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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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.

jeep

(WWII-era Willys jeep of the Kagnew battalion in Korea.)

soldiers

(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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Happy Independence Day

For my readers in the USA, I would like to extend wishes for a Happy Independence Day, 4 July 2016, as we celebrate 240 years of our nation.

Untitled

(A nest of US Navy amphibious ships serving the occupation force at the former Imperial Japanese Navy base at Yokosuka on 4 July 1946, the first post-WWII Independence Day celebration. Most of these ships were soon scrapped but LSM-159 and LSM-439 were later transferred to the nationalist Chinese navy.)

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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Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all readers of wwiiafterwwii.

zelima

(The stores ship USS Zelima (AF-49) supplying food to the destroyers USS Sproston (DD-577) and USS Nicholas (DD-449) after WWII.)

USS Zelima had been launched as a merchant ship during WWII but completed as a stores ship, commissioning 16 July 1945. After WWII, USS Zelima participated in the Korean War and then the Vietnam War, including the 1969 Tet Offensive. USS Zelima decommissioned in 1969 and was mothballed at the Suisun Bay, CA reserve fleet anchorage. The WWII veteran was never recalled to duty and was sold to Levin Metals in November 1981.

USS Sproston commissioned on 19 May 1943 and fought in WWII. After the war, the destroyer continued in service and was finally decommissioned on 30 September 1968. The WWII veteran was sold as scrap in December 1971 and towed to Taiwan for dismantling in 1972.

USS Nicholas commissioned on 4 June 1942 and fought in WWII including the 1943 Solomon Islands campaign, where the destroyer won a Presidential Unit Citation. In 1944 USS Nicholas sank the Japanese submarine IJN I-38 which itself was carrying Kaiten suicide-attack manned torpedoes. After WWII, USS Nicholas fought in the Korean War where the destroyer earned a South Korean Presidential Citation; making the ship decorated by heads-of-state of two nations. USS Nicholas received a FRAM II upgrade and fought in the Vietnam War, and finally served in NASA Apollo spacecraft recovery missions. The WWII veteran USS Nicholas finally decommissioned 30 January 1970 and was scrapped in Portland, OR later that year.

Below is USS Zelima‘s Christmas 1953 menu.

Zelimachristmas