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.

hazard1971

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.

shermanjackson

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

m115iran4

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

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The last Peashooters

Not all WWII fighter planes remained in use after WWII, and even fewer pre-WWII designs. One surprising exception was the 1930s-vintage P-26 Peashooter which was still in use in Guatemala as late as 1957.

peashooter1

190_1_a1

(The P-26 Peashooter fighter in the colors of the 1930s US Army, and the 1950s Guatemalan air force.)

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The Mustang in the ANG after WWII

The P-51 Mustang was one of the best, if not the best, single-engine fighter of WWII. It’s performance during WWII was legendary and is well-known even today in the general public. Less well known was the type’s use during the Korean War, and less known still, it’s overseas use after WWII.

Perhaps the least studied era of the Mustang was it’s use in Air National Guard (ANG) squadrons after WWII. These Mustang units filled an important niche in the American military system until sufficient jets were available. The Mustang’s service in the ANG was the last of it’s use in the USA, and was the end of the era overall for piston-engined fighters in American skies.

NMang

(A P-51 Mustang of the New Mexico National Guard after WWII, prior to the 1947 Army-Air Force split. The New Mexico state emblem is in place of the national insignia on the fuselage. In the mid-to-late 1940s, before peacetime organizational standards were made rigid, many state NG squadrons had unofficial emblems like this on the fuselage. The wing markings were left as the national insignia.)

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