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The Bazooka, The M16, And the Man on the Moon

By Seth Nadel

The threads that weave the modern world sometimes make interesting connections. Here is one unlikely set of connections in our history that touches on fascinating, but unlikely spots.

First, the bazooka - it’s official name was the M6 rocket launcher, but a popular comedian of the 1940’s had a homemade ‘musical instrument’ he called a “bazooka”, that looked vaguely like the rocket launcher, so the name stuck.

At the start of World War II, the United States did not have any portable anti-tank device. Tanks were opposed by other tanks or anti-tank guns, first of 37mm and later of 57mm. These were large, cumbersome, required a vehicle to tow them, and a crew to employ them. The 57mm gun and carriage weighed 2,810 pounds, and the gun without carriage was 117 inches long. Obviously, something smaller and lighter, that troops could carry, was needed.

With the advent of the German “Panzerfaust” ( tank fist) using a hollow or shaped charge, the Germans led the way. We developed an anti-tank hand grenade, which was too large and heavy to throw any distance. The danger zone was greater than the distance the ordinary troop could throw the device - obviously a negative outcome. A young 2nd Lieutenant in the Ordnance Corps at Aberdeen Proving Grounds was assigned the task of developing a way to launch the grenade to a useful distance.

That Lieutenant, Edward Uhl, is said to have found a piece of pipe in a scrap pile that fit the 2.36” diameter of the grenade. Uhl ’acquired’ a simple solid fuel rocket motor, which he attached to the grenade, along with some tail fins. Bent wires welded to the pipe served as sights, and he was ready to test his invention.

The legend is that Uhl was headed toward the ranges, and found a range where testing of other anti-tank devices was about to begin. The stands were filled with high ranking officers, all with high expectations that the Ordnance folks had something to show them. Uhl and his assistant joined the end of the...


03-31-2016 3:43 PM

How silly!

...straining to make a connection that doesn't exist.

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03-24-2016 4:16 PM

Not quite right

Uhl didn't become president of Fairchild until 1961, around the time that Fairchild severed its ties with ArmaLite. Given that Sherman Fairchild had hired Uhl from outside the company, Uhl had nothing to do with the development of the AR-10 or AR-15.

ArmaLite's patron, Richard Boutelle was fired as Fairchild's president at the end of 1958. Boutelle's replacement, J.H. Carmichael, was unable to turn things around, and was let go at the end of 1960. This led company founder Sherman Fairchild to take the reins again until Uhl was hired as president in 1961. Reportedly, nearly all of Fairchild's senior executives were forced out during this time, and Fairchild also began cutting loose its deadweight divisions, including ArmaLite.

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