Colt M1911/M1911A1 Automatic Pistol

 M1911 M1911A1 Automatic Pistol Colt

The M1911 is one of the most successful pistol designs in military history. Manufactured in the millions, the weapon was the standard personal defense weapon carried by officers and team leaders of all services during World War I, World War II, Korea and during the Vietnam conflict. It was very reliable and sturdy, the stopping power legendary. The stout mechanism is one of the strongest ever made. Mass production of the M1911A1 ended in 1945. The M1911 was the standard issue service pistol until 1984, when it began to be replaced by the M9 9mm pistol.  Modified ‘fine tuned’ variants continue to serve with the Marine Corps and with Special Forces to this day.

1911  M1911M1  Colt General Alexander Patch III Stephan Gregg Medal of HonorJohn M. Browning designed the M1911 in response to the Army’s need for a pistol with greater stopping-power following the Army’s experience with close-in combat during the Philippine Insurrection of 1899-1901. Accounts abounded of the adversary, the dedicated and resourceful Moros, hacking to death multiple American soldiers or civilians before being killed themselves.  Reputedly, the U.S. standard service small arms, the .30-caliber Krag-Jorgensen rifle—M1892 and M1896 models and .the 38 revolver was incapable of stopping brave yet suicide like Morro attackers.  A public outcry tarnished the Army’s reputation.  An indignant public and the U.S. Congress and wanted some answers. The slow moving gears at the Army quickened.  The search for a replacement pistol began.   Col. John T. Thompson (inventor of the Thompson sub-machine-gun) and a Col. Louis A. La Garde reached the conclusion that the army needed a .45″ caliber cartridge, to provide adequate stopping power. In the mean time, the genius Browning, inventor of the BAR and the Thompson submachine gun, then employed at Colt, had already designed a successful automatic pistol capable of handling a large .45 cal cartridge.  Browning re-engineered this handgun to accommodate a .45 caliber cartridge and submitted the pistol to the Army for evaluation. The weapon failed to pass the acceptance tests.  Lessons learned, an improved prototype Browning pistol was re-submitted.  The second time around, another Browning design impressively passed a grueling set of tests in 1911.  The Colt M1911 became the standard issue pistol for all branches of the U.S. military.  Production was at first slow.  Enough were manufactured to equip in part the US Army of WW1. A s a result of battle experience an enhanced version, the 1911A1 model was adopted in 1926. The changes were not extensive and were confined to items involving the safety and mainspring housing.

Model 1917 Browning Machine gun

The Browning is a water cooled heavy machine gun. The weapon saw limited service in the latter days of the First World War.  The Model 1917 was also used in the Second World War, but the guns weight (over 100 pounds battle ready) meant that it was mostly relegated to static defense areas and in anti-aircraft duty in the highly mobile conflict. The weapon fired the standard .30-06 round in fabric or metal link belts.
M-1919 Browning series .30 cal. machine gun
The M-1919 Browning series .30 cal. machine gun was used as both a company level flexible light machine gun on the M-2 tripod mount and as a fixed machine gun on armored vehicles. The M-1919A4 had a heavier barrel with a ventilated barrel jacket, but had a slower rate of fire (400-550 cpm) than the water-cooled gun. The M-1919 series fired the Army standard .30-06 round in fabric or metal link belts.
 browning m2 .50 caliber machine gun M2 .50 Caliber (12.7mm) Machine Gun

The original .50 cal. machine gun was developed by John Browning in 1918.  An improved version was adopted in 1933 as the Browning M2 water-cooled machine gun The legendary M2, with nicknames like the “Faithful 50” and “Ma Duce”, is an automatic, belt-fed, recoil operated, air-cooled, crew-operated machine gun. This versatile weapon has many uses, primary among these are:

-The support the infantryman in both the attack and defense
-Anti-aircraft defense
-Light armored vehicle destruction
-Reconnaissance by fire on suspected enemy positions

 command car mounted with M2 50 caliber machnie gun and 278mm anti-tank gun Model 1917 machine gunner at Rimling


Camouflage Clothing WWII

Part I: Camouflage Clothing: You Are the Target

Individual camouflage is the concealment a soldier uses in combat to surprise, deceive, and outwit the enemy.  The ground is the soldier’s observation post, jump-off point for, attack, route of advance and communication, fortification, protection, and obstacle.  He must know how to use the ground for effective concealment.  He adapts his dress for best concealment while in the firing positions and for mobility, and carefully selects his routes between positions for such concealment as is possible while he is in motion.  Interruptions, crawling (very slow) and running (very fast), aid concealment of motion.

The simple principles in this book have been battle tested.  If the soldier learns and practices them continuously in training, he will know what to do about concealment at the right time in battle.

