a Gato under the Rising Sun

During WWII, the Imperial Japanese Navy’s submarine force was more advanced than it is often given credit for today – mostly, due to it being overshadowed by the successes of American and German subs during the war.

Japan’s submarine force ceased to exist with the end of WWII. That it was later resurrected during the Cold War was by no means a certain thing, nor was it easy. The rebirth of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s (JMSDF) undersea wing is largely forgotten today, and even more so that it started with a submarine which itself had fought against the empire during WWII.

gato

(The US Navy’s Gato class of WWII.)

kuroshio1970s

(The JMSDF’s first submarine, the Gato class Kuroshio, ex-USS Mingo of WWII.)

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flow of WWII weapons after the war

Since starting wwiiafterwwii, I have wanted to do something on this topic but was unsure how to approach it. I am interested in how WWII weapons performed in battle against Cold War replacements. But also, it is fascinating to consider how they ended up where they did after WWII……how did a Garand built to fight Imperial Japan end up in the Somali desert in the 1970s, or how did a Waffen-SS sturmgewehr end up in 21st century Damascus?

interarmco

(An ex-Wehrmacht NbW 42 Nebelwerfer with Interarms markings in the 1960s.)

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Mukden Arsenal after WWII

arsenalgate

(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.

mukden

(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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Type 95 Ha-Go in Thailand

The Type 95 Ha-Go was the most widely-built Japanese tank of WWII. Several countries (France, China, North Korea) briefly operated small numbers of Ha-Gos during the immediate post-WWII period. Another operator was Thailand, where, for several years after the war, it was the country’s lone tank type.

Type95HaGo(Functional Type 95 Ha-Go tank of the Royal Thai Army in 2010.)

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1990s Bougainville civil war: WWII weapons

The 1988-1998 conflict on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville saw use of WWII weapons. While this alone was remarkable just before the turn of the millennium, what is absolutely astonishing was that the weapons had been “resurrected” from the WWII battlefields.

PangunaMinesWorkshop1997(Fighters of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army in 1997, near the end of the conflict. The heavy weapon with it’s barrel pointed towards the camera is a WWII Imperial Japanese Army Type 96 25mm anti-aircraft gun recovered from the jungle. Almost unbelievably, it still functioned.)

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