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mortar squad

Discussion in 'Information Requests' started by mbrssmd, Oct 12, 2008.

  1. mbrssmd

    mbrssmd recruit

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    For a book project (some elements involving certain 78th Division personnel around Remagen) I am having a devil of a time finding materials to give me a good feel for day-to-day combat operation of a mortar squad (60mm). I would be most grateful if someone had suggestions with regard to books, papers, or web material. Many thanks.
     
  2. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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  3. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    This is for the Marines. But it would be similar.

    The 60mm Mortar, M2
    The 60mm mortar was a versatile weapon organic to the Marine rifle company. It was sometimes called the company commander's "hip pocket artillery" because the mortar section was always available for fire support. Providing high angle fire, the 60mm mortar was an important part of the company's firepower in both offensive and defensive combat. It was ideal for for engaging targets in ravines, reverse slope positions, and in other defiladed positions.​
    [​IMG]
    (above) A USMC–HC mortar squad fires during a demonstration of World War II tactics. USMC–HC Photo

    Characteristics of the M2 60mm Mortar
    The M2 mortar was a smooth bore, muzzle loading, high angle-fire weapon
    Minimum range–100 yards
    Maximum effective range–1000 yards
    Maximum range–2000 yards
    Weight–42 pounds
    Baseplate–13 pounds
    Bipod–16 pounds
    Barrel–13 pounds
    Effective rate of fire– 18 rounds per minute
    Maximum rate of fire–30-35 rounds per minute ​

    The 60mm mortar was developed by the US Army Ordnance Department. It gave the infantry an indirect fire weapon to span the gap between hand grenades and the 81mm mortar. Testing took place in the late 1930s, and the first order for 1,500 M2 mortars was placed in January, 1940. During World War II, more than 60,000 M2 mortars were produced by the Read Machinery Co., Kennedy–Van Saun, and the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company.

    [​IMG]
    (above) The 60mm mortar section under Table of Organization E-1,
    approved by HQMC on 15 April 1943. The section was part of the Weapons Platoon, Rifle Company under this configuration. The section leader was a sergeant. There were three mortar squads in the section, each led by a corporal. 16 Marines served in the mortar section. USMC Photo
    Until May 1944, the mortar section fell under the rifle company's weapons platoon. Under Table of Organization F-1, approved in May 1944, the weapons platoon was eliminated. When this happened, the mortar section was moved under administrative control of the company's headquarters section. In combat, it operated under the direct control of the rifle company commander.
    [​IMG]
    (left) The mortar section as organized under Table of Organization F-1. A lieutenant was added to the section, and each squad received an additional Marine. The section had a total of 20 Marines.
    USMC Chart
    The mortar squad leader was a corporal. He carried the M4 sight when the squad was on the move. The other Marines in the squad were non-rates. The gunner carried the complete mortar. The assistant gunner carried the aiming stakes. Three ammunition bearers were tasked with carrying mortar rounds, usually in the M2 ammunition vest.
    Several types of ammunition were available for the M2 mortar. The primary round was the M49A2 high explosive round, which weighed about 3 pounds. It had a point detonating fuze and a bursting radius of about 17 yards. The M83 illuminating round was a parachute flare that weighed about 3.5 pounds. It generated about 11,000 candlepower and had a burn time of 25 seconds. The final type of ammunition was the M302 white phosphorous round. This was used both for screening, and as an incendiary round. It was not introduced into service until the very end of the war. Target practice, and drill rounds were also available for training.
    Like all weapons, the 60mm had strong points and weaknesses. A well trained mortar section could lay down a barrage of almost 100 rounds in a minute. As part of the rifle company's final protective fires, for example, this produced devastating results against Japanese banzai charges. But in heavy jungles, mortars were sometimes useless due to the thick tree canopies. Mortars and ammunition were heavy and bulky since they had to be hand-carried by Marines. But they were an important part of the rifle company's arsenal.
    "Between 8 and 11 October we emplaced our 60mm mortars between the West Road and the narrow beach. We were only a few yards from the water. Thus set up, we fired over the West Road, our front lines beyond, and onto the ridges. We had an observer somewhere across the road who sent us orders by the sound-powered phone.
    We kept up a brisk rate of fire because Japanese had infiltrated into positions on the ridge next to the road and were sniping at vehicles and troops with deadly effect. Our mortar fire helped pin them down and clean them out."
    With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa by E. B. Sledge

    [​IMG]
    (above) Fire mission! A 60mm mortar squad on Iwo Jima during an engagement. The gunner, on the left, adjusts the traverse wheel to "level the bubble." The "A" gunner hangs an M49A2 high explosive round in the muzzle and stands by for the order to fire. USMC Photo
    [​IMG]
    (left) A 60mm mortar squad performs crew drills under the watchful eyes of their platoon leader and platoon sergeant.
    Camp Pendleton, Calif., 1944
    The Spearhead–Volume 1

    The M2 Mortar
     
  4. mbrssmd

    mbrssmd recruit

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    Thanks very much for pointing me to those materials. Very helpful, and I'm grateful.
     
  5. fsbof

    fsbof Member

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    Eugene Sledge served in a mortar crew in the 1st Marine Division, and wrote With the Old Breed as a memoir (an excellent one at that) of his time on Peleliu and Okinawa. Again, although it's about the Marines, it would give you a good first-person view of a mortar unit in daily operations.
     
  6. marry147

    marry147 recruit

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    The 60mm mortar was a versatile weapon organic to the Marine rifle company. It was sometimes called the company commander's "hip pocket artillery" because the mortar section was always available for fire support. Providing high angle fire, the 60mm mortar was an important part of the company's firepower in both offensive and defensive combat. It was ideal for for engaging targets in ravines, reverse slope positions, and in other defiladed positions.​
     

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