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WWII Veteran at the Range, Old Habits...

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Colt, Dec 21, 2006.

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  1. Colt

    Colt Member

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    I've been meaning to post an enjoyable experience I had at the public outdoor range this past summer. Things are slow at work this week, so...

    I had brought my younger brother to the range to shoot a Korean-era Garand I had picked last Fall. Among the dozen or so shooters at the range was an elderly man and his middle-aged son, zeroing a bolt-action rifle. The older man was wearing a WWII Veteran ballcap, with his unit listed, etc, and a few pins attached. Anyway, they finished with their gun and packed up, then came back and looked over our shoulder as we shot.

    At the next all clear, I looked towards the older man and said something like "I bet you know your way around one of these," while pointing towards the Garand. He kind of smiled, nodded, and said "You could say that." We made introductions, etc, and by that time firing had resumed. I asked him "Do you care to show us how to work this thing?" again, pointing at the rifle. He nodded again and then picked it up, but didn't sit down at the bench. It was already cleared and locked open. I indicated a clip sitting on the bench and told him to help himself, but he shook his head, and said he didn't care to fire the gun. I figured he may have had sore joints or some other limitation (he hadn't fired the rifle they were zeroing) so I didn't ask him a second time.

    But he started explaining the operating principles behind the Garand, from the design of the clip to the motion of the action, etc... It was a pretty general overview, and I couldn't really tell if he had taken my question to "show us how it works" literally, or maybe was just eager to share his knowledge of the rifle. There wasn't any "new" information in his description, but we listened attentively until he finished, nodding as he went along.

    Then something neat happened. He asked if he could adjust the sling. I said sure. He moved it out a bit, and showed us how he used to wrap it around his forearm to "solid-up" (as he put it) the connection between himself and the gun. He brought the gun from slung on his shoulder to firing position a couple of times, to demonstrate the transition. That was neat in and of itself, but then he tightened up the sling, and put the gun at "order arms," (I think it's called that) standing the gun at his side. Then, facing off toward the woods alongside the range, he showed us some close-quarters combat moves with the gun. He did a thrust or two, a couple of sweeping motions with the muzzle (with imagined bayonet), and then a move wherein he swung the gun upwards, butt-first, as if to strike under the jaw of an opponent, then quickly brought the "bayonet" back down in a stabbing action.

    The moves weren't parade ground razor-sharp, but it was obvious that he was recalling training that had been drilled into him through heavy repetition. His actions were also very convincing, and it wasn't hard to imagine how this man would have appeared 40 years ago. He recited the names of the "moves," and went through them all in quick procession, 2 or 3 times. You could really picture this guy in combat gear, fighting for your freedom. It was almost eerie, and the feeling was apparently shared by my brother, who gave me a sideways glance of "Wow."

    They left pretty soon after that, but as we shook hands good bye, we said we were glad to have met him, and also thanked him for his service to our country and the impromptu demonstration.

    To be honest, I found it to be somewhat of a moving experience, and one my brother and I will not soon forget.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2006
  2. techmike

    techmike Member

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    Great story. I'm envious of the experience. Thanks for sharing it.
     
  3. mustanger98

    mustanger98 Member

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    As I've mentioned, both of my grandfathers and some of my friends are WW2 and Korean War vets (as well as some of the Vietnam era). But while I've talked history with them and listened to their personal stories of their service, I've never had an experience like that. FWIW, I got the eerie feeling just reading your account partly because you just know they didn't just drop all that after their respective wars. I'm of the opinion that while it'd be nice to personally say "thank you" to every vet, we really cannot thank them enough, much less repay the debt we owe them. All we can really do is learn from them and pick up where they left off when/if our times come.
     
  4. Dirk Pitt

    Dirk Pitt Member

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    Range Experience

    Colt - I too had an experience like that but with my own Dad. He was a WWII vet (North Africa, Sicily and Italy). We went to the range and he was shooting his Springfield '03. He bought it after the war for $40 at a local store. We were shooting from the bench at the 100 yard mark. The paper targets were out to that distance but the range had steel targets all the way out to 800 yds going up the side of hill.

    I remember him glassing the 800 yd target with the binos, and then he got up stood slightly to the rear of the bench and did the same thing with sling as you mentioned. He put 5 rds in the rifle and flipped up the ladder sight. He cinched up his position and proceeded to fire. The first one was a miss it landed about 5 - 10 yds in front. Then he muttered something " I've got you now" and proceeded to GONG that target 4 times with the remaining 4 rds. Remember this with IRON SIGHTS at 800 yds ! I was impressed beyond belief, he was upset that he missed the first one. This was done with a GI rifle no special anything using Mil Surp M2 ball ammo.

    There were other shooters trying to hit that same thing from the bench with scoped guns and spotting scopes in all kinds of hot wiz bang wild cat rounds and one would occasionally hit it. My dad was not trying to show anyone up, he was not that kind of person. He was in the ROTC before the war and did a lot of shooting with an '03 at that time. He taught me everything I know but still I don't hold a candle to that.

