Question for all you WWII Buffs and Vets…


October 6, 2005, 06:02 PM
I am currently reading Infantry Soldier, Holding the Line at the Battle of the Bulge, by George W. Neil. Neil was a BAR man. He talks about there being a BAR Gunner, Assistant Gunner and Ammo Man. I have read my fair share of WWII books, but I have never heard of a three man crew for the BAR. I know you had them for the larger machine guns, where the gunner had the machine gun, the assistant gunner carried the tripod, and the ammo man carried the linked ammo.

Has anyone else ever heard of this? The author seems sure of his facts (although a typo said the maximum effective range of an M1 against an individual soldier was only 225 feet, I assume they meant yards :scrutiny: ), so I have no reason to doubt him, he was there after all. I guess you learn something new everyday.

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October 6, 2005, 06:23 PM
Not sure about US Army, but, IIRC, in the USMC during WWII, the BAR was the main base of fire weapon for a rifle squad, other riflemen in the squad were detailed to support the BAR man. I'll have to dig out my Dad's Marine Handbook and review the tactics.

October 6, 2005, 06:26 PM
According to this link ( it sounds like BARs were employed as part of a three-man team.

Look under the section titled "THE RIFLE SQUAD".

October 6, 2005, 10:34 PM
To the best of my knowledge, the Army BAR team was set up along similar lines to the British Bren Gun team. A team leader (#2 man in the squad/section), gunner, and assistant gunner. On the Bren team, the #2 actually loaded the magazine onto the gun while the gunner stayed in position.

October 7, 2005, 12:38 AM
The BAR was usually thought of as an individual weapon. That's because it could be carried and operated by one soldier. However, often the BAR gunner would be teamed with one or two other riflemen. Their function was mainly to carry extra loaded mags. (There were no spare barrels to carry and the gun didn't need a tripod). I'm sure they'd also help ID targets as needed, but it wasn't quite the same thing as the designated "Gunner, spotter, loader" of a Bren gun crew or a .30 Browning LMG team.

EDIT: I did a little googling and now I'm not sure on official U.S. doctrine as to whether the BAR was an individual weapon or a crew served weapon. I've seen accounts that support both ideas though.

October 7, 2005, 12:38 PM
The BAR was designed as a one man weapon.

I understood it was deployed early in WW2 as a three or two-man team, but that changed rapidly.

I've heard every trooper carried two spare mags for the BAR, as opposed to loading down one man as an ammunition carrier.

When the BAR was deployed to set down a base of fire for the other guys to manuver around the idea was to drop the spares with the BAR gunner.

You can see why this 'doctrine' likely didn't last. Sounds good on paper.

In Vietnam the BAR was deployed to our allies as a crew served weapon.

Vern Humphrey
October 7, 2005, 12:44 PM
I've heard every trooper carried two spare mags for the BAR, as opposed to loading down one man as an ammunition carrier.

This is an idea that rears its ugly head periodically in the Infantry -- that every man should carry a BAR mag or two, or a belt of machinegun ammo, or a mortar round. It breaks down in practice because of the difficulty of collecting each man's magazines, belts or mortar rounds under fire and somehow getting them to where they are needed.

So, yes. At various times there have been official and unofficial organizational structures aimed at having everyone carry some extra ammo for some special weapon or other.

October 7, 2005, 01:41 PM
Seems like I heard there's an old gent that goes to my church that was a BAR man in WWII. I'll see what he has to say when I get e chance.

History Nut
October 7, 2005, 02:59 PM
I have read several of the WWII manuals about the BAR, Browning machine guns and infantry drill. They are packed away right now so I am going by memory only.

In the interwar years the BAR had a team that carried extra magazines in a special bandoleer holding six magazines. By the time of WWII, an adaptor had been developed to aid loading the magazines from 5-round stripper clips. During WWII, the BAR man carried up to 12 magazines in his BAR belt and other soldiers would carry bandoleers of ammo in 5-round stripper clips. Whoever was the BAR man's assistant or buddy would reload magazines during pauses in the action. I don't doubt that in some units, soldiers would be designated as 'assistant' or 'ammo carrier' while in other units, especially after casualties, it would be less formal.

