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Service Dates for US Recoilless Rifles?


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#21 Doug Kibbey

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Posted 29 August 2009 - 0957 AM

SKIING IN AREAS MARKED "OUT OF BOUNDS" WILL NO LONGER BE TOLERATED!


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#22 Ken Estes

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Posted 29 August 2009 - 1714 PM

I remember seeing on the news a long time ago something about using M60's for avalanche control up here. According to this they are using the A3 model:

....
This article appears to date from '96

I also found a post on a snowboarders forum stating that Stevens Pass has two M60's, from that I'd guess that there are a few more. WSDOT websites refer to "M60 tanks" but don't state how many. I'm getting hits about an "WSDOT avalanche control display" at the state fair, but when I click on the links I can't find any more. I'm guessing since I found that with 'M60' in the search field that perhaps they bring one of the tanks to the fair.

I think perhaps the Kitsap Militia should offer its expertise to WSDOT in case they need any help with their armor!

They have a total of four, last I checked and I wrote it up in 2001, but never published it. I had forgotten they were M60A3 and should have checked my own stuff.
This is Marty Schmoker in the one M60A3 they operated at that point. They were trying to get the Snoqualmie Pass guys to take another, but I have not updated my article [below]
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Their 105mm RR collection from their arms room. They also had an M101A1 howitzer and several M40 106mm RR.
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I also noticed similar positions for RR in the Cascade Passes of Canada 1 when I drove it last, in 2001.

State Military Might in the Cascades


The fall comes early to Stevens Pass, where US Route 2 arcs through the Cascade Mountains east of Everett. Here the leaves are changing color in early September and Marty Schmoker makes his final plans for the annual battle against Mother Nature in keeping the pass clear for travel and commerce. Stevens Pass is the northernmost pass kept open year-round in the lower 48 states. Schmoker, a 43-year old native of Leavenworth, nestled below the eastern approaches to the pass, works for the Washington Department of Transportation (DOT) as its Avalanche Control Supervisor for the north central region of the state.

Despite its higher altitude, Stevens Pass actually experiences fewer closures than Snoqualmie Pass. Avalanche Control works apart but in coordination with the maintenance teams, based at a large complex located six miles east of the pass. Once built as a self-contained maintenance city of crew billeting and equipment garages, the large dormitories now stand idle, with only 10% of the rooms used for temporary crews brought occasionally from Wenatchee. Both the techniques and manning of pass maintenance have changed over the last generation, and the massive manual efforts of yesteryear have been largely replaced by technicians and specialized equipment.

For a “general” planning a long campaign against the forces of nature, Schmoker calls upon a rather small army: two permanent and three temporary employees comprise the Stevens Pass shop; Snoqualmie has a separate unit, but that one receives its weapons from Schmoker during the “season.”

In snow season, Schmoker’s team makes daily weather and snow observations, beginning about 3:30am. The Northwest Avalanche Center at Sand Point provides overall reports and maintains data bases, but Schmoker also has historical data for Stevens Pass, going back to 1910 [detailed scientific data since 1956]. A “Nearest Neighbor Model” computer simulation exists for avalanche use, but Stevens Pass conditions present nearly impossible odds for prediction.

The decision for a tactical “mission” to bring down a snow pack and ease the increasing danger of a more major avalanche later brings Schmoker’s team to their arsenal. Besides improvised explosive charges placed using snow cat tractors in the center or top of snow pack (feasible when the snow is dry), Schmoker has acquired an impressive array of surplus military ordnance. Recoilless rifles have been in use the longest. The crews prefer these aging 105mm weapons from the 1950s, mostly because of a now-dwindling supply of high explosive shells which have produced the best results. A 105mm howitzer also fires high explosive projectiles, but at a lower velocity and with less accuracy than the recoilless riles. But the supply of munitions for the venerable M101A1 howitzer, still in use worldwide, will remain endless. The newest addition is a platoon of M60A3 tanks, acquired in 1995. The tank now serves as the preferred weapon on the western approaches to Stevens Pass, and the recoilless rifles serve on the eastern side, with the howitzer held in reserve. Some of the recoilless rifles are sent to the Snoqualmie unit as the preferred weapons there.

