The Bay of Pigs & The Johnson M1941
On the 17th April 1961 an ill-fated CIA sponsored landing force of 1,500 anti-Castro ‘brigadistas’ of Brigade 2506 established a bridgehead at the Bay of Pigs. Above are some of these men photographed in training, they were armed with a surplus rifle. The Johnson M1941 semi-automatic rifle.
Designed by Melvin Johnson Jr. in the 1930s, the M1941 was an unusual rifle in that it utilised a 10-round rotary magazine. Submitted for testing with the US military in 1938 the M1941 was found to be marginally more accurate than the US Army’s new M1 rifle, while being slightly slower to load its rate of fire was almost identical. It was found to be a reliable rifle with only 12 minor stoppages during a test in 1939 which saw 6,000 rounds put through the weapon.
The M1941’s Rotary Magazine
The M1941 was however rejected by the majority of the US military as tooling and production of the M1 Garand had already begun in 1937. With the outbreak of World War Two and America’s involvement from 1942 some parts of the US Marine Corps become interested in the rifle. 30.000 M1941s had originally been ordered by the Netherlands for their colonial forces, these were requisitioned and issued to the Marines. They saw some limited use during the early stages of the Pacific Campaign but were soon replaced with the more plentiful M1 Garand and the majority of the requisitioned M1941s were returned to the Dutch after the war.
However, a number remained in store throughout the 1950s and it was these rifles which would be issued to the men of Brigade 2506. In the photograph above they have their bayonets fixed and are carrying out close quarter combat drills. The M1941s bayonet as can be seen above is a type of spike bayonet, this made it useful for little else. The lighter bayonet was issued as the standard knife bayonet, as used by the M1, was found to adversely affect the rifle’s recoil-operated firing mechanism.
The Bay of Pigs Invasion was a fiasco, the unsupported Brigade 2506 landed with a total force of 1,300 and were quickly overwhelmed by Cuban forces who were much better armed. It had been hoped that a uprising of the dissatisfied would occur as soon as forces landed but this was not the case and within a day or so the Cuban army and militia was quickly boxing in the anti-Castro forces. Support from US forces, which had been hoped for, did not materialise and other than some Combat Air Patrols flown to intimidate Cuban forces, there was no sanctioned US involvement.
Of the initial landing force some 1,100 were captured on the 20th April with around 120 being killed in action. Some survivors were picked up on the coast by US destroyers but the majority were not released until 1962 once Cuban exiles had paid a ransom. The entire incident was a major debacle and served only to inflame US -Cuban relations.
Image One Source
Image Two Source