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Patton and the Garand

12408 Views 3 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  Daniel Watters
In my opinion, the M1 Rifle is the greatest battle implement ever devised.
Letter from Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. to Chief of Ordnance Lt. Gen. Levin H. Campbell, Jr., (January 26, 1945)


Most of you have probably read or heard of the quote above. But most of you have probably never read Patton's comments of the Garand in context with his views on infantry tactics. Instead of promoting the concept of an accurate, full-caliber battle rifle and the discipline of "One Shot, One Kill", it appears that Patton would have adored the modern assault rifle in terms of the tactics he advocated. The only downside was that at the time, the US didn't produce a Sturmgewehr of its own design. (One can argue as to where the M1 Carbine falls between the SMG and Sturmgewehr, but Patton would not have publicly praised the Stg44. It simply wasn't his habit to promote the superiority of enemy weapons over their US counterparts, even when it was painfully self-evident in terms of the vulnerability of the Sherman tank versus opposing German armor.)

Also note how many of Patton comments on tactics would appear to be vindicated by the later ORO and BRL studies which led to the creation of Project SALVO and later the AR15/M16 rifle.


Third United States Army
APO 403 U.S. Army

3 April, 1944
Subject: Letter of Instruction Number 2
To: Corps, Division, and Separate Unit Commanders

III. Tactical Usages

1. General
a. Combat Principles
(3) In battle, casualties vary directly with the time you are exposed to effective fire. Your own fire reduces the effectiveness and volume of the enemy's fire, while rapidity of attack shortens the time of exposure. A pint of sweat will save a gallon of blood.

(4) Battles are won by frightening the enemy. Fear is induced by inflicting death and wounds upon him. Death and wounds are produced by fire. Fire from the rear is more deadly and three times more effective than fire from the front, but to get fire behind the enemy, you must hold him by frontal fire and move rapidly around his flank. Frontal attacks against prepared positions should be avoided if possible.

2. Infantry
a. Infantry must move in order to close with the enemy. It must shoot in order to move. When physical targets are not available, the fire of all infantry weapons must search the area occupied by enemy. Use marching fire. It reduces the accuracy of his fire and increases our confidence. Shoot short. Ricochets make nastier sounds and wounds. To halt under fire is folly. To halt under fire and not fire back is suicide. Move forward out of fire….

b. The heavy weapons set the pace. In the battalion the heavy weapons company paces the battalion. In the regiment the cannon company paces the regiment, but it is the function of the rifles and the light machine guns to see that the heavy weapons have a chance to move. In other words, the rifles and machine guns move the heavy weapons in to do the killing.

f. The M-1 rifle is the most deadly rifle in the world. If you cannot see the enemy, you can at least shoot at the place where he is apt to be.

G.S. Patton, Jr.
Lt. General U.S. Army, Commanding
"War as I Knew It" (Published posthumously: 1947)

Part Three: Retrospect

Chapter 1: Reflections and Suggestions


Concerning the Soldier

The only time it is proper for a soldier to drop is when he is caught at short range - under three hundred yards - by concentrated small-arms. But even then he must not hit the dirt and stay supine. He must hoot fast at the enemy, or in the direction of the enemy, because it is true now as when Farragut stated it in the Civil War that "The best armor (and the best defense) is a rapid and well-directed fire."

In the days when the chief small-arms fire on the battlefield was delivered by rifles, it may have been necessary to advance by rushing in order to build up the firing line. Today, when the chief small-arms fire on the battlefield and the majority of neutralizing fire is delivered by machine guns, mortars, and artillery, there is no advantage in advancing by rushes, because, until you get within three hundred yard, small arms fire has very little effect, where as when you lie down between rushes you expose yourself to the effects of shrapnel. When you get to three hundred yards, your own small-arms fire, which is superior to anything now existing or which will probably ever exist, will neutralize that of enemy small-arms fire, so that you do not have to advance by rushes.

Marching Fire: The proper way to advance, particularly for troops armed with that magnificent weapon, the M-1 rifle, is to utilize marching fire and keep moving. This fire can be delivered from the shoulder, but it is just as effective if delivered with the butt of the rifle halfway between the belt and the armpit. One round should be fired every two to three paces. The whistle of the bullets, the scream of the ricochet, and the dust, twigs, and branches which are knocked from the ground and the trees have such an effect on the enemy that his small-arms fire becomes negligible.

Furthermore, the fact that you are shootings adds to your self-confidence, because you feel that you are doing something, and are not sitting like a duck in a bathtub being shot at.