The tank cannot cover the eastern approaches because of the steep elevations required and the four firing platforms used to cover the snow packs. Deep snow makes it impossible for the tank to move between them. The foot of Old Faithful, where the snow threatens the Tye Valley western approaches, can be reached from a single firing position, and the tank stands vigil there in-season.

Washington State’s DOT started acquiring these weapons in 1961. The state national guard required three days notice for normal activation of personnel and this was not sufficient for the conditions. The transfer of weapons from guard and federal government sources thus improved the situation. The DOT arsenal now consists of four tanks, M60A3, with 105mm cannon; five 105mm recoilless rifles, M27; and one M101A1 105mm howitzer. Marty Schmoker also considered using aircraft, an OV-10 observation plane and a UH-1H helicopter, both equipped to carry 5-inch rocket pods. However the rockets remain too unreliable for the precision task at hand and the public safety environment. Of the four tanks, the most recent acquisitions, only one stands duty at Stevens Pass, and the other three remain in storage at the Yakima Firing Center. Although only one tank is required for Stevens Pass and another earmarked for eventual use at Snoqualmie, the other two will remain at Yakima as training and spare vehicles. With the surplus tank fleet depleting rapidly in the 1990s, Schmoker made his calculations for a program lasting over twenty years and rounded up the vehicles, parts and ammunition to sustain the DOT operation, long after the remaining surplus vehicles will have gone to scrap yards and museums. Schmoker takes his full team to Yakima for annual gunnery training at the Army Firing Range each fall. Ammunition for the tank is ordered from the Army, from a total of 80,000 rounds of a selected lot of plastic high explosive rounds set aside for DOT use. At a bargain price of $18.00 per round, it is shipped annually to Avalanche Control for their use.

The older recoilless rifles are fired from fixed towers and ground mounts. They remain a handy weapon, easily sited in tight spots, as long as sufficient space remains for the firing back blast peculiar to their design. The supply of 105mm HE rounds for the gun has dwindled to a mere 1150 and a change to the plastic explosive projectiles will bring unwanted duds, which have to be located and neutralized in the spring.

How much ammunition is required? Schmoker’s men expend anywhere from zero to six or seven hundred rounds per year. In 1999, a below average year, Schmoker directed two tank missions and 16 other ones, totaling about 200 rounds of ammunition. In 1998, a total of 150 recoilless rifle and 210 tank gun rounds were expended.

The DOT obtained the howitzer in 1991 and Schmoker’s men took a three day course at Yakima, from the guard artillery regiment. The M60 arrived in 1995 for evaluation. The guardsmen fired it that winter and Schmoker’s men took over thereafter. In each case, Schmoker’s men have altered the firing procedures to emphasize safety vice the speed of combat firing procedures. Schmoker is now writing a series of operating manuals for the use of these and other weapons in avalanche control, which the DOT will furnish in CD format to other states using weapons this way. These instructions include the maintenance, crew organization, operation, firing procedures for snow control and concepts for minimum manning. These will take the place of a broad range of military manuals previously needed, as well as supplying some of the peculiarities of snow control with weapons.

All five of Schmoker’s crew routinely operate all weapons. They have trained at each position on the tank and frequently enjoy training exchanges and competitions with Army and ANG personnel. The idea of a tank came late to Schmoker, who was looking for flat-trajectory weapons to supplement and eventually replace his older recoilless rifles. When at Yakima, officers told him that the dozens of M60 tanks stored there had been earmarked for disposal. Many would be stripped for dumping in the ocean as artificial reefs for fishery programs. Knowing that the high velocity tank gun would meet his needs, Schmoker looked for an opportunity to test and perchance acquire one or more of these 57-ton monsters for his DOT arsenal. Because of the higher velocity of its projectile, Schmoker found that no duds occurred when firing 105mm tank rounds into the snow, including the plastic explosive projectiles. Faced with a 1:4 dud rate with plastic ammo in the recoilless rifles [only 1:400 with the scarcer HE ammo], the tank seemed ideal.

