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“Ready, Aim, FIRE!” April 17, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in Gratitude, Travel & Leisure.

Dad enlisted in the Army and reported for duty on June 27, 1946, at age 18.

His enlistment, at the end of his first year at Northeastern University, coincided with the end of World War II, just before the Korean War.

Dad enjoyed his assigned rifle even though “all spare time has to be used to keep our rifles clean.”  In a letter to Aunt Pete and Uncle Webb:

“The rifle is really nice.  It takes an 8-shot clip which can be fired as fast as the trigger can be pulled.  When the 8th shot is fired, the clip is thrown out and the gun remains open ready for another clip to be inserted.  The peep sight has adjustments for both windage and elevation.”

In a letter to his dad at the end of July:

“We have been having more lectures on the rifle.  We spent four hours on adjusting our sights for elevation and windage.  They showed us how to determine the velocity of the wind, how the direction of the wind could be taken into account.  When Garrand invented this rifle, he did a darn good job.”

A highlight of basic training for dad, who had gone deer hunting in Vermont each fall, involved qualifying on the rifle range as an expert on the M1 semi-automatic rifle.  He enjoyed his time on the rifle range, despite having to rise early.  In a letter to his father dated August 5th:

“We are on the rifle range for a few days.  We get up at 2:45 and have reveille at 3:00.  We don’t come back from range till 7:00 P.M.  Then we have to clean equipment.  We will shoot 200, 300, 500 yards.”

Wikipedia ~ Basic Training (in Public Domain)

Two days later:

“We have had 3 days on the range firing the Garrand semi-automatic rifle (M1).  Today we started firing for record.  We use a 20-inch bulls eye at 500 yards, which is over one quarter of a mile.  I got 5 bulls eyes and 3 4’s which gave me 37 out of 40.”

“At 300 yards, I had 51 seconds to drop from standing to prone position, fire one shot, take clip from cartridge belt, reload and fire 8 more rounds. Out of the 9 shots, I got 5 bulls eyes, 2 4’s and 2 3’s, which totals 39 out of 45.”

“As a total of all my shooting for record I have 109 out of a possible 125 so far.  Tomorrow I will fire 17 more shots from 200 yards ~ a maximum score of 85 points.  We need 180 for expert, 165 for sharpshooter, and 140 for marksman.  It’s time for light’s out so I will finish tomorrow night when I can tell you how I qualified.”

The next night, he finished the letter with good news:

“We finished our time on the rifle range this morning.  Last night, I was a little doubtful whether I could make expert or not.  It meant getting 71 out of 85 points today.  I made it with 3 to spare ~ I got 74 out of 85. My total on record fire was 183 out of 210. That qualifies me as expert.”

“Nine of the shots I fired today were sustained fire (rapid fire).  It was another 51 second exercise.  I had to be standing, go to a sitting position, fire 1 round, insert new clip and fire 8 more.  Of the nine, I got 6 bulls eyes and 3 4’s for a total of 42 out of 45.  Out of the 42 shots fired for record, I got 19 bulls eyes, 19 4’s, and 4 3’s.  Better than I can shoot a 22.”

“Tomorrow morning will be a relief after getting up at 2:45.  We don’t have to get up until 5:00.  Next week we have bayonet drill.  They say that is a hard week, but it looks like fun.  I really should catch up on some sleep.  After all I have had only 5 hours of sleep per night for the last four nights.  Now for the sack.”


A few days later, on August 10th, he shared an abbreviated version of his qualification experience with Aunt Lucy:

“This week we spent most of our time firing the M1 rifle at targets 200, 300, and 500 yards away. I did pretty good.  We needed 140 to get qualified as marksman, 165 to qualify as sharpshooter and 180 to qualify as expert.  I had 183, so made expert.  I feel pretty good about it.  I really didn’t expect to do nearly that good.

“As of today my training here is half over.  I have finished four of the eight weeks of training.  So far it hasn’t been bad except for the heat. This weekend I have a pass which allows me to go anywhere within 100 miles of the fort as long as I am back by 5 o’clock Monday morning.  I think I may take advantage of it.”