Regarding the crews for the Browning machine guns both 1919A4 and 1917A1, the gunner was designated to carry the tripod and his loader carried the gun. The logic of this was that the tripod determined the location of the gun so the gunner would place the tripod where he wanted to site the gun. His loader would then place the gun on the tripod and obtain a can of ammo from the ammo bearer.

There are many personal stories of vets who, especially in assault landings were stripped down to just weapon, ammo and minimum rations and water to 'save weight'. Then just before the landing would be required to pick up and carry extra rounds for crew served weapons like mortars and machine guns. The result was that they were lightened of personal items and overloaded with unit supply items. Most seemed to have dropped or 'lost' such overload right after stepping ashore. The burdening of Infantry troops as packhorses for the unit is as old as soldiering. I remember the BBC series "Soldiers, a History of Men in Battle" where they remarked that the Roman Legionaire was sometimes referred to as "Mariuses Mules" for the loads they were required to carry when on the march.

I hope this helps.

October 7, 2005, 07:19 PM
My Dad is a DDay vet and carried a BAR. He told me he started out with an M1 but he was the biggest guy around and got a BAR assigned to him. He didn't have a 'crew' supplying him.

October 7, 2005, 08:17 PM
In WW2 the Marines probably used more BAR's than any other service. In the Pacific there were up to 6 BAR gunners per platoon! The Japanese feared the BAR and picked on them whenever possable. A typical "team" consisted of a gunner,his assistant and 2-3 riflemen to provide security. If the gunner was hit the assistant was then the gunner! :what: All members carried xtra ammo.

Livin in Texas

Vern Humphrey
October 7, 2005, 08:26 PM
In WW2 the Marines probably used more BAR's than any other service. In the Pacific there were up to 6 BAR gunners per platoon!

Squad organization in the Marines in WWII (as in the Army) varied. For Iwo Jima, the 5th MarDiv completely reorganized the squad, into an assault team (with flamethrowers and satchel charges), a pin-up team (with BARs and rocket lanuchers <"bazookas">) and a suport team with M1s and Thompsons or BARs.

The "standard" squad, however had three identical fire teams, each with a BAR. That made nine per platoon. The Army had one per squad, and later two, making six per platoon.

October 7, 2005, 11:07 PM
In the late 50s I was a NationGuard light machinegunner. I had a BAR man on each side of me whom I would deploy as necessary. My asst and ammo men would also carry magazines for the BARs. I was never in combat, so I don't know how common this was or if it was even Army doctrine. It might have just been the CO or TopKick's personal idea. Top was a retired Gunney with both Europe and Pacific WWII experience.


October 7, 2005, 11:27 PM
Hello, and let me throw my two cents in. I have a 1942 "Tactics and Technique of Infantry, Advanced" that states each squad has in addition to the other nine men "an automatic rifleman with a BAR M1918A2; an assistant automatic rifleman and an ammunition bearer, armed with carbines". I hope this helps. Of course this was published in 1942 and tactics surely changed as the war progressed.

October 8, 2005, 12:17 AM
My dad mentioned having a BAR man on occasion in Vietnam. I'll have to ask him again about it, and if they had assistants and what not. I know my dad would often carry an extra belt of ammo for the M60 gunner, and he would sometimes be the assistant and help change barrels out. Assistant of the 'Oh, Joe just bought it! YOU, get over here and help!' type...

Both my grandfathers were in WWII. My mom's dad was an infantryman. I remember one time when I was younger, we were watching some WWII movie during the holidays, and grandpa and dad got to talking about how they loved having BAR men around when things got bad. Wish both my grandfathers were still around. I always have questions about WWII, and can't ask them any more. :(

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