Other Land Weapons
A wide variety of miscellaneous land weapons were used over the course of World War II, many of them first tested more than two decades earlier during World War I.
Grenades — both thrown and fired from rifles — were also widely used by both sides throughout the war. In most armies, infantrymen carried them in addition to their sidearms. The M2A1 and M3A fragmentation grenades were standard issue in the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. Both types of grenade had a ring-shaped safety pin and handle; the grenade would not explode until the pin was pulled out and the handle was released. The fuse time for both devices was about five seconds. Because of their design, grenades were commonly used in the creation of booby traps.
Napalm — a long-burning jellied gasoline — was first used during the air attacks that supported the U.S. invasion of Tinian in June 1944. The word is derived from the aluminum salts of naphthalenic and palmitic acids.
German and Japanese soldiers commonly used grenades known as “sticks” or “potato mashers” by Allied soldiers because they had a long handle at the top, which made them easier to carry and throw. The Germans and Japanese also used egg-shaped grenades that were similar in design to the M3As.
One of the most unique weapons introduced during the war was the bazooka, a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher commonly used against enemy tanks. The bazooka was so effective during tank warfare that General Dwight Eisenhower called it one of the four weapons that benefited the Allies the most in winning the war, the other three being the C-47 Skytrain/ Dakota transport, the Jeep, and the atomic bomb.
Almost every World War II movie has a scene in which a soldier removes the safety pin of a grenade with his teeth. In truth, this was extremely difficult to do and posed a tremendous safety hazard. Real World War II soldiers never removed a grenade's firing pin with their teeth.
The bazooka was introduced in 1942 and proved only minimally effective against the German Panther and Tiger tanks when fired at their armored fronts. However, it was extremely effective at blowing out a tank's tracks and rendering it immobile. (Some weak areas on the tanks' armor were also vulnerable to bazooka fire.)
The typical bazooka was 54 inches long, fired a rocket projectile weighing about 3.5 pounds, and had an effective range of about 300 feet. Two men were usually involved in using a bazooka, with one loading it and the other firing. The bazooka tube folded in half for convenient storage. Nearly a half million bazookas were produced during World War II, and they were also widely used in the Korean War.
One weapon invented during World War I and used by almost all forces in World War II was the flamethrower, which proved especially effective in eliminating entrenched troops in bunkers and other fortifications. The U.S. Marines in the Pacific often used flamethrowers to drive Japanese soldiers from caves, trenches, pillboxes, and other defensive positions.
Flamethrowers were coveted by ground troops because they were portable and easy to use. The M1 flamethrower consisted of a four-gallon fuel tank carried on the user's back and a handheld hose that directed the length and intensity of the flame. Fully loaded, the device weighed about seventy pounds and could shoot a flame up to ninety feet. Many Sherman tanks were also equipped with flamethrowers capable of sending a stream of fire up to 300 feet. These were sometimes called Ronsons, after the popular cigarette lighter.