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"US Airborne weaponry Battle of the Bulge?" Topic

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906 hits since 5 Dec 2017
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Comments or corrections?

Fred Cartwright05 Dec 2017 10:00 a.m. PST

What weapons were US Airborne using by the Bulge? I know they acquired BAR's would they have been 1 or more per squad by then? What about the M1919A6 "LMG's"? Any other differences from standard US Infantry?

Steve Wilcox05 Dec 2017 10:30 a.m. PST

See my post here, near the bottom:
TMP link

Fred Cartwright05 Dec 2017 11:13 a.m. PST

Interesting. The weapons that are designated optional use would the BAR be used instead of the M1919A6 or as well as? That is the official TO&E, but what was the practice? Did they acquire more BAR's like regular US infantry did? Were the M1919A6's always used?

Legion 405 Dec 2017 12:31 p.m. PST

At the Bulge AFAIK they used whatever they could get their hands on at the time. They got ammo, grenades and about anything else they could from retreating US Forces as they move into place before they dug in. What the official TO&Es listed vs. what was on hand and what was in practice, in a critical situation like this, varied generally.

andysyk05 Dec 2017 2:46 p.m. PST

They did a tail gate jump for the Bulge so I would say they deployed with both BAR and LMG in a squad, as Legion 4 says they were short on Ammo but I think you would take along all available firepower, expecting an ammo supply at some stage.
LMG's would have been deployed as much as possible because of doctrine and experience.
More SMG's were carried than the TOE allowed and generally Carbines were not favoured being swapped out for Rifles when possible. However I doubt that any squad was identical to another in weaponry. I have read quite a bit about the Parachute Infantry and conversed with a lot of people on line and opinions still differ about these aspects however I don't think you will be out of line with an LMG and BAR per squad, and maybe a couple of SMG's if you want.

Skarper06 Dec 2017 4:44 a.m. PST

There is a website

The author was in the 101st as a paratrooper and went into some detail about small arms and squad automatic weapons. He was adamant that his unit didn't use BARs – in Normandy at least. He also said that after trying the M1919A6 [I think for Market-Garden] they converted them all back to A4s. Allegedly they were too heavy and clumsy.

Legion 406 Dec 2017 7:44 a.m. PST

They did a tail gate jump for the Bulge
Yes, based on my experience you can carry a lot more deploying from a truck (or APC), etc. Than by a troop with a parachute … Now dropping supplies by chute is another situation and topic entirely …

Allegedly they were too heavy and clumsy.
Yes again based on my experience in the distant past, that is always a consideration. When deploying by parachute or from a helicopter, even, i.e. rappelling from or actual helicopter landing …

Disclaimer: I was not with the 101 at the Bulge or any where else in WWII. But many years later … '80-'83 … However, some aspects of Light Infantry Ops remain constant as well as similar.

Skarper06 Dec 2017 8:32 a.m. PST

I can't find the reference of that site now it may be buried somewhere.

The deal with the M1919A6 was that being bipod mounted it was harder to get the gun onto the target rapidly enough. On a tripod it swings more freely.

The weight saving was modest so the troopers did not feel the trade off was worth it. This retromodification was as I remember an unofficial unit field mod. Not necessarily very widespread.

Steve Wilcox06 Dec 2017 9:37 a.m. PST

Disclaimer: I was not with the 101 at the Bulge or any where else in WWII.
Just like you weren't at Gettysburg, right? Hmmm… :)

Legion 406 Dec 2017 3:00 p.m. PST

I will neither confirm nor deny those rumors … wink

Starfury Rider07 Dec 2017 3:26 a.m. PST

Something of an eternal question with no single answer as far as BARs go. The official T/Os for Sep42 and Aug44 both omit the BAR entirely with the pairing of a BAR and M1919 per Squad (with the BAR marked for 'optional use as directed') only coming in the Dec44 T/O.

Two things we can be sure of; the Airborne Divs deployed to the Ardennes were in reserve, preparing for future operations, so units were at varying levels of personnel and equipment, and certainly no one was yet on the Dec44 T/Os just coming out of Washington.

Fort Benning has a PDF library collection which includes lots of reports prepared in the immediate post-war years on experiences in the ETO and PTO. There are about half a dozen by Para Inf Coy officers in the Ardennes and more from Bn/Regtl officers.


I've had a superficial scan through today and the majority make very little mention of anything but crew served weapons such as LMGs(M1919-, with no specific reference to A4 and A6 types, though one report notes a lack of mounts for both LMGs and mortars), 60-mm and 81-mm mortars and rocket launchers. For the most part there is no direct reference to M1 rifles or carbines, SMGs or BARs.

There are three Platoon CO reports on there, one annoyingly a 404 file (Capt Meyers, G Co, 505 PIR). That for 3rd Pl, Co A, 504 PIR of Feb45 gives a very detailed Pl org. Unfortunately, it's for a Pl that's been shattered and the fragments effectively glued back together, mixed in with survivors from elsewhere in the Coy. Their 1st Squad had eight men (2 BARs, 1 TSMG, 5 rifles), the 2nd ten men (2 TSMG, 8 rifles), plus an LMG team (3 men), an officer and Pl Sgt.

An earlier report from Sep44 from 3rd Pl, E Co, 505 PIR, makes several references to BARs as well as LMGs; they had LMGs attached from HQ Coy so I'm not sure if these were Pl LMGs or Bn ones.

The Dec44 reports make a few mentions of weapons being with ordnance for maintenance and repair, so what they got back, sometimes rather hurriedly, may have been different to what they had given over.


Legion 407 Dec 2017 7:39 a.m. PST

Two things we can be sure of; the Airborne Divs deployed to the Ardennes were in reserve, preparing for future operations,
Yes, that is very true and they were not really prepared to go directly into battle. And in reality were sent along with many other units to plug the holes where the Germans penetrated.

So based on many things we know from here and elsewhere. What they had on hand and took into the Ardennes would probably vary. But I'd think the Infantrymen would have M1s, M1 Carbines, a few Thompson SMGs, probably some BARS and some .30 cal MGs of various types. Along with a few "Bazookas", some 60mm mortars and 81s …

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