I think, if we should say that "Fire is the Queen of Battle," we should avoid arm arguments and come nearer telling the truth. Battle are won by fire and by movement. The purpose of the movement is to get the fire in a more advantageous place to play on the enemy. This is from the rear or flank.

Every soldier should realize that casualties in battle are the result of two factors: first, effective enemy fire, and second, the time in which the soldier is exposed to that fire. The enemy's effectiveness in fire is reduced by your fire or by night attacks. The time that you are exposed is reduced by the rapidity of your advance."


Small Unit Tactics

Fire on Infested Areas: Owing to the pernicious traditions of our known distance rifle marksmanship, we are prone to hold our fire until we see targets. In battle, these are seldom visible. When any group of soldiers is under small-arms fire, it is evident that the enemy can see them; therefore, men should be able to see the enemy, but seldom are. When this situation arises, they must fire at the portions of the hostile terrain which probably conceal enemy small-arms weapons. I know for a fact that such procedure invariably produces an effect and generally stops hostile fire. Always remember that it is much better to waste ammunition than lives. It takes at least eighteen years to produce a soldier, and only a few months to produce ammunition.



Fire Power: There can never be too many projectiles in a battle.



Use of Sight: The peep-sight is not adapted to warfare, since it is inefficient in the dark, or in a bad light. I have met only three or four officers, out of hundreds questioned, who have ever seen a soldier set a sight in battle. Therefore, our rifles should be equipped with two open sighs - one for the range of one hundred yards, one for the range of three hundred yards. This will insure that the soldier shoots low and will correct for the fact that in the excitement of battle he always takes too much front sight.

Gun Slings: The same officers whom I questioned on the sight informed me that they had never seen a gun sling used, except on two occasions by snipers, as an aid to firing. Therefore, the heavy and expensive leather gun sling should be dispensed with and a cloth sling, used solely for the purpose of carrying the piece, should be substituted.
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I find Patton's comments about aperture sights most interesting, especially given his praise of the M1 Rifle. He is in agreement with the Russians, who used open sights with a battle sight setting right through the AK series rifles.

Patton's main objection is overcome by simply using a larger aperture, like the close range aperture on the M16 rear sight. Out to 300 yards it generally works fine on man-sized targets.

FWIW, I think the aperture is a significant improvement over the open sight on a rifle.
Personally, I would suspect that the quote "Owing to the pernicious traditions of our known distance rifle marksmanship, we are prone to hold our fire until we see targets." would really make heads spin in certain quarters.

The quoted 300yd/300m range for effective rifle fire probably keeps popping up for a reason. Even when terrain and visibility issues are not a factor, it probably boils down to the fact this is roughly the effective point blank range of many infantry rifle cartridges. It is one thing to hit a target on the range at a known distance when you have time to adjust sight to match. It becomes more complicated when you have to guess the range with the Mk 1 Eyeball. I've seen reference to at least one study in which it was claimed that a trained observer averaged around a 100m plus or minus error when judging a target at roughly 500m. Range finding reticules and other tech aides help, but this still presumes that the your target is being cooperative: standing/sitting still while you calculate the range and then adjust your hold.

A dramatic increase in projectile velocity would help increase your point blank range, but then you are either faced with a dramatic increase in cartridge weight and recoil...or a dramatic decrease in caliber. Prior to WW1, the British considered adoption of a 7mm cartridge that tossed a 165gr projectile @ ~2,800fps. This would be been adopted with the Pattern 1913 rifle. Needless to say, this combination wasn't too popular with the troops during testing. (FWIW: The rifle action later evolved into the .303 P-'14 and the .30'06 M1917.)

BTW: Patton's comments on not halting while under fire were aimed more at being on the receiving end of hostile artillery and/or mortar fire. Instead of advocating a suicidal charge against concentrated small arms fire, it merely indicates that it is no more healthy to sit in one place, passively allowing the enemy's forward observers to walk the fall of HE shells on top of your head.

Today, this threat would even include items such as RPGs and various grenade launcher systems which are used as a "poor man's pocket artillery". In fact, this concept even seems part and parcel of the proposed tactics for the upcoming XM25, XM29, and XM307 grenade launchers with their family of air-bursting munitions (ABM). Small arms fire is intended to hold the enemy still long enough for the grenadiers to lase the appropriate range and fire their ABM.
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Patton and the Carbine

This afternoon (we) did a lot of shooting on the stern. The new carbine is a lovely little thing and very accurate.
Maj. General George S. Patton, Jr. to his wife Beatrice, November 2, 1942. Written from the USS Augusta (CA31) while en route to the Operation Torch landings.
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