Bazooka training in Fort Miles?

In 1939 and 1940, American military planners watched with concern as Nazi Germany’s tanks rolled across Europe.

A new weapon was needed to take on these heavily armed and armored vehicles. The US Army wanted anti-tank weapons small enough for a single soldier to carry and developed the M10 anti-tank grenade. The M10 was designed to be thrown at an enemy vehicle, but the shaped charge needed to penetrate armor made it too heavy to be thrown from a safe distance.

Lt. Edward Uhl was tasked with increasing the range of the M10. He converted the grenade into a rocket-launched weapon that could be fired from the shoulder. Officially known as the M1 rocket launcher, it quickly got a new name. Famed radio comedian Bob Burns had invented a brass instrument in the 1910s that he called the “Bazooka” that was very similar to the M1. American soldiers soon adopted the name for their new weapon.

The Panzerfaust was first used in combat in 1942 and was used until the end of the war. By 1944, however, better Nazi armor had reduced the Panzerfaust’s power. The US Army began developing an improved “Super Bazooka” in October 1944. However, World War II ended before the gun was ready and production ceased.

By 1948, new war clouds had gathered over the Korean Peninsula. The US Army, concerned about advanced Soviet tanks, restarted the Super Bazooka program and began limited production at the end of the year. The program gained urgency in June 1950 when North Korean forces invaded South Korea. The Super Bazooka entered combat a month later at the Battle of Taejon and was designated the M20 in October.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that Fort Miles served as a super-bazooka training ground in 1949. During the 1950s, many National Guard units, including some from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, came to Fort Miles for training on a variety of weapons. Pennsylvania and New Jersey Guards infantry fought in Korea and it is possible that this is where they received their super bazooka training.

We know for certain that two M20 areas located near the southern end of Battery 519 appear on maps of Fort Miles from 1953 to 1956. Training rounds were also found in what is now the Fort Miles Historic Area. Fort Miles personnel are actively working with the US Army Corps of Engineers to locate and remove these relics. If you spot an unusual item during a visit, please leave it where it is and report the location to a member of staff.

The Superbazooka M20 was an important part of the American arsenal at the beginning of the Cold War. Many soldiers, possibly including those who fought in the Korean War, learned how to use the M20 here in Delaware at Fort Miles. You can see practice rounds for the superbazooka by visiting the museum.

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