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Interesting US History
A Website Devoted to Interesting Events in U.S. History





June 29, 2009

"Carbine" Williams

David Marshall “Carbine” Williams was born on November 13, 1900 in Cumberland County, North Carolina.  He dropped out of school after eighth grade, and began to work in a blacksmith shop.  After being discharged from the Navy for lying about his age and then expelled from Blackstone Military Academy, he got a job working for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.  He also had a number of illegal moonshine stills hidden in the woods around northern Cumberland County.

In the early 1920’s, Williams gained access to a machine shop where he discovered he had a talent for making replacement parts for firearms.  With the experience he gained from this practice and with the encouragement he received from a man by the name of H. T. Peoples, he eventually began to redesign and improve gun components.

He made his most important improvement was when he designed the short-stroke piston and floating chamber which he adapted to the M-1 Grand rifle turning it into the semi-automatic M-1 carbine.  The M-1 carbine was one of the most used weapons in World War II.  In fact General Douglass McArthur said the M-1 was “one of the strongest contributing factors to our victory in the Pacific”.

One notable detail about “Carbine” Williams was the fact that the machine shop he used was in Halifax County, NC at the Caledonia Prison Farm.  The reason he was able to use that machine shop was because he was serving 10 to 20 years for the shooting death of a police deputy during a raid on his moonshine distillery in 1921.  Although it was never proven that he was the trigger man, his first trial ended in a hung jury so he plead guilty rather than risk conviction in another trial.

It was while he was in prison that he invented the short-stroke piston and it was the warden himself, H. T. Peoples, who encouraged Williams when he noticed his mechanical aptitude as he repaired the guns of the prison guards.

Mark Bowman

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Carbine Williams Movie

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Oscar-winner James Stewart ("It's A Wonderful Life," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Vertigo") stars in the title role as a jailed bootlegger who invents the famed rifle and gains his freedom. Co-starring Oscar-nominee Jean Hagen ("Singin' in the Rain," "The Asphalt Jungle") and James Arness (TV's "Gunsmoke").