At its firing position west of the summit, the tank crew prepares targeting range cards to the 12 impact points used to bring down the snow pack. These calculations of elevation and deflection can then be used day or night for fire missions (nighttime is preferred, to minimize public attention). Since 1996, the tank has performed all missions in the west side, and the howitzer has been relegated to backup status. It has also been employed on occasion in the North Cascade Highway ( merely to test the snow stability, used there as a tool vice an avalanche control measure) to economize on recoilless rifle ammo.

Other U.S. states presently using surplus military weapons include Alaska, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado; the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service also have similar operations.

Marty Schmoker has qualified himself as an operator and maintenance man in all these and other weapons. He calls upon the ANG for an annual technical inspection, but otherwise performs the maintenance which would be done by specialists in regular tank battalions. His parts array includes spare engines and spare barrels for the tanks as well as two full sets of track. He once threw a track on the tank and restored it himself, taking all day to do what normally requires most of the crew to do. The furnishing of a tank to a civilian organization, albeit from a state government, attracted much concern and attention from defense sectors. Legislators, the Army, the Dept of Defense and others all weighed into the project, especially after an unfortunate incident occurred in San Diego, where a disgruntled guardsman stole an M60 tank and led police forces on a wild chase on road and freeway. Schmoker demonstrated the control provided by his facility and other safety and security measures to satisfy a large gathering of state and Pentagon officials.



#23 FormerBlue

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Posted 29 August 2009 - 1916 PM

They would have borrowed the M27. The M40 wasn't in service until the early 1960s.


The original FM (23-82) was published in 1955. The FM for the A1 in 1964 and the A2 in 1973.

#24 arcweasel

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Posted 30 August 2009 - 1304 PM

I would corroborate most of those. For 57 and 75 I agree 1945; in "US Infantry Weapons of WWII" Canfield doesn't give exact dates but has info and photo's both were used in final stages of the war in Germany and both also used on Okinawa. The 57 was several months ahead in original development. What source has 75mm used in early '45? (in combat).

105mm: I had seen first reference to *combat* use in Korea in 1952, but earlier service introduction seems reasonable. What's the source?

Joe


On the 57/75mm: As you say many references to 1945 but the exact time is hard to pin down. I've seen a fairnumber of references to their first combat use being Okinawa. My source an encyclopdia style book on infantry weapons I perused in a used book store but did not buy(so don't have the title/author) but stated that the "57mm entered service in the last days of ww2, and after the 75mm". I did not know that any made it to Europe before the German surrender.

On the 105mm: I have first combat use in 1952 in Korea with service entry in dec1950. I believe it's from the translation of the Korean Korean war official history but it has no index so I can't check. I have no qualification on what the dec1950 service date means so it could mean anything from when it was type classified to when it underwent operational testing to when the first line unit was equipped. There was an article in the Infantry School magazine on the weapon in apr1951.

Regards,


Jay

#25 FormerBlue

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Posted 30 August 2009 - 1414 PM

I would corroborate most of those. For 57 and 75 I agree 1945; in "US Infantry Weapons of WWII" Canfield doesn't give exact dates but has info and photo's both were used in final stages of the war in Germany and both also used on Okinawa. The 57 was several months ahead in original development. What source has 75mm used in early '45? (in combat).

90mm: Watervliet Arsenal started pilot production in 1961 (per their history); a website on the Berlin Brigade says they received some that year.

105mm: I had seen first reference to *combat* use in Korea in 1952, but earlier service introduction seems reasonable. What's the source?

106mm: I agree, 1953, per several sources.

Joe


Not the best source but Popular Science did an article on them in September 1945. "Two rounds from a 75-mm gun, used by the 17th Airborne Division in Germany, knocked out a German 88 and an antiaircraft gun concealed in a barn." I'm also not standing by the hyperbole. It is likely that they are right on them being used in the ETO though - it's pretty close to the period in question.

I think they have their caliber wrong but fifty recoiless rifles were shipped to the 17th in March of 1945.

Lots of nice pictures.

#26 Ol Paint

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Posted 30 August 2009 - 1739 PM

For the 57mm and 75mm on Okinawa, Typhoon of Steel by James H. Belote mentioned their use. It's been several years since I read the book, but I recall that the book stated that there were (2) 57mm and (2) 75mm guns used and 300 rds of ammunition (not sure if this is per gun or total) used in the last stage of the battle. The book is generally footnoted, so it may be possible to determine where the information came from.

