WWII Gun clearing question


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answerguy
March 23, 2005, 11:04 AM
I'm watching "Memphis Belle" right now and just saw a scene were the crew cleared their 50 cals (shot a few rounds so they knew they worked) prior to approaching their target. It seems that all movies of this type show this happening. Was that a normal thing or just something that Hollywood added?
If real, is it because the guns were unreliable?

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Sergeant Sabre
March 23, 2005, 11:51 AM
So there I was, on a CH-53 just out of Camp Rhino, Afghanistan, on the way to Kandahar. The crew chief and crewman were manning the .50s and I was hoping for a calm, uneventful flight. About a minute or two into the flight my hopes were shattered by bang bang bang bang bang bang bang . I thought that we were receiving ground fire and the crew was returning fire. I tell ya, it's a helpless feeling being crammed into an aluminum box, not being able to see outside, thinking your under fire and all ya can do is sit there.

That feeling lasted about one second, before I realized the crew was doing just what you have described. A live-fire function check.

This happens all the time, actually. Before a patrol leaves (in the USMC, anyway), we were trained that everybody is supposed to get on line facing a backstop and fire one round in unison to make sure everybody's rifle was working that day.

Oh, and no. The M2 is very reliable . If it wasn't, it wouldn't still be around since before WWII.

2400
March 23, 2005, 01:13 PM
is it because the guns were unreliable?


It isn't because the guns are unreliable, it's to make sure YOUR gun is working on that day. No matter how reliable anything is, things do break or wear out. Since not only YOUR life but your buddies lives are on the line, function firing is a very good thing.

Joey2
March 23, 2005, 07:51 PM
Normal and smart. We did this in Vietnam before each patrol and operation.

mondocomputerman
March 23, 2005, 11:28 PM
Doesn't everyone test their CCW piece in the morning by shooting in the air? :neener:

Jeff White
March 23, 2005, 11:50 PM
It was SOP in every unit I was in to test fire weapons before an operation. I know several people here who test fire their daily carry weapons after they've cleaned them.

According to The Raid the story of the November 1970 raid on the Son Tay prison camp in North Vietnam, one of the things the raiders did during the few hours they spent in Thailand before the misson launched was to go to a local range and test fire all their weapons.

You will never find my duty weapon white glove clean, because after I clean it, I fire a magazine through it to make sure it all went together right.

Jeff

Missourigunner
March 23, 2005, 11:58 PM
I served with the Mobile Riverine Force in Vietnam, and it was Policy that whenever we started out on an operation, to test fire the Guns on the Boats.

Dbl0Kevin
March 24, 2005, 03:26 AM
You will never find my duty weapon white glove clean, because after I clean it, I fire a magazine through it to make sure it all went together right.

Doesn't that defeat the whole purpose of cleaning it though? :confused:

c_yeager
March 24, 2005, 03:40 AM
Doesn't that defeat the whole purpose of cleaning it though?

If the purpose of cleaning your gun is to make it pretty, then yes. If the purpose is to mantain it's function then, no. If the reliability of your weapon is compromised by firing a single magazine of ammunition through it, then you have bigger problems to worry about.

medmo
March 24, 2005, 04:23 AM
SgtSabre, man that is funny. Same experience here except a CH-47 in 1990. Could the crew chief at least give the guys a warning? I think I passed a brick.... We didn't do any live fires immediately before leaving on patrols but we did a heck of a lot of live fire practices.

Husker1911
March 24, 2005, 06:44 AM
Dad flew waist gun on a B-17G out of Foggia, Italy. The 15th Air Force. Both tactically and for morale did they test/check their guns. He tells of his most hairy mission. Their group took off together, circling to gain altitude to head north, bresting the Alps. His plane lost an engine early on. The pilot continued the mission, on three engines. This took extra fuel. They bombed their target, and headed back for home.

Fuel became critical. Dad's crew dropped everything possible to save weight. They dropped oxygen tanks and everything that wasn't attached. They dropped their guns and ammo. They dropped the ball turret. Air-sea rescue was notified below, in the Adriatic. Still, they didn't make their home field. They set down on an emergency field, on an island. When they overshot the runway, (on the ground), their pilot gunned the engines, to swing the plane around. That was it, they were out of fuel.

Dad's 80 now, I flew aboard a restored B-17 two years ago, with him. He walked as a young man that day. I'd never seen him quite that way. My thanks to the EAA and Aluminum Overcast. I saw you guys make my father a young man that day!

UnintendedConsequences
March 25, 2005, 01:15 AM
I know one of the few WW II glider pilots, and he landed a glider on D-Day behind the German lines on the coast. Once dismounted from his glider he lost his rank as pilot and became a regular soldier.

When his group met up with others from that flight of gliders, the eventually took command of a liberated airfield. He was given anti-aircraft guard duty that night, with either twin or quad M2s. As he knew that he would be responsible for defending the field and his fellow soldiers, he wanted to make very sure that the guns were loaded and functioned properly before he might have to use them on German fighters.

So he lets off a burst into the night sky. Moments later a lieutenant runs up to him shouting out a question about what he is shooting at, if he heard fighters. The glider pilot looks at the lieutenant and said basically, no, no fighters. I was making very sure that these guns worked before I had to depend on them.

mbs357
March 25, 2005, 01:31 AM
The M2HB was designed by Browning.
Anything Browning designs is likely to be more reliable than the TV Guide.

richyoung
March 25, 2005, 11:25 AM
...and now, for the REAL reason:

If you shoot the gun, you HAVE to clean it, especially in the military. Since you don't want your tail gunner, or the guy on patrol with you, to hesitate about opening up, ("Gee, do I REALLY want to shoot this guy bad enough to tear this thing down and clean it?") you MAKE him shoot a round or two right off the bat, so he HAS to clean it anyway. Not to mention it also shows if he put it together right aftert the LAST time he cleaned it.

