Military History/Shell/casing found

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Question
We were out off the coast of FL this weekend scallop hunting and found a 50 cal shell that is stamped KS 43 on it. I was wondering if anyone knew where is was used or why it may have been in the atlantic. In research it was from a place in MY that made 50 cal in 1942 and 1943 that is all. Was it used in WWII? Just looking for a little history.

thanks

Answer
Lyndsey:

The .50 caliber cartridge was originally designed as an anti-tank rifle cartridge by the Germans.  John Browning, designer of several weapons for the US military, including the Browning Automatic Rifle, the .30 cal light machine gun, and of course the M2 .50 Caliber heavy machine gun.  .50 caliber means the projectile was .5 inches in diameter.  The projectiles came in ball, armor piercing, and tracer versions.  Ball was the standard round, armor piercing had a hardened tip and tracer had a hollow base loaded with phosphorous that would ignite upon firing to leave a visible path in flight.  Tracers had an erosional effect on the barrel so they were loaded in with the other cartridges about every seventh round.

The US Army made the M2 (Model 2) .50 caliber machine gun their standard anti-aircraft machine gun.  They mounted it in dual and quad mounts on trucks and single mounts on tanks, trucks and half tracks for anti aircraft protection.  They also issued them to the Heavy Weapons Platoons assigned to battalions. These units provided heavy weapon support fire for the companies on the battalion.

The US Army Air Corp, part of the army back then, selected the .50 cal as their standard aircraft machine gun.  They were mounded three and four to a wing in most combat fighters.  They would fire on a converging path, so that the bullets all hit in one spot out to about a 300 yards.  The gun was also used as the defensive machine gun in the B-17, B-24 both of which carried up to 12 of the guns in various positions to deliver a full 360 degree coverage of defensive machine gun fire.  All medium bombers and fighter bombers used the gun as well.
When the guns were fired the empty shell casings would fall from the bottom of the wings.  More on that later.

The US Navy also used the gun early in the war on some ships but it was replaced by the 20 millimeter Oerlikon gun which had a longer range.  Patrol boats continued to use the .50 cal however.

During WWII German submarines operated within sight of the Florida coast torpedoing tankers coming to and from the Gulf coast refineries as well as other shipping. Until black outs of cities were implemented, they would stand offshore at night and could see the ships silhouetted against the illumination coming from shore.  They made easy targets.

The most likely source of your find was an aircraft drop.  That is a cartridge dropping from the wing of an aircraft.  They might have been target practicing or firing at a submarine.  Aerial or air to water practice would have been common to sharpen gunnery skills.  Is their a naval air station anywhere in the vicinity?  If so, most of the naval air stations were where naval aviators were trained.  There would have been aerial gunnery practice going on off shore.  The cartridge may have been transported a ways by longshore drift, that it the lateral current you feel when you go to the beach for a swim and find that when you come out of the water you are a hundred yards down the beach from where you went in.  It moves the sand along over time and that cartridge case could have moved a long way, especially in one of the hurricanes.  Back when Hugo hit the east coast it eroded sand so bad in the Charleston area you could go out on the beach and pick up civil war bullets that had been laid bare on the beaches.

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Keith H. Patton

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I can answer questions pertaining to weapons and tactics, personalities, battles, and strategies in european and U.S. history.

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