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Crossing Guard: 1943

March 1943. "Topock, Arizona (vicinity). Military sentry stationed at a bridge over the Colorado River along the Santa Fe Railroad between Seligman, Arizona, and Needles, California." Photo by Jack Delano. View full size.

March 1943. "Topock, Arizona (vicinity). Military sentry stationed at a bridge over the Colorado River along the Santa Fe Railroad between Seligman, Arizona, and Needles, California." Photo by Jack Delano. View full size.


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Three pumps

I can't find a record of any Mossberg shotgun being used by the US military in WW II, so the choices are:

Winchester M1897, Winchester M12, Remington M31

The picture (on screen, at least) is too bad to tell for certain. If I had to guess I'd say it was the 1897. If it's possible to see the receiver and grip on a high quality print, one can tell for certain. The M1897 has an exposed hammer and a flatter, longer grip section than the M12 between the receiver and the top of the stock. The M12 and M31 are easy to tell apart.

The Browning Auto 5 was also used, but the weapon in the picture is definitely not one of those.

Light And Distance

I'm no expert in photography, but I'd say the reason the barrel looks so thin is because of the effect of light, background and distance on a cylindrical surface. I've seen this before on items much closer. By the way, the barrel has been shortened to 18 to 20 inches, just right for up close shooting. I don't know if this was factory done or done by an armorer in the field. After looking at it more, I'm also not sure it's a Model 12 or a '97. The forearm looks a little fat for those. Could be a Mossberg.

[Here's a closeup. -tterrace]

I think I figured it out

It's a .30 cal. Springfield shotgun.

My Two Pellets

Call me a scatterhead, but that barrel looks too thin to be a scattergun barrel. In other words, it's hard to gauge but it seems too thin to be a shotgun barrel. AFAIK sentry duty shotguns in WWII were 12 gauge. That barrel looks no bigger than a .410, if that.

How in the world

can you tell this is a shotgun? What software are you using to blow up this picture?

[Distinctive profile. -tterrace]

Hot Duty

The last time I was in Needles, the temerature was 119 degrees. I felt like I was going to die walking between my air conditioned car and the air conditioned gas station. This is not the place where you want to be standing outside in battle fatigues and a steel helmet. This poor soldier may have screwed up somewhere else in order to draw this grueling duty.

Red Rock Bridge

This is Santa Fe's Red Rock Bridge, completed in 1890, and due to be replaced with a new bridge just two years after this photo was made. This then became the US 66 bridge for another 20 years. More here.

He Means Business

Something you don't often see in pictures. The guard is armed with a pump shotgun, probably either a Model 1897 or a Model 12. Most often you'll see soldiers on guard duty armed with an M1 or occasionally with M1903. There may have been other guards here armed with rifles to deter saboteurs at a distance, but this guy is ready for close-in defense.

Sentry duty shotgun

I think the guard is armed with a pump action shotgun. I've read that shotguns were often used on various guard and protection details during the war.

6 Rails Across the Bridge

Why 6 rails across the bridge?

Gantlet track.

There is double track on each side of the bridge, which was built when a single track was sufficient for the traffic on the line. Traffic increased to where it became necessary to double track the line, but as a cost savings the bridge, only wide enough for a single track, was retained. Rather than put switches at each end of the single track segment, the bridge was laid with gantlet track. The two rails of each of the tracks for each direction were merged together about 6" apart.

Counting from the left, the first and fifth rails are for trains in the approaching direction. The second and sixth for trains moving away from the photographer (as in, the caboose seen beyond the bridge.) The two center rails are guard rails, as a safety measure common on all bridges in case of derailment.

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