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View Full Version : Question about U.S.Marines and M1903/M1903A3


Rustybore
04-12-2012, 1:15 PM
We are working on a museum exhibit about the weapons used by the USMC in WWll.
We are currently researching the small weapons used and are seeking information on the usage of the M1903 and the M1903A3.
The U.S. Marines seem to have used the M1903 in the early WWll campaigns, is this correct?
Did the U.S. Marines ever use the M1903A3 in WWll?

Thank you for your time,

Rb.

mosinnagantm9130
04-12-2012, 1:20 PM
The USMC kept using the M1903, including low number examples, throughout 1942, and into 1943. The M1 didn't become available in decent numbers to the USMC until early-ish 1943.

0321jarhead
04-12-2012, 1:32 PM
We are working on a museum exhibit about the weapons used by the USMC in WWll.
We are currently researching the small weapons used and are seeking information on the usage of the M1903 and the M1903A3.
The U.S. Marines seem to have used the M1903 in the early WWll campaigns, is this correct?
Did the U.S. Marines ever use the M1903A3 in WWll?

Thank you for your time,

Rb.

Did you not try communicating here? http://www.usmcmuseum.org/

littlejake
04-12-2012, 1:33 PM
Guadalcanal was fought bolt action to bolt action. 1903 vs Arisaka.

deguello
04-12-2012, 1:47 PM
Guadalcanal was fought bolt action to bolt action. 1903 vs Arisaka.

That is correct...........until the U.S. Army arrived on the island (w/Garands). Apparently many were 'borrowed' by Marines for future battles on the island. :):):)

Eljay
04-12-2012, 2:22 PM
Guadalcanal was fought bolt action to bolt action. 1903 vs Arisaka.

Although it's worth noting that the Marines had quite a few BARs. The Japanese were apparently quite confused as how they were able to set up and move around what appeared to be light machine guns so quickly.

powaybob
04-12-2012, 2:53 PM
The Marines had a lot of Browning machine guns in Guadalcanal to supplement the 03A3s. Read the story of John Basilone's Medal of Honor effort.

Mike A
04-12-2012, 6:31 PM
I've never seen an O3A3 in Marine or Army photos from Guadalcanal; Marines had '03s, Army had mainly M1 Garands.

In fact I've seen few 03A3s in photos from the Pacific theater; many more in photos from European theater. Not sure why, but the O3A3s seem to have mainly gone to stateside units and support units in Europe.

And some officers and NCOs in line infantry units grabbed them so as to have a rifle instead of just a sidearm. Smart infantry get hold of as much firepower as they can. And smart infantry officers and noncoms don't like to stand out from the rifle-toting grunts. A "distinction" that can get you killed.

smle-man
04-12-2012, 8:59 PM
You can see lots of pictures of 03A3s with Army troops in Burma and 03s were used for rifle grenades. Marines did not use A3s. Their sniper rifle was the 03A1 with a Unertl scope. The Marines were still rebuilding 03s up through 1944 for use in basic training.

gunboat
04-12-2012, 10:01 PM
The Marines used "their" 03 snipe rifles well into the "50s -- I believe the last were built from parts at a a weapons facility at quantico.
I don't think they used 03a1s, just 03s. later ones assembled from parts may have been both 03 and 03a1 recievers.

Fate
04-13-2012, 5:55 AM
I've seen photos of Navy soldiers with 03A3's, but never Marines.

7.62x63mmUS
04-13-2012, 8:59 AM
In several video clips in the series "Wings of the Luftwaffe" you see presumably guards and assistants to generals standing around with 1903A3's as they inspect captured German aircraft.

smle-man
04-13-2012, 10:06 AM
In several video clips in the series "Wings of the Luftwaffe" you see presumably guards and assistants to generals standing around with 1903A3's as they inspect captured German aircraft.

My father was in the AAF in WW2 and stood guard many a day with an 03A3. He never saw an M1 rifle except at small arms school but M1 carbines were very available.

