Special blog dedicated to one of the latest arrivals at Epic HQ, the US Bazooka.
In 1942, shortly after America’s entry to World War II, a US Army Lieutenant with an engineering degree named Edward Uhl developed the shoulder-fired rocket launcher. The Bazooka went from the drawing board into combat within 30 days, setting a record for effective procurement. It was designed to tackle armour and fortifications at short range, using a shaped charge warhead on a rocket. The warhead could penetrate up to 5 inches of armour plate making it deadly to most German tanks.
The Bazooka was named after a musical instrument used by the Radio Comedian Bob Burns. The name is now analogous to any shoulder launched rocket system.
The 2.36 inch M1 rocket launcher was introduced in June 1942, and the improved M1A1 in August 1943. The M9 bazooka, introduced in June 1943, was a major redesign and improvement of the original weapon. It was replaced in turn by the M9A1 in September 1944.
To work optimally the bazooka required a crew of two. A gunner who aimed and fired the weapon, and a loader who carried the rockets. The loader inserted the rockets through the rear of the tube and toggled the safety switch, he would then slap the gunner’s helmet to indicate the weapon was ready to fire. The trigger released an electric charge from a dry-cell battery, igniting the powder charge in the rocket, the rocket then streaked out of the tube and on to it’s target. The rocket warheads had fins for in flight stability.
During the Battle of Normandy, US Army Artillery Spotters began strapping bazookas to the wing struts of their aircraft. The slow moving but agile Piper Cub’s were surprisingly effective in this new anti-armour role. Able to spot concealed vehicles and attack them from above where their armour was weakest. Major Charles “Bazooka Charlie” Carpenter is credited with 6 tank kills (including at least 2 Panthers) in his aptly named plane, Rosie the Rocketeer.
Not long after their combat debut, several Bazookas were captured by the Germans in Tunisia and Russia. They reverse engineered the technology and developed a much larger launcher and warhead. The Panzerschrek, “tank terror”, could punch through more armour but was heavier and produced more smoke than the Bazooka. The US looked to the Panzerschrek when designing the M20 Super Bazooka which was first used in the Korean War.
The Bazooka was viewed as a useful and effective weapon during World War II, though it had been primarily employed against enemy emplacements and fixed fortifications, not as an anti-tank weapon. General Eisenhower described the Bazooka as one of his “Four Tools of Victory”, along side the jeep, atomic bomb and C-47 Skytrain.
Our Epic Bazookas are the M1A1 model, first used in the Allied invasion of Sicily. It was used for much of the remainder of the war, serving alongside the later M9 model. The M1A1 is seen in the hands of Paratroopers of the 101st Airborne in the television series Band of Brothers, and the film Saving Private Ryan. Our Bazooka has the same features as the originals, including the 3 range forward and rear sights, wooden hand grip and stock, metal face guard and a sprung trigger mechanism. It also features a space in the stock for batteries as per the originals, which would power the circuit, as well as the circuit indicator bulb.