While weapons used during World War II are widely distributed throughout museums and historical buildings around the world, the most extensive collection in one location is at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana. As its name suggests, this museum focuses solely on artifacts from the second world war. The weapons, which are spread throughout the entire exhibit, include both edged weapons and firearms that were mostly donated by veterans or family members over the past 20 years.
Types of Artifacts
While perusing the National WWII Museum, you will find two general types of artifacts. These are “general” or “sample” artifacts and “personal” artifacts. The general artifacts are things like uniforms, helmets, or weapons that were mass produced for all service members during the war. These artifacts do not have a connection to a specific person or a specific story, but are valuable and important artifacts representing the war and the time period. The artifacts that are categorized as personal are those that are known to belong to a specific person, place, or instance. These artifacts have a story or background that is known and portrayed by the museum.
One of the weapons that was commonly used during WWII was the M1 Carbine. This weapon was a standard issue firearm for the United States military during WWII, and can be seen in many places throughout the museum’s collection. The M1 Carbine is a lightweight, semi-automatic weapon that was easy for soldiers to carry and load. It was extremely cost-effective, so it was a great choice to mass produce for the military. In addition to its price of production, this weapon was chosen for its close-range accuracy, and its lightweight build. Both of these features gave American soldiers an advantage when it came to combat.
M3 Fighting Knife
A popular edged weapon that you will find at the National WWII Museum is the M3 fighting knife. This knife, also referred to as the trench knife, was made in 1943 and was originally designed to give to soldiers who were not issued a bayonet for their firearm. The M3 fighting knife is a close combat weapon, so it was given to soldiers who were in danger of being in hand-to-hand combat situations. Additionally, soldiers who were issued an M1 Carbine typically were given an M3 fighting knife as well, before the bayonet ring was added to the M1 Carbine towards the end of the war. This specific knife was created to conserve precious metal resources.
M7 Grenade Launcher
In addition to the typical, standard issue weapons, there are some more specialized and unique weapons used during WWII. One of these is the M7 grenade launcher. This is a 22mm rifle attachment for the M1 Garand, a larger firearm used commonly during the war. The attachment was tube-shaped, and slipped over the muzzle of the rifle and attached to the bayonet mount. Using this weapon, a soldier could launch a grenade up to 200 meters, as opposed to the maximum of 30 meters that they could throw a grenade by hand. While using the M7 grenade launcher, a soldier was not able to fire his weapon normally.
The M1 flamethrower was a portable flamethrower that was developed in 1941 and used during WWII by the United States military. This weapon was a backpack that weighed 72 pounds. It could hold up to five gallons of fuel in its tank and had a range of 15 meters. In 1943, it was replaced by the M1A1 model that was lighter, 65 pounds, and had a much longer range of 45 meters, all while holding the same amount of fuel. The M1A1 model was much more effective, and fired napalm, a thickened fuel that “sticks” to its target.
Japanese 38 Carbine
One of the most popular personal artifacts in the museum is a Japanese 38 Carbine. This particular weapon was brought back from the war by Major Abraham Lewis Kolodny. Dr. Kolodny was a surgeon whose station came under Japanese fire one day. This sniper fire was endangering his patients and staff, as well as himself. Dr. Kolodny, wanting to keep his station safe, found a bazooka man. He bet him five dollars that he could not hit the sniper. After a short time had passed, the fire had ceased, and the bazooka man came back to collect his money. Kolodny kept the sniper rifle as a souvenir. It was donated to the museum recently by Kolodny’s son.
Another personal artifact with an interesting history is the V44 Stiletto that was owned and used by Sergeant Irving Becker. Becker, an Austrian Jew who served for the United States military during the war, was discriminated against by both sides because of his background. Throughout his trials and tribulations, he still found himself an integral part of one of the more elite Allied forces that was ever assembled.
Visiting the Collection
This article details a small amount of the weapons and history included at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, LA. If you are truly interested in weapons from that time period, it is the greatest and most extensive collection to visit. Not only will you see the best WWII weapons collection, but you will also see a wide range of other artifacts from the war as well. This museum is an amazing experience for WWII weapons enthusiasts.