7.62x63mmUS
04-13-2012, 10:17 AM
It's a shame my grandfather died before I was really interested in WWII firearms, but I do know he joined the army after Pearl Harbor and was first assigned to guard the California coast for fear of a Japanese invasion. I would have to assume they issued 03's at this point. Later on towards the end of and after the war he guarded German prisoners in France where he carried an M1 Carbine. He liked the carbine because it was light and he spent hours and hours just standing up. He mentioned he learned to sleep standing up, I assume leaning on something. Luckily he never was in any combat. He mentioned that would have changed if the Ardennes offensive went better for the Germans. Also he feared being shipped to the Pacific for the invasion of Japan.

smle-man
04-13-2012, 10:17 AM
The Marines used "their" 03 snipe rifles well into the "50s -- I believe the last were built from parts at a a weapons facility at quantico.
I don't think they used 03a1s, just 03s. later ones assembled from parts may have been both 03 and 03a1 recievers.

The WW1 Marine sniper 03s had S stocks but the WW2 and Korean war 03s used the A1 stock. There is no A1 receiver except by production date, otherwise the visible features are the same. The later receivers including all of the A1 range used a nickel steel alloy with double heat treating.

http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4139/4874182165_dbd7baafd4_z.jpg

Rustybore
04-13-2012, 6:02 PM
Thank you all for the great info!
We are trying to make the USMC exhibit as correct as possible.
Rb.

The Gleam
04-15-2012, 5:14 PM
Did the U.S. Marines ever use the M1903A3 in WWll?

Yes. According to a book by Joe Poyer, "The Model 1903 Springfield Rifle and its Variations" (Copyright / 3rd Edition / 2008 / ISBN: 978-188239130-01) a couple of things to note:

Page 3, in the introduction:

"The M1903 rifle was held in such high regard by soldiers, sailors, and marines that resistance to the change to the M1 Garand was greater than for any other combat rifle, before or since. The Marines did NOT adopt the M1 Garand until AFTER the U.S. Army demonstrated its superior firepower over the M1903 in late 1942 on Guadalcanal."

Now if you think about that, most would answer there was a greater resistance to the change to the M16, and there was resistance, but not as much as was the case in soldiers not wanting to give up their 1903s. Reliability was a question at that time when no semi-auto had been widely used as a military arm at any time preceding the Garand. Many had doubts. Most civilian semi-autos up to that time often had FTF issues, were complex to field-strip, had a gob of small parts, or magazines that jammed up. The M1903 was so well made, so reliable, that soldiers entrusted it; it was so ahead of its time, that many bolt actions today utilize a very similar action. ( Of course, it was based on something else, but that's another story... ;) )

It was still in production throughout all of WWII to 1944, with spares parts being used to continue assembling rifles for the military until after WWII was over.

While the book I noted above is aimed more at the technical differences between the various models of the M1903, and does not get into the historical elements or development purposes as much, a couple of books to investigate that do are the following (as cited by Poyer in his book as well):

1) "The '03 Springfield" or the later edition entitled "The '03 Era" by Clark S. Campbell, Collector Grade Publications.

2) "The Springfield 1903 Rifles" by Lt Col William S. Brophy, Stackpole Books.

Ironically, I just posted the following thread last night showing a photographic comparison between my very own all-correct Remington M1903-A3, and my modern 700BDL in .338 Remington Ultramag. See link below:

http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/showthread.php?t=560561


Good luck and hope it turns out well for you. :)

smle-man
04-15-2012, 8:40 PM
Yes. According to a book by Joe Poyer, "The Model 1903 Springfield Rifle and its Variations" (Copyright / 3rd Edition / 2008 / ISBN: 978-188239130-01) a couple of things to note:

Page 3, in the introduction:

"The M1903 rifle was held in such high regard by soldiers, sailors, and marines that resistance to the change to the M1 Garand was greater than for any other combat rifle, before or since. The Marines did NOT adopt the M1 Garand until AFTER the U.S. Army demonstrated its superior firepower over the M1903 in late 1942 on Guadalcanal."

