By Kyle Shea
The Guns of “Overlord”
On June 5, 1944, Nazi Germany was in control of most of France. The French people lived in fear of the brutal German soldiers who occupied their country. But there was hope. The French Resistance, also known as the Maquis, caused the Germans endless setbacks. In the east, millions of Soviet soldiers prepared to charge across Eastern Europe, drawing large numbers of German resources to the Eastern Front. In the south, Italy had switched sides, and the Germans found themselves in a second front against American and English soldiers. Finally, across the English Channel, a powerful force created German Chancellor Adolf Hitler’s worst nightmare: a Third Front.
In England, an alliance including the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Poland and other nations amassed a large military force and were prepared to launch a great offensive to liberate Western Europe. While the German command was distracted by a fake army miles away, thousands of Marines, paratroopers, pilots, other soldiers and equipment were prepared for battle. The date for the offensive was supposed to have happened on June 5, but the weather forced them to change it to the next day. So on June 6, 1944, one of the greatest invasions in history began. Just after midnight, thousands of American, British and Canadian paratroopers landed across northern France, causing chaos for the Germans stationed there. This was D-Day, the first day of Operation Overlord. This was a campaign to invade Fortress Europe, liberate northern France and open the door to enter the heart of Nazi Germany. On August 24, American and French soldiers entered Paris. “Operation Overlord” officially ended on August 30, with Canadian troops entering Rouen to cheering crowds.
On November 9, 2018, “Overlord” was released in the United States. The movie tells the fictional story of a group of American paratroopers dropped behind German lines on D-Day. They stumble upon a secret German facility experimenting on human beings with a strange serum. The film was produced by J. J. Abrams and stars Jovan Adepo from the new “Star Wars” movies and Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt Russell.
The Allies used a number of different firearms, but the following are the ones that were used in the movie.
M1903 Springfield Rifle is one of America’s most successful rifles. It was adopted in 1903 in response to the mixed performance of the Krag-Jorgensen Rifle. The M1903 first saw service in World War I and did well in the trenches. Even after the American Armed forces adopted the M1 Garand, the M1903 and other variants of the gun served on until the Vietnam War.
The M1903 in the “Overlord” movie is actually a variant of the rifle called the M1903A4. The main differences between the M1903 and M1903A3 guns are that the sights on the A3 were moved to the rear of the receiver, some of the parts are stamped, and many had two-groove barrels. The main difference on the M1903A4 is its sights were removed and replaced with mounts for a sniper scope. While it was a good infantry rifle, it did comparatively poorly as a sniper rifle. The gun holds five .30-06 rounds in an internal magazine like other bolt-action rifles and has a range of 1000m or more.
One of the most famous weapons of World War II was the M1 Garand. It was first produced in 1934 and saw service in dozens of conflicts across the world. It loads eight .30-06 (7.62x63mm) rounds that are loaded into the gun through the top using a clip. One problem the gun had was that the clip would cause a ping sound when it injected with the last round. Despite this minor flaw, the M1 Garand was a good rifle and was well liked by the soldiers who carried it.
Another rifle made famous in World War II was the M1 Carbine. It was produced for officers and tank crews, as well as paratroopers. From a distance, it looks like a lighter version of the M1 Garand. It shoots .30 Carbine (7.62x33mm) from 15- and 30-round magazines, with the M2 full-auto version at a rate of 750 rounds per minute. It was very light and had a range of 300 yards. There was actually a special M1A1 variant which had a folding buttstock for paratroopers. Sadly, that is not the model that was used in the movie.
The story behind the M1 Carbine is interesting. The gas piston was designed by David “Carbine” Williams, who had been sent to jail for the murder of a deputy. However, he showed such a talent for mechanical engineering that even the widow of the deputy who was killed agreed to his release to help serve his country.
I did not see “Overlord,” but from what I heard, the movie was well-received from critics. If movies like “Overlord” are your cup of tea, by all means go enjoy this film.
Special Note: June 6, 2019, will be the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. There will be ceremonies throughout Normandy, and it is likely that this will be the last time for many of the real soldiers who took part in it to be there. I have signed up for a tour and will be there to report on it. If you have any interest in going, it would be a good idea to start looking into it now.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V23N3 (March 2019)