sunnuntai 4. maaliskuuta 2018

Click! Click! Click! (in English)

On 2.–3. March I spent two wonderful days with fellow artefact (or: artifact) researchers in Helsinki, House of Sciences. I myself spoke about tools used in making Finnish trench art. It was quite a surprise for researches from abroad that Finns made such a large quantity of trench art: they associate it with WW I and trench warfare in the western front.

In this writing I will focus on the very talented independent researcher Kaisa Kyläkoski´s subject of clickers. She focused on year 1876 and the fashionable toy crik crik or clikers (like fidget spinners today) in her excellent representation "Clicker - fashionable object of 1876." In a few months the "annoying object" made to practice morse code arrived to Sweden and then to Finland.

I was glad when Kyläkoski represented the WW II clickers, which were used by allied paratroopers during invasion of Normandy (June 1944). Clickers were necessary, because paratroopers were dropped in the dark of night and using English (password was Flash-Thunder) would have revealed the paratroopers to the Germans.
WW II clicker. Same photo Kaisa Kyläkoski used. Source:

These clickers can be seen in two fictional productions: in the movie The Longest Day (1962) and in the second episode of the television series Band of Brothers (2001, episode "Day of Days").

The Longest Day (1962)

Band of Brothers (2001)

Training the use of the clickers in Longest Day can be found through this link. (whole scene is worthwhile, but focus on 0:35–1:00).

John Wayne shows how a clicker is used. The Longest Day (1962).

So one click is responded with two clicks in order to tell that the receiver is a friendly one. The Longest Day has one very problematic scene. In it one unfortunate paratrooper uses his clicker, hears two clicks and reveals himself. He is shot immediately and hes last words are :"I heard two clicks". It is revealed that the sound came from a German soldier´s bolt-action rifle, which makes similar noise when loaded. The video embedded notes, that the man was killed with two shots, but I believe that the second shot came from unfortunate accident in the dubbing and adding sound effects. It could also be the echo, which usually confused soldiers in real battle: when the loud sound echoed in urban environment, it was difficult to locate the source of firing.

Very, very unfortunate paratrooper and his clicker. The Longest Day (1962)

Is this scene accurate? The bolt-action rifle is loaded with 1–5 cartridges. First the bolt is turned up (click), pulled back (click), then the cartridge/cartridges are pushed into the chamber and the bolt is pushed front (click number 3) and pushed down (click). The weapon is ready to fire. After firing the weapon is loaded again, the empty shell will fly away from the chamber and a new cartridge (shell + bullet) will rise up in the magazine and go into the chamber.

So why did the German soldier load his weapon? Did he go into possible battle with an unloaded rifle? An if he did, why was the loading so fast? He could have been an experienced soldier, who  quickly did the two first parts of loading (bolt goes up and back), quickly put the cartridge/cartidges into chamber (loading 5 pieces of ammunition is easy with a comb) and finished the loading. Even so, the time between click-click and click-click is a short one.

Clearly this clicker was a mistake from the allied part, though: usually only snipers used bolt-action Springfield rifles in US-army in 1944, whereas common infantry used semi-automatic Garand 1 rifles, BARs  (Browning Automatic Rifle) or submachineguns. The ones who came up with the idea of clickers didn't think that it could be confused with bolt-action rifles, which were more commonly used by  German troops.

In the conference I remembered that I was wondering when I originally watched the series that the clicker used in episode Day of Days was a wooden one. Now that I took a new look at it is clear that they used a original, metal clicker. But it's clear that the clickers used in the movie and in the TV-series are different.

Clicker in Band of Brothers, episode 2 "Day of Days" (2001)

If you listen to the scenes (Longest day here (0:10–0:11) (Day of Days here 2:28–2:29) you might notice that the sounds are very different. Is the sound in The Longest day made even louder using different sort of clickers, because original clickers didn't have loud enough a voice for the microphones?

Lieutenant Winters uses a clicker after parashooting in Band of Brothers. Clickers can't be seen properly here (episode 2 Day of Days, about 14:50 running time).

It seems that I messed up two thing: the clicker in The Longest Day might be wooden, made to sound louder for the microphones. The clicker in Band of Brothers (see 14:50–14:55) looks like the original one, and even might be!

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