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Strangers in a Strange Land, 1942 edition

Foreign military observers in Finland, 2 October 1942, during the Continuation War with the Soviets. They are photographed in front of the Lenin statue on October Revolution Square in Petrozavodsk, in Karelia.

Note the uniforms and the date. Photo via Finnish military archives

The Finns had captured the town, strategically located between Lakes Ladoga and Onega North of Leningrad during the summer offensive of 1941. Notably, the observers include German, Japanese, American and Italian officers, many of which were fighting each other outside of Finland at the time.

Photo via Finnish military archives

This diplomatic oddity comes due to the fact that, while nominally supportive of the Axis, Finland’s involvement in WWII was limited to fighting the Soviets along their border. The U.S. government resisted Stalin’s pressures to declare war on nominally German-allied Finland, and FDR only broke diplomatic relations with Helsinki in 1944.

Flotsam at the crossroads of the history

The city of Ostroh (Ostrog) in what is today Western Ukraine has flown many flags over the past 900 years. Just in the last century, it was part of the Tsarist Russian Empire, then Poland, then the Soviets in 1939, then German occupation during WWII, then the Soviets again in 1944, and finally, since 1991, an independent Ukraine.

It should, therefore, be no surprise that when a local house was torn down in the city, it disgorged some interesting contents.

Belted ammo, 7.62x54R on stripper clips, and what looks like a Mosin 91 that has been given an indigenous obrez or SBR treatment

Yes, that is a very obrezed Mosin

Some German occupation-era matches. The ammo at the bottom looks like either .30 Mauser pistol or Soviet 7.62x25mm Tok. 

Potato Masher: Everyone loves a bundle of Stielhandgranate 24s!

How about a gently used Steyr-Hahn 1912? Adopted by the KuK as the Repetierpistole M1912, Poland, Germany and others used these through the 1940s, which means this bad boy could have come from numerous sources

Another Mosin as well as what looks like an SVT barreled action

Some people get all the luck. The best thing I ever found left behind on a house demo was a coffee cup.

TBT, Springfield Armory edition

This Springfield Armory layout from 1961 shows a then-current uniform of a Captain in the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery with a new M14 rifle and jungle boots coupled with a view of World War II-era army uniform and one from the Spanish-American War.

Of interest, the WWII “Ike” jacket has an SFC sleeve patch, 4th Armoured Division shoulder sleeve patch, German Occupation medal, and good conduct medal. A “K” ration box rests on top while an M1 rifle and coverless M1 helmet and liner chill nearby.

The SpanAm War shot includes the iconic U.S. M1892 Krag along with the khaki 1889 Pattern campaign hat and 1898 Pattern blouse.

USS Oklahoma Recovery Project

This photograph was taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack, 7 Dec. 1941. The view looks about east, with the supply depot, submarine base and fuel tank farm in the right-center distance. A torpedo has just hit USS West Virginia on the far side of Ford Island (center). Other battleships moored nearby are (from left): Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee (inboard of West Virginia), Oklahoma (torpedoed and listing) alongside Maryland, and California. On the near side of Ford Island, to the left, are light cruisers Detroit and Raleigh, target and training ship Utah and seaplane tender Tangier. Raleigh and Utah have been torpedoed, and Utah is listing sharply to port. Japanese planes are visible in the right center (over Ford Island) and over the Navy Yard at right. U.S. Navy planes on the seaplane ramp are on fire. Japanese writing in the lower right states that the photograph was reproduced by authorization of the Navy Ministry. Official U.S. Navy photograph NH 50930.

The DPAA’s Battleship USS Oklahoma Underwater Disinterment and Recovery Project has recently hit the 200th identification, and the agency is now moving forward with plans to do the same for those unidentified Sailors and Marines from USS West Virginia and USS California as well.

“Over the years, America has faced many conflicts: World War II, Korean War, Vietnam and more. Unfortunately, sometimes service members do not come home, their whereabouts unknown. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) had made it their mission to use improved technology to help reunite service members and their families. Recent advances in technology have allowed scientists and researchers to explore underwater landscapes in search of the remains of missing Sailors. Video by Petty Officer 2nd Class Taylor Stinson / All Hands Magazine”

Happy birthday, All Americans!

