There are several groups in Tennessee that promote the collection, use and restoration of historical firearms and other items related to firearms and of interest to collectors. Once such organization is the Tennessee Military Collectors Association.
This is a letter from William Price who is affiliated with the Tennessee Military Collectors Association:
My name is William Price. I am a member of the TFA. I am also a member of the TENNESSEE MILITARY COLLECTORS ASSOCIATION. The TMCA is an organization of collectors of military weapons, accoutrement, uniforms and just about anything military related.
Since this website is about firearms and the right to carry them, I am going to tell you about a friend of mine that I have known for over 30 years. His name is Harvill W. Lazenby. Mr. Lazenby is a native of Nashville, TN and during WWII was a member of the 82nd Airborne, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Co. B. Mr. Lazenby is and has always been a firearms enthusiast. Over the past years that I have known Mr. Lazenby he has related many interesting stories about his connection with firearms from his youth through WWII and after. But, in this article, I will focus on his use, exploits and opinions about various weapons he came in contact with while in the US ARMY during WWII.
When Mr. Lazenby enlisted in the US Army in 1942 he had been in the habit of carrying a .38 caliber Colt six-shot revolver with a 2” barrel in a shoulder holster. He continued carring the weapon all through basic and later in airborne training. Although Lazenby was challenged several times by superior officers relating to him carrying a sidearm and not being an officer, he was able to keep this handy item until 1944. Since Lazenby was a soldier in the US Army Infantry and later US Airborne, he was trained with all the small arms the US Army had in its arsenal at that time. At the time of his enlistment, Lazenby was already 26 years old, and therefore was already older than many of the officers that was trying to train these men to be fit for battle. Many of the young officers that were in charge of small arms training had never fired weapons anything like the ones they were trying to instruct with.
One incident during his training that Lazenby remembers as humorous was a young officer having the group of men Lazenby was with zero in the M1903A4 CALIBER .30 rifle. This is the sniper version of the M1903A3 bolt action rifle fitted with a 2.5 power scope. The young Lieutenant in charge had no idea how to mount the scopes on the rifles. When they were mounted on the rifles with the assistance of Lazenby and sighted in to be able to hit an empty 55 gallon oil drum at 200 yards (something Lazenby says any half way competent rifleman should have been able to do with an iron sighted M1903A3 rifle anyway) the Lieutenant had the scopes removed and stored in scope boxes unmarked as to what rifles they had been sighted in with!
The M1 Garand is a weapon Lazenby always felt comfortable with. It was a well balanced rifle of a caliber (.30.06) that had good penetration, accuracy and reliability. The Garand featured an eight round en bloc clip that popped out the top when empty. Lazenby never could figure out why the Garand was never fitted with a 20 round box magazine. Lazenby recalls using the Garand fighting in built up areas and picking off more that one German soldier by simulating the sound of an expended Garand clip popping out of the weapon by throwing an empty one against a wall.
Lazenby remembers another interesting thing he did with his Garand is many times in Italy and France using armour piercing ammunition taken from the belts of the .30 caliber 1919A4 machine guns. It gave him an edge by being able to shoot through small trees. An obvious shock to many AXIS troops. The M1928 Thompson submachine gun was Lazenby’s weapon of choice to begin his combat career in the airborne infantry. His first test in combat with this weapon was a successful ambush of an Italian anti-aircraft truck with a searchlight. Lazenby and other members of his squad fired on the passing Italian truck and knocked the searchlight out of commission. But, the second enemy engagement almost proved to be a disaster when in Sicily he kicked in the door of a block house on two ITALIAN troops that he and a fellow paratrooper had been pursuing. As luck would have it they had their weapons slung, but, when Lazenby tried to fire the Thompson, it jammed. Luckily he was able to retrieve the Colt snub nose revolver from it’s shoulder holster and terminate one of the enemy soldiers.
Unfortunately, for the other captured soldier, as Lazenby was covering him from behind and bringing him out into the open he was killed by the fellow paratrooper who had also been in the chase. When Lazenby asked why this had taken place the soldier replied that he expected to hear the Thompson roar and when he heard the revolver fire he mistakenly thought that Lazenby had been killed.
Lazenby later learned that the reason for the Thompsons malfunction was a failure to have the breech oiler pads mounted on the receiver lubricated. This problem was addressed and Lazenby’s M1928 served him through the rest of the campaign in Sicily. From the Italian campaign through Operation Market Garden in Holland Lazenby carried the M1Garand. As was stated earlier the ability to penetrate walls, trees and soft skinned equipment with the Garand was more important to Lazenby than a full auto weapon with limited penetration. Other US weapons of note mentioned by Lazenby were the Browning Automatic Rifle.
This 30.06 selective fire weapon had a bipod and used twenty round box magazines. Lazenby states that these were invaluable to the airborne and many paratroopers actually jumped in with these on D-Day June 6,1944, the invasion of Normandy.
As I mentioned earlier in my article, I have known Harville Lazenby for about 30 years. The following story has been told to me and some of my friends several times. I mention this because of the controversy surrounding those who liked the M1 .30 caliber carbine and those who did not. If I had witnessed what Lazenby had, I probably would agree with him. Lazenby second combat jump was the assault on Italy (code name: Giant I ).
During some of the combat in this operation a Lieutenant from an unnamed company sent his trusted and experienced First Sergeant forward to round up and disarm a group of Germans who had just surrendered by way of displaying a white flag and holding their hands up. All looked like a routine and a simple job. Of course in war nothing is simple and routine. As the sergeant drew near to the surrendering party a very large German soldier opened up with an MG34 killing the sergeant. After he had completed the cowardly deed he was ordered by a German officer to drop the weapon. Seeing all this go down the grief stricken Lieutenant raced towards the gunman and upon coming face to face with him fired his M1 carbine point blank into the skull of the German.
Now what happened next is the interesting part: The Lieutenant realizing that he had in is own words just executed an unarmed man began got very emotional and had remorse for what he had done and wishing out loud that he wished he had not shot the German.The Lieutenant now clearly upset by the loss of his trusted Sergeant who had basically run the squad for the Lieutenant. After about five minutes much to the amazement of everyone the German who had been shot at point blank range got up out of the ditch he’d fallen in when shot. The 110 grain .30 caliber carbine bullet had entered the skin at the front of the German soldiers head and had followed the contour of the skull and had exited around the center of the back of the skull. Through an interpreter the German soldier said he had a bad headache but didn’t seem to have anything else wrong with him. At that point all who saw this looked at their M1 carbines walked over to a nearby well and threw them in. To this day Lazenby says he didn’t think carbines had the needed stopping power for a combat weapon.
In closing I want to let all of our readers know that Mr.Harvill Lazenby of Nashville, TN attained the rank of Sergeant, made four successful combat jumps, was awarded the following: E.A.M.E. Campaign Medal, with Four Bronze Battle Stars; Purple Heart; Silver Star Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge; Good Conduct Medal; Distinquished Unit Badge; American Theatre Medal; Four Bronze Arrowheads; Victory Medal .Mr. Lazenby still resides in Nashville, TN and is a Life member in the NRA.