Enemy Observation

Camouflage activities of the individual are designed to deceive two kinds of enemy observers: ground and air. The above photograph shows a ground observer’s view of a landing operation.  We are all familiar with views from the ground, but views from the air are different.  Many things that are invisible from the ground can be seen from the air.  In modern war, the enemy puts much reliance on aerial photographs for information about our activities and our intentions.  The more they reveal to him, the better prepared he will be, and the harder to defeat.

By becoming familiar with the different look of things from the ground and from the air, by study of the ground view, and by studying aerial photographs, you can learn how to guard yourself and your unit against both kinds of observation.  Bear in mind, too, that hostile observers both on the ground and in the air may use field glasses, telescopes, and cameras equipped with special lenses to increase their range of vision.

Concealment Depends On

Effective concealment of the individual depends primarily on background—your choice of it, and your knowledge of how to employ it to your advantage.

Background is your surroundings seen from the ground and from the air.  They may be anywhere—a portion of a jungle; an area in a barren, rocky desert; a farmyard; or a city street.  Background is the controlling element in individual concealment.  It governs every camouflage measure taken by the individual. You wear clothes which blend with the predominant color of the background, and tone down the color of your skin and your equipment for the same purpose.  You practice blending with your background by hiding in shadow and by avoiding contrast between your silhouette and the background.  You avoid movement which the stillness of the background will emphasize.  To keep the appearance of the background free of signs which point to the presence of military personnel, you follow concealed routes; and you conceal spoil, tracks, equipment, and installations.

This book tells how you —the individual soldier— can conceal yourself.  In the illustrations, background, movement, signs of activity, and dress are inseparably connected, just as they are on the battlefield.  Each soldier must be aware of them every moment of the day.

Helmet Camouflage

The outline of your helmet is one of the striking characteristics of a soldier’s equipment.  Its curved, familiar shape can be identified by the enemy. One of your first steps in preparing for the job of staying alive to fight is to disrupt both the form of your helmet and the strong, straight-lined shadow it casts. Here are six ways of disrupting its form, all of which, except A, will reduce its shine at the same time.

A uses a disruptive paint pattern on the helmet.  Take care to carry the pattern across the curved lines of the edges, especially those seen from the front.  Besides ordinary non-glossy paint, liquid vesicant helmet camouflage cammo camo Concealment WW2chemical agent detector, M5, can be applied to the helmet in a mottled pattern to give two kinds of protection at once. Under conditions of great heat or extremely rough handling, it may be necessary to renew this paint each week.
B uses a strip of burlap or osnaburg around the base of the helmet.   Foliage can be slipped into the band and held in place.  Do not use too much foliage.  Do not place the band too high.
C uses the same principle as B, but here the issue rubber band is used.
D shows a helmet covered with a mesh helmet net.  By itself, this net aids in toning down the helmet and eliminating some of the shine, but the shape of the helmet is still there.
E shows the helmet net put to better use.  Foliage has been inserted in the mesh.  It is held securely and can be quickly replaced with fresh materials when the old materials wilt and change color.  The main point is to break up the shape of the helmet with short natural material which will not readily catch in surroundings and which will not disclose the head when it is moved slightly.
is an improvised helmet cover made of a circular piece of osnaburg, burlap, or other cloth, 20 inches in diameter.   A 1-inch hem is sewn around the edges, a tape or drawstring is pulled through it, and the whole thing is pulled tightly onto the helmet. It is painted to break up the solid color.   Slits 2 inches wide have been cut in it to allow for the insertion of foliage.

No matter what kind of helmet camouflage you use, it is incomplete if the shadow underneath the helmet is not broken up by arranging the bits of foliage so that pieces of it hang over the rim of the helmet.  Small irregular pieces of cloth, similarly arranged, will accomplish the same purpose.

Helmet Camouflage Concealment m1 garand jungle
Skin Tonedown

Your face is light in color and, like your canvas equipment, is a beacon to the enemy observer who usually has the sighting end of a rifle at his eye.  Color your face, neck, and hands to get rid of that light tone (fig. 8). Gloves may be worn.  Coloring may be done by painting them in a disruptive pattern (fig. 9), or it may be done by toning them down in an even color (fig. 10).

On the face, disruptive patterns should cut across the nose line, cheek bones, eye sockets, and chin lines.

Lampblack, burnt cork, or just plain mud can be used as toning materials.  Some soils contain harmful bacteria and should not be used in mud form to darken the face unless a medical officer has determined that they are safe to use.

A mesh mosquito face net (fig. 11), properly toned down, is an effective method of breaking up the outlines of the face.  Such a net can be dyed in strong coffee or in an issue dye.

Weapon Tonedown

weapon tonedown cammoEven your weapons need some attention in the way of camouflage. The outline of the rifle or carbine is easily recognized.  It may be painted properly under the supervision of an officer or noncommissioned officer, or it may be wound with tape or cloth of a grayed color to disrupt its outline.   Leaves or other natural material wrapped with tire tape are effective.   The bayonet can be toned down with mud.   When camouflaged by painting, weapons and equipment must be darker than surroundings.   Flat surfaces are roughened by adding sand to prevent shine.

