Forgotten Weapons Takes a Look at the M2 FLAMETHROWER

What’s the coolest firearm you’ve ever shot? A fine, antique shotgun? An old war horse oozing with history? A rapid-firing machine gun?

Whatever you’re thinking of, it’s not as cool as an M2 Flamethrower:

In what is probably definitely the coolest video that Forgotten Weapons has ever done, Ian takes a look at the premier fire-spitting device of World War II. The perfect weapon to turn a bunker into the world’s biggest fry-cooker, the M2 flamethrower was the product of US research into those weapons in the early 1940s. The product of this research was, as Ian calls it, “the best flamethrower of any nation in World War II”, and accordingly the M2 served through the Korean War and into Vietnam. The M2 replaced the M1 flamethrower, which was an expedient design developed beginning before the attack on Pearl Harbor.


If you don’t think this is cool, I don’t know what to say.

Flamethrowers became essential tools for infantry assaulting enemy positions in both the Pacific and European Theaters in World War II. Although they are brutal (some would say inhumane) weapons, effective, safe flamethrowers made operations against pillboxes and tunnels much safer for attacking forces, as they not only were highly effective casualty producers against defenders, but also obviously had a serious psychological effect on otherwise entrenched defenders, as well. They are also, incidentally, effective against hornets of unusual size.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • gunsandrockets

    Flamethrowers are fantastic weapons. However foot mobile projectors are extremely heavy and short ranged, putting the user in great danger. Armored vehicle flame projectors are much more practical than foot mobile projectors.

    • Darrell

      James Coburn, the flamethrower guy in Hell Is For Heroes, comes to mind.

  • Don Ward

    Flamethrowers and bazookas are the only practical weapons when fighting giant, Atom-bomb spawned ants!

    • schizuki

      Ah, one of the classic sci-fi films of the fifties. And James Cameron stole from it liberally for “Aliens.”

  • Don Ward
  • Don Ward

    And my normal jokey comments and links to old movies aside, I think the example of Hershel Williams, who earned the Medal of Honor on Iwo Jima as a Marine flamethrower-man is always worth remembering.


    For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as demolition sergeant serving with the 21st Marines, 3d Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, 23 February 1945. Quick to volunteer his services when our tanks were maneuvering vainly to open a lane for the infantry through the network of reinforced concrete pillboxes, buried mines, and black volcanic sands, Cpl. Williams daringly went forward alone to attempt the reduction of devastating machinegun fire from the unyielding positions. Covered only by 4 riflemen, he fought desperately for 4 hours under terrific enemy small-arms fire and repeatedly returned to his own lines to prepare demolition charges and obtain serviced flamethrowers, struggling back, frequently to the rear of hostile emplacements, to wipe out 1 position after another. On 1 occasion, he daringly mounted a pillbox to insert the nozzle of his flamethrower through the air vent, killing the occupants and silencing the gun; on another he grimly charged enemy riflemen who attempted to stop him with bayonets and destroyed them with a burst of flame from his weapon. His unyielding determination and extraordinary heroism in the face of ruthless enemy resistance were directly instrumental in neutralizing one of the most fanatically defended Japanese strong points encountered by his regiment and aided vitally in enabling his company to reach its objective. Cpl. Williams’ aggressive fighting spirit and valiant devotion to duty throughout this fiercely contested action sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

    • iksnilol

      Ooh, I saw that as a level in CoD: World at War.

  • Rob

    You had me at flamethrower.

    • Mark

      “Flammenwerfer” is even more euphonious.

      • iksnilol

        “It werfs flammen”

        • Don Ward

          She werfs hard for the flammen…

  • schizuki

    For good reason, flamethrower men were prime targets for the enemy. The Russkies designed their flamethrowers to look like rifles from a distance. Clever.

  • bull

    and even more fun… these arent classified as firearms in most places! 😀

    • iksnilol

      They are litterally “fire”-arms.

      • marathag

        Few restrictions on them.

        Biggest is getting the bottles hydrochecked every few years, like any other pressure tank

        • iksnilol

          I know, it was a pun 😛

  • Joe

    I wonder how difficult it would be to manufacture M2 clones, and at what price point?

  • Geoff

    1940’s America: design, build and issue a flamethrower from scratch.
    2010’s America: spend 10’s of millions and waste literally over a decade trying to get camo and a handgun that are all already available off the shelf, and fail miserably in doing so, while enriching all sorts of bureaucrats and cogs in the system


    Fire……. FIRE!!!!!!!!!

  • Bill

    The independent movie “Bellflower” has home-made flamethrowers as a central element. During filming the crew apparently accidentally burned down some utility lines.

    There’s a helicopter mounted launcher that fills and fires ping-pong balls filled with incendiary liquid for starting backfires at forest fires.

  • UCSPanther

    The use of weaponized fire is one of the oldest and most effective weapons in the history of warfare.

    Nothing shatters morale more than having tongues of flame directed at your position, or having wood fortifications set ablaze…

  • Ron

    I remember reading a study I found at the Camp Lejeune library, the killing effect against troops in enclosed spaces was oxygen deprivation

  • Jean Luc Picard

    I’m wondering if flamethrowers can be relevant in combat or even modernized, unless if they were replaced by Napalm or other incendiary type of rocket launchers.