Again, it's been a long time since the last time I read the book, so the numbers above may be mis-remembered. The battles where the guns were used were probably the actions on Kiyan Peninsula, if my recollection & the Wikipedia sequence of battle match up.

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Posted 30 August 2009 - 2317 PM

Not the best source but Popular Science did an article on them in September 1945. "Two rounds from a 75-mm gun, used by the 17th Airborne Division in Germany, knocked out a German 88 and an antiaircraft gun concealed in a barn." I'm also not standing by the hyperbole. It is likely that they are right on them being used in the ETO though - it's pretty close to the period in question.

I think they have their caliber wrong but fifty recoiless rifles were shipped to the 17th in March of 1945.

Lots of nice pictures.


I made a note a few years ago about the use of recoilless rifles in the ETO:

Varsity (March, 1945) was the combat debut of the 57mm recoilless rifles. 75mm weapons were assigned to the AT companies of the Glider Infantry Regiments. The smaller 57mm weapons were organic to Parachute Infantry-- initially issued in addition to the normal complement of bazookas.(Andrews,pg 76)

Unfortunately, I cannot recall which work the "Andrews,pg 76" is referring to.

On edit: From Devlin's Paratrooper, p. 612:

(The American 17th Airborne Division) had just recently returned to their base camps from extensive combat as straight infantry during the Battle of the Bulge. . . . During that brief period . . . (it) was issued two newly developed lethal weapons, the 57mm and 75mm recoilless rifles.


Cheers

B Wilson

Edited by bwilson, 30 August 2009 - 2329 PM.


#28 Kenneth P. Katz

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Posted 30 August 2009 - 2339 PM

The M27 recoilless rifle was in the 1952 TO&E for a US Army infantry regiment. Is there any evidence that they actually were ever sent to Korea during the war?

#29 Lampshade111

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Posted 30 August 2009 - 2341 PM

How could you guys forget the M28 and M29 Davy Crockett recoilless rifles? Nothing like some direct fire nuclear weapons to stop the Soviet hordes. According to the internet these were produced from 1956 to 1963. Most sites say it entered service in 1961.

M29
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M28
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Who needs a weak little 106mm, lets put some of these on our HMMWVs.



Not a US design but there is the M3 MAAWS, a variant of the Carl Gustav, was used by a number of different U.S. units and may still be. No idea how long we have been using these.

Could anybody inform me if WP or chemical shells were ever manufactured for "standard" American recoilless rifles?

Edited by Lampshade111, 30 August 2009 - 2345 PM.


#30 JOE BRENNAN

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Posted 31 August 2009 - 1330 PM

The M27 recoilless rifle was in the 1952 TO&E for a US Army infantry regiment. Is there any evidence that they actually were ever sent to Korea during the war?

The Army Bulletin "Dissemination of Combat Information" dated September 16 1952 quotes a 2nd Infantry Division Command Report of March 1952 describing a combat trial of a pair of 105mm recoilless v bunkers at the front. It doesn't say exactly when the trial occurred. "Appears to be an excellent weapon for neutralization and destruction of enemy bunkers, especially when a delay-type fuse is used"; though as we know the M27 105mm was eventually deemed less than satisfactory.

This USAF photo from ca. 1952-53 is said to depict a 187th Airborne RCT 105mm recoilless team in Korea.
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Joe

Edited by JOE BRENNAN, 31 August 2009 - 1338 PM.


#31 Doug Kibbey

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Posted 31 August 2009 - 1640 PM

The Army Bulletin "Dissemination of Combat Information" dated September 16 1952 quotes a 2nd Infantry Division Command Report of March 1952 describing a combat trial of a pair of 105mm recoilless v bunkers at the front. It doesn't say exactly when the trial occurred. "Appears to be an excellent weapon for neutralization and destruction of enemy bunkers, especially when a delay-type fuse is used"; though as we know the M27 105mm was eventually deemed less than satisfactory.

