Category Archives: military history

Hairy Legs and FALs

Well, technically inch-pattern L1A1s with early knife-style bayonets rather than true FN FALs, but still…

Note the “JAG3” rack markings on the stock of the rifle on the right, and the Soviet Red Naval banner shown on the passing destroyer. Crown copyright. IWM (A 35389) IWM. Original Source:

Official caption:

HMS Jaguar (F37) at Ethiopian Navy Days, February 1972, Masawwa Ethiopia. The frigate HMS Jaguar represented the Royal Navy at the annual event, in which the navies from Ethiopia, Britain, American, Russia, France, and Sudan took part. As the ships gathered at Massawa this shot taken from HMS JAGUAR shows her White Ensign and the Soviet Red Star of the Kashin-class (Project 61) destroyer Stroggi [sic].

Jaguar was a 2,500-ton Leopard-class (Type 41) frigate commissioned in 1959. A globetrotter, she completed a world cruise in 1969 and repeatedly went toe-to-toe with the Icelandic Coast Guard in the “Cod Wars” during which she was fitted with add-on lumber armor to absorb the impact from ramming ICG gunboats. Jaguar decommissioned in 1978 and transferred to Bangladesh as BNS Ali Haider (F17), serving until 2014.

As for the shorts, and FALs, they just historically go together.

Attention Gun lovers

For those who love beautiful and rare firearms, RIAC has some amazing offerings on their upcoming December Premier Auction.

They include a no serial number Singer Manufacturing Company M1911A1.

The sewing machine maker cranked out just 500 GI 45s in 1940-41, which came from an Educational Order issued by the Army. However, as this one has no inspector or frame markings, signs point to it being either a presentation gun made for company brass or a lunchbox gun.

How about this early production Colt Model 1911 with its scarce original box and even the original Ordnance Bill of Sale?

The U.S. Army contract pistol was shipped in a lot of 350 to the Commander of Springfield Armory in April 1912. Since then it has been carefully documented and passed down through generations of Lt. H.A. Davidson’s family.

Then there is this North American Arms Co. Model 1911 pistol, which was produced in December of 1918 in Quebec, Canada.

Did I mention it is SN#1?

And in the “you don’t see that every day” category, how about this Colt 2nd Issue Officer’s Model Target D.A. revolver that was manufactured in 1912 and is complete with an attachable period shoulder stock/holster manufactured by either W.P Thompson or the Ideal Holster Company.

Finally, how about this Belgian LeMat grapeshot carbine with a centerline 20 gauge shotgun barrel sistered under a 44-caliber revolving carbine.

It has Liege proofs and is SN#4.

If only I had a much larger piggy bank.

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020: Horse Trading and Gun Running

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020: Horse Trading and Gun Running

Cropped LIFE Archives photo by Carl Mydans

Here we see the Barnegat-class seaplane tender USS Orca (AVP-49) showing off the welcome sign  “Where the occident meets the Orient by accident,” signed by her skipper, CDR Morton K. Fleming, Jr, while in Philippine waters, likely Ormoc Bay, in December 1944.

The 41 Barnegats were 2,500-ton, 311-foot armed auxiliaries with destroyer lines capable of floating in 12 feet of water. They had room for not only seaplane stores but also 150 aviators and aircrew. Their diesel suite wasn’t fast, but they could travel 8,000 miles at 15.6 knots. Originally designed for two 5-inch/38-caliber guns, this could be doubled if needed (and often was) which complemented a decent AAA armament helped by radar and even depth charges and sonar for busting subs. All pretty sweet for an auxiliary.

We’ve covered them in the past to include the former “Queen of the Little White Fleet” USS Duxbury Bay (AVP-38) and the 60-year career of USS Chincoteague (AVP-24) but don’t worry, they have lots of great stories.

Our armed tender was (kind of) the fourth Orca in the U.S. Navy, as submarine USS K-3 (SS-34) carried the name as a PCU in 1911 but never served as such. The second Orca was an 85-foot steam yacht out of Boston taken into service as SP726 for patrol operations in the 1st Naval District during World War I. The third Orca was to be a Balao-class fleet submarine (SS-381) but, like SS-34, was changed before commissioning, in this case to USS Sand Lance, a boat that subsequently served until 1972, completing five WWII war patrols.

The hero of our study, which was officially named after Orca Bay, Alaska, in line with the naming convention for seaplane tenders to be named after bays and lakes, was laid down 13 July 1942, built by the Lake Washington Shipyards, Houghton, Washington, and commissioned 23 January 1944.

