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  #1  
Old 21 May 2008, 12:30 AM
Silas Sparkhammer's Avatar
Silas Sparkhammer Silas Sparkhammer is offline
 
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Whalephant Korea: U.S. troops leave recoiless rifle as trap

I saw this in "comic strip" form, but it was presented as a true story. A couple of U.S. soldiers, in Korea, during the Korean War, leave a recoiless rifle out in the open, and hide to watch what happens. The stupid North Korean (or Chinese?) soldiers who find it don't know what it is. While messing around with it, some of them get killed by the back-blast from the rear of the weapon.

Is anything like this documented? Is it at all believable? Would "stupid" enemy soldiers not know how to use such a weapon? Would U.S. troops ever endanger themselves and break regulations in such a fashion?

The concept was cute...but does it stand up to skeptical scrutiny?

Silas (never fired such a weapon...but would know not to stand directly behind one!)
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  #2  
Old 21 May 2008, 07:43 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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Basic knowledge of enemy weapons is part of every army's training. I find this hard to believe, especially since they had recoilless rifles of their own.
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  #3  
Old 21 May 2008, 08:40 AM
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Ravenhull Ravenhull is offline
 
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I'm going to agree with Troberg on this one.

And, for those of you who don't know what at recoiless rifle is, it is a man portable direct fire artillery device, usually less than 4" in calibur. It functions by firing a second charge through vents in the rear of the weapon to counter the recoil of the main charge. The result is, like a bazooka/LAW/RPG, there is a significant 'back blast' area behind the weapon. Unless the person is very close, it would probably not be fatal, but could cause serious injury if you are in the area.
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  #4  
Old 21 May 2008, 09:05 AM
songs78
 
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By the time of the Korean War, recoilless rifles were found throughout the US forces. The "original" US recoilless rifles were the 57 mm and 75 mm, followed by a 105 mm. The new models replacing these were the 90 mm and 106 mm. The Soviets likewise enthusiastically adopted recoilless rifle (actually recoilless "guns" as they were smoothbore) technology in the 1950s, most commonly in calibers 73 mm, 82 mm, and 107 mm.
Soviets had these well. But most of the Chinese or North Korean infantry probably had minimal training and may not have known what it was.

Quote:
Would U.S. troops ever endanger themselves and break regulations in such a fashion?
U.S. troops did far worse things than that during the Korean conflict.

Quote:
The 17 investigators of the commission's subcommittee on "mass civilian sacrifice," led by Kim, have also been dealing with 215 cases in which the U.S. military is accused of the indiscriminate killing of South Korean civilians in 1950-51, usually in air attacks.
And of course this is interesting. Future?

Quote:
It also wants to educate people, "not just in Korea, but throughout the international community," to the reality of that long-ago conflict, to "prevent such a tragic war from reoccurring in the future."
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  #5  
Old 21 May 2008, 03:46 PM
hotrod hotrod is offline
 
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It seems odd to leave a weapon lying around for the enemy to pick up and possibly use against you. Wouldn't it make more sense to booby-trap the recoiless rifle to kill the enemy soldiers who touch it?
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  #6  
Old 21 May 2008, 08:49 PM
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Silas Sparkhammer Silas Sparkhammer is offline
 
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Originally Posted by hotrod View Post
It seems odd to leave a weapon lying around for the enemy to pick up and possibly use against you. Wouldn't it make more sense to booby-trap the recoiless rifle to kill the enemy soldiers who touch it?
Exactly. Or, even more economically, create a dummy weapon out of plywood and cardboard, and booby-trap that. Why leave out a weapon which, if used correctly, could kill you, or personnel on your side?

It's like throwing a grenade at the enemy with the safety-pin still in it, hoping he'll be stupid enough to draw the pin and blow himself up. Okay, it might happen...but he might also pull the pin and throw it back at you, and I sure wouldn't want to risk that!

Anyway, my hunch is that the story is just a military UL, but I craved the opinion of those more knowledgeable.

Silas
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  #7  
Old 21 May 2008, 10:05 PM
Malruhn Malruhn is offline
 
 
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The Army has a long history of leaving stuff around - either real or a dummy - and then having snipers in place to eliminate possible thefts... but I've never heard of this particular UL.
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  #8  
Old 22 May 2008, 01:07 AM
Mycroft Mycroft is offline
 
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In WW2 the German's especially were known for leaving booby traps. I have seen a US wartime manual for a German 88mm AA gun (some were captured and used by allied forces) stressing the danger of using any ammunition without having it checked by a specialist.
Standard British practice dating back at least 200 years is to disable any weapon likely to fall into enemy hands, preferably permanently but at least to require workshops and/or spare parts for repair. In the case of a recoiless rifle temporary disablement would be effected by removing and damaging the breech mechanism or destroying the available ammunition; permanent diasblement would be effected by detonating a handgrenade in the barrel or firing the weapon with an obstruction in the barrel (RRs have thin barrels compared to conventional artillery which are difficult to permanently disable). In the scenario in the OP the RR is not disabled at all, and (with a different crew) would still be usable. In war time deliberately leaving the gun in a usable condition could lead to a court martial for the soldiers involved.
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  #9  
Old 26 May 2008, 06:12 AM
McDavidW
 
