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Of duck hunter camo and recycled popguns “somewhere in the Pacific”

“After the Marines captured this mountain gun from the Japs at Saipan, they put it into use during the attack on Garapan, the administrative center of the island.”

National Archives Identifier: 532383 Photo by Cpl. Angus Robertson, ca. July 1944 USMC 27-GR-114-83270.

How to make friends and influence people

This beautiful .380ACP Beretta M1934 is in the collection of the Imperial War Museum and was captured somewhere in Africa in WWII.

Beretta M1934 (FIR 3708) The Beretta M1934 was the most successful of a series of pistols produced by Beretta for the Italian Army. It was designed by Beretta’s chief designer, Tullio Marengoni, in response to a military decision to replace all existing service pistols with a single new model. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

This example has grip plates decorated with the monogram of the Prince Amedeo, 3rd Duke of Aosta, who was the Viceroy of Italian East Africa (modern-day Somalia, Eritrea and, from 1938, Ethiopia). Several other examples of these monogrammed weapons are known, so it is probably that they were intended as gifts to be given by Aosta to friendly local tribal leaders, because who doesn’t want a nice Beretta?

As for the Duke? In 1941, Amedeo was captured after he surrendered the mountain fortress of Amba Alagi in Northern Ethiopia to the Allies and, interned in a POW camp in Kenya, died of tuberculosis the next year, age 43.

1945: ‘A sniper is near’

“A Sniper is Near, and the Man Pointing has Located Him, Directing the Sharpshooter to his Whereabouts,” by Marine combat artist Harry Reeks (1921-1982). Via Prints, Drawings, and Watercolors from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.

Description: A Marine sharpshooter stands in profile with a rifle in hand, as another Marine points in front of them. The background of the image is left blank.

Heard you were looking for a pre-owned M1 or M1911? CMP just got 99K of the first and 8K of the latter..

The Civilian Marksmanship Program has recently received truckloads of vintage M1 Garand rifles long ago loaned to U.S. allies overseas and is preparing to inventory M1911 pistols as well.

Gina Johnson, CMP’s general manager, told me via email Tuesday the federally-chartered non-profit corporation has been moving the repatriated 30.06-caliber rifles into their warehouses in recent days.

“We have roughly 86,000 rifles from the Philippines and roughly 13,000 rifles from Turkey in our possession,” said Johnson.

And then there are the 1911s…

More in my column at

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Dwight Shepler

Much as once a week I like to take time off to cover warships (Wednesdays), on Sundays (when I feel like working), I like to cover military art and the painters, illustrators, sculptors, photographers and the like that produced them.

Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Dwight Shepler

Dwight C. Shepler was born in Everett, Massachusetts, in 1905 and studied art at Williams College then became a member of the American Artists’ Group and the American Artists Professional League. When the war came, the 36-year-old bespectacled Shepler volunteered for the Navy and, in recognition of his skills and education, was assigned to the sea service’s Combat Art Section as an officer-artist.

As noted by the Navy, “he first traveled with a destroyer on Pacific convoy duty. From the mud of Guadalcanal, through the years of the Allied build-up in England, to the memorable D-Day on the French coast, he painted and recorded the Navy’s warfare.”

Artwork: “Gunners of the Armed Guard” Artist: Dwight C. Shepler #80 NARA

Artwork: “Liberator Fueling” Artist: Dwight C. Shepler #119 NARA

Field Day at Scapa Flow, a Northern British Base NARA DN-SC-83-05415

“Four Sisters of Londonderry” showing a four-pack of brand new U.S. Navy Benson-class destroyer destroyers including USS Madison (DD-425) USS Lansdale (DD-426) and USS Hilary P. Jones (DD-427) Artist: Dwight C. Shepler #97 – The U.S. National Archives (1983-01-01 & 1983-01-01)

Scapa Anchorage, in the collection of the National Archives, shows Shepler’s talents as a landscape artist. You almost don’t notice the Royal Navy battleships and cruiser force

The same can be said with this work, entitled St. Mawes Rendezvous, NARA DN-SC-83-05410

But then, there is war…

He observed the landings at Normandy in the ETO and Ormoc Bay and Lingayen Gulf and operations at Corregidor and Bataan in the PTO.

