Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Sniping with an M2 .50-caliber machine gun during the Korean War


My father-in-law commanded a heavy weapons platoon in Korea, 1952. He could see Pork Chop Hill from his hilltop. He recently told me about his use of an M2 .50-caliber machine gun as a sniper weapon.


The hill had a bunker on the front slope, with the access tunnel through the steep hill from the reverse slope. An M2 tripod was weighted down with sandbags. Each company took their M2 gun when relieved but the tripod stayed, since it was sighted in to the firing stakes down the front slope. Relieving companies put their guns into the tripod and were set. The M2 has a selector switch that allows single shots or full automatic. My father-in-law had his M2 fitted with a powerful scope. With this scope and single shots, the gun could accurately hit targets over a mile away.  If this drew artillery fire, the gun crew would then retire through the tunnel to the reverse slope of the hill.

He told me they relieved the previous garrison overnight. In the morning enemy loudspeakers announced "Welcome to the front line, 2nd Dvision."

He just sent me the following letter. His recollections take precedence over anything I wrote above.

Life on the Hill - Part I

“My first assigned hill to defend was Alligator Jaws on the Chorwon Valley. The trench lines were about a mile apart, separated by former rice paddy fields, burned out villages and disabled tanks from both sides. We were out of small arms fire range. Snipers would come out at night and hide in the brush, river bed or abandoned vehicles between the lines. We inherited a .50 caliber sniper position.


My company had one Browning .50 cal. machine gun for air defense while moving. It became our sniper rifle. The .50 can fire on auto or single shot. It has a “butterfly” trigger between the grips used to fire with either thumb, both hands on the grips. The 5 ½ inch cartridge made the gun and tripod jump an inch or so when it fired, enough to miss a target at 1,000 yards. To improve accuracy we placed sand bags on the three tripod legs. It was fitted with a sniper scope. The gun attaches to a tripod made for .30 cal. heavy machine guns. The gunner uses high power binoculars to find targets of opportunity in the enemy trenches or the ground between the lines. We had camouflage nets in front of the position.


The emplacement was a deep two-man fox hole on the forward slope for direct fire. When enemy mortars and field artillery back in the hills across from us zeroed in on our position, we could leave the gun in place and leave by a tunnel that led through the hill and out the reverse side of the hill and our living bunkers.


My job was to walk daily about a mile of the front line to visit my six 75mm recoilless rifle positions. That made me a target for enemy snipers. I traveled light, and carried only my .45 Colt Commander, a 26 ounce version of the government issue .45. If I expected trouble I also carried a M-2 carbine which could fire full automatic. That had two 30 round magazines taped back to back. I could fire 60 rounds very fast if need be.


Also, I traded a few bottles of Canadian Club to our attached French Battalion for a .45 cal. Thompson sub machine gun (Chicago meat chopper). It fired from a stick magazine, not a Hollywood drum. That I kept in my CP bunker in case of night attack. For nine months I slept with a .45 under my makeshift pillow.


Our .50 came in handy during a major attack on the hill next to ours called White Horse in Nov – Dec 1952. That is another story.”  


I have asked him to please  tell me that story.