Tommy Gun: How General Thompson's Machine Gun Rewrote History

Lawrence Anthony, Author, Graham Spence, With . St. Martin's/Dunne $26.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-56578-7

The Thompson submachine gun is one of the weapons that define the 20th century. In the hands of soldiers and insurgents, police and criminals, it has made its mark from American cities to the jungles of Africa. The Thompson remains a feature of movies, novels and songs. Yenne (Superfortress ), a well-known writer on military subjects, presents the Tommy gun's technical and social history from its genesis during WWI—designed by Gen. John Taliaferro Thompson—as a projected “trench broom” through its spectacular career as a gangster weapon during Prohibition. Yenne explains the business and technical dynamics that refined the Thompson's design and made it marketable even to Depression-slashed military budgets. The Thompson saw widespread use during WWII as the British/American counterpart of the German Schmeisser and the Russian PPSH. In every theater of war, the Thompson's high rate of fire, the hitting power of its .45 cartridge and its relative accuracy more than compensated for its 10-pound weight and short range. Rendered officially obsolete by cheaper, simpler designs, the Thompson is “an American, an immortal icon,” says Yenne in this informative history. 45 b&w photos. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 07/27/2009
Release date: 11/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
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