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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WWII equipment of the Bundesgrenzschutz

The Bundesgrenzschutz (BGS / “Federal Border Guard”) was the first national-level armed service established in West Germany after WWII. It utilized a number of WWII items during the Cold War.

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(New BGS troopers take their service oath in 1963.)

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(BGS border troopers disembark from UH-1 Iroquois helicopters in 1976. The combination of stahlhelm helmets and hueys makes an interesting mixture of WWII and Vietnam War items.)

In 1945, the Allies decreed that any future German nation would be permanently disarmed. During the 1945-1949 occupation, the three western Allies (UK, France, and the USA) did not allow anything more than local police armed with light small arms. West German sovereignty was restored in 1949. In May 1950, the Allied Joint Chiefs Of Staff proposed a West German armed force of 5,000 men to patrol the new nation’s borders. In January 1951 Konrad Adenauer, the first postwar Chancellor, ordered the formation of a 10,000 man armed border guard to be placed under civil control of the Interior Ministry. On 16 March 1951 the Bundesgrenzshutz officially came into existence.

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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 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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1990s Bougainville civil war: WWII weapons

The 1988-1998 conflict on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville saw use of WWII weapons. While this alone was remarkable just before the turn of the millennium, what is absolutely astonishing was that the weapons had been “resurrected” from the WWII battlefields.

PangunaMinesWorkshop1997(Fighters of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army in 1997, near the end of the conflict. The heavy weapon with it’s barrel pointed towards the camera is a WWII Imperial Japanese Army Type 96 25mm anti-aircraft gun recovered from the jungle. Almost unbelievably, it still functioned.)

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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.)

Ki9atK1in1951

(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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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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