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Yes, Virginia, there was a 1903 line thrower, and it still gets some use

081020-N-9134V-024 PERSIAN GULF (Oct. 20, 2008) Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Jonathan Smith fires a line to the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Laramie (T-AO 203) from the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50). Carter Hall is deployed as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group supporting maritime security operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Flordeliz Valerio/Released)

Naval and merchant ships have used line-throwing rifles (and shotguns, as well as small cannon) for centuries to heave lines from ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore to greater distances than what could be done with a deck division guy and a slungshot. Currently, the Navy uses M14s and M16s with blank-firing adapters for this task, but this post is about the USCG and their slightly more elegant 1903s.

The old Revenue Cutter Service/Revenue Marine used Coston Shoulder Guns– a converted U.S. Springfield Trapdoor Model 1884 rifle in .45-70 (and the similar Winchester Model 1886 Line Throwing Guns, in a 14-5 inch smoothbore of the same caliber)– from the late 19th Century through, in some cases, WWII (and by some accounts, remained in armories for a couple generations longer).Don’t get me wrong, the .45-70 line thrower was always a good gun for its purpose, even if dated. Today the Bridger Shoulder Line Gun uses a single-shot H&R Handi Rifle for the same concept and it is very popular.

However, around the 1930s these began to be supplemented by a series of line throwing 1903s. These 30.06-caliber rifles were converted by having the barrel rifling and sights removed to produce a 24-inch smoothbore with the handguard wood shortened to match. Two-pounds of lead was placed in the butt under a modified padded butt plate. The line bucket is mounted under the abbreviated forend and, as noted by Brophy, these were used with three different projectile rods in light (13 ounces) heavy (15 ounces) and illuminated buoyant types.

They show up at auction from time to time, being replaced by M16s and shotguns years ago, and are very curious.

However, at least some USCG armories still have these old “bucket guns” in the back, and they do still see service.

Seaman Ronald Benke, aboard Coast Guard Cutter SPAR, shoots an M1903 line throwing gun, used to send a messenger line during a towing exercise with the Coast Guard Cutter Naushon, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in the Gulf of Alaska. The SPAR is a 225-foot buoy tender stationed in Kodiak, Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Justin Hergert

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Brandon Kittrell inspects the bolt action and slide catch of an M1903 U.S. Springfield Rifle at the Coast Guard Armory in Port Clinton, Ohio, Feb. 18, 2015. The rifle has been modified to shoot rope to a vessel in distress during an emergency where out boats are unable to get alongside them. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Laughlin)

The serial number on the above Port Clinton gun, #1211224, makes it a Springfield Armory-manufactured receiver made in 1920, so the gun has very likely been in the Coast Guard’s stocks since Prohibition when a number of brand new BARs, 1911s and 1903s were transferred to help arm the cutters patrolling Rum Row against often well-armed bootleggers. As the service used the .45-70 single shot line thrower through WWII, this Springer was probably converted post-1945 using the old rope bucket from retired black powder guns.

And the last Coasties to use them probably haven’t been born yet.

A brief look at the ratchets of Marine snipers through the years

Over at I did a quick geardo rundown of several of the Corp’s modern sniper rigs from the early WWI Rifle, “USMC Telescopic Rifle, Model of 1917” which is basically just a good shooting early M1903 with a fixed Winchester A5 scope through WWII’s updated M1903A-1 model Springfield with a Unertl 8x scope– immediately distinguishable by its long shade on the objective lens– which they designated the M1941 Sniper Rifle, and then the Korean War’s M1C and the various guns of Vietnam.

U.S. Marine firing the “USMC Telescopic Rifle, Model of 1917” which is an M1903 with a Winchester A5 scope. (Photo: National Archives)

“A U.S. Marine Marksman using a telescopic sight and with his Springfield cocked and ready, waits for a troublesome North Korean sniper to pop up so he can pick him off in Seoul, the capital city of South Korea on Sept. 28, 1950. Note the Unertl. (Photo/caption: Max Desfor/AP)

“Pvt. Randall E. Josey, a Marine sniper attached to Co. H, 2nd Bn., 5th Marines, has a bead on a Viet Cong at over 1,000 meters. Using a 3 x 9 power scope, a Remington 700 rifle has accuracy up to 1,100 meters and has been used effectively up to 2,000 meters or more.” June 19, 1967 (Photo/caption: U.S. Marine Corps History Division)

More here.

The mighty, mighty over-boots of war, 74 years ago

Colorized photo of two U.S. soldiers from the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment, behind a Sherman tank at the ruins of Geich, near Düren, Germany, 11 Dec 1944.

Note the well-used Thompson M1A1 complete with simplified sights, M1 helmets without netting, and four-buckle U.S.-issue rubber overboots with tire-tread soles.

The boots, stock number 72-0-452, were made by a number of tire companies to include B.F. Goodrich and Goodyear Rubber Co as well as more traditional shoe companies that specialised in rubber-soled footwear such as Converse and LaCrosse and were based on the pre-war “Royal Walrus” galoshes made by the United States Rubber Company (Uniroyal), which today is owned by Michelin.

Today of course overboots, especially of the arctic type with the pressure port, are commonly just called Mickey Mouse boots.

But, if you were just now feeling cold up, here is an overbooted 9th Armoured Division technician with a little French girl on Valentine’s Day, 14 Feb 1945 to warm your black soul:

The broken Hart

Awakened about 3:00 A.M., 8 December 1941 (2:00 P.M. Washington, D.C., time; 8:30 A.M. Pearl Harbor time, both 7 December), Admiral Thomas C. Hart scribbled this message to alert his fleet.

“Asiatic Fleet, Priority
Japan started hostilities. Govern yourselves accordingly.”

With the Philippines indefensible from a naval standpoint, by 14 December Hart had managed to withdraw his outgunned fleet in good order to Balikpapan, Borneo and continue operations from there. While his submarines kept slipping through the Japanese blockade of the PI, he engaged the Japanese at the Battle of Balikpapan Bay and came out ahead.

Hart held the command of the U.S. Navy Asiatic Fleet in WWII until 5 February 1942, at which point the command ceased to exist though not a single ship was lost while he was in charge of the force.

An excellent 95-page overview of the two months between the two bookend dates is here

Ward, who fired Pearl Harbor’s first shot, located after 73 years

New video in from the Philippines of Paul Allen’s RV Petrel exploring and documenting the remains of the Wickes-class destroyer, USS Ward (DD-139/APD-16).

USS Ward fired the first American shot in World War II on December 7, 1941, and of course is a past Warship Wednesday alumnus.

In a twist of fate, she was lost December 7, 1944, in Ormoc Bay and is now found and announced to the world again on that, now hallowed, date.

The beginning, and the end

A Navy officer views the shrine at the Arizona Memorial, where a marble wall bears the names of 1,177 officers and crew killed on the USS Arizona (BB-39) on 7 December 1941.

(Photo: VA)

A view of the USS Missouri (BB-63), site of the Japanese surrender ceremony in 1945, from the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. To this day, oil can be still seen rising from the wreckage to the surface of the water. The oil seeping is sometimes referred to as “tears of the Arizona” or “black tears.”

(Photo: VA)

The quiet before the storm

1941 Original Press Photo dated December 6, 1941, the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Shows a class of sailors in class as they train to become part of a water-cooled M2 .50-caliber Browning AAA gun crew.

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