Eighty years ago, an iconic weapon was revealed that would equip the armed forces of more than 40 countries, including Britain. Michael E Haskew salutes the bazooka on the anniversary of its public debut

Its existence had been a closely guarded secret until the US Army unveiled a new antitank weapon during a live-fire demonstration for the press at Fort Benning, Georgia, on September 15, 1943. That same day, the Pittsburgh Press got something of a scoop, reporting the existence of the “pipelike” weapon. So, finally, the word was out regarding the ′Launcher, Rocket, 2.36in (60mm), Anti-Tank, M1’ as it was specified in US Army nomenclature. But the soldiers who fielded it, fired it and found it a lifesaver called it something else: the bazooka.

According to most sources, the bazooka was the first weapon of its kind to enter battle – ashoulderfired, man-portable, reusable rocket launcher that was capable of disabling or destroying enemy tanks and armoured vehicles while also finishing off troublesome bunkers and machine gun nests with HEAT or white phosphorous rounds. It made its combat debut during Operation Torch, the Allied landings on the coast of North Africa on November 8, 1942, and several modifications were made during the course of World War Two. Total wartime production exceeded 476,000, while more than 15.6 million rounds of ammunition were manufactured.

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