The weapon was a license-production copy of the 60mm mortar system designed by talented French weapons engineer Edgar William Brandt (1880-1960) and developed for American use by the US Army Ordnance Department. The 60mm model had its roots in the 81mm M1 Mortar, itself having origins in another of Brandt's designs. The decision behind the development of the M2 60mm Mortar was to bring some portable fire support to American infantry forces in the field - something akin to the portability of a hand grenade with the firepower of an 81mm mortar.
Beginning in the 1920s, the US Army looked at procuring a light-class mortar system to fulfill such a need. Several mortar designs were entertained but the 60mm creation by Edgar Brandt was selected and license-production of the French system within the United States was granted. US Army evaluations soon followed, encompassing much of the 1930s, with the first eventual production order for some 1,500 examples put into motion sometime in January of 1940. The official designation of the American version became "Mortar, 60mm M2".
In practice, the M2 proved highly reliable and accurate as an indirect fire support weapon. The mortar system could be fielded at a moment's notice and directed for high-angled fire in both an offensive and a defensive role. With this capability, the M2 proved priceless in engaging enemies dug into trenches, ravines or along slopes. World War 2 alone accounted for the production of some 60,000 M2 systems. Production was handled by the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company as well as the Read Machinery Company and Kennedy-Van Saun Corporation.
The M2 did maintain its own level of limitations during her use. Perhaps most detrimental was the overall weight of the system as well as the weight of her ammunition. Though portable, the combined weight of the M2's bipod, firing tube and baseplate ultimately added up and the battlefield lethality of the mortar team was only as durable as its ammunition supply. Additionally, any mortar system suffered when engaging an enemy hiding under the protection of thick forest or jungle canopies where projectiles might find it hard to penetrate. Other than these points however, mortar teams proved invaluable to the base rifle company during the war. 60mm mortars served US military personnel in both the European and Pacific theaters - in the latter, they proved most effective against the dug-in and sometime suicidal Japanese troops.
A typical Marine mortar section in World War 2 was part of the Weapons Platoon, Rifle Company with its section leader being a Sergeant in rank. Three mortar squads were a part of this section with these being commanded by a Corporal. A total of 16 Marines made up the mortar section. The Weapons Platoon was deleted in May of 1944, relocating the mortar section under the control of company headquarters while operating in combat under the orders of the rifle company commander. Twenty Marines now made up the new 60mm Mortar Section.
French forces in Algeria and Indochina as well as South Vietnamese forces in Vietnam also utilized the M2.
- M49A2 High Explosive (HE): Infantry.
- M302 White Phosphorus (WP): Signaling, screening, smoke-producing, and casualty-producing.
- M83 Illuminating (I): Night missions.
- Designed by: Edgar Brant
- Variant: Type 31 (Chinese military)
- Weight: 42 lbs. (19.05 kg)
- Barrel Length: 2 ft. 5 in. (726 mm)
- Shell Weight: 2 lbs. 15 oz. (1.33 kg)
- Caliber: 2.36 in. (60 mm)
- Elevation: +40 degrees to +85 degrees
- Traverse: 7 degrees
- Rate of Fire: 18 rounds per minute
- Muzzle velocity: 518 feet per second (158 meters per second)
- Max. Range: 1.13 miles (1.82 km)