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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Mothballing the US Navy after WWII: pt.2

(part 2 of a 2-part series)

tunnydecom1946

(The 1945 decommissioning ceremony of USS Tunny (SS-282), showing the blown plastic preservation technique on the deck gun.) (official US Navy photo)

greasing

(Protective grease is applied to machinery on a mothballed warship, in a still from a  post-WWII training video.)

charlestonearly1950s

(Mothballed WWII destroyers at Charleston, SC in the 1950s, with their radars removed and AA guns enclosed in igloos.)

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Mothballing the US Navy after WWII: pt.1

(part 1 of a 2-part series)

The US Navy at the end of WWII was the largest on the planet, and would be unaffordable at that size  in peacetime. What followed was the largest warship preservation effort in history.

Phily1961igloos

(WWII Cruisers USS Huntington (CL-107), USS Dayton (CL-105), and battleship USS South Dakota (BB-57) in mothballs at Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility Philadelphia, PA in August 1961. These warships had been in reserve for 14 years and show the characteristic “igloos”.) (official US Navy photo)

siusun bay

(The Suisun Bay, CA facility packed full of mothballed warships after WWII.)

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USS Prinz Eugen

The cruiser Prinz Eugen was the largest and most modern German surface ship to survive WWII intact. Allocated to the United States, the ship briefly served as USS Prinz Eugen (IX-300), having some equipment stripped off for study and then being expended as an atomic bomb target.

belltop

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Brazil’s ABC Cruisers

Brazil acquired two Brooklyn class cruisers under the Military Assistance Program (MAP). They were the Barosso (C11) (ex-USS Philadelphia CL-41) and Tamandare (C12) (ex-USS St Louis CL-49). These two cruisers were sister-ships to Chile’s O’Higgins (ex-USS Brooklyn) and Capitan Prat (ex-USS Nashville); and Argentina’s ARA Nueve de Julio (ex-USS Boise) and ARA General Belgrano (ex-USS Phoenix) – famously sunk off the Falklands in 1982.

Together, these six Argentine, Brazilian, and Chilean ships were known as the ABC Cruisers. The ABC Cruisers were the core of a bizarre naval arms race in South America during the latter half of the 20th century centered around purchases of obsolete gun cruisers.

tamandareRead More »