There are many history buffs, especially those interested in digging through military records to find awesome war stories, who show a supine reverence towards the old reliable M1 Garand rifle. I mean, war history enthusiasts just love the Garand rifle and its iconic slide action bolt. If you don’t believe me, just watch any movie or play any video game where Germans are the bad guys and watch all these WW2 M1 Garand bayonet toting fans use it as their primary weapon.
That said, I don’t sip on the M1 Garand Kool-Aid too much. I believe there were better alternatives at the time. I mean, even the Thompson, built around the .45 ACP cartridge designed by Browning for the Colt semi-automatic pistol, offered superior advantages over the Garand in many instances.
However, I do think that the Garand was instrumental in one of the most badass episodes of military history.
Most people are familiar with the events that transpired on the Western Front during WW2. There are endless documentaries and series that show the horrors of that time and capture our imagination. However, many would argue that the Pacific theater was witness to some of the most gruesome episodes of the war.
The Mariana Islands
After the Pearl Harbor attacks, the United States government decided we needed to secure a position in Saipan in order to build runways that were big enough to launch B29 Superfortress bombers that would attack mainland Japan and return safely for reload.
The problem was that Japan also understood the importance of Saipan and the dangers of having a US enclave in it. So, both sides set out to capture this strategic position at all costs.
The US executed a relentless bombardment at Japanese positions that were along the beach of Saipan island. After two days of non-stop shelling, American troops took the shores and started advancing. Even after the bombardments had softened Japanese positions, Americans were forced to fight every inch and go through fields mired with barbed wire, trenches, and machine-gun posts.
A Hollywood Dentist
Benjamin L. Salomon had just opened a dentist’s office in Beverly Hills. His practice was incredibly successful; many contemporary Hollywood stars were among his regulars. However, due to the war efforts, he was drafted in 1940. Oddly, this consummated dentist excelled during training, becoming a proficient machine gun sergeant. He also offered free dental checkups to his mates.
In 1942, he was sent to the Mariana Islands and served as a battalion surgeon for two weeks before the infamous Banzai Attack of July 7th happened. His protective instincts and disciplined training proved to be decisive during this battle.
Salomon´s Last Stand
As the battle raged outside, Salomon was treating wounded soldiers when a Japanese soldier entered the tent and started bayoneting defenseless American soldiers laying on hospital beds. Our dentist-turned hero, picked up an M1 Garand, shot the Japanese soldier, and then clubbed him. He kept on swinging the rifle as more enemy soldiers entered the tent until the stock broke. He picked up another rifle and proceeded to use every feature of the amazing WW2 M1 Garand bayonet against the daring Japanese to great effect.
The last time any American ever heard Salomon´s voice was when he ordered his medics to evacuate the wounded while he tried to hold the line. 15 hours later, when American forces regained the position, the body of Benjamin Salomon was found right next to an exhausted M1917, surrounded by almost 100 of his enemies. The dentist had managed to hold the full wrath of Japanese might long enough to save dozens of lives and make a serious dent in the enemy’s morale.
The Browning might have done all the mowing, but the M1 Garand made sure Salomon secured the hospital and reached his machine gun post.
The rifle is still held in high esteem by military history enthusiasts, and you can even find high-quality WW2 M1 Garand bayonet reproduction from quality makers such as At The Front. They specialize in crafting historically accurate WWII items. Visit their store and find out more about their extremely detailed military uniforms and accessories.