That Time American Lever Action Rifles Stood Ready to Fight Japanese Invaders
Just in case of a Japanese invasion in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attacks, loggers and backwoodsmen in the Pacific Northwest were mobilized and given a gun they understood.
This happened in Canada's British Columbia province during World War II when a group termed at first the Coastal Defence Guards, then later the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers, were formed in early 1942. While the threat of invasion sounds far-fetched today, keep in mind that at the time Japanese submarines were bombarding the U.S. West Coast while one of Yamamoto’s task forces had seized islands off Alaska and were busy turning them into bases.
The men of the PCMR, recruited from among prospectors and loggers, weren't expected to be toy soldiers, but instead formed into small teams spread out across rural BC and, as explained by the Naval and Military Museum of Esquimalt, "instructed in tactical situations that included observation, especially coast watching against the possible Japanese invasion, anti-sabotage measures and protection of lines of communication and transportation."
As formal training was limited, it was decided to initially equip such PCMR detachments with .30-30 caliber lever actions, a gun they would likely be familiar with already. The Canadian government promptly ordered about 3,000 Winchester Model 94s and Model 64s as well as an estimated 1,800 Marlin Model 1936s direct from those companies' respective New Haven, Connecticut factories.
These lever guns were augmented by Lend-Leased American M1917 Enfields as well as some old Ross rifles then later by STEN guns.
The PCMR were seen as being adept at keeping tabs on a Japanese invasion or raid then serve as guides for responding Canadian or American reinforcements.
"They will become the generals, leading the generals of the army by the nose," said one contemporary account. "They will know the shortcuts, the vital roadways to block, the waterways to divert or unleash. The Pacific Rangers with their .30-30s, their bowie knives, their pocket compasses, and their understanding of the country will justify any spitting of tobacco juice on a general’s shoes.”
By the time the Rangers were disbanded in 1945, they were some 15,000 strong and many of the wartime .30-30s were sold off to the men who used them, at a cost of $5.