Opening the Attack Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by Dwight C. Shepler; 1944 D-Day D Day Arkansas French cruisers George Leygues and Montcalm. NHHC 88-199-ew

“The Battle for Fox Green Beach,” watercolor by Dwight Shepler, showing the Gleaves class destroyer USS Emmons(DD 457) foreground and her sistership, the USS Doyle, to the right, within a few hundred yards of the landing beach, mixing it up with German shore batteries on D-Day

Heavy propellers of a Rhine Ferry are swung aloft as Seabees complete the assembly of the pontoons which make up the strange craft at the invasion port somewhere in England. Drawn by Navy Combat Artist Lieutenant Dwight C. Shepler, USNR. Artwork received 12 June 1944. NHHC 80-G-45675

Task Force of Two Navies” Watercolor by Dwight Shepler, USNR, 1943, depicting U.S. and British warships in the Pentland Firth during an operation toward the Norwegian coast, coincident with the Sicily invasion, July 1943. Alabama (BB 60) is in the lead, followed by HMS Illustrious and HMS King George V. Three British carrier-based fighters (two “Seafires” and a “Martlet”) are overhead. Official USN photo # KN-20381, courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, DC, now in the collections of the National Archives.

“First Reconnaissance – Manila Harbor. Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by Dwight Shepler; 1945; Framed Dimensions 31H X 39W. Two PT’s prowled inside the breakwater entrance of Manila Harbor on February 23, 1945, first U.S. Naval vessels to enter in three years. Treading the mine-strewn waters of Manila Bay, PT’s 358 and 374 probed into the shoal harbor waters where countless enemy vessels sat on the bottom in mute testament of the severity of the fast carrier strikes of the fall of 1944. Manila smoked and exploded from the final fighting in Intramuros and the dock area.” (NHHC: 88-199-FY)

Minesweeper Before Corregidor Cleaning a pathway through the mines off Bataan peninsula, these hardy little minesweepers can work under severe Japanese coastal bombardment. Despite Army air cover overhead, the enemy shore guns sank the motor minesweeper YMS-48 and damaged the destroyers, Fletcher and Hopewell. On the following day, a naval task group landed Army troops on the peninsula and a short time thereafter resistance ceased on Corregidor and Bataan.Painting, Watercolor on Paper; by Dwight C. Shepler; 1945; Framed Dimensions 30H X 39W Accession #: 88-199-GK

Preparations For Getting Underway DN-SC-83-05402

He also did a number of historic scenes for the branch.

Watercolor painting by Dwight Shepler of the USS South Dakota in action with Japanese planes during the Battle of Santa Cruz which took place October 11-26, 1942.

This image was used in a number of adverts during the War.

The Spider and the Fly — USS Hornet CIC at Midway. During World War II, battles were won by the side that was first to spot enemy airplanes, ships, or submarines. To give the Allies an edge, British and American scientists developed radar technology to “see” for hundreds of miles, even at night.Painting, Oil on Canvas; by Dwight Shepler; 1945; Framed Dimensions 28H X 40W Accession #: 88-199-GN

Japanese dive bomber swoops down in a kamikaze attack on USS Hornet (CVA 12) and is disintegrated by the ships anti-aircraft fire before it can hit the carrier. This is a copy of a watercolor painted by Lieutenant Dwight C. Shepler, USNR, Navy Combat Artist, from memory of an actual combat experience. Photographed released August 10, 1945. U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives. 80-G-700121

On 5 September 1813, the schooner Enterprise, commanded by Lieutenant William Burrows, captured the brig HMS Boxer off Portland, Maine in a twenty-minute action that saw both commanding officers die in battle. Enterprise’s second in command, Lieutenant Edward R. McCall then took Boxer to Portland, Maine. USS Enterprise versus HMS Boxer in action off the coast of Maine. Artist, Dwight Shepler. Enterprise was commanded by Lt William Burrows. Unfortunately, NHHC Photograph Collection, NH 47013-KN

For his service as a Combat Artist, the Navy awarded Shepler the Bronze Star. He left the branch in 1946 as a full Commander, USNR, having produced more than 300 paintings and drawings.

U.S. Navy artists, (left to right), Lieutenant William F. Draper, Lieutenant Dwight C. Shepler, and Lieutenant Mitchell Jamieson, conferring with Lieutenant Commander Parsons in the Navy Office of Public Relations, Washington, D.C., November 20, 1944. NHHC 80-G-47096

After the war, he continued his career as a pioneer watercolorist of the high ski country and later served as president of the Guild of Boston Artists.

Dwight Shepler, Mount Lafayette, and Cannon Mountain, N. H., n.d., watercolor, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Ford Motor Company, 1966.36.179

He died at age 69 in Weston, Mass. His works are on wide display from the Smithsonian to the Truman Library and various points in between. His oral history is in the National Archives.