USS Orca (AVP-49) ready for launch on 4 October 1942. The ship Her builder’s number, Hull 538, is displayed on her bridge. Photograph from the Bureau of Ships Collection in the U.S. National Archives. Catalog #: 19-N-44301

USS Orca (AVP-49) being launched at the Lake Washington Shipyards, Houghton, Washington, on 4 October 1942. 19-N-47209

USS Orca (AVP-49) Off Houghton, Washington, on 6 February 1944, about two weeks after commissioning. She was completed with three 5/38 guns, including an open mount on her fantail. 19-N-61647

USS Orca (AVP-49) from the port side in Puget Sound on February 6, 1944, wearing camouflage 32/2Ax. The vertical colors are dull black, ocean gray, and light gray. Photo source: NARA BS 61646. H/T USN Dazzle

USS Orca (AVP-49) again in Puget Sound this time from the starboard wearing camouflage 32/2Ax on February 6, 1944. Orca was commissioned on January 23, 1944. Photo source: NARA BS 61645. H/T USN Dazzle

After shakedown, she shipped out for the 7th Fleet off Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea, arriving there 26 May 1944. There, she would be the floating home to Patrol Bombing Squadron 11 (VPB-11) whose black-painted PBY-5 Catalinas were busy wrecking Japanese shipping and bases in night attacks while clocking in for air-sea rescue during the day.

PBY-5 Catalina of US Navy Patrol Squadron VPB-11 on the Sepik River in Australian New Guinea bringing supplies to a coast-watcher working in the area, Jan 1943. VPB-11 was Orca’s first squadron

Over the course of the war, Orca would go on to support VPB-33 and finally VPB-34, with all three squadrons being so active as to earn Presidential Unit Citations.

In early November, Orca moved into the Leyte Gulf area in the PI, where the next month her Cats proved lifesavers in Ormoc Bay right under the noses of the Japanese as they taxied around the bay for nearly an hour picking up survivors of the Sumner-class destroyer USS Cooper (DD-695), sunk the previous night by Long Lances from the Japanese destroyer Take.

From her 18-page War History, in the National Archives:

A cartoon from VPB-34 of the Cooper rescue

For his role in the Cooper rescue, VPB-34’s Lieutenant Frederick J. Ball, the lead pilot, would receive the Navy Cross.

Orca would then go on to have repeated run-ins with air attacks and later “the kamikaze boys” as her diary states, with her crew sending up reportedly impressive amounts of fire to meet incoming Japanese planes. The report comes from Tokyo Rose, who announced that, following a raid in an area where Orca was the primary ship, “The volume of Ack-Ack which met the previous night’s raid, indicated that a U.S. battleship of the Wisconsin class had been sighted by Japanese planes…” which is certainly something to brag about for a seaplane tender.

While in the Lingayen Gulf, raids were so heavy that she experienced attacks for six nights in a row, bagging a couple aircraft but coming out unscathed. As her diary states, “Fortunately for us, our first attackers appeared to have not been confirmed Lodge members- Kamikaze Local No. 269, for none of them made suicide dives unless actually hit and out of control.”

Then came the, often frustrating, efforts to recover downed Japanese aircrew.

Other rescues by Orca’s Cats and later Mariners while operating in the PI included the 12 crew and passengers of an Army C-47– which included female nurses– a P-51 pilot, five survivors of a downed B-25 from a raid over Formosa, nine Filipino women whose fishing vessel had capsized 20 miles offshore leaving them to cling to wreckage for three days, and the curious case of CDR McPherson B. Williams of Augusta Georgia. Williams, who was Yorktown’s ComAirGrp 3, had been downed and rescued by Filipino guerillas who kept him out of Japanese hands for seven weeks and, in a twist of fate, was picked up by a Mariner piloted by his Annapolis roommate.

More Carly Mydan photos of Orca, with her crew performing maintenance on PBMs

Speaking of Filipino guerillas, Orca would spend much of her time in local waters supporting Gen. Walter Kreuger’s Sixth Army’s effort to arm, support, and equip bands of insurgents behind Japanese lines, running guns, uniforms, radio equipment, and medicine to these plucky freedom fighters.

VJ Day found Orca at sea, having just completed an overhaul at Manus Island in preparation for “the big push” on Tokyo. On 26 September, Orca arrived at Okinawa to assist in the occupation of the Japanese Islands.