Shiny Objects
The reflection from a brightly shining object is a common giveaway. All shining articles should be concealed. Put your watch and shiny rings in your pocket, and keep that bright mess kit out of sight when you are not using it. Note the shine on the helmet.

Canvas Equipment

canvas equipment cammo camo camouflage tonedown tone-downcamouflage wrong canvas equipment ww2 wwiiClean canvas equipment is correct for inspections, but in combat zones such equipment is an invitation to a bullet.  In motion, light-color patches are easy to spot.  One of your first jobs in dressing for the job of fighting is to tone down (darken) the color of your canvas equipment.  It can be done with paint, mud, charcoal, or anything else which will make the tone of the canvas about the same as the rest of your clothes.  To color canvas to match the OD uniform, use OQMG No. 3, Compound for Coloring Web Equipment.

With the same materials, tone down (darken) the color of your pack, cartridge belt, canteen cover, leggings, and shelter half.  The pictures on this page illustrate the difference such coloring makes.  In Figure 14, the soldier almost blends with the background, but those bright canvas articles stand out in the picture.  They make excellent aiming points.  In Figure 14, the soldier has darkened his canvas equipment.  He is harder to see.   The familiar outlines of his canvas equipment no longer stand out to the enemy observer.

camouflage clothing conealment ww2 wwii world war two 2Camouflage Clothing

Individual concealment is mostly a matter of using your head and the materials at hand.  This applies to camouflage clothing as well.  When issue camouflage clothing is unavailable, the soldier makes his own, suiting its form and color to the terrain.  Here one soldier is painting another’s green twill fatigue uniform.   A brush is not necessary.  A dauber made with a wad of cloth on the end of a stick will do.  Another method is to stamp the pattern on the cloth with a block of wood dipped in paint.  But even paint itself is not essential. Any coloring material may be used: dye, black crankcase drippings, or even a mixture of mud and cup grease. The important thing is to make your clothes look less like a soldier’s uniform and more like the terrain in which you will move.

However, a soldier is not invisible simply because he wears a camouflaged suit. The suit is just the beginning of the concealment job. It makes it easier for you to conceal yourself — but it makes it easier only if you know the other principles of individual concealment.

Figure 16. Careful analysis of the background, before painting, produced these examples of camouflage suits improvised by a unit for use by observers and snipers in special terrain. A gray, rocky landscape suggests a snake pattern applied on fatigues dyed a light color.

Figure 17. A different pattern is needed to blend this soldier with an area in a desert. Its irregular lines resemble the concealing pattern on the back of a turtle.
camouflage suits improvised aartillery forward observers snipers special terrain
Figure 18. In broken rocky country, this mottled pattern is effective concealment from enemy observation, ground and air. The soldier stays close to the objects with which he is blended.  Such patterns arc conspicuous when moving or against wrong background.

Fighting Clothes

The issue uniforms are carefully designed to blend with a wide variety of surroundings under average conditions. For fighting at close ranges, special measures may be taken.

jungle warfare jungle-patterned suitJungle Suits

The soldier (right) is wearing the jungle-patterned suit formerly issued by the Army, on request of a theater-of-operations commander, to troops engaged in jungle warfare.  Its mottled pattern blends with the green foliage, and the outline of the soldier and his equipment melt into the background.  The cloth cover which fits over the helmet has loops into which sprigs of foliage can be fitted to increase concealment.  Wear the suit with caution. however, in extremely dark sections of a jungle because in this case the lightest colors in the pattern are especially noticeable during movement.

The reverse side of the jungle suit is shown in Figure 20.  It is colored dark OD, which is the predominant color of jungle backgrounds.

Snow Suits 

For use in arctic country, the Army issues a snow suit, a two-piece garment, plain white, designed to blend with a white or mottled white-and-black background. Snow country isn’t all white. There is some black in it; shadows and dark objects appear darker than usual. The suit cannot conceal the small patches of shadow which surround the human figure, but that is not necessary if the background, too, contains numerous dark spots.

The above tells you how to go about dressing for the job of fighting. You won’t always have time to do all the things that are mentioned, but you must find time to do the most important ones for the job at hand. The usual order of importance is from the top of the head down; that is, from the most frequently exposed parts of the body to the least frequently exposed parts. This will make the arctic country Army issue snow suitjob of concealing yourself easier and the enemy’s job of finding you harder, and they are worth every bit of time you can give them. Remember, though, that camouflage clothing and equipment alone won’t conceal you; they must be used intelligently in accordance with the principles of scouting and patrolling

Part II shows you how to use the terrain, how to move in it, how to make it work for you.  With camouflaged equipment you are ready to make the most of the terrain.

