The United States emerged from World War II with the Bazooka as its primary anti-armor and anti-structure weapon.  Proven as a true war winner, the series, requiring a firer and a loader, started with the M1, upgraded through the  M9 and ended with the M20B1 ‘Super’ during Korea.

The Bazooka’s basic design never changed, and consisted of nothing more than a hollow steel tube of varying diameters into which an electrically fired rocket was inserted at the back. Using a shaped charge, and depending upon the model, this rocket averaged 3 to 4 inches penetration of steel (11 inches with the ‘Super’), and in its day proved easily capable of taking out light and medium tanks, and even a heavy with the right shot placement. Roundly praised by users, the Bazooka provided the necessary punch when confronting hardened targets.

Good as it was though, the Bazooka had its drawbacks, the main ones being that it required a crew to operate and, as new armor designs came down the pike after 1945, its shell design proved less and less effective. Furthermore, by the 1950s ever more emphasis was being placed on mobile warfare, and to continue using a crew operated anti-armor weapon  with declining ability was considered a grave drawback.

The Bazooka found itself being phased out in favor of the new recoilless rifle designs that proved more adept at dealing with evolving armor threats. But, like the Bazooka, it also faced the same problems in requiring two men to employ, and was similarly assigned to support weapon platoons, meaning they still had to be called on when faced by armor.

Something else was desired. A weapon that could give the effectiveness of a bazooka or recoilless rifle, but without an unwieldy length and most important, a crew. In other words, a lightweight one-man device capable of being carried fired and disposed of when it discharged its round. Something, ironically, which the Germans had already done 20 years before during wartime with their Panzerfaust.

Solicitations began in the mid 1950s, and in early 1961 the U.S. company Hesse Eastern presented their design combining the best attributes of the bazooka and Panzerfaust. In 1963 after successful trials, it received the designation M72 LAW, or Light Anti-armor Weapon. It was a stubby hollow pair of tubes that carried a round sealed inside, and was meant to be fired once, then destroyed by the user. Its utter simplicity meant that it ushered in another new family of disposable tank killing weapons that ended up being copied by allies and enemies alike in the latter half of the 20th century.

The M72 was 66mm in diameter, and the twin tubes telescoped, meaning one collapsed into the other. Closed, it was 24.8 inches long and provided a watertight seal until it was snapped out to a maximum length of 34.6 inches. Once this was done, the weapon was armed and the watertight seal was broken for good even if the soldier collapsed it again.