In a speech delivered in December 1940, a year before the United States officially entered World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that the U.S. “must be the great arsenal of democracy.” Roosevelt’s words proved prescient, as the U.S. produced 86,000 tanks, 96,000 bombers, 2.4 million trucks, and 6.5 million rifles to help deliver an Allied victory. (Here is a look at the greatest war time speeches in history.)
Before America’s direct involvement in the war, the U.S. was using its industrial might to back the Allies, supporting their fight against Nazi Germany and Axis powers by supplying them with weapons. Still, the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor found the U.S. on its heels, lacking the quantity of firearms necessary to wage a full-scale war.
Thrust into the war overnight, the U.S. government threw normal procurement protocol out the window, and virtually all domestic firearm development and manufacturing shifted to support the war effort. Some of those firearms carried in combat by American servicemen across Europe, North Africa, and the Pacific are now iconic, while others have been largely forgotten.
Using data from a range of sources, including the Warfare History Network, the National Park Service, and the National WWII Museum, 24/7 Wall St. identified 17 of the guns that helped America fight World War II. While this list is not exhaustive, we considered a range of firearm types, including rifles, shotguns, machine guns, and handguns.
Some of these guns were developed specifically for the war, while others – including some revolvers – had been around for decades. Several were churned out by the millions and carried by multiple service branches. Others, meanwhile, were not widely adopted but still found niche roles in the broader war effort. (Here is a look at the guns that won the old west.)
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