1 .30cal Rifle
- each Squad carries an extra .30cal M1918A2 BAR for optional use
- .45cal pistols were no longer on the Squad's T/O&E until post-war, but apparently remained in use through-out the war
- two M7 Grenade Launchers per Squad

Sourced from:
United States Army Ground Forces Tables of Organization and Equipment World War II: The Airborne Division 1942-1945 Volume 3/II by J.J. Hays
US Airborne Units in the Mediterranean Theater 1942-1944 by Gordon L. Rottman
US Airborne Divisions in the ETO 1944-1945 by Steven J. Zaloga.

Griefbringer17 Aug 2013 11:49 p.m. PST

Doh, I had forgotten about those spare MGs that the platoons had. Certainly a potent addition to squad firepower, but also extra weight that needs to be hauled around (gun and plenty of ammo).

BTW: has anybody seen accounts about what actually happened to those extra MGs when going to action?

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