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.)

FH18islmfront2015

(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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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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Ethiopians in the Korean War: WWII gear used

Sixteen nations sent forces to fight in the Korean War on the allied side. One of the lesser-known contingents was Ethiopia’s Kagnew battalion. It was equipped almost entirely with surplus American WWII gear.

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(WWII-era Willys jeep of the Kagnew battalion in Korea.)

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(Ethiopian soldiers in the Korean War. All of their kit – M1 steel pot helmet, OD green fatigues, web belt, M1911 sidearm – is WWII American gear.)

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No.5 Mk.I Jungle Carbine: post-WWII use

Of the whole Lee-Enfield family, the No.5 Mk.I is probably the most obscure variant to enter production, and was certainly the least successful. Only seeing action in the final part of WWII, it went on to have a fairly long postwar career around the world.

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(A No.5 Mk.I Jungle Carbine as used by British troops during WWII in 1945, and carried by a Kenyan game warden in 2008 showing the distinctive buttpad.)

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WWII German weapons during the Vietnam War

During the Vietnam War, the communists in the north were armed mainly with post-WWII design Soviet weapons, while their opponents in the south used almost exclusively post-WWII American weapons. Some old WWII-era Soviet and American weapons were used by the two sides respectively, and to a lesser extent, WWII-era French weapons left over from the Indochina War. There were even a few WWII Japanese guns floating around, left over from the Japanese occupation.

The most surprising weapons were WWII German designs, which, through a strange combination of politics and necessity, ended up in combat halfway around the world in Vietnam two decades after their last use in Europe.

MG34Vietnam(Crewmen on a North Vietnamese sail junk take aim with an ex-Wehrmacht MG-34 in the 1960s. This was probably staged inport, as the North Vietnamese did not typically assign combat photographers to smuggling junk runs.)

1966pamphlet(Taken from a 1966 US Army “Jungle And Guerrilla Warfare” booklet, this collection of Viet Cong firearms includes a StG-44, a 98k, and a MG-34.)

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Rearming Austria: WWII weapons

It is often forgotten today that, like defeated Germany, Austria was split up into four occupation zones after WWII. Just like Berlin in Germany, the capital Vienna was split up four ways as well. When the country reunified in 1955, it’s new army was equipped with an interesting mix of WWII weapons; both Allied and Axis, and both Soviet and American.

austriazones(A 1945 US Army map showing the four occupation zones, with the American zone highlighted.)

M4(A WWII-veteran M3 half-track of the Austrian army. The bumper plate states that it is a driver instructional vehicle.)

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WWII gear in Afghan use: Part I – Firearms

The country of Afghanistan, in it’s present borders, has existed since 1880. At that time it’s independence was guaranteed by the end of the Second Afghan-British War. The country remained a monarchy until the 1973 revolution, which was followed by the 1979 Soviet invasion, the 1980s war, the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s, and the 2001 American invasion.

For most of the 20th century, the Royal Afghan Army’s equipment was a generation behind the rest of the world. A great deal of WWII-vintage (and even some pre-WWII) equipment saw use.

Kingdom of Afghanistan Flag 1931_1973(Flag of Afghanistan before the 1973 revolution.)

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