“Lost Victory”

eisenhower alexander devers general vittel vosges november 1944The ETO had its own Mason-Dixon line.  The border ran along the intersection of the Third and Seventh Armies.

General George Patton believed that he would be the first man on the banks of the Rhine, wrote to his wife that  Devers and his Seventh Army had  “made a monkey out of me.”  The Seventh reached the Rhine before Thanksgiving Day 1944, with an intact bridge and the capture of the historic Strasbourg to complete history’s first wintertime crossing of the Vosges Mountains.  Ironically, Hitler saved Patton’s reputation by way of the Ardennes offensive, only one month removed.

General Eisenhower professed support to take advantage of any opportunity of the moment.  After months of grasping to take a bridgehead on the Rhine, through a brilliant coup-de-main,  the Seventh Army handed the Allied Commander in Chief a historic opportunity:   An open door into Germany by way of Strasbourg and the intact Kehl Bridge.

In early November, Eisenhower ordered Generals  Montgomery, Bradley and Devers forward in a broad-front offensive to cross the Rhine River into Germany.  The goal:  End the war by Christmas 1944.   Bradley’s First Army General Hodges and Third Army General Patton employed meat-grinder tactics like those used in World War One.  While the American First and Third Armies sapped precious strength in the morass of the Hurtgen Forest and against the fortresses around Metz, the 44th I.D. and other Seventh Army units assailed the unassailable.  Their order: Mission Impossible.  Break through the enemy’s winter line in the Vosges Mountains and cross the Rhine.  All the while constrained by command  of the fewest resources and holding firmly last place in re-supply priority.  With Ike’s support, Monty hoarded supplies and troops and stood pat.   Dever’s Seventh Army attacked.  Then, to everyone’s amazement, the Seventh Army breached the Vosges and reached the Rhine. The frosting on the cake.  A liberated Strasbourg with its intact Kehl bridge over the Rhine into an undefended Germany.

gi infantry forward vosges mountainsThe day after the Strasbourg’s coup-de-main, Devers received Eisenhower and General Omar Bradley, at his headquarters at Vittel in the Vosges Mountains.  Instead of offering congratulations, the SHAEF commander came with the intent to borrow some of Seventh Army’s divisions.  Patton needed help in the Third Army’s stalled offensive just to the north.  Devers countered.   His proposal, strike boldly beyond the Rhine and bypass the German forces on the west bank.  And abandon Patton’s failed offensive and move the Third Army to Alsace under Devers’ command.   From this point, move Alexander “Sandy”  Patch and the Seventh Army across the Rhine for a northward push on the far side of the river inside Germany while Patton made a parallel drive northward on the near side of the Rhine.  The objective: Roll up the enemy’s entire rear and cause Germany to abandon the Rhine’s west bank all the way up to Holland.  And end the war in 1944 or early 1945.

This bold new decisive proposal startled his guests and his boss.  Genearl Omar Bradley fought against the plan with its transfer of Patton’s Third Army.  Eisenhower had nothing of this plan.   He did not even want Danvers’ forces to cross the Rhine, with or without Patton.  To General Patch and his Seventh Army staff, the Supreme Commander’s decision canceling the Rhine crossing amounted to a betrayal and smacked of favoritism.  It directly contradicted the formal orders under which the Seventh had brilliantly succeeded.  Eisenhower made no apologies nor explanations regarding ‘the why’  behind his changing 7th Army’s mission.   He simply commanded Devers to abandon any plan to cross the Rhine.  His new edict: Support Patton’s right flank in his failed offensive against the Saar.

Major General Robert L. Spragins 44th Infantry Division vosgesThe only point Devers won was to keep the divisions coveted by Patton.   Obviously the boss favored Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery.  Monty and his 21st Army Group continued to hold priority in the race to Berlin.  Even though Monty stood pat, disobedient of his commander’s explicit order to go on the offensive, Eisenhower would not budge for his stated position.  Dever’s soldiers fought and won.  Bradley enjoyed a strong secondary priority from his long-time friend, mentor and now his commander, General Eisenhower.   Bradley benefited by receiving the bulk of U.S. troop replacements and supplies while  Devers divisions ran short.  In the face of such favoritism, only the Seventh Army armies stood victorious in the fall of 1944.  For the ETO, the sole source of triumphant news-reel and newspaper headlines for a war-weary home front emanated from the unfortunate one, the Seventh.  All others failed to produce battlefield wins.  Or in the case of the Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, the First Viscount of el Alamein led 21st Army Group, did not even try.

Fate is often cruel.  General Alexander Patch, in early November 1944, lost his son Captain Alexander Patch Jr. near Luneville, France, while serving in the 79th Infantry Division.  Matters were different for the Eisenhower family.  A change of assignment greeted  Lt. John Eisenhower upon his arrival in France.  For this West Point graduate and  ‘favorite son’ instead of the command of an infantry platoon came a cushy and safe staff assignment.