Thank you for your work, sir.

Don’t mind me, just duck hunting Stukas

Here we see a Degtyaryov PTRD-41 team practice anti-air gunnery with a single-shot 14.5×114mm antitank gun.

Don’t laugh, it actually worked a couple of times, reportedly.

According to Soviet sources, one Red Army sniper of 82nd Guards Rifle division, Mihail Lysov, shot down a Ju-87 Stuka dive bomber in October 1941, using such a rifle while another Hero sniper of 796th Rifle Division, Vasily Antonov, downed a much larger Ju88 with four rifle shots of a semi-auto Simonov PTRS-41 in July 1942.

The single shot PTRD and 5-round PTRS were popular in the days of thin-walled tanks such as the PzKpfw I which had just 13mm of armor at its thickest point (the 14.5mm round could zip through 40mm of steel at 100 meters), but as tanks got meaner the guns were basically used to snipe trucks and thin-skinned vehicles at ranges out past 1 km.

However, the Soviets used them in their whaling fleet as late as the 1970s

And they still pop up in the Donbass today…

Pro-Russian rebels stand next to newly dug trenches at a fortified front line rebel position near the eastern Ukrainian town of Slaviansk May 16, 2014. (REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis)

Warship Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018: The wandering Dutchman of the Baltic

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 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, Jan. 31, 2018: The wandering Dutchman of the Baltic

NHHC Catalog #: 19-N-11-21-10

Here we see the Holland-class Pantser-dekschepen (protected cruiser) HMNLS Gelderland of the Royal Netherlands Navy (who else?) at the Jamestown Exposition Naval Review, Jamestown, Virginia, 12 June 1907– with her laundry out to dry as a schooner passes. Designed before the 20th Century, she would go on to have the longest life of her six pack of sisters and, modernized to fight a very different war than she was intended, suffer a curious fate.

The Hollands were the Dutch answer to the Royal Navy’s Apollo-class second-class protected cruisers (3,600-ton, 19.75 kts, 6×6-inch, 6×4.7-inch) and the class leader was ordered in 1894. The first flight of three cruisers (Holland, Zeeland, Friesland) had a displacement of 3,840-tons while the second batch (of which Gelderland was the lead followed by Noord Brabant and Utrecht) went 4,100-tons as they held 12 Yarrow boilers as opposed to 8 in the original design and went just a couple feet longer. Speed was 20-knots on the latter trio while the ships were armed with a pair of 149mm/37cal singles fore and aft and a half-dozen 120mm/37cal guns in broadside as well as smaller guns, all made by Krupp. The “protected” in their designation came from a thin coating of Harvey nickel armor.

They were handsome craft and could both show the Dutch flag in the Caribbean-protecting the Netherlands Antilles, the Pacific where Holland held the sprawling Netherlands East Indies, and of course in metropolitan waters in Europe.

Class leader HMNLS Holland colorized by Postales Navales

The subject of our tale, Gelderland, was laid down at Nederlandsche Stoomboot Maatschappij, Rotterdam in 1897. Commissioned 15 July 1900, our new cruiser, on the orders of Queen Wilhelmina herself, was dispatched to carry the former Transvaal president “Oom Paul” Kruger into exile from Portuguese Mozambique, through British sea lanes, to the French port of Marseille.

She left Africa with Kruger on board in October, arriving in France on 22 November where a crowd of 60,000 awaited.

President Paul Kruger of the South African Republic (left) leaving Delagoa Bay, Mozambique on 20 October 1900 aboard HNLMS Gelderland. Photo Nat. Cult. Hist. Museum”, presumably the National Cultural History Museum in Pretoria, South Africa.

From the Med, Gelderland proceeded to her first posting, the Dutch East Indies, where she served until rotating back to Europe in 1905.

She was off again in 1907 to represent the Netherlands at the Jamestown Exposition Naval Review in Hampton Roads.

GELDERLAND (Dutch cruiser, 1898) Caption: At the Jamestown Exposition Naval Review, Jamestown, Virginia, 12 June 1907. Description: Catalog #: 19-N-11-21-9

Then came a sortie to Curacao in 1908-09 along with her sister Friesland in response to a brush war from Venezuelan strongman Cipriano Castro who was pissed that his political rivals were being sheltered by the Dutch in their Caribbean colony offshore.