    To this day I remember that scene very vividly in my mind, some of the very best memories I have are of me and my dad at the range. Sadly he passed in 1993 but I have passed the stories and images of Grandpa now to my son, who loves to shoot also.

    Sorry, I know I kinda went down memory lane here but the shooting I saw that day showed me what a rifleman is supposed to be.
     
  5. Colt

    Colt Member

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    Dirk,

    Not at all. Thanks for sharing your interesting experience. I bet that was a sight to see.
     
  6. High Planes Drifter

    High Planes Drifter Member

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    Dirk Pitt, tell us about the looks on the faces of the other folks at the range that day. They probably looked like :what: That must have been priceless to see someone hit a steel gong at 800 yards open with open sights !
     
  7. fordfan485

    fordfan485 Member

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    Great stories! Does anyone have any pictures or video depicting this sling technique?
     
  8. Colt

    Colt Member

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    Don't have any pictures, but I can describe it:

    If the rifle is horizontally in front of you, facing to the left, you would put your arm through the sling, palm facing down. When your arm is "in" almost up to the elbow, turn your palm to the right, facing toward the trigger of the rifle, then bend your arm at the elbow, away from the trigger, letting the sling pass over your hand. Then point your hand upwards, and slipping it between the sling and the fore-end stock, grab the stock.

    At that point, the sling should be wrapped tightly around your forearm (with proper adjustment) and you should feel "locked" to the rifle.
     
  9. Ilovemyglock

    Ilovemyglock Member

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    Great stories fellas, I am also a proud owner of a couple M-1's,and the one i shoot is an exellent shooter. Ive hit the 200m gongs through the sights,but 800 yards! 4 times........ THAT is a GREAT shot!:)
     
  10. Dirk Pitt

    Dirk Pitt Member

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    High planes Drifter - Yeah, the looks on the other folks faces were priceless. I remember one guy wanting to know what kind of "loads" my dad was using. Until he saw the plain brown box showing M2 ball on it. Then he said "Oh, that crap" ! This is the same guy with the 20X scope who couldn't hit it!:banghead: That I did not get. Overall everyone was in the "WOW" catergory. My brother got that rifle :mad: when my dad passed, darn it.
     
  11. MrDig

    MrDig Member

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    Dirk Pitt Do you know the unit your father was in?
    I ask because my father was in the 34th Infantry Division 151st Field Artillery Battalion. Most likely in a lot of the places you father was.
     
  12. Nhsport

    Nhsport Member

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    Thanks,cool experience.
    I will jump in here with one of mine.
    Local gunsmith/gun store run by a couple of mid 30s guys. Many times an older gentleman would be helping out/hanging out,I always took him to be a relative somehow but I am not sure. Many times there was several other older guys hanging out bsing also.
    These other guys were one day talking about vacations and travel and they asked this old gent where he flew into when he went to Europe. "I never flew into Europe" silence.....
    Then they pushed him some more...."We know you have been all over Europe,what port did your ship land at?" " My ship never landed me at any port" silence.....
    Then one of the bigmouths " how in the hell did you get there? Well? Or were you bull****ting us about Europe" silence again.......
    " I been all over Europe, I walked ashore on Omaha June 6 1944......I was very lucky,I was second wave........those poor SOBs in the first wave....
     
  13. Dirk Pitt

    Dirk Pitt Member

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    M Dig - Dad was in the 19th engineers. He always said trying to build a bridge has another whole level of difficulty when someone is shooting at you. He did talk about Kasserine pass and what a disaster that was. The only time in his entire Army career he volunteered for anything and unfortunatley is was for burial detail after that event.
     
  14. ZeSpectre

    ZeSpectre Member

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    That was an enormously cool story. I especially like it when our elders, who sacrificed so much for us, get a chance to stand tall and be proud.
     
  15. Lonestar.45

    Lonestar.45 Member

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    That's a great story, one you won't soon forget I'm sure. What an experience.

    Old habits die hard. I had an experience somewhat like that with my dad at an early age that made a big impression on me. Must've been probably 1978 or so. I had just gotten my first bb gun for Christmas, a Red Ryder. We set up a target in the back yard and dad showed me how to shoot it. I took some shots and did okay. We then set up 5 or 6 tin cans, and dad said "let me try". Shooting from the hip at about 15 yds he proceeds to knock down all the cans (taking more than one shot on one or two of them, to be fair). I couldn't believe it.

    At that point, Dad was about 10 years removed from the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines and had only fired a deer rifle a few times since then. I guess 1.5 tours in Vietnam had ingrained that ability in him. Amazing.
     
  16. MrDig

    MrDig Member

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    Dirk, To a man every Vet I ever spoke with that was involved in the Italian Campaign said it was brutal. My father included.
    I have often been of the opinion that it is the most overlooked portion of WWII. From Salerno to Livornio the Italian Campaign was terrible and gruesome.
    Dad once said that in order to get reprovisioned a GI had to throw his gear in the nearest river so the quatermaster was obligated to give them replacments. He aslo spoke of needing to pilfer gear from the fallen. One of the few times I saw him close to tears.
    As to Basic Training and Infantry Tactics never leaving you I can attest that even as a Peace Time Veteran some of those lessons are never forgotton.
     
