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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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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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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CTMS-1TBI tank: post-WWII use

The CTMS-1TBI (nicknamed the “Dutch Three-Man”) is one of WWII’s forgotten tanks. It took no real part in the war but had a surprising career afterwards, considering it’s obsolescence.

This tank was a private design of the Marmon-Herrington company of Indianapolis, IN. In 1940, the Netherlands ordered 194 of these tanks. All were intended for use in the Netherlands East Indies colony, where they were supposed to form twenty-seven cavalry platoons, replacing horse units in the Dutch Java Army.

marmonmain(This official US Army Tank & Automotive Command photo of WWII shows a measuring rod next to the CTMS-1TBI, illustrating optimal shot placement.)

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