Castro sent his small naval forces to meet the much more imposing Dutch fleet and Gelderland promptly captured the Venezuelan coast guard ship Alix off Puerto Cabell on 12 December 1908. The Venezuelans offered no resistance and the Gelderland towed the Alix as a prize into Willemstad, making headlines around the world. The Dutch then proceeded to effect a naval blockade of the South American country’s coastline. The crisis only ended when vice president Juan Vicente Gómez, with U.S. help, seized power and Castro fled to Germany.

Returning to Europe, Gelderland was rushed to the Bosporus in 1912 to protect Dutch interests during the Balkan Wars, and a 100-man landing force from her crew along with Korps Mariniers of the Royal Netherlands Marine Corps defended the legation area in Constantinople.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands was a well-armed neutral during World War I, though the Germans occupied neighboring Belgium and the country absorbed a million refugees (as well as 30,000 escaped Belgian soldiers and the majority of the British 1st Royal Naval Brigade). Though spies from all sides swarmed across the country and German U-boats and mines sank numerous Dutch merchantmen and fishing craft, the Dutch Navy, though mobilized, escaped conflict.

Dutch protected cruiser Hr. MS. Gelderland at Vlissingen, the Netherlands in 1916, The photo was published in the Dutch magazine De Prins dated 23 September 1916 page 148. The Dutch queen Wilhelmina is visible while walking on the pontoon bridge. Source:

Gelderland 1917

After the war, the class was considered obsolete and whittled down. To be sure, two units, Friesland and Utrecht were decommissioned in 1913 before the conflict and had been scrapped already. Another pair, Holland, and Zeeland, were decommissioned in 1920 and 1924 respectively. Noord Brabant was disarmed in 1920 and used as a barracks ship and hulk at Vlissingen while only Gelderland was retained in service– as a gunnery training ship.

Pantserdekschip Hr.Ms. Gelderland, 1930, via Nederlands Instituut voor Militaire Historie

She undertook regular training missions and was often seen in warmer waters.

Gelderland well-lit during the night, a display in celebration of the birth of Princess Beatrix in January 1938. The photo was most likely taken at Curacao. (Collection J. Stolk via

In 1939, the pivotal year that the Netherlands would try to escape a Second World War, Gelderland was armed with some additional .50 cal and 8mm machine guns in preparation for the conflict.

When the Germans swarmed into the country in May 1940, the Dutch managed to scuttle Noord Brabant at her moorings, but Gelderland was captured at Den Helder. Renamed by the Germans as Niobe after the figure in Greek mythology, the nearly half-century-old cruiser was heavily modified to serve as an anti-aircraft cruiser (flakschiff), she was given a FUMO 213 Würzburg radar, searchlights, and outfitted with a mixed battery of eight 105mm, 4 40mm, and 16 20mm guns.


The Germans sailed the old Dutchman (slowly) to the Baltic in 1941 where she served as a floating AAA battery to protect key coastal points from the Red Air Force.

Niobe notably fought off Soviet swarms at the Finnish city of Kotka where the Russians thought she was the Finnish coast defense ship and former Warship Wednesday alum Väinämöinen. At Kotka, she was attacked by waves of more than 150 Red A-20 and Pe-2 bombers on 16 July 1944, sending her to the bottom that night after 9 bomb hits.

She suffered 70 casualties from her crew of 397 men from Marine-Flak-Abteilung 282.

Kesällä 1944 pommituksissa uponnut saksalainen ilmatorjuntaristeilijä “”Niobe””.

Kesällä 1944 pommituksissa uponnut saksalainen ilmatorjuntaristeilijä “”Niobe””.

In 1953, the German firm of Taucher Beckedorf from Hamburg raised her, and she was scrapped shortly after.

Gelderland is well remembered by a dedicated website (Dutch).

Displacement standard: 3,970 tons, 4100 full
Length: 94.7 meters
Beam: 14.82 meters
Draft: 5.4 meters
Engineering: 2 x triple expansion steam engines, 12 x Yarrow boilers, 9,867 hp
Maximum speed: 20 knots on trials
Bunker capacity: 930 tons of coal max
Range: 4500 nautical miles at 10 knots
Armor: 50mm deck, 13mm gun shield, and 100mm tower armor
Crew: 325
Armament upon delivery:
2 x 149/37 Krupp
6 x 120/37 Krupp
6 x 75/37 Krupp
8 x 37mm Hotchkiss
2 x 7,5cm mortars,
2 x 450mm torpedo tubes (bow, stern)

As Flakschiffe:
8× 10.5 cm FlaK L/45 C/32
4× 40 mm Bofors L/60
16× 20 mm (4×4) Vierlinge C/38

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