WWII firearms in East Germany’s “other” armed forces

East Germany, formally the German Democratic Republic or DDR in its German acronym, existed for 40 years, 11 months, and 4 weeks. The brief lifespan of East Germany’s military, the National Volksarmee, is well-documented and studied by military historians. It only used a limited amount of ex-WWII kit for a short while.

However the nation had paramilitary forces which did use WWII weapons for a longer time: the Grenztruppen (border troops), the Volkspolizei (national-level police), and the KdA (a second-rate militia). They have received less historical attention.

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(Officer of the East German Volkspolizei with a WWII German StG-44 assault rifle.)

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(East German Grenztruppen with WWII Soviet PPSh-41 submachine guns during the 1960s.)

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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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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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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 G─ârzile Patriotice (Patriotic Guards) march with WWII Mosin-Nagants during the 1970s.)

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MG 151: post-WWII use

The guns arming WWII warplanes were usually of limited general interest, just a component of the overall aircraft and leaving service with the planes they were installed in. Germany’s MG 151 on the other hand, had an extremely long and varied career after WWII, being used in any number of roles in the air, on the ground, and even on the sea; all around the world for many decades.

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(MG 151 being serviced on a Luftwaffe fighter during WWII.)

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(French MG 151 crew on a “Pirate”, or up-gunned H-34 Choctaw, during the Algerian War.) (photo via tenes.info website)

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(Image from a 1980s South African VHS video promoting Vektor’s helicopter mount of the MG 151.)

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last voyage of HTMS Sri Ayudhya / the Manhattan Rebellion

Thailand’s two Thonburi class warships of WWII were very unique and interesting designs, but very little has been written about them.

The second ship of the class, HTMS Sri Ayudhya, was later sunk in one of the strangest situations of post-WWII naval history; a big-gun capital ship fighting in the downtown of a major inland city. Outside of Thailand even less has been written about that. So, perhaps this will be of value.

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(The Thonburi class as they appeared during WWII.)

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(The old dredge Manhattan, which lent its name to the failed 1951 rebellion which resulted in the loss of HTMS Sri Ayudhya.)

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WWII weapons in the Anya-Nya

Sudan has seen so much warfare over the past 100 years that it is sometimes hard to tell when one war ended and the next began. What is often called the country’s “first civil war” ran from, depending on when the start date is counted, 1955 to 1972. Even in the latter stages, it was dominated by old WWII weapons. This conflict is today overshadowed by the “second” war which was much more violent and fought with Cold War-era weapons.

(Mossad agent David Ben-Uziel; nom de guerre “John”, with Anya-Nya in southern Sudan around 1970. WWII firearms shown are Bren machine guns, a MP-40, a Sten Mk.II, and SMLE rifles.)

(Anya-Nya with a WWII British SMLE rifle in the early 1970s.)

(A soldier of the Nile Provisional Government with a WWII German MG-34 in 1969.)

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