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WWII Demolition Equipment Help


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#1 colhesler

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Posted 16 July 2016 - 09:08 AM

I have looked over some of the posts here as well as some field manuals and am trying to put together a demolition kit that would be used by either a line unit or Engineers attached to a line unit and still have some questions.  I hope these can be answered by some of the members here or be pointed towards some reference material.  

 

1) Who employed explosives?  I am aware that the job fell primarily to Engineers, but were Infantry cross trained on the matter?  It seems that Airborne units had to be trained to use them to successfully do their job.  

 

505th.jpg

 

2) What situations would be appropriate to use an electrical firing system vs a non-electrical system?  Or was it more dependent on what a unit had on hand at the time?  It seems like non-electrical is more compact to carry since all you need is time fuse as opposed to firing wire. But perhaps it was less reliable?  

 

3) What was the most common type of explosive on hand?  It seems that the 1/2 pound blocks of TNT are the jack of all trades explosive that can do most jobs and as such seems to be the likely candidate.  As a follow up: When would other types be issued such as composition C, dynamite, or even the 1 pound blocks of TNT?

 

4) Is there an early war equivalent to the late war demolition kit? Subsequently, is this the most common method to carry equipment or did GIs ever substitute other gear such as a GP pouch or a Gas Mask bag? 

 

DemolitionKitM11944.jpg

 

latewar.jpg

 

5) Was it possible to substitute field phone wire for firing wire if in a pinch?

 

 

Thank you in advance!

 

 



#2 TheGrayGhost

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Posted 19 July 2016 - 10:46 AM

First and foremost, welcome to the forum!

 

You have chosen a very interesting and very challenging field of collecting and research.  As it appears you have already discovered, information is few and far between.  I have been researching this field for a couple of years now and still have many questions like yourself.  I will try to answer your questions to the best of my knowledge, but I am far from an expert so do not take my words as gospel.

 

1.  You are correct, engineers were the primary operators.  However, as I understand it, some infantry personnel were trained in basic use of TNT and non-electric firing systems.

 

2.  The advantage of electric firing systems was in detonating a network of charges simultaneously.  The handheld unit was designed to detonate 10 caps, the large plunger style could detonate 30 caps.  However, that is not to say that was it's primary purpose.  A fundamental of demolition was to utilize redundant firing systems whenever possible.  This could be two separate electric systems, two separate non-electric systems, or a electric and a non-electric system.  This helps to ensure detonation as a charge that does not detonate after firing is extremely dangerous to investigate (similar to a hang-fire with a rifle).

 

3.  The 1/2lb TNT is by far the most commonly used explosive.  However, soldiers used whatever they had on hand and were trained in the use of all explosives including those used by the enemy.  The "proper" use of specific types of explosives is a deep hole and one that someone much more knowledgeable than me will have to answer.

 

4.  You will see three basic kits being used throughout the war.  The first, often referred to as the early war kit, consisted of two rectangular bags; a small bag containing a metal box in which tools, fuzes, and the like were stored and a larger bag of similar construction that held 20 1/2lb TNT blocks.  A few examples can be seen in this thread:http://www.usmilitar...bag-discovered/  The second is the M1 infantry bag you have pictured above which consolidated the two bags into one.  However, this was more dangerous as it put both the caps and explosives in the same bag.  The third is the late war style (sometimes referred to as a paratrooper bag) that returned to the two bag system (this time with identical bags) and replaced both of the earlier styles.

 

5.  Yes, wire is wire and telephone wire could be used if necessary.  The reason that demolition wire was red was to avoid confusion with telephone wire and to keep others from accidentally splicing into a demolition line.  Doing so could potentially damage telephone equipment attached, cause charges not to fire, or at worse, accidentally set off the charges attached.  I would image that using telephone wire would be an absolute last resort, it would be much easier and safer to simply use non-electric firing.

 

I hope more people chime into this topic as it is very interesting and I would love to have more detail about the questions you asked.



#3 Taber10

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Posted 22 July 2016 - 11:49 AM

The Grey Ghost has made some good points toward use of electric and non-electric initiating systems.  While I can't speak specifically to WWII, in general the electric initiation is able to be timed much more accurately.  For example, In blowing a moving target, avoiding frag over and around friendlies, etc.  While one of the primary advantages of non-electric (time fuze) is that the blaster can arrange long periods of time for his escape before detonation, so that he can be much further away if necessary.  The amount of wire needed to be far away can be problematic, esp. in a combat situation.