Aah . . . that’s better!

Concludes tomorrow . . . We Rest Here



1. Pix Under the Oaks - April 17, 2014

CH started on the M1 and he thought it was a nice rifle. He said he sees how your Dad would want to qualify as expert on it. CH was around for the change from the M1 to M16.. less maintenance. I think that rifle was much more important when your Dad served then when CH was in! CH said some of the M1 rifles were really really old. Makes you wonder how old? Nice to hear your Dad finally got a weekend pass!

nrhatch - April 17, 2014

CH is about 20 years dad’s junior ~ the guns dad used were not as old when dad used them.

Dad fired the M1 more during Basic than he did overseas. In Korea, he carried an Army Colt but I don’t think he ever shot anyone. He did have to handcuff a few political prisoners for transport. Exciting stuff for a 19-year-old!

2. jannatwrites - April 17, 2014

How exciting to qualify as expert on the shooting range! My grandpa was in the Navy for a time but never talked about it (other than to say he volunteered for kitchen duty because no one got shot peeling potatoes.) It’s interesting to get a military view from that time period.

nrhatch - April 17, 2014

My paternal grandfather was quite a “sharp shooter.” So dad was probably elated to be able to report that he’d qualified as an expert on the rifle range.

Your grandpa had the right idea! KP duty might not be as glamorous as wading through ankle deal mud, but you’re less likely to be hit by a stray bullet!

3. ericjbaker - April 17, 2014

If only he were around in the era of video games. A friend of mine spent years in the army as a marksman. No point in anyone challenging him at a shooting game.

This reminds me of my mother going through old letters from her uncle who fought in WWII and traveled all over in the (British) navy.

nrhatch - April 17, 2014

I don’t think I ever played a video game with dad, but he taught us how to shoot “up on the hill” during summer vacations in Vermont. He also got us a bow and arrows and a BB gun for target practice in the backyard.

I wonder if your great uncle’s letters have a similar sound to dad’s missives. The more things change, the more they stay the same ~ letters home about the food, the weather, the number of bulls eyes we hit on the rifle range.

Oh, wait, strike that last bit.

I’ve found this glimpse into the past to be interesting and it persuaded me that I was not cut out for military service.

4. Can’t Stand The Heat? Get IN The Kitchen | Spirit Lights The Way - April 17, 2014

[…] Continued tomorrow . . . “Ready, Aim, FIRE!” […]

5. Rainee - April 17, 2014

I loved the bit about sleeping in until 5am. Interesting post. Your Dad was obviously very good at his job.

nrhatch - April 17, 2014

I can’t imagine being able to hold a rifle, much less fire one, at that ungodly hour of the morning.

Dad did well on the rifle range, for sure. He also received regular promotions and pay raises in Korea (and back in the states). He had an excellent work ethic. So did I (until I hit 40 and decided to coast a bit).

6. Tina DC Hayes - April 17, 2014

This was a cool post! My Grandpa and his twin brother were in the Navy in WWII. 🙂

nrhatch - April 17, 2014

Thanks, Tina. I hope they both returned home safe and sound and without nightmares. I sure am glad dad made it back from Korea, intact. Or I would not be sitting here, now.

7. diannegray - April 18, 2014

I’ve fired a rifle, Nancy, but it nearly dislocated my shoulder! I’m impressed with your father’s shooting abilities – an expert, wow 🙂

nrhatch - April 18, 2014

Yes! My dad and grandfather would take us for target practice “on the hill” in Vermont . . . OUCH! Quite a kick back from the rifle against my shoulder.

8. granny1947 - April 19, 2014

That was absolutely fascinating…thanks for sharing.

nrhatch - April 19, 2014

It’s been fun hearing and sharing some of dad’s thoughts at 18.

Starting on Monday, I’ll share a few of dad’s letters from Korea, with regular programming the rest of the week.

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