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The M45 Quadmount – The Krautmower weapon with the devastating power

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When I wrote my article on military weapon nicknames, I left the best out. I had never heard of the M45 Quadmount, and when I heard its name was the Krautmower, I was floored. When you’re fighting the Nazis, creative nicknames are a must, and it’s easy to see why the M45 Quadmount was called the Krautmower.

The M45 Quadmount was an American portable anti-aircraft weapon. As its name suggests, the Quadmount has four M2HD machine guns (also called Heavy Barrel version M2s) mounted on it. The guns were mounted on the top and bottom left and right corners of the Quadmount to create a deadly square. The M45 was designed for World War II but stuck around well into Vietnam.

The M45 Quadmount – Take it to the air

M45 and its trailer
The M45 Quadmount being towed. (Creative Commons)

World War I might have introduced planes into warfare, but by World War II, they ruled the skies. Infantry, artillery, and armored forces were prey to the predators of the sky. With this in mind, a portable anti-aircraft weapon was absolutely necessary for ground warfare elements.

At the beginning of WWII, U.S. forces had the M33 twin mount, but two guns weren’t enough for this fast-moving war, so W.L. Maxson Corporation developed the M45 Quadmount.

The Quadmount had an electrically powered turret system and its turret was powered by a pair of rechargeable six-volt batteries. Its turret is capable of swinging in 360 degrees and could change elevation from -10 to +90 degrees. While the gun was designed for anti-air combat, it could be aimed at ground level if needed.

The mount was used on a trailer and carried ready through the open roads and fields of Europe. It granted immediate protection to Allied forces from air strafes.

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Blasting away

The Krautmower’s operator sat in the middle with the guns oriented to the shooter’s sides. The system required two A-gunners to keep the weapon loaded and firing. Each gun carried a 200-round ammunition chest. The shooter can fire all four guns at one time, but in practice, the shooter fired two at once and switched between pairs of guns to conserve ammunition. This also allowed the barrels to cool and the shooter to reload and correct any malfunctions.

The M45 Quadmount could have the barrels converged to one point of aim at multiple distances, and the shooter could then reset the barrels and their convergence from the firing seat. It had an effective firing range of 1.6 miles and its M2HD machine guns could rip through the light designs of the planes of the era.

It also offered way more ammunition than cannon-type designs that used 20mm rounds, and while the Krautmower wasn’t as effective, it was more forgiving to the average operator.

Related: This bent-barrel rifle was one of Nazi Germany’s most weird weapons

Did it work?

U.S. troops fire a M45 during WWII. (Creative Commons)

The M45 saw plenty of action in the European theatre. It became an effective anti-air defense that was often located with ground warfare units. Armored units, artillery, and more relied on these guns to lay down the hate on German planes and could even intercept Messerschmitt fighter bombers. Allies often had air superiority, but the Messerschmitt could swing in, attack at a low altitude, and disappear before Allied fighters showed up. The Krautmower helped tackled these German planes.

One noteworthy use of the M45s was at the Battle of the Bulge. The anti-aircraft weapons were used against German infantry forces and provided what likely amounted to an extremely effective amount of supporting fire. It’s tough to move your infantry when a .50 cal is hitting them with ease a half mile away. It gained the nickname Krautmower after the battle.

The M45s also shined as the Allies were crossing the Rhine River into Germany. Germany sent 248 fighters to destroy the bridge and stop the Allies’ advance. M45 Quadmounts were responsible for 30% of the German aircraft casualties. The bridge stood, allowing the U.S. Third Army to invade Germany.

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After World War II

M45 Quadmount on display
An M45 Quadmount on display. (Creative Commons)

The M45 didn’t disappear when the Nazis got put into the dirt. Instead, it stuck around through Korea and into Vietnam. In Vietnam, M45 Quadmounts found their way onto gun trucks to protect convoys from incoming North Vietnamese planes. By that point, planes were much faster, so Quadmounts relied on their overwhelming amount of firepower, which is one of the keys to surviving an ambush. With 800 rounds of .50 BMG, these guns were hell on wheels.

After Vietnam, the Krautmover faded away. Air threats became much faster, so they were handled by much bigger and more complicated weapons, and, as an infantry weapon, the M45 just wasn’t needed anymore. However, we shouldn’t be sad that Krautmower is gone: We should be happy it ever existed.

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Travis Pike

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.