The “Bazooka” and Its Evolution in Photos

 
 

In 1942, the use of tanks in World War II was a threat to infantry soldiers mostly because of the tanks’ impenetrable armor and lethal armaments. This required a weapon powerful enough to take out an armored tank, and subsequently led to the development of the shaped charge anti-tank hand grenade, effective against vehicle armor 2.4″ thick.

However, it weighed 3.5 pounds, which is quite heavy to throw by hand. So another idea arose: a device that could deliver such a grenade from a distance, at an adequate velocity to exceed the range of a hand-thrown grenade, also with high accuracy.

An early RPG-40 anti-tank hand grenade at Great Patriotic War museum in Smolensk. By Vitaly V. Kuzmin CC BY-SA 4.0

An early RPG-40 anti-tank hand grenade at Great Patriotic War museum in Smolensk. By Vitaly V. Kuzmin CC BY-SA 4.0

Lieutenant Edward Uhl of the U.S. Army was tasked with creating a delivery system for an M10 shaped charge grenade capable of stopping German tanks. To do this, the Lieutenant created a small rocket, but still needed to find a way to protect an operator from rocket exhaust while aiming the weapon. According to Lieutenant Uhl, he stumbled on a tube that happened to be the same size as the grenade, and that’s when he had the idea for a rocket grenade launcher.

During the testing of the rocket launcher, it performed well in aiming and firing effectively, so that all senior officers present were impressed. Major General Barnes, Chief of Research and Engineering in the U.S. Ordnance Department humorously commented, “It sure looks like Bob Burns’ Bazooka.”

 

Bazooka soon became the generic name for the grenade launcher. The variants were the M1 and M1A1 Bazookas which were 4.5 feet in length and could penetrate up to 3″ armor, the M9 and M9A1 which were 5 feet long and could penetrate up to 4″ armor, and the M20 and M65 which could penetrate up to 11″ armor.

The M1 Bazooka with M6A1 and M6A3 rocket. By Carl MalamudCC BY 2.0

The M1 Bazooka with M6A1 and M6A3 rocket. By Carl MalamudCC BY 2.0

The premier versions of the M1 launcher and the M6 rocket were first used in November 1942 in North Africa, but did not play a vital role in combat. This was partly because military personnel were not provided with information on how to use the weapon, and mostly because the M6 rocket was highly unreliable.

By May 1943, no report of the weapon actually stopping a tank had been received, so further use was suspended. The M1A1 launcher with the M6A1 rocket was then introduced and used in combat by U.S. forces.

A U.S. soldier fires an M9 bazooka at a German machine gun nest, Lucca 1944.

A U.S. soldier fires an M9 bazooka at a German machine gun nest, Lucca 1944.

The M1A1 stopped four medium German tanks and a Tiger I heavy tank–however, it had a huge backblast which exposed the shooter’s position.

In late 1943, the M9 Bazooka was introduced with an improved M6A3 rocket, but its effect didn’t last long as the Germans improved the armor of their tanks, making penetration a Herculean task.

A German StuG III with “Schürzen” armor skirts By Bundesarchiv Bild CC-BY-SA 3.0

A German StuG III with “Schürzen” armor skirts By Bundesarchiv Bild CC-BY-SA 3.0

The end of World War II saw the Bazooka design changing to be like the German-designed Bazooka, and led to the development of the M20 Super-Bazooka. This Bazooka had a higher range and penetration capability.

It was also operated by two people, and could fire as many as six shots per minute. Budget cuts made the mass production of the M20 impossible, so soldiers in the Korean War were armed only with the M9 and M9A1 Bazookas, which proved to be very effective against Soviet tanks.

German Anti-tank guns; High Fortress, Salzburg, Austria. By Andrew Bossi CC BY-SA 2.5

German Anti-tank guns; High Fortress, Salzburg, Austria. By Andrew Bossi CC BY-SA 2.5

The Vietnam War marked the gradual replacement of the M20 with the more effective M67 Recoilless rifle and M72 LAW rocket.

M67 recoilless rifle

M67 recoilless rifle

 

M72 demonstration at Fort Benning, Georgia in the 1960s

M72 demonstration at Fort Benning, Georgia in the 1960s

 

US soldiers during the Korean War

US soldiers during the Korean War

 

101st Engineers near Wiltz, Luxembourg during Battle of the Bulge

101st Engineers near Wiltz, Luxembourg during Battle of the Bulge

 

A soldier preparing to fire the FGR-17 Viper, an American one-man disposable antitank rocket.

A soldier preparing to fire the FGR-17 Viper, an American one-man disposable antitank rocket.

 

Person holding a M6 rocket for a bazooka

Person holding a M6 rocket for a bazooka

 

Indonesian Navy bazooka

Indonesian Navy bazooka

 

A US soldier holding a Bazooka. Overloon War Museum. By Johan Fredriksson CC BY-SA 3.0

A US soldier holding a Bazooka. Overloon War Museum. By Johan Fredriksson CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon a modern day bazooka

Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon a modern day bazooka

 

American soldier with Bazooka of 80th Infantry Division near Wiltz

American soldier with Bazooka of 80th Infantry Division near Wiltz

 

Special Security Forces Bazooka. By Qrmoo3 CC BY-SA 4.0

Special Security Forces Bazooka. By Qrmoo3 CC BY-SA 4.0

 

Marines with a bazooka and machine gun set up a security post against possible tank counter-attack

Marines with a bazooka and machine gun set up a security post against possible tank counter-attack

 

Displaying the bazooka which knocked out four Japanese light tanks are bazooka men PFC Lauren N. Kahn, left, and PFC Lewis M.

Displaying the bazooka which knocked out four Japanese light tanks are bazooka men PFC Lauren N. Kahn, left, and PFC Lewis M.

 

M20 super bazooka. By Tomás Del Coro CC BY-SA 2.0

M20 super bazooka. By Tomás Del Coro CC BY-SA 2.0

Read another story from us: Anti-Tank Missile Vehicles – 22 Facts About the Soviet 2P Series

“Marine riflemen in background stand by while their 3.5 bazooka man puts a round into a Communist position down the hill. This action took place in mopping-up operations in Korea.

“Marine riflemen in background stand by while their 3.5 bazooka man puts a round into a Communist position down the hill. This action took place in mopping-up operations in Korea.

 
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