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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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.

shermanjackson

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

m115iran4

(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.

1963oath

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

march1976

(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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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 sizeĀ  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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Two companies which didn’t survive the peace

The massive American industrial effort during WWII allowed numerous companies, such as Boeing, Electric Boat, and General Motors to prosper when the war ended. Two companies which did not survive the transition to peace were Curtiss-Wright and Brewster.

buffalo(A field of discarded RAF Brewster Buffaloes junked in Singapore, and unwanted Curtiss-Wright P-40 Warhawks being scrapped at Walnut Ridge, AR after the end of WWII.)

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