 

Just some thoughts.  Hopefully others will chime in so we can all learn.

 

Taber



#4 TheGrayGhost

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Posted 22 July 2016 - 12:16 PM

Some good, practical info there Taber.  I really hope to get some real world understanding of the role of the combat engineer and how the equipment was actually used in the field.  Unfortunately, field manuals and other documentation I have found rarely dive into this kind of information.



#5 colhesler

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Posted 25 July 2016 - 05:41 PM

Thank you for the responses.  That definitely gives me a lot of insight to work with.  I am in the process of making repro primacord and time fuse.  I read here that using cotton clothesline dyed the correct colors is a good solution.  Does anybody know the specifications for the spools?  Both the wooden spools with the handle and the smaller (maybe cardboard) ones that fit in the demo bags.  

 

 

bangalore_torpedoes.jpg

 

 



#6 TheGrayGhost

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Posted 26 July 2016 - 08:34 AM

Yes, clothesline works well for Primacord.  There are several sizes of clotheslines available, so try to find one that is close to proper 13/64" (0.203) diameter.  However, I don't personally care for it being used as time fuse because time fuse is very stiff and I have never been able to make my rolls look right (but I'm a perfectionist).  I am currently looking into varieties of upholstery piping, I know there are some paper varieties which I believe more accurate reproduces the look and feel.


Edited by TheGrayGhost, 26 July 2016 - 08:36 AM.


#7 colhesler

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Posted 26 July 2016 - 09:41 AM

I am working with 100 ft sections of 3/16" line for the primacord at the moment.  What color would you recommend dying the line?  I know with primacord as with dynamite, commercial stuff was available at the time.   



#8 Mr.Jerry

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Posted 26 July 2016 - 06:31 PM

I just picked up a 1943 dated demolition trunk. (sadly empty) but I will post the contents list for you.



#9 EODsmity

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Posted 25 August 2016 - 05:52 PM

Attached File  1942-Airborne-Demo-Kit.PDF   136.07K   228 downloadsBomb Disposal Units stormed the beaches on D-Day.  Basic demo was taught to Infantry Soldiers.  Combat Engineers were trained to eliminate/breech obstacles.  So there were a lot of people running around with the ability to employ explosives. This is just on the Army side.  The Navy had counter mine teams that later morphed in to UDT's and to modern day Seals.  

 

I have some pictures of Soldiers with demo equipment



#10 EODsmity

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Posted 25 August 2016 - 05:53 PM

Here is the kit.

 

Smitty

Attached Images

  • Demo kit 1.jpg
  • Demo equipment 2.jpg


#11 EODsmity

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Posted 25 August 2016 - 05:57 PM

Here is a Demo SGT out fitted with the experimental kit.

 

Smitty

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  • Demo SGT 1.jpg
  • Demo SGT 2.jpg


#12 Jayhawkmickey

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 11:59 AM

For my repro cord and fuse I used the clothesline, dyed it either a yellow for the primacord or orange for the time fuse and then to stiffen it and give it the right look I passed it through a pan of lightly orange tinted wax which I melted on my grill outside. The cord sucked up the wax and when pulled through a rag several times burnishes the cord so it looks very similar to the originals Ive seen. Cuts clean, rolls nicely and looks great when tied into blasting knots. I'll try and post pictures when I remember.

#13 colhesler

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Posted 09 October 2016 - 06:14 PM

Jayhawkmickey,

 

If you could include pictures and let me know what kind of wax you used and what you used to tint it orange, that would be a great help.  Thanks in advance. 



#14 Jayhawkmickey

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Posted 16 October 2017 - 05:46 PM

Man I totally forgot to post pictures until I re found this old post while looking for other stuff. I used commercial rit dye to pre dye the cloth/cotton clothesline the appropriate color. I wish I could find twisted cord but I used braided. The wax was dyed with one yellow and one orange candle wax dye cubes from hob lob. The wax is regular candle wax I melted in a disposable aluminum turkey roaster pan on the BBQ grill outside so it didn't make a mess inside. The cord sucked up the wax quick and as long as the wax isn't too hot it cool fast. I'll put some pictures on tomorrow. I've been toying with going over the cord with a gel stain to make it a little duller yellow but we'll see.


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