Now if you think about that, most would answer there was a greater resistance to the change to the M16, and there was resistance, but not as much as was the case in soldiers not wanting to give up their 1903s. Reliability was a question at that time when no semi-auto had been widely used as a military arm at any time preceding the Garand. Many had doubts. Most civilian semi-autos up to that time often had FTF issues, were complex to field-strip, had a gob of small parts, or magazines that jammed up. The M1903 was so well made, so reliable, that soldiers entrusted it; it was so ahead of its time, that many bolt actions today utilize a very similar action. ( Of course, it was based on something else, but that's another story... ;) )

It was still in production throughout all of WWII to 1944, with spares parts being used to continue assembling rifles for the military until after WWII was over.

While the book I noted above is aimed more at the technical differences between the various models of the M1903, and does not get into the historical elements or development purposes as much, a couple of books to investigate that do are the following (as cited by Poyer in his book as well):

1) "The '03 Springfield" or the later edition entitled "The '03 Era" by Clark S. Campbell, Collector Grade Publications.

2) "The Springfield 1903 Rifles" by Lt Col William S. Brophy, Stackpole Books.

Ironically, I just posted the following thread last night showing a photographic comparison between my very own all-correct Remington M1903-A3, and my modern 700BDL in .338 Remington Ultramag. See link below:

http://www.calguns.net/calgunforum/showthread.php?t=560561


Good luck and hope it turns out well for you. :)


I don't see any mention of the Marines using 03A3s in what you've quoted here. Did I miss the reference?

The Gleam
04-15-2012, 9:28 PM
I don't see any mention of the Marines using 03A3s in what you've quoted here. Did I miss the reference?

The first 1,909 1903-A3s were delivered in December of 1942.

If as Poyer stated, "The Marines did NOT adopt the M1 Garand until AFTER the U.S. Army demonstrated its superior firepower over the M1903 in late 1942 on Guadalcanal."

When you consider key words of AFTER and LATE 1942, and Guadalcanal campaign fought between August 7, 1942 and February 9, 1943, the 1903-A3 would have made it into the hands of more than one Marine during this time. A war was going on of huge numbers; in many cases, you take what you can get. The M1903A3 rifle was substitute standard with the adoption of the M1 and as limited standard in November 1944.

Granted the Marines had been using the 1903-A1 as sniper rifles, but not every Marine acted as a sniper. It was likely some used service rifles as was the 1903-A3 at some point. Not every Marine had the luxury of being issued a "sniper rifle" or a Unertl 8X scope.

As for the A-4, order S-1066 for production of the 1903-A4s set aside 20,000 receivers to be made into "sniper" 1903A-4 rifles, did not come until January 18, 1943 (which used 1903 and 1903-A3 receivers) so delivery into the hands of Marines could not have been until some time later, at least by a couple of months.

Logical deduction is that if they continued to use the 1903 up through late 1942, they obviously favored the weapon enough to continue it's use, whether that was as a sniper rifle in the 1903-A1, for general purpose as the 1903-A3, or as the 1903-A4 later.

Did ALL Marines use it? No. Do I contend that a good number used the 1903-A3? Yes. Without a doubt.

gunboat
04-15-2012, 9:31 PM
I seriously doubt there was any use of the 03a3 by the marines in wwii. There was enough stock of 03's for the corps at that time. As the corps grew in numbers and the garand was issued that left even more 03's for rear echelon (sp) use.
The marines lobbied for the johnson over the garand but to no avail. It was issued to the raider battalion for while.
In 1952 my boot camp weapon of burden was an 03, not an 03a3. - No sense wasting a needed M1 on sailors.

The Gleam
04-15-2012, 9:47 PM
I seriously doubt there was any use of the 03a3 by the marines in wwii. There was enough stock of 03's for the corps at that time. As the corps grew in numbers and the garand was issued that left even more 03's for rear echelon (sp) use. The marines lobbied for the johnson over the garand but to no avail. It was issued to the raider battalion for while. In 1952 my boot camp weapon of burden was an 03, not an 03a3. - No sense wasting a needed M1 on sailors.

So you think that with 1,415,593 Springfield rifles made during WWII, not a single 1903-A3 would have been issued as a standard in lieu of something else, when the 1903-A3 was a substitute standard? Not to a Marine that had some more utilitarian task, or someone like grenadier?