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United States Highly unlikely

I doubt it would be left functional on purpose, but if captured by the enemy it would be plausible for them not to know the backblast area. It is very difficult to train an entire army on all of your enemies weapons as most wars are not planned out for prolonged periods. A basic knowledge may be all the time you can allot before movement. I have trained with foreign militaries and some are stupid criminals forced into service. Two of my Marines were almost caught in the backblast from a TOW missile several years ago during training with a foreign military.
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  #10  
Old 27 May 2008, 02:13 AM
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Silas Sparkhammer Silas Sparkhammer is offline
 
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Whalephant

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Originally Posted by McDavidW View Post
I doubt it would be left functional on purpose, but if captured by the enemy it would be plausible for them not to know the backblast area. It is very difficult to train an entire army on all of your enemies weapons as most wars are not planned out for prolonged periods. A basic knowledge may be all the time you can allot before movement. I have trained with foreign militaries and some are stupid criminals forced into service. Two of my Marines were almost caught in the backblast from a TOW missile several years ago during training with a foreign military.
Welcome, neighbor, to snopes!

And...ouch! How close were the two Marines to the backblast? Hope they weren't singed!

I remember first learning about LAW backblast from the Clint Eastwood "Dirty Harry" movie, "The Killer Elite." There's a scene where he grabs his partner and yanks her out of line from directly behind one as it's fired. (Cute scene, but where was the range safety officer?)

Silas
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  #11  
Old 01 June 2008, 08:37 AM
Kutter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by McDavidW View Post
I doubt it would be left functional on purpose, but if captured by the enemy it would be plausible for them not to know the backblast area. It is very difficult to train an entire army on all of your enemies weapons as most wars are not planned out for prolonged periods. A basic knowledge may be all the time you can allot before movement. I have trained with foreign militaries and some are stupid criminals forced into service. Two of my Marines were almost caught in the backblast from a TOW missile several years ago during training with a foreign military.
Also, North Korea and China generally made up their militaries with conscripts, who, especially late in the war, probably weren't trained with much more than their own rifles (if even those). It's pretty unlikely they would know anything about the backblast unless they had been around a Soviet one when it fired. Even then, they might not relate that the US version was the same basic weapon.

It's possible that Marines had to abandon their weapon due to their position being over-run and didn't have time to disable it. During the retreat or from their rally point, they may have seen enemy soldiers use the weapon and get knocked flat, which evolved into our little story here.

More likely, though, it was a "would be cool" story that started being told as true.
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  #12  
Old 02 June 2008, 12:00 AM
DobbinDodger
 
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Reads like classic "chin up lad, the enemy ain't too bright" UL propaganda, too great a margin for failure, and (as noted) about as tactically unsound as you can get.
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  #13  
Old 02 October 2008, 12:27 PM
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Graham2001 Graham2001 is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mycroft View Post
Standard British practice dating back at least 200 years is to disable any weapon likely to fall into enemy hands, preferably permanently but at least to require workshops and/or spare parts for repair.
From memory one British WWII fuse was specifically designed to be used as a booby trap.

If an ammo dump was to be abandoned one (or more) shells would have their impact fuses replaced with time fuses set to go off at a random time starting at least one hour after the fuse was armed. The fuse in question was designed to look just like a standard impact fuse.
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  #14  
Old 02 October 2008, 12:47 PM
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UEL UEL is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Graham2001 View Post
From memory one British WWII fuse was specifically designed to be used as a booby trap.

If an ammo dump was to be abandoned one (or more) shells would have their impact fuses replaced with time fuses set to go off at a random time starting at least one hour after the fuse was armed. The fuse in question was designed to look just like a standard impact fuse.
If you are talking about artillery ammunition, time fuses don't, and didn't, work like that.

There are many, many ways of denying ammunition to the enemy. But given that the enemy used ammunition of different calibres and lengths, it was not required to booby trap ammunition.

Fuel, on the other hand...
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  #15  
Old 02 October 2008, 01:32 PM
BluesScale BluesScale is offline
 
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A video of a recoilless rifle is worth a thousand words

Blues
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  #16  
Old 03 October 2008, 11:10 PM
PointySextant
 
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I lived next door to a Korean War veteran for about 5 years, and he was quite interested in conversations about his experiences in the war, in so far as he could educate me and others as to the nature of war and what actually took place and so on, and as a result I have a fair bit of second hand knowledge about the Korean war from a marine who was there from Inchon to Chosin, right up until the end.

