|Robert Hodges Jr|
80 pages, 7¼ x 9¼ inches, softbound
To this kid growing up, one of the television shows I rarely missed was Combat! This was a show about a squad of soldiers fighting in France during WWII. Unlike the real US Army, this one fought for five years, making the longest running WWII series on TV.
The one character that really stood out to me was the BAR gunner. If things got tough, it was usually the fire power of his Browning that got them out of trouble. It is also a weapon that one rarely sees in other WWII infantry movies, and it is a striking omission to anyone who knows about the infantry of the time.
Developed by legendary gun designer John Browning (who also designed the .30 and .50 cal machine guns and the 1911 .45 automatic among other guns), it was developed towards the end of WWI to be used by troops to attack German machine gun nests. The 30-06 bullet was strong enough to do major damage to buildings, being able to blast through house bricks to strike whomever is unfortunate to be behind them. It was also able to penetrate the armor of most tanks until thicker armor was developed early in WWII.
As with most WWI weapons, it was continually upgraded and saw use in both WWII and Korea before eventually being removed from service. Even in Vietnam there were some used by Allied forces and by the Viet Cong, when they could get them. Civilian models were developed and used by both crooks and law enforcement. Though the long barrel of the gun did not make easy to move in tight quarters, its penetrating power and quick firing more than made up for it. So good was it, that in the Pacific, the Marines insisted on outfitting one in every four men with this gun instead of the usual one in 12 or so.
In this book on the BAR, author Hodges covers the development, early years and modifications done to the gun. It also covers the use of the BAR by both civilians and the military. Finally, a look at the impact of the gun is covered. I found particularly interesting the various feats performed by BAR gunners including one of a single man with a BAR capturing an entire village from the Germans during WWII. So much was the BAR gunner a target of enemy troops that usually the man chosen to operate the gun was the smallest guy in the group so he would make a smaller target. Thanks to its lack of use by Hollywood, it is a gun that is not easily recognized by the general population.
It is a superb book that is fascinating to read. A great start to a new series and one that I am positive you will enjoy. Highly recommended.
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