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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cruiser Nürnberg: post-WWII service

The most famous German surface warship to survive WWII was the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, studied by the US Navy after WWII and then expended as a nuclear target.

The only large WWII German warship to see active duty in its intended role during the Cold War was the light cruiser Nürnberg, which served on in the Soviet navy.

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(The light cruiser Nürnberg of the WWII German navy.)

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(The Soviet light cruiser Admiral Makarov, the former Nürnberg, during the mid-1950s.)

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Bedcheck Charlie 1950 – 1953

The Korean War’s air combat is best known for the duels of MiG-15s and F-86 Sabres in the world’s first jet-vs-jet matchups. An unusual sideshow to that was North Korea’s use of woefully obsolete WWII types as night harassment planes. They were called “Bedcheck Charlies” by the Americans.

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(North Korean Po-2 “Mule” which was used as a Bedcheck Charlie plane, just as the Soviets had done during WWII.) (artwork via Wings Palette website)

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(The MBR-2bis, another WWII Soviet plane used by the North Koreans for Bedcheck Charlie missions.)

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(Two of the WWII-legacy American answers to the problem: a F4U-5NL Corsair and in the background, a F7F-3N Tigercat.)

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Albania & the last Mosin-Nagants made

The last country to produce new Mosin-Nagants was perhaps the most obscure player in Cold War-era Europe, Albania. There a small run of this rifle was made in the early 1960s, a decade and a half after WWII ended and the world (including Albania itself) had already moved on to more modern firearms.

(Albanian-manufactured Mosin-Nagant 91/30 rifle, the final production run of this legendary WWII rifle.) (photo via Armslist website)

(Enver Hoxha, the WWII guerilla who would become Albania’s dictator from 1944 – 1985.)

(Mosin-Nagant M44s being looted by an Albanian civilian during the 1997 chaos.) (Associated Press photo)

The Cold War-era Albanian military overall was a blend of different generations (including WWII) of weapons serving alongside one another.

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WWII equipment in Soviet nuclear tests: part 2

(part 2 of a 2-part series)

The “Snezhok” test (described in part 1) illustrated the effects of an atomic bomb on land and air systems of WWII vintage and the first generation of Cold War gear. A year later, a naval nuclear test involved WWII-era warships.

The Soviet Union’s 21 September 1955 nuclear test at Novaya Zemlya is sometimes compared to the USA’s 1946 “Crossroads Bravo” test at Bikini. There were similarities (both were the first underwater nuclear detonation by the respective countries) but also many differences.

Novaya Zemlya is a large island (it is actually two islands, split by a narrow channel) in the Russian arctic. It is cold, barren, and uninhabited.

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(Novaya Zemlya with the naval test site marked in red.)

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WWII equipment in Soviet nuclear tests: part 1

(part 1 of a 2-part series)

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Soviet Union conducted regular nuclear weapons tests. One of these was unique in that it was not just a test detonation of a weapon, but a full-scale military exercise which involved a blend of WWII-vintage systems and their Cold War-era replacements.

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(One of the two Tu-4 “Bull” strategic bombers involved in the 1954 exercise. There was a primary and alternate Tu-4 staged, of which only one dropped a bomb. The “Bull” was an unlicensed copy of the WWII American B-29 Superfortress.)

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(An ex-Wehrmacht PaK 40 anti-tank gun smashed and radioactive following the 1954 Soviet atomic test.)

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(A WWII Il-10 “Beast” burns after the exercise atomic detonation.)

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Tokagypt: the Cold War Hungarian WWII Soviet-copy Egyptian pistol

The Tokagypt, Hungary’s odd Egyptian-contract post-WWII TT-33 half-clone, is somewhat known in the firearms community. It appears in any number of books from the relatively entry-level Small Arms Visual Guide up to professional-grade publications. Yet in either case, the level of information is often similar and very brief: it was a 9mm copy of the Tokarev, it was made for Egypt, they didn’t want them all, some were used by terrorists…..and little else is usually explained. So perhaps this will be of value to those interested.

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(August 1983 American intelligence photo of a Tokagypt.)

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WWII weapons in Shanghai: VJ Day to 1949

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Shanghai was famous as China’s international city, a busy trade port with notorious underworld . During the latter part of the 20th century, the city languished through Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, before once again becoming a world-class city leading in finance, technology, and culture at the turn of the millennium.

There was a very brief time after WWII, only four years, when the city was under the Kuomintang (KMT), or nationalist Chinese government. What makes this period interesting militarily, was the unusual combinations of WWII weaponry fielded there, and a now largely-forgotten American military presence in China.

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(Officers of the Shanghai Police Department monitor a political protest in 1948. Equipment includes a stahlhelm M35 helmet and Arisaka Type 38 rifle.)

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(An abandoned Mitsubishi Ki-21 “Sally” bomber sits opposite American C-46 Commando, C-54 Skymaster, and C-47 Skytrain transports at a former Japanese airbase near Shanghai after WWII.)

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(Soviet-made T-26 and American-made M3/M5 Stuart tanks of the nationalist army together in Shanghai during 1949. An irony of this last battle is that the nationalists were partially equipped with Soviet gear and the communists were partially equipped with American gear.)

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why there is a WWII vehicle at Chernobyl

The 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was one of the worst man-made catastrophes ever, and the worst event in the history of the Soviet Union other than the 1941 German invasion during WWII.

Quite improbably, a vehicle of that war played a very minor role in the 1986 event.

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(ISU-152s of the Soviet army during WWII.)

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(A German road sign points east towards Chernobyl during the “Barbarossa” operation in 1941.)

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(Liquidators (cleanup workers) with a ISU-152 at the disaster in 1986.)

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(ISU-152 in Pripyat, Ukraine during 2018, with the New Safe Containment (NSC) structure of the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the background.)

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B-29 to “Bull”

I debated writing on this topic as the story of the Tu-4 “Bull”; the reverse-engineered B-29 Superfortress; is fairly well known. Numerous authors have covered it, and there was a TV documentary on it some years ago. None the less, the topic is apparently still of high interest, so perhaps the information below will be presented in a different way or otherwise still be of value.

b-29-superfortress

(A Boeing B-29 Superfortress during WWII.)

mosinnagant

(A Soviet soldier with WWII-era Mosin-Nagant marches in Red Square in the late 1940s as a Tu-4 “Bull” flies overhead.)

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(A RDS-4 atomic bomb is wheeled to a Tu-4 “Bull”.)

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