Ironically, musician and song-writer John Fogerty response when asked what inspired his late 1960s hit song ‘Fortunate Son’ [lyrics] was: “Julie Nixon was hanging around with David Eisenhower, and you just had the feeling that none of these people were going to be involved with the war” (the Vietnam conflict).   David  Eisenhower is the son of the same John Eisenhower.

The legacy of the Eisenhower pre-occupation or bias to the ETO north continues many years removed from November 1944.  The story with legs remains the six months later coup de main of the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen in March 1945.   The potential war ending and first to the Rhine River bridgehead at Strasbourg, with it’s superior Kehl Bridge, continues as the historical footnote.

With apology to Erich von Manstein, failure to capitalize at Strasbourg may well be one of America’s costliest ‘Lost Victories.’

Panzerbüchse Pz.B.38 and Pz.B 39 Anti-Tank Rifles

a. General
Antitank rifles are issued to the German Army on a scale of one for each platoon (or equivalent unit). There are at least two types of antitank rifles in use by the Germans: The Polish antitank rifle (model 35), which has been renamed the Panzerbüchse Pz.B. 38 (antitank rifle) and the Panzerbüchse Pz.B 39,  a later model of the Pz.B 38.

b. How to Identify
Both the Pz.B.38 and Pz.B.39 may he identified by:
tactical symbol german army germany at anti-tank rifle  Panzerbüchse(1) Folding shoulder stocks with a rubber shock absorber
(2) Bipod mount and carrying handle
(3) Muzzle brake
(4) Single-shot, falling-block action worked by a moving pistol grip, Pz.B.38 and by recoil in the Pz.B.39
Pz.B. is the German abbreviation for Panzerbüchse, which means “anti-tank rifle.” The German tactical symbol for antitank rifle is to the left.

c. Characteristics

(1) General. The Pz.B.38 and Pz.B.39 are light antitank weapons carried by infantry. They are single-shot rifles fired from a bipod mount. The bullet is an armor-piercing projectile with tracer compound and sometimes with a tear-gas powder in the base. The Pz.B.38 and Pz.B.39 are basically the same and differ only slightly in appearance and component parts. The description of the Pz.B.39 which follows will also serve for the 38.

(2) Table of characteristics.
Principle of operation: Single-shot, falling-block action
Caliber: 7.92 mm (.312 inch)
Ammunition: Caliber .50 case, necked down to take a caliber .312 bullet
Sights: Front Inverted V blade, with hood for shade and protection
Rear Open V notch, non-adjustable, sighted 300 meters (328 yards)
Carrying handle Folding shoulder stocks
Carrying sling
Over-all length:With shoulder stock in place: 62 1/4 inches, with shoulder stock folded 50 3/4 inches
Range: Effective 250 to 300 yards
Penetration: At 300 yards, ¾ inch (20 degrees impact) and 1 inch (normal impact) face-hardened plate; at 100 yards, 1 ¼ inch (normal impact) face-hardened plate
Muzzle velocity: 3,540 feet per second
Feed: By hand from two ammunition holders that clip on each side of stock forearm, each box holding 10 rounds of ammunition.

d. How to Operate

(1) Safety.-The safety lever is located on the tang
of the receiver just to the rear of the breechblock. To put the rifle on “safe,” move the safety lever until the letter “S” (sicher = “safe”) is exposed. To unlock, move the safety lever until the letter “F” (Feuer = “fire”) is exposed.
(2) To load and fire. Press the bipod lock and adjust the height of the bipod by turning the adjusting screw located underneath the pivot point of the bipod. Press the stock release button and snap the shoulder stock into place. Move the safety lever to the “fire” position. Push the pistol grip forward and downward, thus depressing the breechblock. Insert one round into the chamber, which is exposed by lowering the breechblock. Close the breechblock by pulling back and up on the pistol grip.  The piece is now ready to fire. The rifle is fired from the prone position and should be kept in the “safe” position until ready to fire.
(3) To unload. Move the safety lever to the “fire” position. Being careful to keep the finger out of the trigger guard, open the breech by pushing the pistol grip forward and downward. This will eject the cartridge from the chamber. The rifle is now unloaded.

e. Ammunition
Panzerbüchse  Pz.B.38 and Pz.B 39 Anti-Tank Rifle German
The ammunition used has a rimless case the approximate size of the U. S. caliber .50case, but the projectile is approximately the size of the U. S. caliber .30 projectile. The German nomenclature 11 for this ammunition is Patr. 318 S.m.K. for the pointed bullet with steel core, and Patr. 318 S.m.K. (H) for the pointed bullet with hardened-steel core. The ammunition for the Pz.B.38 and the Pz.B.39, though of the same caliber as the rifle and machine-gun ammunition, will not function in either rifle or machine gun, as the dimensions of the cartridge case are much larger.

