I got a crotchety old guy for a neighbor. He was a sailor in WWII. Electrician’s Mate. He was stationed on a Victory Ship, an upgraded Liberty Ship, cruising the Pacific with a hold full of Marines and Higgins boats. I do computer work for him when his machine breaks, he gives me beer, use of his garage and tools for car repairs, and tells me stories in exchange.
His stories are great. Like the time he was monitoring his battle station a few decks below the water line when he heard over the 1MC (ships intercom) “Mine dead ahead!” Then he heard the clang, clang, clang as the mine bounced along the hull right past his compartment, never exploding. I would have lost my fudge, if I was in his shorts.
He got to see beautiful tropical islands get turned into moonscapes by naval gunfire. He didn’t know it, but he was at Pelileu when my grandfather bought the farm on D+5. For all I know he met my grandfather. He told me what a single 50 cent piece could buy in Shanghai China, but a hundred dollar bill was worthless.
And he always felt guilty that he wasn’t going with the Marines when they climbed aboard the Higgins boats to his the beach. That he didn’t deserve to be safe on board while they were out there getting shot at. He thought that a funny feeling to have, then and now. He talked extensively with the Marines, shipboard life being boring, at times, between islands, and he got to examine their gear. He was absolutely enthralled with the M3A1 sub-machinegun, also known as the Grease Gun.
It is a neat little gun. Made mostly of stamped, not machined, parts it was cheap to produce. Only the barrel, I think, was machined. It was much cheaper what it ostensibly replaced, the finely made Thompson sub-machinegun, and it fired the same .45 caliber ammunition. The ejector port had a little hatch that kept the dirt out when not in use. It was also the safety. You flipped it up, open, to fire.
My Crotchety Neighbor always wanted to try it out, but never could. Gilbert’s Indoor Range had one for sale, and they also rent guns… When I saw it in the cabinet I had to ask, intending to drag the neighbor up there to shoot a box of ammo, but, sadly, they don’t rent that one.
I had no interest, personally, to put a few down range with an M3, but I wouldn’t mind trying the Tommy gun, should the opportunity arise.
The Crotchety Neighbor has great non-war stories too. Sorta gun related. He was a champion archery shooter. Made his own bows and everything. Had to give it up when arm strength control started to flag as he aged. He was also a piece-work body man that was a master at fixing dents in your fender. Lead, not bondo work. His expertise gave him enough disposable wealth to afford a 55 foot Chris Craft motor yacht. I wish I had met him when he was a younger man, but I am glad I know him now.