During WW2, what determined what weapon a US solider was issued?

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Let’s start by going through the most common unit, the rifle squad. Generally, your average rifleman would be given a rifle, for most of the war this would have been the M1 Garand, but they trained with and did use the earlier Springfield rifle. Each squad had a rifle team, equipped with rifles and grenades (they would also all carry as much ammunition for their squad (both rifles and machine guns) as the supply levels allowed (this would be something the squad leader and platoon leader would decide, since obviously a squad would carry more ammunition for a major attack or combat patrol than it would for a small scouting action), a grenadier in the rifle team would be equipped with a rifle grenade launcher, and an automatic rifle team, who would use BAR automatic rifles, perhaps also having a pistol sidearm. The squad leader would usually use a submachine gun, or maybe a rifle, carbine or pistol. I will go through this variation later. A platoon usually consisted of three or four of these squads, along with an HQ unit consisting of the platoon leader, radio operators, runners, and by doctrine a 50mm mortar team. Along with the anti-tank weapons, the HQ would allocate these as they saw fit to support the rifle squads. The same would be done on a company level, with the heavy weapons platoon (heavy machine guns and mortars) being allocated to the platoons as the company leader saw fit. Outside of the rifle platoon, such as for the armoured units, artillery and supply chain, soldiers tended to be issued with pistols and submachine guns if armour crew, and carbines if supply chain. My next part will talk about this a bit more. That is what I remember to be official doctrine, by the books. The reality of war is always much more varied. In practice, soldiers often fought with the weapon they wanted to use, provided they could get it, and it fit their role in the squad. Officers and NCOs (Non-commissioned officers like sergeants) , just like with uniform regulations, could be more or less lax on regulation depending on the man. A good example of this kind of variation is the prevalence of sub-machine guns and pistols in period photos and accounts. These were not officially distributed to gun crews or NCOs (as far as I remember), however these people often were either issued them by HQ as the situation saw fit, or begged/borrowed/stole them from the supply chain soldiers. US soldiers were also notorious souvenir hunters, with German pistols and sub-machine guns being highly prized items. So, it wouldn’t be uncommon to see US GIs with enemy weapons on them, or in their pack. On the same note, captured enemy machine guns and other arms would be used in a pinch, or taken as trophies. Now I’ll answer the second part to your question, concerning specialised roles. This was largely determined during the months of training before a soldier reached the front line. Every soldier was supposed to be familiar, if not proficient with every weapon used in the rifle squad, as well as the maintenance and cleaning of his own weapon. Automatic riflemen usually gained their specialisation during this training, although on the front line, rifle soldiers would fill this role as the situation demanded (the BAR section had been killed or wounded). Marksmen would also be discovered during this training period, and given additional training. This is really how most of the roles were decided for infantry. Often, soldiers would just be drafted into the role they were needed in, or they might volunteer. (More dangerous roles were often given increased pay.) This kind of military history is quite specific and it can be hard to get your head around. I know I had to read a lot, and look at a lot of diagrams before I fully understood the finer points. There are a couple of useful youtube videos about US infantry during WWII, and I would recommend the Osprey series of military history books as giving good overviews and details of soldier life. I hope this answered your question, apologies if my wall of text is a bit daunting. Happy reading!


clever and good with guns? welcome to sniper school large and strong? congratulations, you get to carry the machine gun ​ finding out what a soldier could eventually be good at is part of military recruitment. they measure intelligence, physical capability and ask about interests and education. based on that information, soldiers get a role assigned.


Your job, luck, availability, and what year it was. Carbines were originally issued to non-front-line units, more accurate than the .45 sidearm, for people who didn’t get Garands. In the Far East, normal troops liked them but less in Europe with larger enemy soldiers and more clothes, a 30 carbine bullet was not as good a manstopper. Regular soldiers got Garands if possible, only a few got bolt-action Springfield ‘03; snipers and such mainly. But in ‘41 and ‘42, soldiers got whatever was available. BAR was well liked but heavy, the strong guy in the squad carried one if available. Tommy gun and M3 were not good at long range and went through ammo quickly, but great for paratroopers and assault troops.


In Iraq I was given an m249 because it’s funny to always give the short guys the machine guns.


Others have answered that it could depend upon availability, and have also explained which roles would normally use which weapon but most haven’t answered why .. basically the quantity and distribution of different weapons has a lot to do with balancing the fighting capability of the group of men, the best example would be a platoon sized unit. A platoon would typically include: * 1x ‘Command Group’ – usually a Liutenant or Captain rank and his support staff, typically 2-5 NCOs and lower ranked officers to help coordinate the operation, one might be a radio operator, one might be a runner etc. normally they wouldn’t be expected to partake in the fighting. * 2x ‘Dedicated Weapons Teams’ – normally one with some kind of anti-tank capability (such as 2man Bazooka team for the US or PIAT team for the UK) and one with some kind of anti-personnel/support weapon, such as a 2inch mortar able to provide infantry suppression as well as smoke grenades etc. sometimes they might have a medium machine gun such as a 50cal or a Vickers but this is less common. * 3-5x ‘Rifle Sections’ which would ideally include up to 10 men but would often include fewer, including a commanding officer (often a Corporal, sometimes a Sergeant) normally armed with a sub-machine gun such as a Thompson or STEN Gun, a light machine gun team (normally 3 men including an operator, a loader and a support/spotter) normally armed with a BAR or Bren Gun and then 6 riflemen with rifles. So your ideal Platoon on paper would contain 40 – 60 men, approximately 40 of which would be armed with standard rifles, the officers, NCO’s and sometimes the weapons team support crews being armed with lighter sub-machine guns.. It all sounds great on paper but the issue is as the platoon becomes depleted and suffers casualties or becomes disorganised you lose that balance and cohesion, so for example if you go through an action and suffer some injuries, say your mortar operator, your BREN Gun loader, a section Corporal and a few riflemen are killed or incapacitated you might disband one of the rifle sections and distribute the remaining men in the section to refill those roles, with any eventual replacements forming a new section to replace the one which was disbanded, rather than joining the existing sections, these kind of ‘battlefield promotions’ were extremely common and were critical to ensure that an infantry formation maintained its flexible capabilities regardless of how many men it had available for combat. **tl;dr it wouldn’t take long for men to have handled several different weapon types during a campaign as battlefield roles are reassigned to ensure the optimal fighting capability of the unit is maintained following actions which result in casualties.**