USS Orca (AVP-49) Off Mare Island, California, on 8 January 1946 after completion of an overhaul. 19-N-92247

USS Orca (AVP-49) Off Mare Island, California, on 8 January 1946 after completion of an overhaul. Her 40mm quadruple mount had been moved forward replacing one 5/38 mount, but she retained two 5guns, including one in an open mount on her fantail. 19-N-92245

USS Orca (AVP-49) Off Mare Island, California, on 8 January 1946 after completion of an overhaul. Her 40mm quadruple mount had been moved forward replacing one 5/38 mount, but she retained two 5guns, including one in an open mount on her fantail. 19-N-92246

After supporting the Bikini Atoll A-bomb tests, Orca then decommissioned on 31 October 1947 and joined the reserve fleet in San Francisco. According to her War History, 82 percent of her plank owners, the majority of which were green on commissioning, completed the war with the tender.

She had earned three battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation for service in the conflict.

The 1950s…

Orca re-commissioned 15 December 1951, as the push was on in Korea, and went on to serve the rest of the decade in a variety of West Pac cruises and training evolutions, including tense China service, with much of her WWII armament landed.

USS Orca (AVP-49) moored at Naval Station San Diego, circa 1950s. Dave Schroeder and John Chiquoine. Via Navsource

USS Orca (AVP-49) Underway on 4 April 1955. Note the aviation insignia on the bow aft of the hull number. The open 5/38 mount formerly on her fantail was removed between late 1951 and 1955. 80-G-668276

To the Horn of Africa!

Decommissioned in March 1960, at Tongue Point Naval Station, Astoria, Oregon, she was subsequently laid up in the Pacific Reserve Fleet, Columbia River Group. Her second stint in mothballs, however, did not last long and the following year she was towed to SFNSY and reactivated for transfer to the brand-new Imperial Ethiopian Navy in January 1962, named, well, Ethiopia (A01). Along with a group of 95-foot PGMs and some surplus LCMs, they would prove the backbone of the force.

Formed in 1955 with a group of retired British naval personnel served as advisers and training supervisors, Ethiopia’s Navy was not a huge armada, with our repurposed seaplane tender being the fleet’s largest vessel, training ship, and flagship/imperial yacht for three decades. It was from her deck that Emperor Haile Selassie regularly inspected visiting foreign ships for the country’s annual Navy Day each January, an event that often saw a decent turnout.

“Haile Selassie is Host to British, French, theU.S. and Soviet Ships. January 1969, At Massawa, during Ethiopia’s Navy Days. The British frigate HMS Leander took part along with USS Luce, Russian destroyer Gnevy, French frigate Commandant Bory and the Ethiopian flagship, Ethiopia. On the sea day, all ships sailed in company, with Emperor Haile Selassie onboard Ethiopia. Later, the Emperor dined onboard HMS Leander. The international line-up during the Ethiopian Sea Day. Left: HMS Leander (lower) and Gnevy (Above). Right: USS Luce (above), Ethiopia (center) and Commandant Bory (lower).”” IWM A 35201


The 1,300-man Imperial Ethiopian Navy took up –almost– a full page in the 1973 Jane’s, with ex-Orca as the largest vessel.

After Selassie was deposed in 1974, and the socialist regime pivoted towards Moscow and away from the West by 1978, Soviet advisors replaced the Brits, Americans, Dutch, and Norwegians. By the 1980s, the force tripled in size as Petya, Osa and Turya-class fast attack craft arrived as military aid to help with the country’s low-key wars with its Western-backed neighbors.

Still, Orca/Ethiopia endured as the largest ship.

By 1990, Ethiopia had lost its ports as the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front had captured Massawa, prompting the
Ethiopian admiralty to pull stumps and migrate their homeless fleet to nearby Yemen. This situation came to a head when Eritrea gained de jure independence. In 1993, the Yemenis pulled the plug on the Ethiopian nautical squatters and asked them to leave in a bar closing sort of way (you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here…).

However, at that point, Orca/Ethiopia could no longer fire up her engines and, with her ~200 crewmembers interned as refugees, was sold for scrap to pay off delinquent dock fees in 1995.

As for the Ethiopian Navy, over the past couple of years, there has been an effort to reboot it, a curiosity for a land-locked country. The general plan would seem to be for the force to work out of Djibouti. Nonetheless, last year Adm. Foggo, commander of Naval Forces Africa, met with Brig. Gen. Kindu Gezu, Ethiopian Head of Navy in “the first staff to staff talks.”

