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SD – INDUSTRY INSIDER – Vehicles, tractors, farm machinery….and firearms?

When the Big Red Power Round Up takes place Aug. 8-10 on the S.D. State Fairgrounds, you can expect to see rows of farm machinery and tractors of all sizes, acres of trucks and other vehicles, and, in the Beef Complex, something that is not immediately associated with the International Harvester Company. Firearms. No, that’s right. Military-grade weapons that have the International Harvester name stamped on the barrel. Leo Semmler is a 62-year-old Air Force veteran who grew up near Tripp. Several years ago, he decided to acquire a couple of M1 rifles. Semmler lives near Watertown. “I have always liked firearms,” Semmler said via telephone, “but I never really collected them. But some friends of mine were going to purchase some rifles, so I decided to join in.” He noticed that the rifles were very similar, but that there some differences too. “I did a little reading and some research and then I caught the fever.”

More research brought him to the doorstep of the International Harvester company’s involvement in the firearms industry. “The IHC is the rarest of all the M1 Garand (GAR-und) rifles,” Semmler said. “John Garand designed the M1 many years earlier and the easy to use firearm was used extensively during World War 2.” When the war ended, large numbers were put into storage, with the idea that the numbers would be enough to see the country through the foreseeable future. But shortly after, hostilities began in Korea and the Department of Defense opted to put the M1 back into production. But why would International Harvester, one of the leading manufacturers of farm implements and machinery be the chosen contractor for 100,000 rifles in June of 1951? “Oh,” Semmler said, “that’s easy. It was because of the atomic bomb.” Come again? “Sure,” he said. “When the United States ended World War 2 with the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we were the only country that had the bomb. But by 1949, through spying or whatever means, the Soviet Union had the atomic bomb as well.” Semmler noted that up to that time, all of the small arms manufacturing had taken place on the east coast, in New England. “So, since Russia had the bomb, it would have taken only one bomb to basically wipe out the entire arms manufacturing capability of the U.S.” But International Harvester was located in Evansville, Ind., a far reach from the east coast. “It was pretty rough for them at the start,” Semmler said. “I get the idea that the management got the contract and never really talked to the workers. They realized that they had a great deal to figure out to make rifles for the Korean War.” Semmler said that IHC got help from Springfield Manufacturing, as well as Harrington/Richardson, who built receivers for them. Some of the rifles were converted for other uses, for snipers and later, for target shooting.  [full article]

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