Belgium’s forgotten .30-06 Mauser

Strictly speaking, Belgium’s Mle. 50 rifle, a .30-06 Springfield Mauser-type design, does not belong here as it was a post-WWII weapon. As far as being unique, it was not the last bolt-action military rifle made after WWII, nor was it the only one using .30-06. None the less, it remains a forgotten “final bookend” of the bolt-action era which largely faded away with the end of WWII in 1945: It combined the USA’s WWII rifle cartridge, probably the best of the war, with the operating features of European rifles, like Germany’s 98k, which had dominated conflicts for half a century. This rifle was a last hurrah of WWII’s generation.

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(FN Mle. 50 rifle.)

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(A Congolese soldier with a Mle. 50 rifle during 1964.)

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WWII destroyer using “coal power” in 1973

The Gearing class destroyers entered US Navy service during WWII. Decades later one of them, USS Johnston (DD-821) took part in a unique experiment to test the feasibility of using a coal-derived synthetic liquid fuel as opposed to imported oil.

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(The “late-war Gearing” layout, the template to which USS Johnston (DD-821) was built in 1945.)

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(Crew patch for sailors involved in the 1973 experiment.)

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what happened to Japan’s WWII aircraft companies after 1945

When WWII began in 1939 Japan was an aeronautical giant; one of the top five aerospace powers on Earth. Six years later the industry lay in ruins and a year after that, no longer even existed on paper.

With the possible exception of Mitsubishi, very little was ever written about Japanese aerospace companies before WWII and most were unknown outside of their homeland; in contrast to companies like Messerschmitt or Boeing which were famous worldwide. Nearly no attention at all was given to what happened to them after WWII.

A study of their final fates also has a second story. This is how defense contractors – which dominated Japan’s GDP during the early 1940s – were dismantled in a controlled way to limit the “contagion” of their loss to the wider postwar economy.

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(Mitsubishi’s bombed-out factory at Nagoya at the end of WWII.)

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(The Nakajima Aircraft corporate offices in Ota during the post-WWII American occupation. Today a Subaru factory; one of Nakajima’s descendants, is on these grounds.)

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Libya from Rommel to Quadaffi

The nation of Libya has seen a great deal of conflict, starting with WWII, then the 1980s skirmishes against the United States, and finally the terrible 10-year civil conflict of the 21st century.

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(Field Marshall Erwin Rommel in Libya during WWII; and Libyan dictator Muammar Quadaffi presenting a WWII Italian Carcano Modello 91 rifle to the Italian prime minister in 2002.)

Almost forgotten now is that the nation had a two-decade interlude as a pro-western kingdom and was host to a major American military base. The Libyan army of this era was equipped with WWII-surplus weaponry.

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(Soldiers of King Idris’s small army march with Enfield No.4 Mk.I rifles during the 1950s. This WWII British rifle became Libya’s first standard longarm after it achieved independence. During 2011, the old 1950s flag seen here was again made Libya’s official flag.)

WWII weapons would again play a small role during the fighting between 2011 – 2020.

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(A WWII American M1919A6 machine gun in action near a burned-out T-62 during the overthrow of Quadaffi.)

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(A WWII Soviet DP-28 light machine gun in use during the Libyan Civil War of the 2010s.)

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(A young Libyan irregular poses with a Carcano Moschetto da Cavalleria M-91 during 2011. He told the photographer that he believed it was “an old American gun” but none the less knew how to properly use it. This WWII Italian carbine was surprisingly represented during the 2010s civil war in Libya.) (photo via NPR)

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WWII weapons in Liberia

Military history of Liberia is often covered only in the context of the civil wars fought between 1990 – 1997 and 1999 – 2003. Before those tragic conflicts, Liberia had an odd and unique army, mirroring the unusual story of the nation as a whole.

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(US Army soldiers in Liberia during WWII. They are armed with M1903 Springfields and a M1917, both of which would be used by the Liberian army after WWII.)

