“ M1A1 A.T. ROCKET LAUNCHER “

The M1A1 2.36-inch AT Rocket Launcher

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(aka ‘Bazooka’) is a smooth-bore, breech-loading, electrically operated shoulder weapon of the ‘open’ steel tube type . It is fired from the shoulder in either standing, kneeling, sitting, or prone position . The Rocket Launcher is used to launch high-explosive (HE) rockets against tanks (AT), armored vehicles, pillboxes, and other emplacements . The ammunition consists of rockets capable of penetrating heavy armor at angles of impact up to 30 degrees . The weapon itself can be aimed up to distances of 300 yards . The Rocket Launcher has a maximum range of 700 yards .



M1A1 2.36-inch Antitank Rocket Launcher (JULY 1943 – OCTOBER 1943)

The M1A1 ‘Bazooka’ is equipped with sights, hand grip, wooden stock, web sling, firing mechanism, face guard, breech guard, tail latch, and flash deflector . Front and rear sights are mounted on the left side of the barrel . While the front sight consists of 3 studs representing ranges of 100, 200, and 300 yards, the rear one is only a peep type sight . Since both sights are fixed, the gunner must estimate intermediary ranges, ranges in excess of 300 yards, as well as windage and lead . The hand grip consists of left and right trigger grips which are attached to the trigger support, the latter accommodates trigger guard, trigger, and lower and upper trigger switch contacts . The wooden stock is shaped to fit against the shoulder, it contains two vertical cylindrical compartments housing 4 batteries (2 for current supply to ignite rockets, and 2 for spares) . A small lamp in a recess on the left side is used as a circuit tester (with another spare lamp under the circuit indicator cover) . The stock bottom is fitted with a hasp assembly keeping the batteries in position . It is kept closed by a spring actuated hasp catch which engages the stock pin . Battery spring contacts are connected by wire to the stock support to complete the electric circuit . The web sling (either khaki or olive-drab) is fastened to the hand grip and to a bracket located between stock and breech . When the trigger is squeezed, it forces the bar contact against the lower trigger switch contact to complete the circuit . The passage of the electric current thru the rocket body sets off an electric igniter in the rocket itself which in turn ignites the propelling charge . Rearward escaping powder gases force the rocket out of the barrel with a muzzle velocity of approximately 265 feet per second . Since propulsion of the rocket is achieved by jet action of the propellent powder, there is no recoil ! The face guard is located on the barrel above the stock, it serves to protect the firer’s face from the heat in the tube . The breech guard is a flaring metal ring mounted on the rear end of the barrel, it facilitates loading, prevents denting of the tube, and dirt or mud from entering when resting the weapon on the ground . The tail latch is spring-actuated and located on top of the tube and projects over the breech . When a rocket is inserted, the latch engages in one or two of the notches of the tail fins and keeps the projectile from sliding either further into or out of the barrel while aiming the weapon . That part of the latch engaging the notches, and the notches themselves, are unpainted, in order to ground the electric circuit thru the launcher tube ! The contact edge of the tail latch and the notches are cammed in order to permit automatic release of the rocket when fired . The flash deflector prevents particles of unburned powder from blowing back onto the gunner’s face and hands, it is made of fine wire mesh with a rigid wire frame of conical shape fastened to the tube by a mounting clamp with screw and nut, and mounted flush with the muzzle end (protective face masks were later introduced for the gunner) .

The M1A1 2.36-inch Antitank Rocket Launcher is both an offensive and defensive weapon . In both types of action it is used primarily against hostile armored vehicles which come within effective range . It can also be employed against emplaced automatic weapons, buildings, embrasures, and fortified positions . The weapon is essentially one of opportunity . In the hands of trained personnel, it is a powerful infantry supporting weapon at short ranges, capable of delivering harassing fire, and it is extremely valuable in attacks on vehicular bivouacs, disabled armored vehicles, and for use in ambushes ! This antitank weapon is very useful for close-in defense of crew-served weapons, for close protection of motorized columns, and the general defense of rear area installations . No additional personnel, except gunner and loader, are allotted for operating Rocket Launchers and Rockets . The weapon will be operated and properly cared for by designated personnel in addition to their regularly assigned duties, and primarily when necessary to repel a mechanized attack . In emergencies a ‘Bazooka’ may be operated by one man . For mutual support, it is however highly desirable that teams of rocketeers work in pairs, or threes, and be so located to obtain flanking fire against the lighter armor on sides and rear of hostile mechanized and/or armored vehicles . It is recommended that as many individuals as possible be trained in the use of the Rocket Launcher and Rockets, as training time and ammunition will permit …



Bazooka team – prone firing position, rear view illustrating gunner and loader


There is a special wooden Packing Box to transport 6 M1A1 AT Rocket Launchers, 6 web Slings, and 6 wire Flash Deflectors . Dimensions are 60 1/4” x 17 5/8” x 16 3/4”, displacement 10 cu ft, gross weight 155 lb . The Rockets are also packed individually in M87 Fiber Containers, while 20 such Containers are transported in another wooden Packing Box with following characteristics : 24 ½” x 18 2/3” x 13 ½”, representing 37 cu ft and 128 lb .

