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The M1 Bazooka with rocket.
During the late 1930s the US government acquired
shaped charge warheads from the Swiss, but at that point had no concept
for a delivery system. It was decided to put the warheads into
production and some testing was done with them in the form of a rifle
grenade, but it proved too heavy.
So with a growing stockpile of excellent anti-tank warheads there was still no suitable delivery system. Enter Colonel Skinner, a US Army officer at the Ordnance Proving Ground, an enthusiastic proponent of rockets. He soon suggested carrying the hollow charge at the tip of a high-speed rocket.
The Bazooka got its nickname for its similar shape to the popular
30s and 40s radio comedian Bob Burns’ musical instrument, a
home made trombone he called a "Bazooka".
The calibre of 60mm or 2.36in was determined by the grenade used as the warhead, which were already in production.
This first model had a wooden shoulder stock and pistol grips, though later models saw steel and Bakelite fittings as well. The weapon was electrically fired when a circuit between the rocket and batteries in the shoulder stock was completed by squeezing the trigger. Unfortunately, once the battery was installed, it was always live and that could leave the battery flat at an inconvenient moment.
Known as the M1A1 this Bazooka lost the forward
pistol grip and added a muzzle blast guard. It now also included an
on/off switch to increase battery life expectancy.
The final WWII production model was the M9. It was redesigned so the
tube could be broken down into two parts; this also made it more
suitable for airborne operations.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and the Germans weren’t
slow to see the potential of captured bazookas in Tunisia. From
captured Bazookas they very quickly copied the idea, but choose a
larger calibre and created the more effective Panzerschreck.
More on the Panzerschreck...