John Cantius Garand 

Inventor of the Garand M-1 Rifle

from the Norwich Bulleting 6 August 2008

Boy from Griswold grew up to design great Army rifle


Some individuals show early signs and foreshadowing of what they will accomplish as adults. Today we look at one such individual.

John Cantius Garand was born in Canada on Jan. 1, 1888, but moved to Jewett City with his family when he was a child. He had limited schooling through third grade and spoke mostly French because of his lack of education. At 11, he went to work at the Slater Mill in Jewett City as a floor sweeper and thatís where he met his first hero. His name was Joseph Labonne, a Frenchman and an outstanding machinist. Labonne became a mentor to young John, who even returned to the mill on his day off to learn more about machinery.

While still working at the mill, John patented two of his inventions. The first was called a "telescopic jack." John designed this device for the toolroom. The second patent was a machine that painted the ends of bobbins in order to identify the colors of yarn in the textile mill.

He also became a good machinist while working there, due in part to Labonneís tutelage. Labonne sold the latter patent for $1,000 for John. Johnís father used the money to buy a farm in Griswold.

In Providence

In 1909, at 21, John became a tool and gauge maker at Brown and Sharpe in Providence. He had no success selling his second invention to this company and seven years later he left the Providence plant.

Near the beginning of World War I, John learned the military lacked an up-to-date machine gun. He began to develop one and took on a partner who would help him market the gun successfully. The partner was gun designer John Kewish. By 1918, the first model was complete and, through various contacts, the gun came to the attention of the Naval Consulting Board. It recommended Garand take the gun to the ordinance department for possible approval.

The testing people there felt the Army should not invest in this particular design. But the National Bureau of Standards allowed Garand and Kewish to use the bureauís machine shop to improve the design. The bureau even paid them a small stipend while they worked on the weapon. After 18 months, Garand completed his new design; but the war was ending and the Army no longer wanted to pursue the project.

Developed reputation

By now, Garand was becoming well known in professional circles, even talking shqp with the likes of Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Garand went to work at the Springfield, Mass., armory, where he spent many years designing guns.

He faced many obstacles, including the Armyís inflexible demands, the requirements of the production department; competition from other designers, ammo left over from World War I needing a weapon that could fire it, MacArthurís vetoes of collective decisions and cuts to military spending during the Great Depression, which left no funding for new gun production.

Nevertheless, Garand was able to adjust, modify and use creative and imaginative forces to produce the acceptable M-1 rifle in 1936. In 1941, he was awarded a medal for meritorious service and in 1944 received a U.S. Government Medal for. Merit. Almost 5 million of his Ml "Garands" were manufactured. He died in 1974.

Gen. George S. Patton Jr. called the Ml "the greatest battle implement ever deyised!