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.)

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(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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North Korea: WWII weapons after the Korean War

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(North Korean troops march with WWII PPSh–41 submachine guns in 2016.)

In North Korea’s formative years (1945-1949) it’s army’s weapons were entirely WWII vintage; a mixture of Japanese, Chinese, and Soviet types. During the Korean War, the same was true, and in the immediate aftermath very obsolete Soviet guns and the ex-Japanese weaponry was discarded, but the others remained.

This is a look at WWII weapons in North Korean use after the Korean War and following the mass emergency rearmament the USSR and China undertook in the mid-1950s. It is not an exhaustive list, but rather some of the main types of WWII weapons that remained in use in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and even beyond; in some cases to the present time.

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(North Korean T-34-85 tank filmed during 2012.)

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Mukden Arsenal after WWII

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(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.

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(Mukden Arsenal proofmark during WWII)

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Urgent Fury 1983: WWII weapons encountered

In October 1983, the USA invaded the small island nation of Grenada, which at the time was being supported and reinforced by Cuba. Most of the weapons the American troops encountered were of post-WWII, Cold War vintage; namely a staggering quantity of AK-47s, but there were some WWII weapons discovered as well.

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(Top: An A-7 Corsair II strike jet off USS Independence (CV-62) over Point Salines Airport, one of the focal points of the 1983 operation. Bottom: A WWII-vintage Enfield No.4 Mk.I rifle as used by the Grenadian military during the brief fighting.)

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WWII Japanese weapons in the Korean War

Japan ruled Korea between 1905-1945. In August 1945, during the closing days of WWII, the USSR invaded the peninsula and the Soviet 25th Army advanced as far south as Seoul, before pulling back to the 38th Parallel, which was the pre-agreed division point with the USA. On 8 September 1945 (six days after the surrender had been signed aboard USS Missouri), an advance guard of the US Army’s 40th Infantry Division landed in southern Korea and began to disarm the Japanese there. This split of the peninsula set the stage for the Korean War which lasted from June 1950 – July 1953.

The Japanese garrison in Korea had been relatively untouched by WWII until the final few weeks. As such, both the Soviets and the Americans captured vast quantities of equipment intact, which was then passed on to their respective North / South Korean client governments. The communists in the north were further aided by ex-Japanese weapons captured from the Japanese Kwangtung army and the puppet Manchukuo army during the short Soviet operation at the close of the war. Unwanted by the USSR, these weapons were transferred to either the North Koreans or Mao’s communist Chinese forces. The Chinese in turn re-transferred some Japanese equipment to the North Koreans, besides using it themselves.

Ki51SoniaSeoul1945(Abandoned Ki-51 “Sonia” dive bombers at the former Imperial Japanese Army’s Pyeongtayk airbase in the autumn of 1945. This was one of the first Japanese army airfields in Korea, opening in 1919. During the Korean War, this airbase was refurbished and was codenamed K-6. After the war it was renamed Camp Humphreys and today it is home of the 6th Air Cavalry Brigade. As for the “Sonia”, this was an obsolete design and none of the planes above were ever restored.)

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(A Tachikawa Ki-9 “Spruce” of the South Korean air force at airbase K-1 near Busan, South Korea, in 1951. This obsolete biplane had been an intermediate trainer of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force during WWII. A large number were recovered intact by both the North and South Koreans and both air forces used the “Spruce” during the Korean War.)

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