At 6:30 a.m. on June 6, 1944, American Soldiers started the landing process at Normandy, France. Thousands would die before getting farther than several yards up Omaha and Utah Beaches.
The 1st Infantry Division Soldiers, who landed on Omaha Beach, carried the eight-round, semi-automatic weapon as they charged forward toward the Germans. Those that made it ashore, fired their M1 Garand rifles toward the Germans.
"This was the primary weapon of the infantry during the Second World War," said Robert Smith, Fort Riley Museums Director. "This is the weapon that (Gen. George) Patton said won the war for the American GI."
The 1st Infantry Division Soldiers, who landed on Omaha Beach, carried the eight-round, semi-automatic weapon as they charged forward. ⤻
The M1 was not without flaws and German soldiers would try to take advantage of its weakness.
"One of the great drawbacks and one of the great stories in the Second World War is that the stripper clip would make a pinging noise after firing the last round," Smith said. "And World War Two vets, 1st ID vets, would basically say that they would carry a spare stripper clip in their pocket, fire off two rounds and then throw the stripper clip down to make that pinging noise; then wait for an enemy's head to pop up. So, you know never, never underestimate, you know, the ingenuity of the 1st Infantry Division Soldier."
On the other side, the German soldiers fired the Mauser, a bolt-action rifle.
"The problem with bolt action rifles are that you took your eye off the target with each round," Smith said. "You'd have to pull, eject the spent cartridge, fire and then you would have to pull the bolt back again. "Which meant you took your eyes off the target."
The Germans backed up the Mauser with the MG-42, machine gun, a weapon that Soldiers feared, Smith said.
"Soldiers would say it would [sound] like a zipper when it would fire or (like) tearing linoleum," he said. "It just could put an incredible amount (of lead out). And every German platoon, so think of that every platoon, had one of these weapons. So, there were massive amounts of this particular weapon and fear."
The weapon system earned the nickname "Hitler's Buzz saw," according to retired Command Sgt. Maj., and museum volunteer, Lowell May.
Along with, the weapon being distributed to the each platoon of Germans they were also deployed to the pillboxes lining the beaches.
"Omaha Beach was just filled with lead that day," Smith said. "There was a study done and then they thought that there were 32 rounds per square foot, every 10 seconds. That's a lot of lead flying around on Omaha Beach. So, you gotta hand it to the 16th Infantry (Regiment) for hanging on the way they did on Omaha Beach."
Col. George A. Taylor, 16th Infantry Regiment commander, is quoted as saying "There are two kinds of people who are staying on this beach: those who are dead and those who are going to die. Now let's get the hell out of here," as the unit moved up the beach.
American Soldiers also carried the Browning Automatic Rifle(BAR) to counter some of the rounds being fired upon them.
At the outset of World War II the U.S. armed forces decided to adapt the BAR for a light machine gun role, according to "The Browning Automatic Rifle" by Robert R. Hodges Jr. The BAR was not without its flaws; it was heavy and difficult to dismantle and reassemble, and it didn't cope well with sustained fire. Nevertheless, the BAR saw action in every major theater of World War II and went on to be used in Korea and in the opening stages of the Vietnam War.
The German noncommissioned officers and officers carried theMP-40 machine pistol and then later the Sturmgewehr 44.
The Germans wanted a weapon in a larger caliber and was still semi automatic, Smith said.
"This weapon was tested through 1943 and issued to German troops on a regular basis in 1944," he said. "It has a 30-round box magazine. There was a considerable controversy among the German High Chairman, senior leadership, on issuing a weapon like this. Most of the senior leadership had gone through World War I, (were) use to the bolt action. They also found that the MP40 fulfilled its purpose. But the soldiers, the German soldiers in the field, believe they needed a weapon that had the range, the hitting power comparable to the M1."
All the weapons would be used, by their respective countries, until the end of the war.