American Rifleman - July 2019 - 54

JOHNSON

PARTIAL LIST OF SERIAL NUMBERS OF MODEL OF 1941 JOHNSON
RIFLES TRANSFERRED TO THE USMC (DOCUMENTED FROM JOHNSON
AUTOMATICS, INC., FACTORY RECORDS)
DATE OF TRANSFER MARCH 26, 1942

Regarding the Johnson rifle, Krulak stated: "Johnson Rifle,
caliber .30. Performed similarly with the M-1. Found little
difference between the two." Given the reputation that the
M1 Garand had garnered in combat, Krulak obviously held
the Johnson rifle in high regard.
While the Johnson rifles issued to the 1st Parachute
Regiment were standard Dutch-production guns, a number of
the rifles subsequently had the protective "ears" on the front
sight ground off. While documentation to confirm the reason
for this modification has not been found, it can be speculated
that removing the ears from the front sight resulted in a
single blade that would make the sight picture similar to that
of the '03 Springfield rifle, with which the Marines would have
been very familiar due to its use in basic training. However, it
has not been confirmed that all the 1st Parachute Regiment
Johnson rifles had this modification, and a number may have
retained the original, unmodified front sight.
After the conclusion of the Bougainville campaign, the
1st Parachute Regiment was officially deactivated, and the
paratroopers were ordered to turn in their Johnson rifles.
The deactivation of the Marine Corps parachute units meant
that there would be no further need for Johnson rifles,
and they would no longer be items of issue within the
Marine Corps. The refusal of the Netherlands Purchasing
Commission to release any more Johnson rifles to the
Marines due to the ongoing delays in Johnson Automatics,
Inc., rectifying the mechanical problems with them, along
with the fact that standardized arms, such as M1 Garand
rifles, M1/M1A1 carbines and Browning Automatic Rifles
were available, rendered moot the necessity to continue
efforts to procure additional Johnson rifles.
The deactivation of the 1st Parachute Regiment and
the order to "... eliminate Johnson weapons from Marine
Corps requirements" marked the end of the Johnson
rifle as a Marine Corps arm. Marine paratrooper Clifford
Goodin described the ignoble fate of some of the 1st
Parachute Regiment's Johnson rifles: "When our campaign
on Bougainville was over, we were told to gather up all
Johnson rifles in our outfit and dispose of them (about 16
as I recall). We took off the barrels and buried them on the
beach on Bougainville ... I broke my rifle down and put it
in a jump bag. Later we had to climb up a rope ladder on
the U.S.S. President Jackson and were on our way home.
When we reached San Diego, Cal., I sent my weapon home."
Other members of the 1st Parachute Regiment have
related similar experiences with being ordered to bury their
Johnson rifles on the beach at Bougainville. The remaining
1st Parachute Regiment Johnsons that were not buried or
otherwise disposed of "in theater" were turned in and sent
back to the United States to be returned to the Dutch government, where they subsequently saw use with the Dutch
Royal Marines and navy.
Although only 650 Johnson rifles were shipped to the
2nd Parachute Battalion, Marine Corps documentation
confirms that a total of 750 of the rifles were procured. The
origin of the additional 100 rifles has not been discovered,
but a clue lies in a Feb. 12, 1945, invoice stating that the

54

JULY 2019

THESE ARE THE 23 RIFLES "DONATED" BY MELVIN JOHNSON, JR. TO THE
1ST PARACHUTE BATTALION AND USED IN THE GUADALCANAL CAMPAIGN
3401
5700
5743
7137
7246
7786
8031
8126
8204
8319
8475
8507
8587
8785
8917
9084
9117
9156
9281
9299
9313
9424
9486
OTHER JOHNSON RIFLES TRANSFERRED TO THE USMC
DATE OF TRANSFER OCT. 9, 1942
0988
7788
8192
9186
A0061

A5264

RIFLES DESTROYED BY A FIRE AT QUANTICO, VA., DEC. 16, 1944
A8899 A9967 B4135 B4426 B4562
B7269 B7349 B7642 B8057 B8082
DATE OF TRANSFER MARCH 13, 1943

Depot of Supplies, U.S. Marine Corps, sold one hundred
"Johnson, Semi-Automatic Rifles, .30 Cal. Rotary Feed
Model, Used, Serviceable" to Johnson Automatics, Inc., for
$5,000 ($50 per rifle). The Johnson company subsequently
advertised these rifles for sale to "members of the National
Rifle Association only" for $250 each via an advertisement in a 1946 issue in The American Rifleman magazine.
Reportedly, the guns sold out very quickly even though
that would equate to a 2018 inflation-adjusted per unit
price of over $3,500. While a tidy profit indeed for the
Johnson company, collectors today will pay several times
that amount for an original Model of 1941 Johnson rifle
with a confirmed USMC provenance.
While the "holy grail" for a collector would be to obtain
an example of one of the 750 Johnson rifles procured by the
U.S. Marine Corps in World War II (or one of the 23 "lent" to
the 1st Parachute Battalion by Melvin Johnson), there is no
known comprehensive serial number roster of these rifles.
Therefore, in the absence of some convincing documentation,
there is no way to positively identify one of the USMC-used
rifles. The guns were not in any particular serial number
range or sequence, and examples from all three "blocks" (no
prefix, "A" prefix and "B" prefix) are known to have been
procured by the Marine Corps. They also bore no special
markings to denote USMC ownership. The fact that only 773
of the 21,988 Johnson rifles manufactured were acquired
by the Marine Corps means the probability of any particular
undocumented example being one of the coveted USMC rifles
is about three percent-not very good odds! Contrary to
what is sometimes claimed, there was never any such thing
as a special "Marine Corps" Model of 1941 Johnson rifle.
Yes, some were acquired by the Marine Corps, but they were
manufactured under contract for the Dutch government and
were the same as any other Model of Johnson rifle.
While it would be a stretch to refer to the Johnson rifle
as a failure, it never reached its full potential due to some
laxness in the manufacturing process and the fact that it
was not superior to the standardized M1 Garand. On the
other hand, while its use as a U.S. military arm was very
limited, the majority of the Marine paratroopers who had
occasion to use the rifle in combat were generally pleased
with it. Despite its limitations and the rather negligible role
it played in World War II, the Model of 1941 Johnson rifle is
an extremely interesting arm that continues to elicit a lot of
interest even today.
AMERICAN RIFLEMAN



American Rifleman - July 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Rifleman - July 2019

Contents
American Rifleman - July 2019 - Cover1
American Rifleman - July 2019 - Cover2
American Rifleman - July 2019 - 1
American Rifleman - July 2019 - Contents
American Rifleman - July 2019 - 3
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