f. Maintenance
(1) Oiling and cleaning. The rifle should be given the usual care with respect to cleaning and lubricating. Oil should be used sparingly or not at all in hot, sandy, or dusty country.
(2) Stripping. Remove the pistol-grip pivot pin by compressing its spring lock and pushing it out from left to right. Remove the trigger pistol-grip group and for one type of label used to identify ammunition for the antitank rifle breechblock from the receiver by pulling downward on the pistol grip.  Disengage the breechblock from the trigger pistol-grip by sliding the breech out along the grooves in its sides. The breechblock can be stripped by pressing on the spring-loaded button and sliding the plate upward.  Removing the two pins from the side of the breechblock will release the trigger bar and hammer.
(3) Assembly.  Reverse the stripping procedure given in (2), on the opposite page.  Be sure that the safety is on “fire” position so that the breechblock can be replaced in its slots in the receiver walls.

g. Accessories
The accessories for these guns are a carrying sling and two ammunition holders that clip on the wooden forearm. A small cleaning kit similar to the rifle cleaning kit is carried by the antitank rifleman.

Walther P38

p38 p-38 p 38 walther pistol diagram
Walther P 38 P38 pistol waffenfabrik heeres pistole

The Walther P 38 was developed to replace the P 08 Luger.  The P 08 was a superb weapon but was expensive to produce and complex in operation and maintenance.  In 1933, the German army identified the need for a new replacement pistol. From 1933 to 1938, a long development program created the successful P 38 design.  This design struck a fine balance. The outcome, a weapon rich in capabilities yet inexpensive to produce and well suited for mass production.  Walther received the contract to manufacture the P 38 in 1938.
P38 Walther pistol Waffen SS soldier
From the onset, the P 38 proved an exceptional  service pistol. The weapon was robust, accurate and well balanced.   Field stripping and maintenance was simple and rapid.  Many safety features included a hammer safety and an indicator that a round was ‘chamber loaded.’ The cartridge was the proven and widely available Parabellum 9-mm. Despite this success and mass production, the P 08 was never fully replaced by the P38.  More than any other combatant nation, the Germans favored the handgun.  The pistol was no status symbol or specialized weapon for the few. It was an essential cog in the German war machine from the rear echelon to the front lines.   Demand outstripped supply.

The P 38 pistol was well liked by the German army and a prized war trophy.


Maschinenpistole 40 mp40 mp 40
When the predecessor to the Maschinenpistole 40 or the MP40, the MP38,  was first produced in 1938, the design was revolutionary because of the way the weapon was manufactured.  The weapon itself is quite orthodox.  Unlike the Luger, the MG34 and the all other German small arms before it, the MP38 was designed for mass production, like the Model T Ford.  Parts were primarily stamped instead of machined, finishing was modest and the stock woodless.   The goal: Mass arming of Germany’s storm-troopers with a capable and inexpensive yet reliable submachine gun.

For the most part, the MP38 met this design goal except for one nasty problem.  When jarred, the gun often did  start firing by itself.  This run-away submachine gun caused numerous friendly casualties.  The next generation, the MP40, fixed this dangerous defect.  Mass production of the MP40 was taken to even a higher level with the use of even more simple and inexpensive stamped parts and additional streamlining of its production.

The result: the Maschinenpistole 40 was churned out in large numbers.  Just over one million were made of all versions in the course of the war.  The gun had relatively low recoil even fired fully automatic.  This is due to its slower rate of fire and its 9MM bullet.   Nevertheless, it gave the Maschinenpistole 40 a respectable accuracy compared to the American Thompson.   The resulting sound provided a nickname,  the “Burp gun.”  The MP40 is often incorrectly called the Schmeisser, after weapons designer Hugo Schmeisser.   The weapon was coveted by the Germans and the Allies.   Because of its light weight, the MP40 was highly esteemed and favored by the German Fallshirmjägers paratroopers and panzer grenadiers.
panther panzer mark v  mp40 submachine gun motorcycle panzer grenadiers

MP40 Lleibstandarte 1st Waffen-SS Grenadiers sub-machine gun
mp40 mp 40 burp gun sub-machine specifications Maschinenpistole 40

German Infantry Mortars

The German infantry support mortar of WW2 is an extremely effective weapon, dreaded and revered by the Allies. Mortars are a classic indirect fire weapon at short ranges. The mortar is a valuable weapon for infantry units, akin to a personal artillery battery dedicated to a small infantry unit commander.  Some German units went so far as to have a mortar assigned to every platoon.  The mortar, as with the hand gun, was thoroughly embraced by the German Army as essential.

A mortar  does not have to see the target to fire at it. Mortars can fire blind over hills, buildings, banks and rivers.  So long as targets are pre-registered, the main advantage of the mortar is its ability to bring down rapid fire on multiple targets with minimum delay.  And it operates under the most appalling conditions, be it night, oppressive fog of the Hartz Mountains, Russian winter snow, or in rain. But performance does suffer. Mortars fire rounds at slow speeds. So the angle of fire is high to achieve any range. For this reason a mortar round is in the air for a long period of time. Gusty wind can reduce accuracy dramatically with range.  Rain or damp weather can also reduce range.

