Diagram of the 32 cm Wurfkörper Flamm incendiary rocket for the German Nebelwerfer from the German manual D 444/2839: Die Munition des 28/32 cm Nebelwerfers 41, Schweren Wurfrahmens 40 am gep Zgkw, Schweren Wurfgeräts 40, Schweren Wurfgeräts 41, 1943.
Diagram of the 28 cm Wurfkörper Spreng high-explosive rocket for the German Nebelwerfer from the German manual D 444/2839: Die Munition des 28/32 cm Nebelwerfers 41, Schweren Wurfrahmens 40 am gep Zgkw, Schweren Wurfgeräts 40, Schweren Wurfgeräts 41, 1943.
The history of the bazooka from U.S. Rocket Ordnance: Development and Use in World War II, U.S. Joint Board on Scientific Information Policy, 1946.
Bazooka Versus Tank
Among the now-it-can-be-told weapons of the American rocket family, is the super-bazooka, bigger and better version of the foot-soldier’s famed tank-buster.
By their surrender, the Germans and Japs missed feeling the impact of a rocket which travels at almost twice the speed and carries double the explosive payload of the standard bazooka projectile; which has an effective range of as much as 700 yards, instead of the 200 to 300 yards of the regular bazooka; and which can function safely through a considerably wider temperature range, thus affording greatly increased protection against the dangers of motor explosion and blast. Though the super-bazooka retains the 2.36-inch diameter of the original bazooka, and is fired from the same launcher, it is propelled by a larger motor, and its heavier explosive charge can penetrate thicker armor plate.
Another development of the original bazooka-still secret at the war’s end-is a super-powered rocket of 3.5 inches in diameter with greatly increased power to penetrate armor plate and reinforced concrete.
The super-bazooka was the joint product of Section H, which produced the design for the motor, and Division 8 of NDRC, which developed the far more powerful head. The 3.5-inch rocket was designed by the Army Ordnance Department.
To arm United States infantry to fight tanks on more nearly equal terms, the Army Ordnance Department, in early 1941, had under development a rifle grenade, carrying a “shaped charge” of high explosive. A cone-shaped cup hollowed in the front face of the explosive filling focussed the blast energy into a narrow beam of great penetrating power.
These rifle grenades had too much recoil for field use as a shoulder weapon. Recoilless rocket propulsion was suggested, tried, and adopted. Colonel Skinner, then an Ordnance Department major, and Lt. (now Major) E. G. Uhl, with Section H at Indian Head, undertook the development of a suitable rocket motor.
Following unsuccessful attempts to launch these rocket grenades from attachments to the service rifle, it was concluded that a separate launcher would be required.
To protect the gunner from the rocket blast, the launching tube had to be longer than the maximum burning distance of the rocket motor. To be portable and easily aimed from the shoulder, the launcher, and hence the burning distance, had to be short. By the use of a charge of several thin-web tubular grains of solvent extruded powder in a motor about an inch in diameter, the burning distance was made short enough for a 54-inch launcher, soon dubbed “the bazooka.”
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Comments on the bazooka from Report of the New Weapons Board, Office of the Commanding General, Army Service Forces, Washington, D.C., April 1944.
2.36" Rocket and Launchers
a. The feeling existed in both theaters that the 2.36" rocket had been oversold. This feeling was accompanied by question as to the effectiveness and accuracy of the 2.36" HE AT rocket. In view of this, the Board incorporated a 2.36" rocket show into each demonstration. The entire renovation of the original launcher and rocket was explained. The explanation included a description of the new wagon-wheel pulpit trap and its function. To demonstrate the safety of the launcher, a launcher which had had two rocket motors exploded within the wire-wrapped portion was exhibited. Two bazookas were then fired at a tank at an 80-yd. range. Amazement was expressed by many spectators at the accuracy and results which were obtained by inexperienced rocket operators. Each demonstration included the firing of six rounds, and it was the exception when there were less than six hits.
b. Many types of eye and face protection have been improvised by combat troops using the 2.36" rocket launcher. Some enlisted men use motorcycle goggles. Others use a modified gas mask, the bottom of which has been cut away; still others use the gas mask as issued. One officer stated that he had obtained excellent results with the use of a plexiglass shield attached to the end of the launcher. Some enlisted men are using celluloid or plastic face shields. Some shields are made to cover the eyes only, whereas others cover the entire face. It was reported that the frustrum of a cone, which had been placed on some launchers, does not serve its purpose. It is believed that this problem should be solved completely and that an item which will afford ample face protection at all temperatures should be developed and issued without delay.
c. Brigadier General Arthur H. Rogers, of the North African theater, reported that early in the Italian campaign a number of the 2.36" rockets carried by his men failed to function. General Rogers stated that these rockets had been carried in ammunition carriers, which hold eight rockets, four in back and four in front. He said that these rockets had been carried fins up, with the fins exposed, and that undoubtedly they had been dragged through mud and water. It was General Rogers’ opinion that the rockets which failed to function failed because moisture entered the motor, although he was not certain that the electrical connection had not been loosened. It is believed that in view of this report the 2.36" rocket should be given thorough proof tests for resistance against moisture. General Rogers also told the Board of a new way in which he employed the bazookas of his organization during the early part of the Italian campaign. He said that he formed bazooka hunting teams. These teams employed 10 to 12 bazookas in one group and went hunting at night. He said that their operation was most successful and that the ambushing of stationary German combat vehicles in this fashion was relatively simple. He spoke very highly of the 2.36" rocket and launcher.
The following U.S. intelligence report on Japanese spin-stabilized rockets and launchers was published in Enemy on Luzon: An Intelligence Summary:
ARMY 20-CM SPIN STABILIZED ROCKET AND TYPE 4 LAUNCHER:
Several of these projectiles, the first Army rockets recovered, and the Type 4 launcher, were used against our troops in the Manila area and east of Manila. The date of manufacture, late 1944, emphasized the trend toward increased use of rockets by the enemy.
In general appearance the launcher was similar to a large trench mortar. It incorporated traversing mechanism in the bipod and employed standard mortar fire-control devices. The tube, 20.3-cm inside diameter and 75 and 5/8 inches long, was open at both ends and contained a hinged opening for insertion of the rocket. It was fired with a 25-foot lanyard attached to a pull igniter.
Army 20-cm SS Rocket and Type 4 Launcher
The explosive head was a thin-walled tube containing nose fuze, booster and filling of cast TNT. The motor threaded onto the explosive head and was equipped with six nozzles canted 25 degrees. The propellant was ballistite ignited by a black powder charge located just forward of the igniter, which screwed into the motor base plate. Projectile and motor had a combined weight of approximately 185 pounds.
Army 20-cm SS Rocket and Type 4 Launcher (Firing)
The rocket was stable in flight, exploded high order, and had an approximate range of 3,200 yards at 800 mils.
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