Syrian Civil War: WWII weapons used

 

The ongoing Syrian civil war, which began in March 2011, is of course dominated by Cold War-era (and even 21st century) weapons, however, there is an astonishing mix of WWII gear – both Axis and Allied – in use. Some of these weapons had previously not seen combat for decades.

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(Syrian rebel with a WWII German StG-44 assault rifle.)

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(Yugoslav-made M18/43F, a copy of the WWII German leFH 18M howitzer, in action with Jaish al-Fatah rebels.)

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(A Syrian rebel with a WWII Mosin-Nagant 91/30 – retrofitted with a modern scope – takes aim in 2014.)

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(Rebels of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) distribute WWII French MAS-36 rifles.)

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(Syrian government soldier with a WWII Soviet 61-K anti-aircraft gun in October 2015.)

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North Korea: WWII weapons after the Korean War

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(North Korean troops march with WWII PPSh–41 submachine guns in 2016.)

In North Korea’s formative years (1945-1949) it’s army’s weapons were entirely WWII vintage; a mixture of Japanese, Chinese, and Soviet types. During the Korean War, the same was true, and in the immediate aftermath very obsolete Soviet guns and the ex-Japanese weaponry was discarded, but the others remained.

This is a look at WWII weapons in North Korean use after the Korean War and following the mass emergency rearmament the USSR and China undertook in the mid-1950s. It is not an exhaustive list, but rather some of the main types of WWII weapons that remained in use in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and even beyond; in some cases to the present time.

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(North Korean T-34-85 tank filmed during 2012.)

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Mukden Arsenal after WWII

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(Zhang’s Gate, the old entrance to Mukden Arsenal)

For people interested in Japanese firearms of WWII, the name Mukden Arsenal is familiar. The history of the facility after Japan’s defeat is less well known. Under various names, it did survive for some time, producing an odd mix of WWII weapons after the war’s end.

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(Mukden Arsenal proofmark during WWII)

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Cleaning up after WWII

Since starting wwiiafterwwii, I receive from time to time suggestions for topics. These are wide-ranging but two in particular seem very popular: WWII weapons in the Vietnam War, which has been touched on several times; and a general question of how the world “cleaned up” WWII battlefields after the war. For the latter, I was surprised at how very little is written about it so perhaps this will be of interest.

One of the reasons WWII battlefields did not remain littered with vehicles for long was that, with the lone exception of the USA, all of the major warring powers made some official level of combat usage of captured enemy arms during WWII. The most formal was Germany’s Beutewaffe (literally, ‘booty’ or ‘loot’ weapon) effort, which encompassed everything from handguns to fighter aircraft with an official code in the Waffenamt system; for example FK-288(r) (the Soviet ZiS-3 anti-tank gun), SIGew-251(a) (the American M1 Garand rifle), and Sd.Kfz 735(i) (the Italian Fiat M13/40 tank). Captured gear was assembled at points called Sammelstelle and then shipped back from the front lines for disposition.

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Postwar advertising legacy of WWII

The defense industry is a business like any other, and just like any other industry, advertising is a part of it. After WWII’s end in 1945, many wartime weapons systems remained in Cold War use and required upkeep, upgrading, resale, integration with newer systems, and eventually disposal.

Some of these advertisements ran in general-interest magazines and newspapers. Others were limited to niche defense journals and trade gazettes, and were typically unseen by the mass public.

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Above is a 1971 newspaper ad for the disposal of USS Hazard (MSF-240), an Admirable class minesweeper of the WWII US Navy. Typically, smaller mothballed WWII ships like this were bought cheaply in lots by brokers, then parceled out individually to scrapyards for a profit. USS Hazard was bought by a group of Nebraska businessmen and is today a museum ship in Omaha, NE.

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WWII weapons in the Ayatollah’s Iran

The war between Iran and Iraq started in 1980 when Saddam Hussein sought to take advantage of Iran’s chaos by conquering and annexing Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province, and in the larger sense, destroying the Iranian islamic regime’s military. In turn, the Iranians sought to first repulse the Iraqi attack and then knock Hussein out of power and replace him with an Iraqi theocratic government modeled on Iran’s.

The war ended up lasting eight years and was one of the worst of the 20th century. For the most part, Iran employed high-tech systems like the MIM-23 Hawk SAM and AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter, but there were some WWII weapons in Iran’s use as well.

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(Iranian WWII-vintage M4 Sherman and M36 Jackson on the front lines of the 1980-1988 war.)

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(Iranian WWII-era M115 artillery during the 1980-1988 war against Iraq.)

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Panzers in the Golan Heights

The last appearance by WWII German tanks on the world’s battlefields came in 1967, when Syria’s panzer force faced off against modern Israeli armor. Quite improbably, Syria had assembled it’s collection of ex-Wehrmacht vehicles from a half-dozen sources over a decade and a half timeframe.

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(Syrian army Panzer IV tank)

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