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Real thing or Hollywood BS?

The real thing or Hollywood BS?


     After seeing "Private Ryan" on TV, Rex Whitehead wrote to Harry Schaefer G/394 about the scene near the end when they were throwing, what he thought were 60mm mortar shells as described below.

     Rex says, "They were taking what I assume were 60mm mortar shells, smacking the fin end on something, then throwing like grenades and they exploded. What the hell is going on with this? Have any information as an expert on rifle companies? If not, maybe you know someone who was using 60s to see if there is something to this."

Answer from Harry:


     The only other time I saw that done was by, I think, Steve McQueen in Bataan and I thought it was bull then and my mind wasn't changed by Tom Hanks and his crew.

     In theory, I guess it would work if you were fool enough to do it. Wasn't the shell armed by a sudden stop when it hit the bottom of the tube? If you could do it with an 81m m and a hell of a strong arm, wouldn't Del Stumpff have done it at Losheimergraben instead of setting up at 89 degrees? As a good "straightleg," I always carried enough grenades.

Rex responds:


     I assume a 60mm has to be the same as our 88s. When the shell slides down the tube, the firing pin in the tube strikes the .10 gauge shotgun shell imbedded in the end of the shell. The shell has powder but no BBs. When it explodes, the powder increments on the end of the shell. There are six bundles of them, looking like sheets of scotch tape. They start burning and propel the shell out of the tube — something like launching a rocket. (The increments are removed, according to the number needed for the distance you need, before the shell is placed in the tube.)

     When the shell hits the target (I never missed) the detonator on the nose of the shell causes the shell to explode. Therefore, what in hell they did by smacking it on the end is beyond me. If they hit the shotgun shell, causing it to explode, the increments would have burned the hell out of them.

     I wonder if Tom Hanks knows? Someone out there should know if this is just Hollywood B's or what. Find out and let me know. Who fired 60mms in your platoon?

Rex Whitehead

1252 Sumac Dr

Logan UT 84321

E-mail: WrecksW@aol.com

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