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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Tu-2 “Bat”: post-WWII service

The Tupolev Tu-2 “Bat” (it’s NATO reporting name) was one of the best warplanes of WWII, but is generally not well-known outside the USSR. A fast light bomber, it was remarkably agile, enough to out-maneuver lower tier fighters, and it’s closest comparison during WWII would probably be the German Ju-88. The Tu-2 also had a long and eventful career after WWII.

WWII

Tu2polish1956

(Top: A Soviet air force Tu-2 “Bat” in combat during WWII. Bottom: A Polish navy Tu-2 “Bat” with Warsaw Pact Northern Group exercise markings in 1956.)

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Lanchester submachine gun: post-WWII use

Great Britain’s Lanchester submachine gun was a WWII firearm largely irrelevant to the outcome of the war, but which had a surprisingly long career afterwards.

lanchesterThe Lanchester (named after it’s designer, George Lanchester of Sterling Armaments Company) came about as a “crash” program in 1940. After the Dunkirk evacuation but before Lend-Lease deliveries picked up, the British military was critically short of small arms including submachine guns. At the same time, the Royal Air Force was concerned that, if Germany were to proceed with an invasion of England, that it’s airfields might come under ground attack. The Royal Navy was also looking for a new submachine gun to equip watchstanders and boarding parties.

lanchesteraustraliawwii(A boatswain of the Royal Australian Navy with a Lanchester during WWII.)

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