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(Liberian soldiers loading M1 Garands during the 1980 coup.)

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(A modified M1917A1 guarding a roadblock near Monrovia during 1992.)

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(A guerilla loyal to the warlord Charles Taylor during the 1990s, armed with a WWII Soviet PPS-43. Child soldiers were used by Taylor in outrageous numbers; at points more than half his force was under the international military age of 17.)

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the 98k in Iraq

When I began wwiiafterwwii almost seven years ago, this was one of the first subjects I intended to cover. At that time Iraq was still a current topic, and I thought it would be easy to document the 98k’s history there.

As it turns out, the WWII German 98k in Iraq is complex and full of caveats; poorly-covered by substantive sources. So it took a tad bit longer than planned to complete. Hopefully this subject is still of interest.

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(A 98k rifle captured by the US Marine Corps during the post-2003 occupation.)

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(A heavily-modified Mauser rifle captured by American troops.) (photo via Silah Report)

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(A 98k manufactured by Mauser Werke in 1940. This was a WWII German, post-WWII Czechoslovak-refurbished, then ex-East German gun – an indirect route not uncommon for Iraqi 98ks. The jeem marking on the receiver and barrel is Iraq’s property marking.) (photo via gunboards online forum)

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“jumboized” WWII warships

After WWII the US Navy modernized war-built vessels to various degrees for many reasons. Many options were available: new weapons, new radars and sonars, enlarged superstructures, new radios, adding or removing aircraft capability, replacement engines, layout changes, and so on.

Normally one thing that couldn’t be changed was the physical size of the hull. Things could be added, moved, replaced, altered, or rebuilt inside or atop the hull; but at the end of the day the WWII hull was what it was.

In the examples below, extremely dramatic “surgery” actually changed the length and size of the entire ship.

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(Not a case of seeing double: the bow and stern sections of USS Navasota (AO-106) pointed in opposite directions during the WWII warship’s 1960s “jumboization”.)

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(The WWII submarine tender USS Proteus (AS-19) cut completely in half during 1959. This “jumboization” was one of the most complex engineering jobs ever done prior to the computer age.)

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happy Independence Day 2022 / Andrews Barracks in Berlin

For readers of wwiiafterwwii in the United States, I would like to extend wishes for a happy July 4th, our nation’s 246th birthday.

Below is a quite unusual Independence Day scene, taken in Berlin on 4 July 1945 – the first Independence Day after the European part of WWII ended and while combat in the Pacific was still underway.

The damaged building which both the Stars & Stripes and Hammer & Sickle are flying above, was the WWII headquarters of the 1st Waffen-SS Panzer Division, the LSSAH  (Liebstandarte SS Adolf Hitler) as can be seen on the cornice of the building atop the four columns.

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the Mosin-Nagant in Romania after WWII

During WWII the Mosin-Nagant was the Soviet army’s standard longarm. After WWII, all of the client communist nations in eastern Europe used it. The case of Romania is interesting in that its run predated WWII itself, and continued right to the end of the Cold War in 1989.

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(Mosin-Nagant M44 carbine of Romania’s brief post-WWII production run.) (photo via National Rifle Association)

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(“Instructie” stamp on a Romanian Mosin-Nagant.)

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(Members of Romania’s Gărzile Patriotice (Patriotic Guards) march with WWII Mosin-Nagants during the 1970s.)

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MANPADS vs WWII C-47 Skytrain

The use of man-portable air defense systems, or MANPADS, against WWII-era aircraft was not totally unique to the 1986 story of the plane below; nor even against the particular plane involved, the C-47 Skytrain.

What sets this incident apart is that the plane and crew survived allowing the event to be fully documented after the fact, and also that another aircraft was able to photograph it in flight.

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(The South African C-47 Skytrain which was hit by a SA-7 “Grail” in 1986 making an emergency landing with its tail blown off.)

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(South African soldier with a captured SA-7 “Grail” during the 1981 “Protea” operation against SWAPO inside Angola.)

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