National Geographic : 1972 Sep
and as every GI of World War II and Korea was told, this rifle is "a gas-operated, clip-fed, semiautomatic infantry weapon-the best in the world." Inventor Got an Early Start Garand emigrated from Canada as a child. By the age of 12 he was a millworker, and the inventor of a device to paint bobbins in the cotton mill where he was employed. In 1933, as an obscure worker in the Springfield Armory, he developed the prototype of the M-1, then called, as many think it should always have been, "the Garand rifle." Garand made the drawings, designed machines to make complicated parts, worked up formulas for the manufacture of special kinds of steel. How, I asked, did a man with so little formal education know how to do such things? "Oh, I just knew," Garand responded. His rifle was carried into battle by millions of Americans-not a few of whom wrote to him to thank him for saving their lives. For his labors, Garand received a pension and the one-millionth M-1 manufactured at the Springfield Armory. Altogether, more than six million were produced. He bears no bitterness that he never shared in the huge profits earned by his invention. And, on occasion, he has had some reward. Not long ago Garand and his wife were in vited to the White House for a Sunday ser vice. "As we went through the reception line, I saw that President Nixon was very tired," Garand recalls. "A man told him my name, but it didn't mean a thing to him. Then I said, 'I'm the M-1 rifle.' He woke right up, smiled, and gave me a real handshake." Americans won the West, and all their past wars, with the help of firearms manufactured in the Connecticut Valley. Samuel Colt's factory in Hartford still turns out all sorts of six-shooters, and provides most of the M-16 rifles used in Viet Nam. Upriver, in Spring field, Smith & Wesson continues to make handguns.