Now that I seriously doubt.

Mike A
04-16-2012, 6:38 AM
I'm sure SOME Marine SOMEPLACE got an O3A3, probably while serving on a naval vessel since the Navy got plenty. But it just wasn't an issue item for the vast majority of the Corps. As said above, they already had sufficient '03s, which most long service vets preferred to the 03A3, and were rapidly converted to the M1, which had many advantages in the kind of fighting they were mostly doing.

The Gleam
04-18-2012, 2:59 PM
I'm sure SOME Marine SOMEPLACE got an O3A3, probably while serving on a naval vessel since the Navy got plenty. But it just wasn't an issue item for the vast majority of the Corps. As said above, they already had sufficient '03s, which most long service vets preferred to the 03A3, and were rapidly converted to the M1, which had many advantages in the kind of fighting they were mostly doing.

That's all true, for sure. And honestly, I myself? If I were to be a curator / display artist, and setting up a museum display of a Marine in WWII, a Garand depicted would be a no-brainer. My second choice would be a 1903-A4. But if all I had to work with was a donated 1903-A3 which is often the case with a museum, I would be sure the possibility applied, and in this case I think it does. You might have some museum patrons balk at the idea so it would be best to do research to show the possibility, maybe even comment on the typical firearms utilized by Marines during WWII in the presentation.

I made the case as to why a Marine would have had a 1903-A3 in WWII, the possibility, likelihood, etc. There are no absolute "noes" in this world except in a dimension where a double negative cancels out the first no, and two wrongs don't make a right unless its war. Right? ;)

7.62x63mmUS
04-18-2012, 3:20 PM
I would imagine had we needed to launch an all out invasion of Japan with the number of troops needed (AKA expendable cannon fodder), there would have been a lot more '03A3's used in combat.

bussda
04-18-2012, 3:39 PM
A little anecdote:

A family member, now deceased, talked about using the rifle on Guadacanal. The magazine held 5 rounds, and they would load 1 in the chamber also. So the Japanese would charge after the marines fired 5 rounds and be fired on by the 6th round.

When he retired a few years later, they gave him a Garand to field strip. But he had only used a bolt action and a M1 carbine. :)

rojocorsa
04-18-2012, 3:42 PM
That is correct...........until the U.S. Army arrived on the island (w/Garands). Apparently many were 'borrowed' by Marines for future battles on the island. :):):)

Oh yeah, this is mentioned in Sgt. John Basiolone's biography. :chris:

smle-man
04-18-2012, 9:08 PM
The first 1,909 1903-A3s were delivered in December of 1942.

If as Poyer stated, "The Marines did NOT adopt the M1 Garand until AFTER the U.S. Army demonstrated its superior firepower over the M1903 in late 1942 on Guadalcanal."

When you consider key words of AFTER and LATE 1942, and Guadalcanal campaign fought between August 7, 1942 and February 9, 1943, the 1903-A3 would have made it into the hands of more than one Marine during this time. A war was going on of huge numbers; in many cases, you take what you can get. The M1903A3 rifle was substitute standard with the adoption of the M1 and as limited standard in November 1944.

Granted the Marines had been using the 1903-A1 as sniper rifles, but not every Marine acted as a sniper. It was likely some used service rifles as was the 1903-A3 at some point. Not every Marine had the luxury of being issued a "sniper rifle" or a Unertl 8X scope.

As for the A-4, order S-1066 for production of the 1903-A4s set aside 20,000 receivers to be made into "sniper" 1903A-4 rifles, did not come until January 18, 1943 (which used 1903 and 1903-A3 receivers) so delivery into the hands of Marines could not have been until some time later, at least by a couple of months.

Logical deduction is that if they continued to use the 1903 up through late 1942, they obviously favored the weapon enough to continue it's use, whether that was as a sniper rifle in the 1903-A1, for general purpose as the 1903-A3, or as the 1903-A4 later.

Did ALL Marines use it? No. Do I contend that a good number used the 1903-A3? Yes. Without a doubt.

