Mk13 torpedo during the Falklands War

Argentina used a variety of WWII items during the 1982 Falklands War, ranging in complexity from a Brooklyn class cruiser to M1 helmets. The most surprising, and least known, was an effort to resurrect the Mk13 anti-ship torpedo that nearly made it to use.

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(US Navy Mk13 air-dropped unguided torpedo of WWII.)

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(Argentine IA-58 Pucara attack plane with a Mk13 in 1982.)

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WWII weapons in the Ayatollah’s Iran

The war between Iran and Iraq started in 1980 when Saddam Hussein sought to take advantage of Iran’s chaos by conquering and annexing Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province, and in the larger sense, destroying the Iranian islamic regime’s military. In turn, the Iranians sought to first repulse the Iraqi attack and then knock Hussein out of power and replace him with an Iraqi theocratic government modeled on Iran’s.

The war ended up lasting eight years and was one of the worst of the 20th century. For the most part, Iran employed high-tech systems like the MIM-23 Hawk SAM and AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter, but there were some WWII weapons in Iran’s use as well.

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(Iranian WWII-vintage M4 Sherman and M36 Jackson on the front lines of the 1980-1988 war.)

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(Iranian WWII-era M115 artillery during the 1980-1988 war against Iraq.)

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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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The stahlhelm in Latin America after WWII

Forever associated with the WWII Wehrmacht, the stahlhelm (literally, ‘steel helmet’) enjoyed surprisingly long use in Latin America after WWII, up until the present time.

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(Bolivian soldiers with stahlhelm M35 helmets and M16 assault rifles.)

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(Chilean soldiers in 2009 wearing the stahlhelm M35.)

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(Late 1950s Dominican Republic soldiers with stahlhelm M53 helmets, NATO-standard FN FAL assault rifles, and American M1936 belts from WWII Lend-Lease.)

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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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M33 helmet: post-WWII use

The M33 helmet (more formally, Elmetto Mod.33) was the standard helmet of the Italian army during WWII. It was designed in the early 1930s to replace WWI-era helmets. Made of 1.1mm heat-treated steel, the M33 was said to offer triple the protection of the French army’s then-current Adrian helmet (Italy expected France to be it’s enemy in any future war). All in all, the M33 was effective, comfortable, and economical for Italy to manufacture during WWII. It was a quality helmet.

desert(Italian troops in WWII wearing the M33 helmet.)

Unlike Germany’s M40 stahlhelm or Japan’s M30-32 Tetsu-bo, the Italian M33 had a generic, nondescript shape and thus it carried no “political baggage” after WWII ended in 1945. It went on to have a long postwar career with the new Italian army, and also saw some overseas usage after WWII.

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(Italian army 1970s-vintage camouflage cover and foilage net on a M33.)

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WWII weapons with Force Publique in the Belgian Congo

Force Publique was the local military force of the Belgian Congo, when it was still a colony of Belgium. It was a fairly unusual military force, not surprising as the Belgian Congo colony was itself unusual. The Belgian Congo was massively larger than Belgium itself. It existed solely for economic exploitation; the Belgians having no real strategic military interest in it and having no desire to develop it.

African people in the Belgian Congo were of course completely shut out of Belgium’s political process. Until the late 1950s, they could not even hold local elections in their own small villages. The colony was directly ruled from Brussels. Whereas most European powers began granting independence to African colonies in the late 1940s/early 1950s, Belgium had no intention of giving up the Congo and, like Portugal, foresaw it’s colonialist empire as permanent.

Force Publique was formed in 1908. The objective was to obtain security for the colony at a minimal cost to Belgium. The officers were all Europeans. Africans were prohibited from being promoted above junior enlisted NCO, and most were never advanced in rank at all. Little to no formal tactical training was given to the Africans, and quite frankly, they were basically regarded as inexpensive, replaceable cannon fodder to guard Belgian economic interests in the colony.

camp_charles_1955(Force Publique’s Camp Charles training facility in 1955. The troops are equipped with Mle. 89/36 rifles with bayonets mounted. After Congo became independent, Camp Charles was neglected and by the 1970s had decayed into uselessness.)

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