Mortars are man portable. It can be moved into and out of action quickly. The mortar has no recoil system so it is essential that the weapon is situated on firm ground, able to absorbed the recoil. Mortars work very well against infantry and light vehicles but against hardened targets like tanks and bunkers, their effectiveness is limited.

Mortar ammunition varies. The primary round of World War II is the high explosive fragmentation round. Lethality was  up to 50 yards away from impact.  Mortars were also effective for production of smokescreens and illumining rounds to provide light at night.

A mortar crew usually consists of at least three members. The gunner controls the deflection and elevation of the weapon.  The assistant gunner loads the round at the command of the gunner. The ammunition man prepares and hands over ammunition to the assistant gunner.

German Mortars of World War II

The mortar was ‘born’ in World War One. Originally the mortar was built to arch a round accurately enough  at a high angle to land inside narrow enemy trenches.  Mortars did a magnificent job in the ‘War to end all Wars.’

After the Great War, all major armies embraced this new weapon.  In the period of time between the World Wars, German weapons designers had a clean slate on which to design the next generation .   The first released infantry mortars was the 5-cm leichte Granatwerfer 36 or leGrW 36 (light grenade-launcher model 1936).  The date, 1936.  This mortar was a failure. The weapon was overly complicated, under-powered and lacked range. In relation to its poor performance, the mortar was expensive to make. By 1941, the 36 was withdrawn from front-line service.  Many found their  way to the  Italian Army.

+ leGrW 36 Diagram

The 8-cm schwere Granatwerfer 34 or 8-cm sGrW 34 (heavy grenade-launcher model 1934) earned a reputation in line with the fearsome 88 anti-aircraft gun  and the Tiger Tank.  Among allied front-line soldiers  this mortar was dreaded for its accuracy and rate of fire.  Captured 34s were eagerly employed against the Germans.

The design was straight forward. Its designer and manufacture Rheinmetall-Borsig produced a high-quality weapon. Yet the mortar’s  reputation had little to do with innovation.  Its high status was primarily the result of through training of German mortar crews . They were experts at their craft.  German mortar crews always seemed to possess the ability to engage in and out of action rapidly.  They paid careful attention to pre-registration and other fire control aids.   The enterprising German mortar crews were able to bring fire down rapidly on their adversary.

5-cm leichte Granatwefer 36 or leGrW 36 German light grenade-launcher model 1936
8-cm schwere Granatwefer 34  8-cm sGrW 34 heavy grenade-launcher model 1934
8-cm schwere Granatwefer 34 or 8-cm sGrW 34 German heavy grenade-launcher model 1934

Suomi m/1931 Sub-Machine Gun


Suomi m/1931 Sub-Machine Gun ski troops finland snow winter warStalin expected Finland to be another easy territory grab when he ordered the conquest of Finland. This David versus Goliath mismatch pitted the mass of his empire with some 250 million subjugates against a paltry four million Finns.   Stalin had little to fear.  Or so it seemed.  The 1939 ‘Non-Aggression Pact’ with Nazi Germany secured the USSR’s flanks.  Finland was inside the Soviet sphere of influence per the accord.  Hitler’s army would not interfere.  Recent political and Red Army successes in Poland, Manchuria and the Baltic’s involved nations of equal or superior power to the Finns.  The Finns appeared weak.  The Finnish communists in exile at Moscow echoed this theme to Stalin.  The Finnish government desperately sought to avert the impending conflict through direct negotiations.  Stalin and Molotov played with them. They knew well an isolated Finland had precious little military equipment and supplies for a sustained war.  Finland stood alone.   Exposed.   On the eve of battle, confident Soviet commanders instructions included a stern reminder to avoid incursion into neutral Sweden after having breached any defenses and then reaching the distant Swedish border with Finland.

The Soviets invaders were by taken by surprise in the Winter War starting in November 1939.   The Finns resisted fiercely under the resolute leadership of their commander in chief,  Gustaf Mannerheim.  This was not the anticipated cake-walk.  It was more of a frozen hell in which hundreds of thousands Red Army soldiers died.  Starved, shot, booby-trapped, froze to death, by any means possible, they perished in mass in the cold dark Finnish forests and swamps.  The gallant Finns battled and employed every resource at their command and extracted fearful losses upon the invading Red Army.  The world cheered as the innocent Finns stymied the elbow deep in blood Russian invader.   A humiliated Red Army floundered in check and bloodied for the better part of the first four months of fierce combat by the tougher and more nimble defenders.

vassa burning clatskanie chief finland suomi winter war
“… in war the psychological factors are often decisive.   An adversary who feels inferior is in reality so.”    Field Marshal Carl Gustav Baron von Mannerheim – Finnish Supreme Commander, The Memoirs of Field Marshal Mannerheim, 1953.

