Stockings and Springfields
80 Years Ago: In December 1941, Pvts. Kotula and Queen hang their stockings on an M1920, Rock Island Arsenal-made arms rack in the middle of their squad room at Camp Lee, VA, Quartermaster Replacement Center.
They said, “Santa will have to stumble into this, so he can’t miss our socks.”
Note the interwar M1903A1 Springfield .30-06 rifles, stored bolts open, on the rack. While adopted in 1937 to replace the bolt gun, researched production data points to just 401,529 the newer semi-automatic M1 Garands had been assembled for Uncle Sam by the end of November 1941.
While in the “Victory Program” devised in the fall of 1941, the War Department projected an Army with a peak strength of 213 divisions, only 91 would ever take the field during World War II. Compared to that plan, only 29 infantry, one cavalry, and five armored divisions existed in December 1941, with many of those still forming– and 15 of those being recently federalized National Guard divisions who were a long way from being combat-ready.
The TO&E for a 1941 triangular infantry division allowed for 7,327 M1 Garands, meaning the M1903 was never able to be fully replaced during WWII, and indeed, some GIs, such as in Quartermaster units like the good privates above, always used the bolt gun.
On 21 May 1942, the M1903 was put back into regular production in a simplified “U.S. Rifle, Cal. .30, Model of 1903A3” format, contracted out to Smith-Corona who made 234,580, and Remington who delivered 707,629, ensuring almost a million GIs and Allied troopers would be hanging their stockings on new ’03s for at least four more Christmases.