Here in the U.S., Orca’s ship engineering drawings as well as 30 assorted war diaries and reports are digitized in the National Archives. She is also remembered on the Commemorative Plaque Wall at the United States Navy Memorial in Washington.

As for her sisters, they have all gone on to the breakers or been reefed with the final class member afloat, ex-Chincoteague/Ly Thuong Kiet/Andres Bonifacio scrapped in the Philippines in 2003.


Displacement 1,766 t.(lt) 2,800 t.(fl)
Length 310′ 9″
Beam 41′ 2″
Draft 13′ 6″ (limiting)
Speed 18.6kts.
Complement: 73 officers, 294 enlisted (including 152 members of embarked seaplane squadron)
Fuel Capacities: Diesel 1,955 Bbls; Gasoline 71,400 Gals
Propulsion: two Fairbanks Morse Diesel 38D8 1/4 engines, single Fairbanks Morse Main Reduction Gear, two propellers, 6,080shp
Ship’s Service Generators: two Diesel-drive 100Kw 450V A.C., one Diesel-drive 200Kw 450V A.C.
3 single 5″/38 cal dual-purpose gun mounts
1 quad Bofors 40mm AA gun mount, 2 twins
4 twin Oerlikon 20mm AA gun mounts
Stern depth charge racks
Changes as a training ship, 1960:
Radars: RCA SPS-12 air search radar, I-band navigation radar, RCA/General Electric Mark 26 I/J-band fire control
1 single 5″/38 cal dual-purpose gun mount
1 single Bofors 40mm AA gun mount, 2 twins

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Hawk sighting

A top-secret product of the Lockheed Skunk Works, the F-117 Nighthawk, better known as the original “stealth fighter,” first flew in 1981. After gaining IOC in 1988, they became public knowledge during the Gulf War after they helped take down some of the key strategic nodes of Saddam’s air defense and C4I network.

Officially retired in April 2008, just 59 production models were delivered. Of those, one, #82-0806 “Something Wicked”, was lost to Yugoslav SAMs over the Balkans in 1998, just one was scrapped, leaving the other 57ish Nighthawks (most of those on public display are early YF-117A “Scorpion” prototypes) to be put in what the Air Force described as “Type 1000” climate-controlled hangar storage.

Last year, 82-0803 “Unexpected Guest” went on permanent display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

However, at least two still have their wings attached and are in flyable condition. Withness this footage of two F-117As leaving Miramar MCAS last week:

Hạ Long Bay Vacation, 70 years ago

From the French military archives, this group of photos of the Marine Commando de Montfort catching some rays in Hạ Long Bay, in what is now Northern Vietnam, just a hop-skip-and-a-jump from mainland China, October 1950.

Just 60-strong, the Montforts had been formed in Indochina in late 1947, named after the late Ensign Louis de Montfort, a commando killed in Haiphong in March 1946. Using a mix of German, French, U.S., and British gear, they fought the Viet Minh extensively along with the coastal and border areas, carrying out various raids and reconnaissance operations borne by local craft and LCIs.

Like their companion unit, Commando Jaubert, the Montforts integrated local Vietnamese volunteers into their ranks, which at times accounted for half of the unit.

Their heaviest artillery were 60 mm mortars

…as well as lots of submachine guns, with the German MP40 being preferred.

Their go-to infantry arm was the U.S. M1 Carbine, light and handy for jumping around out of small boats for coastal operations in the jungle area

Note the M1 Carbine over the Marine’s shoulder, French OF37 ouef (egg) grenades on his pockets, and twin mag pouches. You would hope to have more than 60 spare rounds and a couple of grenades for a firefight in Indochina…

Montfort Commando-marine Moïse Saillant with a Châtellerault FM 24/29 LMG, in Ha Long Bay, circa 1950, note the cross draw pistol, which could be a MAB Model B. The FM 24/29 would remain in French service well into the 1970s, although it was a forerunner of the BREN

When it came to uniforms, you can tell their old WWII Commando Kiefer origins, as they made extensive use of the green beret with left-oriented cap badge and Denison smocks.

Note the flatbottom punts, possibly bridging pontoons, being towed by launches

After seven years of combat, Commando Montfort was disbanded in December 1954, its Indonchines members dismissed. It would soon be reformed in Metropolitan France, as a new war was brewing in Algeria.