Ultimately the mass and sheer power of the Soviets proved too great.  After nine months of a meat-grinder war, the Finns sued for peace.  Stalin desired to extricate his army from this expensive conflict also.   A demanding peace treaty granted a short-term peace to Finland with independence but at a high price in lost territories and financial retributions.   Hitler’s attack on the Soviets in June 1941 drug the Finns into second unwanted conflict, again with terrible consequences for the nation.

To learn more, visit a superb web-site dedicated to the military history of the Finish army, URL:

  m/1931 M31 Suomi submachine sub-machine gun Finland konepistooli
Finland’s greatest assets of the 1939- 1940 Winter War were its tough skilled outdoorsman soldiers instilled with the belief that “One Finn is equal to ten Russians.”  Their weapon of choice, a sub-machine gun designed by Finland’s native son, a self-educated genius,  Aimo Johannes Lahti.  Lahti designed and constructed many other weapons of note and of various types –  from pistols to assault guns and an anti-tank rifle. The most famous is the m/1931 (M31) Suomi submachine gun – konepistooli.  Imitation is the ultimate form of flattery. The Lahti M31 inspired the design of the German Bergmann MP34 and the Soviet PPD 1934G/38G and PPSh41 submachine guns.  In the pantheon of modern gun designers, the prolific Lahti belongs as a peer with the likes of Hiram Maxim, John Browning and Mikhail Kalashnikov.

+ Magnify Sotalippu/m 1931+ M31 Image Store

Not much about the legendary Suomi m/1931 submachine gun design is extraordinary. The simple “blowback mechanism” and an orthodox layout are quite similar in design to the German Bergmann MP18.  Prominence is achieved through quality of manufacturing, its high volume ammunition feed system and its accuracy.  In the hands of the Finnish soldier, this was a terrifying weapon.  To the Finns, a soldier armed with the M31 was another “Tikkakoski mannequin.”  Tikkakoski is the place where the gun was produced.  The Soviets invaders had a different name for these defenders: “Belaya Smert” or “the White Death”.

sotalippu battleflag finland finnish suomiExpensive to manufacture and heavy, the m/1931 was lavishly made in the both the quality of the materials used and the excellence of the machining. The whole gun, the body and bolt were machined from solid metal. The machining detail was demandingly precise.  Combat in the bitter Finnish winter requires a weapon which will function reliably in Finland’s extreme artic conditions.  Soldiers in field venerated their Suomi for its reliability. Its excellent construction enabled the gun to fire under any conditions without ever seeming to jam. To the shooter, the extra weight became a non-issue.  The gun represented life to the Finn and death to the unfortunate Soviet.

With a rate of fire up to 900 rounds per minute, and with a massive 71-round drum magazine, the Suomi packed a lot of firepower.   When first released,  it established a record for rate of fire and held this record over a period of years.   In spite of this high rate of fire, the M31 remained very easy to handle.  Its weight and pistol caliber cartridge account for the stability.  Add to this another paradox.  The Suomi, a sub-machine gun, proved accurate beyond 100 meters, the standard range for this class of gun.  Accurate fire reached the range of 300 meters.  Such accuracy is due to the quality of manufacture and a long barrel of over 12 inches in length.   Hot loads also contributed.   Standard 9mm Parabellum performance of 365 meters/ second (1,200 f/s) was pushed upwards to 400 meter/second (1,310 f/s) with an 7.5 gram full metal jacket slug propelled by a white-hot powder load.  This weapon’s robust mechanism allowed use of ammunition that pushed the performance envelope to the maximum.

P 08 (Luger Pistol)

luger P 17  P17 Artillerie or Artillery model pistol
P 08 (Luger)

Over two million P 08 weapons were produced by various manufacturers in numerous main variants of the pistol that is typically but incorrectly known just as the Luger

Pictured to the left is the Pistole 08 (for P 08), one of the main variants. The German navy adopted the Luger pistol first in 1904. The German army followed suit in 1908. and the pistol remained the standard German service pistol into the late 1930s. The Luger was produced in several calibers, but the primary and most common is the 9 mm Parabellum (which in Latin is the term “Pro War”). This cartridge was specifically developed for the Luger pistol.
luger p 08 pistol parabellum
The P 08 was replaced by the Walther P 38 because the Luger was too expensive to produce and was a complicated weapon for the average solider to maintain in the field. In late 1942 the final German manufacturing run of the weapon concluded. The P 38 never wholly replaced the P 08 in German service during the war.

The standard P 08 has a barrel 103 mm (4.055 in) long. The P 17 Artillerie or Artillery model pictured at the top has a 203-mm (8-in) barrel. Luger pistols were among the most prized of all World War II trophies.+ View Luger Apparel & Gifts