The 2.36″ Rocket Launcher, aka Bazooka

The early Bazooka, in how-to format from 1943.

From the excellent youtube channel of Jeff Quitney, which always has interesting historical videos, often well-restored visually and, especially, aurally.

 

14 thoughts on “The 2.36″ Rocket Launcher, aka Bazooka

    1. Hognose Post author

      Thank the guy who finds these old training videos and puts ’em on YouTube and definitely, have a look at his channel. (I’m not sure where he finds them. Perhaps in the Prelinger Archive on archive.org?). All we do here is add a little context and extend his audience into the gun world.

  1. Brad

    The Bazooka was a revolutionary small arm, and not just because it was a rocket launcher. Think of the radical aspect that were combined into a new weapon system: electrical ignition, recoilless operation, balanced weight fired from atop the shoulder.

    1. Hognose Post author

      And Monroe Effect shaped charge, which, while it was not utterly new as a concept, was fairly new as a military weapon. I think its first use in combat was in the German raid on the Belgian fort at Eben Emael in 1940.

  2. Kirk

    The story of that effect “coming to America” is rather funny, in a tragicomic sort of way. I’ll try to make reply later today after work, detailing that.

    1. Kirk

      OK… Finally got a break from the excitement of the construction industry.

      The funny thing about the whole “WWII Bazooka” thing is this: Charles Munroe was an American chemist working at the US Navy Torpedo Station at Newport, Rhode Island. He is credited with the discovery of the shaped charge effect in 1888. 1888, people. He wrote articles about the effect in 1900, publishing them in Popular Science Monthly.

      The development languished, as nobody in the US military could see a use for it.

      Flash forward, and the Germans are all over this, doing a lot of independent work on the area. Gentleman named Neumann did steel-cutting with shaped-charge TNT blocks in 1910. Took until the opening of WWII before anyone finally put any of this work to practical use, and the Germans were, as usual, at the forefront. Bunch of development work was done before and during the war, including stuff we know as “platter charges” and “self-forging fragment” munitions.

      In all of this, a Swiss gentleman named Henry Mohaupt did some work, developing a small shaped-charge warhead. Not being an enthusiast for the German way of life, and wanting to make some money, he tried selling it to the War Department, who went “Oooooh… Aaaaah… We want that… Bad…”. At some point, the guys behind the Bazooka married up Mohaupt’s grenade with a solid-fuel rocket, and we got the Bazooka. All that had to be worked out was paying Mohaupt. Which, as you can imagine, was gonna be quite… Expensive.

      Well, at least until the War Department lawyers got involved, and discovered that a.) the warhead made use of an effect developed and documented by a Navy Department scientist, and that b.) there wasn’t a tremendous amount of innovation in Mohaupt’s design. The whole thing should have been quite obvious to anyone with half a brain, but since we apparently didn’t employ anyone of that description (except in the legal department…), we all thought Mohaupt had some huge secret Nazi technique going, and we were going to pay big for it.

      After the lawyers got done, Mr. Mohaupt settled for a more reasonable sum, and went on to develop the same technology for peacetime use in the oil industry, fracturing borehole liners for oil wells. He made rather more money doing that than selling weapons, but the nice people with various parts of the military-industrial complex took his ball and ran with it.

      So, the humor is this: Minus the lawyers, we damn near paid an obscure Swiss engineer big money for something we developed ourselves, and just “forgot about”. Truly amazing, that. Makes you wonder what else is lurking in the depths of the US government’s trove of scientific research…

      It’s also sort of a study in “WTF? How could they not see that whole Munroe Effect thing not being useful, back before WWI? Why did it take fifty years to see the light of day for tactical use?”. Same-same with the Claymore Mine–Why on God’s green earth did it take until the 1950s, after both WWII and Korea before someone said “Hey… You know what would be cool? A pre-packaged, command-detonated fougasse we could issue as a munition, for dealing with banzai and human wave attacks…”. Seriously–That’s one of the biggest “WTF?” things I’ve ever noticed, in weapons history. In retrospect, it’s so damn obvious–We were doing command-detonated “torpedoes” for harbor defense, which were really stationary mines (that’s what that station Munroe worked at developed, BTW…), so why didn’t some bright light of the pre-WWI era go “Hmmm… We could really work a number on the Boche, with something like this…”.

      Ah, well–It’s probably a good thing we’re a little obtuse, when it comes to killing techniques. Still, it makes you wonder…

      1. Hognose Post author

        Naval mines and torpedoes didn’t much need shaped charges, as they exploited (and exploit) the incompressibility of water. When the torp goes bang against the hull it makes a wee little hole, call it a foot in diameter. But it also displaces an ass-ton of water, which comes thundering back into the vacuum post-explosion, and trebles the size of the hole a split-second later.

        In submarines, the water coming in compresses the air inside (which is compressible) until any available fuel diesels. That’s why subs that pass their crush depth are sometimes found in small pieces rather then in a single squished flat flounder version of a sub.

        So, in any event, the shaped charge did not have a purpose until military engineers wanted to cut heavier structures. The German airborne forces that took Eben Emael were an Engineer unit. (78 men, IIRC, but I think they called it a “Zug” — platoon!). They tested their charges on the very similar Czechoslovak western frontier fortifications.

  3. Badger

    I’d better get going on the sucking-up to Santa. ;)
    I get a kick out of the detail actually in these short films. Well, except perhaps for the firing mechanism which they relegate to “electrical gadget”, lol.
    Seriously good stuff, though – many thanks.

    1. Aesop

      Let’s do bear in mind that electricity itself was only in common use for a generation when this training film was made, and the details of such systems were still about as commonly understood as nuclear engineering is now, by the general population. Which, coincidentally, was something like 45% rural folks at the outset of WWII, who’d likely only had electricity for a few years in the first place.

      The Rural Electrification Act was only passed in 1936, and prior to that time a large number of municipalities still had large swaths of land outside their towns working via kerosene lanterns and candles at night, which was why Daylight Savings Time was a thing in the first place.

      “Electrical gadget” was high-faluting lexicon back then, and you can’t judge the past by the present. (For that matter, 90% of “moderns” aged 18-25 couldn’t draw nor explain the contact switch and electrical circuit in operation on the bazooka trigger right now, even to save their lives.)

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