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During World War I, machine guns were heavy, crew-served weapons. Their operation required several soldiers. Even so-called light machine guns could not easily be handled by single soldiers. To meet the need for an individual rapid-fire weapon, several inventors devised submachine guns. Light enough for one-man use, the new weapons were nicknamed "trench brooms" because they swept the trenches clear of enemy troops. The Thompson submachine gun was the handwork of John Taliaferro Thompson (West Point Class of 1882). It saw only limited wartime use, but the "Tommy gun" in the hands of police and gangsters achieved notoriety as "the gun that made the twenties roar."
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