Onmilo
March 25, 2005, 11:38 AM
My dad was a B17 crewman during WW2.
The barrels of the M2 heavy machine guns were subject to temperature extremes during flight and they sometimes burst because of this.

Clearing the gun removed ice build-up and warmed the barrels enough to allow reliable function when it was really needed.

redbone
March 27, 2005, 12:29 PM
Here's an interesting account excerpted from "Panzer Commander", the story of Col. Hans von Luck's experiences in WWII. This is regarding a trip he made in 1943 from his post with the Afrika Korps back to Berlin to present a plan for the withdrawl of troops from North Africa. By this time the Germans were desperately short of supplies and transport, and von Luck had to ride back in the nose of a bomber, in the forward gunners position.

It was later than I would have wished; the pilot of the Fieseler had to wake me up—we were behind schedule. One last wave from the machine and we set off as dawn was breaking. The Heinkel was standing ready with engines running; the Fieseler taxied up to the entrance hatch. The pilot, apparently a very experienced sergeant, called out to me from the cockpit: “Hurry, Major, hurry, we’re late, the Spitfires will soon be there.”

I had to lie flat in the nose cone and as front gunner, man the 20mm cannon; there was no other way of transporting me.

“Are you familiar with the cannon, Major?” the pilot asked over the intercom.

“Listen, we had this gun in our scout cars when you were still wetting your pants,” I replied.

“Okay, try it out, please, as soon as we’re over the sea we shall be flying very low,” came the pilot’s voice.

The day was dawning in the east as we lifted off with engines roaring. After a few minutes, we were over the sea, about 30 to 50 feet, I guessed, above the unruffled surface of the water. So I put in a magazine, fed it through, and pressed the trigger: nothing! I fed through again, again nothing.

“What kind of a stupid gun is this,” I shouted to the pilot.

I tried again and again, and finally half dismantled the cannon. I fed through again, again nothing. The pilot was getting anxious.

“We need your gun in case British fighters attack from the front. Please keep trying, it’s already light outside.”

I was now fully occupied with the bloody gun and saw nothing, where or how high we were flying, or whether British fighters might appear out of the blue. Suddenly, the pilot drew the machine up.

“We’re getting near Sicily,” his voice came through, “soon be out of danger”

I hardly heard him; I was too busy with the cannon. And suddenly, it worked: a long burst of fire ripped through the skies.

“Hurray’ I cried, “it’s working.”.

“Stop, stop,” shouted the pilot, and already the first salvos of flak were whistling past us. The Italian air defenses took us for a Heinkel captured by the British. Luckily, their aim was not very good. My pilot fired recognition flares, the Italians stopped firing, and we were able to land.

“Thanks for the flight,” I called to the sergeant. “Next time, I’ll bring my own 2cm cannon.”

The book is an interesting read. It's different to hear about the familar battles from the German POV. Von Luck fought in Russia, North Africa, Normandy, across Europe, and was ultimately captured by the Russians, who released him in 1949.

RBH

MarkDido
March 27, 2005, 06:25 PM
Sergeant Sabre Said:
Oh, and no. The M2 is very reliable . If it wasn't, it wouldn't still be around since before WWII.

They're not very reliable with a squid on the trigger. I manned a 50 cal mount portside forward on the USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2 - the original one, not the shoebox with an island) on deployment in the eastern Med in the mid 80's and I couldn't hit squat with it!! :rolleyes:

Sergeant Sabre
March 28, 2005, 12:16 AM
They're not very reliable with a squid on the trigger. I manned a 50 cal mount portside forward on the USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2 - the original one, not the shoebox with an island) on deployment in the eastern Med in the mid 80's and I couldn't hit squat with it!!

But it fired without stoppage or malfunction, didn't it? That's what I mean. The M2 is reliable, but maybe not effective if the gunner isn't any good.

I just got off the USS Iwo Jima, LHD-7, with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit about one year and six months ago.

Gabby Hayes
March 28, 2005, 07:00 AM
Didn't I hear just last year from John Kerry how his crew test fired all their weapons right before heading upriver into Cambodia that Chrismas eve? Or was it New Year's eve? :D

MarkDido
March 28, 2005, 11:27 AM
Quote:
They're not very reliable with a squid on the trigger. I manned a 50 cal mount portside forward on the USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2 - the original one, not the shoebox with an island) on deployment in the eastern Med in the mid 80's and I couldn't hit squat with it!!



But it fired without stoppage or malfunction, didn't it? That's what I mean. The M2 is reliable, but maybe not effective if the gunner isn't any good.

I just got off the USS Iwo Jima, LHD-7, with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit about one year and six months ago.

Sarge,

I was kidding.

Two of the scariest things in the world are:

1. Sailors with guns (rank and file sailors, not SEALS)

2. Sailors trying to march

I did 2 floats on Iwo in '85 and '88 - With HMM-261 and HMM-365 (if I recall correctly)

Semper Fi!

Mark
USN (Ret)

Sergeant Sabre
March 28, 2005, 12:16 PM
Ah, right. Didn't quite catch the humor. I thought you just misunderstood :) .

I do agree that, although I'm sure there are sailors who are competent with weaponry, individual weapons training is lacking in the Navy (even with those who are expected to carry a firearm on watch)

I sure wish I could have taken a turn on the twin 20mm cannons they have scattered about the railing on LHD-7, though :eek:

TarpleyG
March 28, 2005, 03:47 PM
Cool story Husker...

Greg

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