The majority of the Remington [B]1903[B] production went to the USMC; they experienced problems with them when the floor plates would let go under recoil and dump the magazine contents out. The 1903A3 was not an issue item for the Marines. The Marine requirements were met by 03s on hand. The Marines even rebuilt low number 03s and issued them during WW2. It would have been a lot easier to just use new production A3s than go through the hassle of rebuilding low number rifles. They also developed a 100 yd battle sight zero via a higher front blade for the 03. Again this could have been avoided by issuing A3s that already had a 100 yard zero. Your assumption that the Marines used a large number of A3s does not seem to have evidence supporting it. If you can find this evidence it will very interesting and great knowledge to add to our WW2 small arms information.

The Gleam
04-19-2012, 8:23 AM
The majority of the Remington [B]1903[B] production went to the USMC; they experienced problems with them when the floor plates would let go under recoil and dump the magazine contents out. The 1903A3 was not an issue item for the Marines. The Marine requirements were met by 03s on hand. The Marines even rebuilt low number 03s and issued them during WW2. It would have been a lot easier to just use new production A3s than go through the hassle of rebuilding low number rifles. They also developed a 100 yd battle sight zero via a higher front blade for the 03. Again this could have been avoided by issuing A3s that already had a 100 yard zero. Your assumption that the Marines used a large number of A3s does not seem to have evidence supporting it. If you can find this evidence it will very interesting and great knowledge to add to our WW2 small arms information.

First, I agree with you. However, if you look at the portion you cited, I never said "large number of Marines" and I am merely making a case for why some Marines would have had a 1903-A3 at their disposal; I made that very clear, and in my follow up reply to Mike A, with nod to you as well in kind, in agreement.

Maybe I should not have said "good number" as I can see how that might be misinterpreted as "large number" - my error in choice of words.

Like I said, if I were doing a museum piece on Marines of WWII I would put a Garand in the figure's hands; but if I only had a donated 1903-A3 to work with, within the display I would and comment on the choice, explain all of the firearms they would have used in WWII, and noted the unorthodox but possible application as to why a Marine would have had a 1903-A3 in his hands. I'll look through some of my older books from the 1950s on rifles to see if there may be any info there. Many of them do discuss the arms used in WWII at that time.

"It was likely some used service rifles as was the 1903-A3 at some point."

"Did ALL Marines use it? No. Do I contend that a good number used the 1903-A3? Yes. Without a doubt."

I agree with your statement above as well. But I suggest likewise. Part of digging up history is good discussion such as this; minds coming together saying "Hey, this possibility exists, but to what degree? Do you have anything on this? What did you find?"

louie
04-19-2012, 9:49 AM
There are pictures of Marines in Korea w/ both the 1903 and water cooled 1917 heavy machine guns setting up by a ravine. They are probably non infantry, but they had those weapons, and also in the pic were some carbines.

glennsche
04-19-2012, 10:01 AM
Guadalcanal was fought bolt action to bolt action. 1903 vs Arisaka.

this

smle-man
04-19-2012, 5:16 PM
First, I agree with you. However, if you look at the portion you cited, I never said "large number of Marines" and I am merely making a case for why some Marines would have had a 1903-A3 at their disposal; I made that very clear, and in my follow up reply to Mike A, with nod to you as well in kind, in agreement.

Maybe I should not have said "good number" as I can see how that might be misinterpreted as "large number" - my error in choice of words.

Like I said, if I were doing a museum piece on Marines of WWII I would put a Garand in the figure's hands; but if I only had a donated 1903-A3 to work with, within the display I would and comment on the choice, explain all of the firearms they would have used in WWII, and noted the unorthodox but possible application as to why a Marine would have had a 1903-A3 in his hands. I'll look through some of my older books from the 1950s on rifles to see if there may be any info there. Many of them do discuss the arms used in WWII at that time.



I agree with your statement above as well. But I suggest likewise. Part of digging up history is good discussion such as this; minds coming together saying "Hey, this possibility exists, but to what degree? Do you have anything on this? What did you find?"


Well, that's like saying that because Krags were dug out and issued to state guard units it is possible that a Marine used one also. Anything is possible but was it probable? Evidence does not support it.