Tombstones and mud

Venafro, Italy. November 1943: An “American engineer gun crew” is shown entrenching an M1921 Browning-designed water-cooled heavy machine gun near the Volturno River.

L. to Right: Pfc. Joe Hicks, N.Y.C., Pvt. Harlan Stout, of Elizabeth, Tenn., Pvt. Frank Kennedy, of Smithville, Ill. and in the background, Pvt. Joe Lynch, Indianapolis, Ind., with shovel.

Made by Colt in Connecticut, the M1921 is being fed with big “Tombstone” boxes capable of holding 200 belted .50 caliber BMG rounds, typically seen used on other large-format .50s such as the M-45 Maxon quad mount, M-33 twin Mount, and M-63AA mount.

For a frame of reference, the M1921 weighed 79 pounds (without water or ammo) and 121 on its pedestal mount with three horizontal legs.

Intended originally as an AAA weapon, such guns, when dug in like the top image, also proved big medicine against ground attacks by troops in the open.

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