None of the recoilless rifles he mentioned as being used in his war experience would meet the criteria for this kind of trick as I see them, those criteria being:

1. Lethality of blowback. A blast of smoke and fire yes, but you would have to be holding your head right against the rear end of the damn things to die from simple use of a standard American or British recoiless rifle of the Korean War. These weapons were tinny mouse traps compared to systems like the TOW missile and other modern weapons.

2. Complexity. For all the harped upon ignorance of the Korean and Chinese conscripts, which can not be denied, nor can one deny the nature of the weapons used by American soldiers in World War 2 and Korea, and those weapons were designed by men with not a lot of esteem for the common soldier and to be as simple as possible given the desired parameters. The difference in training between a modern western soldier and a soldier of the Korean war is not something you should understate.

3. Abundance. This is probably the most important. There was really no point, according to my neighbor, that he or his men were in a position where they would have even imagined throwing away a heavy weapon like that. The weapons itself, assuming it was even available, would have been to valuable, as would the ammunition, assuming it was even available. Remember that the majority of the tactics employed by the North Koreans and Chinese against the UN forces were of the "run at the enemy line absorbing bullets until they run out and the next man in line can't be shot at" variety. They simply didn't have the time or opportunity for this kind of waste.
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  #17  
Old 06 October 2008, 06:38 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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Lethality of blowback. A blast of smoke and fire yes, but you would have to be holding your head right against the rear end of the damn things to die from simple use of a standard American or British recoiless rifle of the Korean War. These weapons were tinny mouse traps compared to systems like the TOW missile and other modern weapons.
Good point.

I think those earlier recoilless rifles were rocket launchers, unlike later models like the Swedish Carl Gustaf (which in Swedish nomenclature is a "grenade rifle", as opposed to the earlier "rocket rifles") which have a much shorter burn time, where the propellant has burned out more or less as the projectile leaves the barrel.

The advantages are a better projectile trajectory, being completely ballistic and thus less vulnerable to wind and lighter obstacles (grass, twigs) and less backblast for the gunner. I suspect they also don't leave such an incriminating smoke trail.

The disadvantages, on the other side, is that the back blast is much more intense, leading to a larger danger zone behind the weapon and making dangerous to use from inside a building.
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  #18  
Old 06 October 2008, 06:51 AM
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UEL UEL is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
Good point.

I think those earlier recoilless rifles were rocket launchers, unlike later models like the Swedish Carl Gustaf ... which have a much shorter burn time, where the propellant has burned out more or less as the projectile leaves the barrel.

The advantages are a better projectile trajectory, being completely ballistic and thus less vulnerable to wind and lighter obstacles (grass, twigs) and less backblast for the gunner. I suspect they also don't leave such an incriminating smoke trail.

The disadvantages, on the other side, is that the back blast is much more intense, leading to a larger danger zone behind the weapon and making dangerous to use from inside a building.
I'm interested in what you are saying. I'm just unclear as to which system the last two paragraphs are referring. Are they referring to the rocket launchers or the Carl G?
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  #19  
Old 21 October 2008, 05:54 PM
PointySextant
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UEL View Post
I'm interested in what you are saying. I'm just unclear as to which system the last two paragraphs are referring. Are they referring to the rocket launchers or the Carl G?
Basically, the difference is between a hand held cannon and a rocket launcher.

The Carl Gustaf essentially fires a large bullet, or shell, with a variable payload. The advantage is that the blowback is reduced, the burn time is reduced, so it fires immediately, and, this is a big one, the speed of the projectile is already at it's maximum upon exiting the barrel, so unless you are close enough to be blown up with the target, there is no minimum range. A further advantage, or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it, is that the weapon is aimed like a gun, with a lead on the target and a ballistic trajectory and paying attention to wind and the like.

Rocket launchers have big blow back, take longer to fire and reload, and have a minimum effective range, but the advantage they hold is that they are essentially line of sight point and shoot weapons. They have much greater range and possible payloads then recoilles rifles, and where you point the shot is where it will go. The problem with this of course is that wind drift can sometimes be an advantage to a shooter over long ranges, and it is harder to lead with a rocket launcher, because the time between when you pull the trigger and when it actually fires is not as immediate as with a rifle, so you can sometimes be even more off than with a rifle. This is why an anti tank rocket launcher is extremely difficult to use against aircraft, and hitting an aircraft with one is as much a matter of luck as it is skill.
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  #20  
Old 20 January 2009, 07:08 PM
CYBORG
 
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There is a minimum amount of danger after a few yards behind the rear of a recoiless rifle. The greatest danger would be eyes and unprotected skin from propellant particles discharged as debris. The rear blast quickly dissipates.
One of the advantages to a recoiless rifle was the ability to fire in tight quarters.
Google it!

The lead story is baloney and just one of the many exaggerated combat anecdotes that get embellished as a joke.
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