This USAF photo from ca. 1952-53 is said to depict a 187th Airborne RCT 105mm recoilless team in Korea.
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Joe


The more things change, the more they stay the same. M40 on M151A1C from one of my units in VN, "Dirty Delta", 2/17th Cav. I recognize the venue as FSB Birmingham. Photo by Steve Rausch-1970.

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#32 Chris Werb

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Posted 01 September 2009 - 0214 AM

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What is the amphibious vehicle in the background at the right?

#33 baboon6

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Posted 01 September 2009 - 0313 AM

What is the amphibious vehicle in the background at the right?


I think it is an LVT3 or Buffalo (as the Brits designated the US LVTs). According to Macksey in The Tanks Vol.3, pp. 126-137, 16 such vehicles were taken out of storage and operated by the hastily-formed 1 LVT Troop RAC. 1 LVT Troop was based at the School of Amphibious Warfare in Devon and then at Malta; it was made up of men from 7th RTR, 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards and 65th Training Regt RAC. During the Suez invasion the job of the LVTs was to bring ashore the first wave of two troops* each of 40 and 42 Commandos Royal Marines, with the second wave arriving in LCAs; later they went further inland in combination with Centurions of 6th RTR.

*RM Commandos at this time were still using the WW2 orbat of five rifle troops (with 65 mean each) and a heavy weapons troop.

Edited by baboon6, 01 September 2009 - 0317 AM.


#34 Chris Werb

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 0543 AM

I think it is an LVT3 or Buffalo (as the Brits designated the US LVTs). According to Macksey in The Tanks Vol.3, pp. 126-137, 16 such vehicles were taken out of storage and operated by the hastily-formed 1 LVT Troop RAC. 1 LVT Troop was based at the School of Amphibious Warfare in Devon and then at Malta; it was made up of men from 7th RTR, 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards and 65th Training Regt RAC. During the Suez invasion the job of the LVTs was to bring ashore the first wave of two troops* each of 40 and 42 Commandos Royal Marines, with the second wave arriving in LCAs; later they went further inland in combination with Centurions of 6th RTR.

*RM Commandos at this time were still using the WW2 orbat of five rifle troops (with 65 mean each) and a heavy weapons troop.


That's great info baboon. I'd discussed this very subject with George Forty some years ago. The only info he had was of several batches of LVT-3 supplied to the UK late in WW2. What I find surprising is that we didn't use our own tracked amphibs of which I can't remember the name. These had been deployed in the Great Bitter Lakes area prior to our pull out from the Canal Zone a year earlier. Perhaps the majority of them were dumped there. One was preserved at Bovington until ordered to be scrapped by an over-zealous camp commandant some time in the 1960s.

#35 baboon6

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 0606 AM

That's great info baboon. I'd discussed this very subject with George Forty some years ago. The only info he had was of several batches of LVT-3 supplied to the UK late in WW2. What I find surprising is that we didn't use our own tracked amphibs of which I can't remember the name. These had been deployed in the Great Bitter Lakes area prior to our pull out from the Canal Zone a year earlier. Perhaps the majority of them were dumped there. One was preserved at Bovington until ordered to be scrapped by an over-zealous camp commandant some time in the 1960s.


I was not aware that the UK had any indigenous tracked amphibs; the only amphib carrier I have ever heard of before is the Terrapin which was wheeled. Do you know anything more about these vehicles?

#36 Colin

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Posted 02 September 2009 - 0823 AM

I have an article on them, they suffered from a high deck and difficult to unload. I think about 12 were made and never saw action other then responding to a broken dyke where they formed a wall to slow the flood so the wokers could repair the dyke, I will try to find the article.

#37 Chris Werb

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Posted 03 September 2009 - 1121 AM

I have an article on them, they suffered from a high deck and difficult to unload. I think about 12 were made and never saw action other then responding to a broken dyke where they formed a wall to slow the flood so the wokers could repair the dyke, I will try to find the article.


No, this vehicle, which looked a lot like the US LVT, was made in fairly substantial numbers. Some were used in the Great Bitter Lakes are until British sithdrawl 1954/5 and others were stored until about 1960 when they were scrapped. Are you sure you're not thinking of the Terrapin, and 8x8 vehicle which was used at Walcheren etc?




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