Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
This article is about the "bazooka" anti-tank weapon. See Bazooka (instrument) for the musical instrument for which this weapon was named, Bazooka (chewing gum) for the chewing gum, or Bazooka (group) for the jazz group.
The bazooka weapon was one of the first anti-tank weapons based on the HEAT shell to enter service, used by the United States Armed Forces in World War II. It was nicknamed a "bazooka" from a vague resemblance to the musical instrument. Development took place in Corcoran Hall at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. It was highly effective, so much so that the Germans copied it, possibly from those supplied to the Russians, to produce their own version known as the Panzerschreck. The bazooka could be found in all theatres of war during World War II, and was used until the Korean War when it was then replaced by newer weapons such as the LAW in time for the Vietnam War.
Prior to the war the US Army had developed a shaped-charge hand grenade for anti-tank use that was effective at defeating up to 100mm of armor, by far the best such weapon in the world at the time. However, it was very hard to use in combat, requiring placement directly on the tank, and for this reason it was largely ignored.
Things changed when Colonel Leslie A. Skinner suggested placing the grenade on the front of his experimental rocket launcher, which was a weapon looking for a role. This proved to be a good match, and by late 1942 the Rocket Launcher, M1A1 was introduced. This consisted of a 4 ft (1.2 m) tube with a simple wooden stock and sights, into which the 60 mm rocket grenades were inserted at the rear. A small battery provided a charge to ignite the rocket when the trigger was pulled. The main drawback to the weapon was the large backblast and smoke trail which gave away the position of the shooter - compare to the British PIAT.
In 1944 the M1A1 model was supplemented by the improved M9 and then the M9A1 which could be broken into two halves for easier carrying. A larger 3.5 lb (1.6 kg) warhead was under development, but didn't reach service until after the war had ended. By the time of the Korean War an even larger M20 with a 2lb (900 g) 3.5 in (89 mm) warhead was starting to enter service, which could penetrate well over 200 mm of armor and had an extended range of about 150 m.
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