Formosa becomes Taiwan, again, 75 Years Ago Today

Chinese Nationalist Army (Kuomintang) Gen. Chen Yi, right, accepts the surrender of disarmed Japanese Gen. Rikichi Andō, the garrison commander and governor-general of Formosa, in compliance with Douglas MacArthur’s General Order No. 1, at Taipei City Hall, 25 October 1945 as delegates from the other Allied Powers look on.

On 2 September 1945, the Imperial Japanese Forces totaled 6,983,000 troops including construction units, naval, and air forces. Of these, Army and Navy forces stationed within the home islands numbered 3,532,000, which meant that nearly as many, some 3.4 million, were still scattered around the Pacific from Manchuria to the Solomons.

One of the last large groups to lay down their arms was Ando’s 10th Area Army in Formosa.

However, it should be noted that the force, which numbered six divisions and seven separate brigades on paper– some 170,000 men– actually consisted of poorly trained reservists, conscripted students, and local Boeitai home guard militia with some units equipped with nothing more than sharpened bamboo pikes and longbows. Officially disbanded in September, the Army had largely stacked arms before Chen’s arrival.

To be sure, British and American naval assets had appeared off Formosa as early as 1 September and, liaising with the Japanese, evacuated 1,300 Allied POWs being held there. Meanwhile, representatives of the KMT landed on the island on 5 September, tagging along with an OSS team. Prior to the 25 October handover, a “Peace Preservation Corps” of 1,000 Chinese gendarmes and 12,000 light infantry of the KMT’s 62nd and 70th Divisions were carried to the island using commandeered Japanese ships escorted by the U.S. Navy.

Of note, Formosa became part of the Empire of Japan in 1895 after the Qing dynasty ceded Taiwan Province in the Treaty of Shimonoseki after the shellacking they received during the 1894 Sino-Japanese War. Japan only formally renounced sovereignty over Formosa/Taiwan in the 1952 Treaty of San Francisco, at which point it had become home to the KMT diaspora. 

October 25, 1945, KMT officers of the new Taiwan Garrison Command photographed after the “Taiwan Province Acceptance Ceremony of the Chinese Theater” was held in the Taipei Public Hall. Note the Kuomintang party flag on the left and the Republic of China cog is hung on the right half.

In the end, Andō, who had invaded French Indochina in September 1940 at the head of his Southern China Area Army without authorization from Tokyo and had been cashiered to Formosa for his efforts, was charged by the KMT with war crimes. He had the last laugh, however, and committed suicide by taking poison while in prison in Shanghai before he could go to trial.

As for Chen, he was caught up in the fallout of the KMT’s evacuation from mainland China to Taiwan Province and, branded a spy, Chiang Kai-shek ordered a military court to sentence the old general to a firing squad in 1950, aged 67.

Meanwhile, October 25 is remembered as Retrocession Day in Taiwan, celebrating the province’s liberation from Japan and return to China. Or something like that.

The Emperor’s Magic Carpet Ride, 75 Years Ago Today

Rare postwar photo of SB2C Helldiver #43, carrying an AN/APS-4 radar pod under the wing, over kite-shaped Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands on 23 October 1945. The dive bomber is flown by Lt. Frederick C. Lambert USMCR.

(U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Museum/Naval Aviation Museum, Photo No. 1996.253.538)

In the background are the disarmed Japanese Katori-class light cruiser Kashima and her “escort,” the Cannon-class destroyer escort USS Thornhill (DE-195).

Kashima, the former Japanese Fourth Fleet flagship, spent the last part of WWII in Korean backwaters and escaped the Armageddon fate that was inflicted on the rest of the Imperial Combined Fleet. After the surrender, she had her munitions landed, her gun barrels torched off, breechblocks welded shut, and was tasked with repatriation duty, returning Japanese POWs and civilians home from overseas.

The old training cruiser was at Jaluit 22-23 October 1945 to retrieve 911 EPOWs and one-time Japanese immigrants for repatriation.

Officially stricken from the Japanese Naval List on 5 October, between 10 October 1945 and 12 November 1946, Kashima made a dozen voyages to New Guinea, the Solomons, the Marshall Islands, Singapore, French Indochina, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, and Hong Kong, transporting over 5,800 former Imperial Japanese military personnel and internees back Home.

She was then sold for scrap and broken up by mid-1947 at Nagasaki by Kawanami Heavy Industries, her steel being used to help rebuild that city.

