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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SB2C Helldiver post-WWII service

The Curtiss SB2C Helldiver was a standard US Navy carrier-borne dive bomber of WWII. Despite it’s somewhat mixed reputation with American pilots, it was extremely effective during the war. The Helldiver scored more dive bombing sinkings of enemy ships than any other Allied dive bomber. It’s post-WWII career with the US Navy was short. The US Navy began converting Helldiver squadrons to other types (or simply disbanding the squadrons) in 1946. The final US Navy attack squadron to fly Helldivers was VA-54, which flew them off USS Valley Forge (CV-45) in 1949. However, the Helldiver saw long and varied use after the war elsewhere.

arromanches3(A French navy Helldiver takes off from the aircraft carrier Arromanches in the 1950s.)

greece(Hellenic Air Force Helldiver unit in the late 1940s)

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Moschetto M95 carbine postwar

The Moschetto M95 carbine is a modification of the Mannlicher-Steyr 95 rifle, as used by the Austro-Hungarian Empire during WWI. Italy captured a number of these guns during WWI, and received many more after the armistice. Meanwhile the collapsed empire’s neighbors inherited some, especially Bulgaria, which adopted it as it’s main carbine in the inter-war period. The M95 was a standard carbine of the Italian colonial forces and Bulgarian army during WWII, and also saw some use by the German army which acquired them via overrunning Poland and Greece; who had themselves previously captured or inherited them from the Austro-Hungarians. The Yugoslav and Hungarian armies also used it to a smaller extent during WWII. Finally, the USSR had some left over from Imperial Russian stockpiles of WWI.

M95carbineSomalia8mmx50R(A Somali militiaman with a M95 carbine.)

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