Note : it is recommended that Rockets be supplemented by Antitank Grenades fired by Rifle Grenadiers

The corresponding Ammunition authorized for use with the M1A1 2.36-inch AT Rocket Launcher comprises the M6A3 Rocket, HE, AT, 2.36” and the M6A1 Rocket, HE, AT, 2.36” (practice ammo is M7A3 Rocket, Practice, 2.36” & M7A1 Rocket, Practice, 2.36”) . There were also M6 and M6A2 Rockets (and M7 Rocket, Practice) declared limited standard, as well as an M10 WP Rocket, Smoke (discontinued !) . The M6A3 Rocket has a rounded nose and well-shaped fin assembly, while the M6A1 type has an ogive-shaped (i.e. pointed) nose and a fin assembly without rim . The body contains the high explosive charge (lead azide detonator charge tetryl pellet) . Construction consists of ogive or nose, body, stabilizer tube, finned tail assembly, and safety pin . The stabilizer tube contains the propellent charge and igniter which are electrically actuated . The destructive effect of the Rocket is produced entirely by the high explosive charge contained in the body . If the safety pin has been removed, the fuze will operate and detonate if the Rocket receives a blow equivalent to dropping it on its nose on normal soil from a height of 48 inches ! The projectile penetrates a comparatively thick armor plate (3” of homogeneous steel) at all ranges and at angles of impact as great as 60° from normal or head-on; it blows a hole about 1 inch in diameter thru the plate . Particles of the armor, heated to incandescence, are blown from the inside of the armor plate in a cone roughly 90° causing antipersonnel damage as far as 30 yds . Any ammunition within the cone is usually exploded . Rocket body fragmentation occurs outside the steel plate . The Rocket will penetrate brick or rock masonry, and timbered construction up to a considerable thickness (9” pine timber) . M6A3 as well as M6A1 HE AT Rockets are painted olive-drab, with type, model, and lot number marked in yellow (1943) and black (1944) (while practice projectiles are painted black with white markings, later changed to blue, with white data) . The 2.36” HE AT Rocket is packed one per individual M87 Fiber Container (laminated asphalt-filled chipboard) . Each container is sealed with a strip of yellow 2” adhesive tape (3” blue strip for practice ammo) printed with type and model . 20 such containers are then packed in a wooden box for further transportation . For the field, an M6 Rocket Carrying Bag made of a strong durable lightweight canvas is designed to carry 3 HE Rockets in their fiber containers . It can be carried at the side by means of handles, or over the shoulder by means of a shoulder strap . Closure is either by a single ‘Lift-the-dot’ button (first pattern) or by two ‘Lift-the-dot’ buttons (second pattern) . Allowance is 2 bags per Bazooka team . There is also an airborne version, M6 Rocket Carrying Bag Parachutist which has been modified by adding a snaphook to attach it to the parachute harness, 2 ‘D’ rings, and 2 cotton tapes to secure the bag to the paratrooper’s leg .



Loader grasps Rocket in left hand


Loader inserts Rocket into Launcher
and removes safety pin


Loader raises tail latch, pushes
Rocket completely into Launcher


Loader removes contact wire
from Rocket fin


Loader fixes contact to Launcher
contact spring


Loader taps Gunner, calls ‘UP’

Remark : the early production Rocket Launcher was provided with a double hand grip, and standardized June 30, 1942 as Launcher, Rocket, AT, M1 (with Rocket, HE, M6, and Rocket, Practice, M7) . The weapon was soon dubbed ‘Bazooka’ since resembling a musical instrument used by radio comedian Bob Burns . Due to problems encountered in the field, issue of the M1 Rocket Launcher was temporarily suspended in May 1943 . On 16 July 1943, an improved version, designated M1A1 was adopted, while the ammunition was equally redesigned and improved leading to introduction of the Rocket, HE, M6A1 (and M7A1 Practice) . In October 1943, a new two-piece improved Bazooka was now developed, i.e. designated M9, subsequently redesignated as M9A1 with improved coupling mechanism . Improved Rockets, HE, M6A2, M6A3, (and M7A2, M7A3 Practice) were also introduced and eventually standardized . In July-August 1945 an experimental model designated M18 was ordered (aluminum alloy, weight 10.5 lb) but cancelled when the war with Japan ended . Total production numbered approximately 460,000 Launcher units . Rocket Launcher Manufacturers; General Electric Corp. (Bridgeport Works) and Cheney Bigelow Wire Works (Springfield), while E.G. Budd Co. was the first producer of the HE AT Rockets . Reference Literature; TM 9-294, FM 23-30, TM 9-2200, SNL B-36, SNL B-41 .

General data comparison:

M1
M1A1
M9
M9A1
Lenght

54"
54.5"
61"
61.1"
Weight

18 lb
13.26 lb
15.14 lb
15.87 lb
Introduction

June 42
July 43
October43
June 44




length assy for carrying 31 ½”
length assy for carrying 31 ½”






M1 Rocket Launcher



M1A1 Rocket Launcher




M1A1 2.36” AT Rocket Launcher (1943-44) M6 Rocket Carrying Bag (first pattern)




M9A1 2.36” Rocket Launcher (1944-45) M6 Rocket Carrying Bag (second pattern)


        

Wooden box for packing 20 M6A1 HE AT Rockets & Fiber Containers




‘Bazooka’ position – gunner ready to launch, loader in standby with additional ammo … M9A1 version
(RE-E picture taken during “Strictly G.I.” activities, in the Bulge, Belgium, February 2002)




‘Rocket’ team – loader inserting projectile into launcher, while gunner is already sighting his weapon …
M1A1 version (RE-E picture taken during “Strictly G.I.” activities, in Wommelgem, Belgium, August 2004)




WD Pamphlet No. 21-33, published 25 June 1945, 52 pages with multiple hints
related to tank hunting, such as armored vehicles’ weaknesses, tank silhouettes,
antitank weapons, blinding & incendiary agents, explosive materials, tools, need
to know, etc …all drawings, cartoon characters, restricted matter




copy of the ‘famous’ Bazooka patch, as commissioned by Colonel James M. GAVIN
rewarding the 505th PIR / 82d Abn Div Bazooka teams for their combat achievements
during Operation HUSKY – July 1943 (there is still doubt about exact colors)


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