As for Thornhill, she was decommissioned at about the same time that Kashima disappeared for good and was later transferred to NATO ally Italy, where she served as the frigate Aldebaran (F-590) through the 1970s.

Jaluit Atoll, which between 1914 and 1945 was used by the Imperial Japanese Navy as a seaplane base after spending 30 years as a coaling station for the Kaiser, currently has a population of around 1,200 locals today, and the former IJN power station, barracks, antiaircraft guns, and a Shinto shrine remain to the delight of tourists.

215 and a coat of paint

The fifth Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer completed (more than 68 are with the fleet today, can you believe that?), USS Stout (DDG-55) rolled out of Pascagoula for the first time in 1994.

Now in her 26th year, the “Bold Knight” has been on a COVID-extended quest of sorts overseas, completing a nearly seven-month deployment in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations as part of the Nimitz and Dwight D. Eisenhower (Ike) Carrier Strike Groups with detours to serve in TF50 and TF51/5.

Without hitting a port call, relying on VERTREPS and RAS to keep up her never-ending voyage. Stout conducted two port visits in Rota, Spain, bookending a record-breaking 215 days at sea.

Stout even chalked up the first-ever “Mid-Deployment Voyage Repair period at sea,” which is something that could prove a lesson if the fleet is pressed on unending West Pac cruises in a future crisis.

She just returned to Naval Station Norfolk on 11 October, marking the end of a nine-month deployment across U.S. 2nd, 5th, and 6th Fleet areas of operation. She had left home in mid-January and has covered 60,000 miles since then. For reference, the distance around the Earth at the Equator, its greatest circumference, is 24,901 miles.

And, for sure, she looked rough when she pulled into her homeport.

This photo has been shared worldwide, showing honest rust and bust, but she could doubtless still fight if she had to

Which of course drew quick attention from Big Navy.

As noted by RADM Brad Cooper on this image posted yesterday:

Last week, USS STOUT (DDG 55) returned home after the longest consecutive period at sea in the history of the modern Navy. During this pandemic, we ask a lot of our Sailors and our families.

It’s not business as usual for any of us, but the amazing young Americans on STOUT stepped up and exceeded our every expectation. STOUT Sailors are Tough, Resilient, Self-Sufficient and Ready.

Picture taken this evening. Ship looks amazing. I couldn’t be prouder of every Sailor on this ship.

Sure, the rust is covered up, but the bluejackets who were away from home for nine months without a real reason other than “the Coof” surely deserved better.

Fallschirmjäger Ost und West

As part of the so-called Black Reichswehr, the off-the-books shadow military effort during the Weimar Republic, the Germans frequently sat in on Soviet military operations in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Great War fighter ace Hermann Goring observed Russian paratrooper demonstrations several times in that period– the first in the world.

Headed back to Germany, he formed a platoon-sized group of budding paratroops from among Prussian police in the Berlin-based Polizeiabteilung Wecke and by October 1936 was arranging his own demonstration jumps to encourage enough volunteers to form an airborne Fallschirmschützen (Parachute rifle) company and later a Fallschirmjaeger battalion, which went on to be 1. Fallschirmjäger Regiment (I/FJR 1). Within two years, he had two official battalions of Fallschirmtruppen in his Luftwaffe.

While the Russkis were the first to make combat jumps– dropping small teams into Finland as early as November 1939 during the Winter War, the Germans soon caught up and 1/FJR 1 jumped into Dombas, Norway to cut a road the following April while 3/FJR 1 would simultaneously capture the key Royal Norwegian Air Force field at Stavanger and 4/FJR 1 went on at the same time to key targets in Denmark.

Bundesarchiv Bild 141-0864, Kreta, Landung von Fallschirmjägern

Then of course came Belgium. Holland, Greece, Crete, etc at al. ending the war with a full-fledged albeit not fully capable “paratrooper army.” (1. Fallschirm-Armee).

Once the Western Allies reformed the West German military in 1955 and the Warsaw Pact did the same for the East Germans, the respective Bundeswehr and Nationale Volksarmee christened new airborne units– on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain.

For the NVA, this meant 40. Fallschirmjägerbataillon (later Luftsturmregiment) Willi Sänger, formed in 1962, as opposed to Luftlandejägerbataillon 9 (later Fallschirmjägerbataillon 261) which predated it going back to 1956.

This great Cold War period video compares the two units: 

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