  17. Dirk Pitt

    Dirk Pitt Member

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    M Dig
    My Dad spoke of many of the same things regarding Italy. He watched Monte Casino get the He!! blown out of it. Being in the engineers he marveled at the advanced German Equipment. Not just weapons, but the demoltions (things a engineer would appreicate) and other things they had. He tended to speak of North Africa more, and how much he hated that place. You would cook in the day and freeze at night.

    He told me once on how there was such a problem with fleas and everyone had them. He was so tired of them he took a 5 gallon can of gasoline and went off by himself and stripped down. And yep you guessed it he took a bath in GASOLINE !:what: He said it burned his privates and he stunk for days but he did not have any fleas! It's amazing he stated they had more gas than water. You would normaly get (hopefully) 1 qt a day and even that you wanted to ration because you did not know if you were getting any tomorrow. He had alot to say about the locals which is not very pleasant and I will leave out here, suffice it to say he did not like them. AT ALL.
     
  18. mustanger98

    mustanger98 Member

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    One of my great uncles... Daddy's father's brother... he was in North Africa and Italy as a mechanic. I don't know his story nearly as well as the others, but at his wake earlier this year, I saw a photo of him and another guy sitting in a U.S. Jeep with a whole lot of rubble around and the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the background. His brother, my Grandpa, drove heavy trucks and had pictures from France and Belgium... one of those was of the pyramid at the Waterloo battlefield while others are of captured German hardware on display in Paris.
     
  19. Cromlech

    Cromlech Member

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    Sounds like a great experience, and it's good to hear that the guy was still in good enough shape, and 'out and about'. :)
     
  20. Juna

    Juna Member

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    Couldn't agree more. Great story!
     
  21. ArfinGreebly

    ArfinGreebly Moderator Emeritus

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    Thanking The Vets

    Earlier this year, I had a vet encounter of my own. I wrote it up on my wife's blog. It's not long. Reproduced below. The sentiment is as true today as when I wrote it.

    http://noisyroom.net/blog/?p=5340
     
  22. shaggycat

    shaggycat Member

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    A bunch of inspiring stories here!

    To any veterans reading this, thanks. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel and I cannot fathom the sacrifices that have been made for freedom.
     
  23. ArchAngelCD

    ArchAngelCD Member

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    My father joined the US Navy when he was only 16 during WWII. He never wanted to talk about the war but he did tell me he was stationed in the South Pacific on the USS Aldebaran AF.10 The Aldebaran was a Store Ship, one of the two food supply ships for the South Pacific Fleet. One of the few stories my Dad did share with me was to recall the being along side the USS Franklin (CV13) when it was hit off the coast of Japan, February 19th, 1945. My Father told me is best buddy who was only 18 at the time went to bed after that day with a full head of jet black hair and woke up in the morning all grey.

    The only time I ever saw any of my Father's military skills was in the Mountains of NY State at a friends home. Several of the friends of the host were shooting, my Dad and I were watching. I was only about 8 at the time. This guy turned towards us with the rifle in his hand. As he did my Dad brought his hand from down near his hip, lifted the barrel straight up, palmed the head stock, twisted his wrist and disarmed the jerk who pointed a weapon at his son. As he ripped the gun from the jerks hands he swung the butt up to the guys head, stopping just before striking him. It happened so fast the guy froze with his eyes bugging out of his head as my Dad told him, "If he ever pointed a gun at anyone ever again, the next time I wouldn't stop."

    Now that I'm almost 50 and my Dad has been gone since 1981 I find myself wishing I had pressed him to tell me more of his stories so that I could pass them on to his Grandsons. I lost him way too soon, not that there is ever enough time with the ones you love.

    God Bless our Veterans from "The War To End All Wars" and the second "War To End All Wars." They all deserve out respect and gratitude but please don't forget, the men and women of today’s military are just as brave and dedicated as the ones who have come before them. They are the guardians of our freedom and the stories of tomorrow. God Bless them all!
     
  24. SMLE

    SMLE Member

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    My Father was in the 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines in WWII. He was on Bougainville, Guam and Iwo Jima.
    When I got my Garand, I brought it home to show him. Once he had it in his hands he got to talking. It was like getting sword fighting lessons from King Arthur. He told me how on Guam, he fired his M1 until the handguards cought on fire and it was cooking off as fast as he could aim it. He had a buddy reach over his shoulder and load it and all he did was hang on and aim. That was one of the very few times he actually talked about combat, most of his stories were about everything BUT combat.

    To all the Veterans, thank you and well done!
     
  25. Glockman17366

    Glockman17366 Member

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    We were taught to wrap our arm into the sling in Navy boot camp (1969). I've only a couple rifles with slings, but when I shoot them free standing, that's how I do it.
     
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