Drawn from all 48 states at the time, (hence it’s designation as “All American”) the 82nd Infantry Division was formed in the new “National Army” on 5 August 1917, shortly after the U.S. entry into World War I and stood up at then-Camp (now Fort) Gordon, Georgia soon after.

Consisting of the 325th, 326th, 327th and 328th Infantry regiments along with the 319th, 320th and 321st Field Artillery Regiments and the 307th Trench Mortar Battery, they embarked for France the next April, going on to see hard service at St. Mihiel and the Argonne.

And of course, as the 82nd Airborne Division, they have been serving up that Airborne Kool-Aid around the world since 1942.

Going back to Guam, 75 years ago today

Offical Caption: “5 August 1944. Home Again – Col. Merlin F. Schneider (kneeling, left), Commanding Officer of the Marine unit that recaptured the Marine Barracks on Orote Peninsula, Guam, holds the plaque that was removed by the Japanese when they took possession of the barracks and the island nearly three years earlier.”

NHHC Photograph Collection, from the “All Hands” Collection, September 1944.

The three Marines, who located the plaque and presented it to the Colonel, stand behind it. They are (left to right): Privates First Class John C. Brown; Carmen J. Catania; and Corporal Joseph J. Mannino.

Others also got into the act of posing with the recovered sign.

Col. Merlin Schneider – 22 Marine Rgt., Lt. Col. Alan Shapley – 4th Marine Rgt., Brig. Gen. Lemuel Shepherd- 1st Prov Marines, Lt. Gen. Holland McTyeire “Howlin’ Mad” Smith, 

On 21 July 1944, the 3rd Marine Division launched an amphibious assault to liberate and recapture Guam during World War II as part of Devil Dog-heavy III Amphibious Corps. They faced over 18,000 Japanese defenders during the battle, which lasted until August 10th (although mopping-up operations continued for several months). Of the 7,800 American casualties, some 7,000 were Marines.

Landing craft returning to their transports, after landing Marines near Asan Beach, Guam, on 21 July 1944. National Archives 80-G-248260

Today, the Guam Barracks plaque is in the collection of the U.S. Marines Museum

Springer scratching that Tanker itch

Not a lot of room in a C-47: U.S. paratroopers typically dropped carrying M1/M1A1 Carbines or M1 Thompson/M3 Grease Gun SMGs and handguns. The M1 Garands and M1903A4s carried were done so typically disassembled in a Griswold bag

During WWII, Springfield Armory (the federal arsenal, not the later Illinois-based gunmaker of the same name) worked on an in-house compact version of the M1 Rifle for use by paratroopers (who had to either carry M1 Carbines or various subguns into battle unless they disassembled their larger M1 Garands and reassembled them on landing) and came up with the M1E5.

Using an underfolding stock and an 18-inch barrel (down from the standard 24-inch model), the gun looks unlike any Garand you have ever seen.

Overall length was just 37-inches. Weight was 8.4-pounds, or about a pound less than the regular M1 (Via Springfield Armory NHS)

Just one M1E5 was produced (SN#1) as tests at Aberdeen Proving Ground in May 1944 “indicated weapon accurate at 300 yards, but blast, flash, recoil, and the noise was excessive.”

Meanwhile, at about the same time in the Pacific, ordnance company armorers with the U.S. 6th Army locally converted about 150 otherwise standard M1s by chopping off about 6-inches off the barrel and reinstalling it.

Intending to use these for jungle fighting and for paratrooper use in Operation Olympic/Cornet (the big drops into the Japanese Home Islands) they dutifully sent a few examples back to the States where Springfield looked at them and dubbed the conversion the T26. Col. William Alexander, head of the Pacific Warfare Board, wanted 15,000 made.

The T26 Garand compared to a more regular sized-M1 variant. According to legend, elements of the 503rd Regimental Parachute Combat Team carried these rifles in the Battle of Noemfoor in July/August 1944.

However, the Armory found in their tests that “the weapon suffered from lack of reliable function, excessive recoil, and excessive muzzle blast,” and would need extensive redesign as the operating rod would have to be shortened due to make the rifle cycle reliably. In the end, the A-bombs cut the war short and the big push into Japan in late 1945/early 1946 wasn’t needed. This ended the T26 program in October 1945.

Nonetheless, often badly chopped and unreliable (see comments on a needed redesign, above) commercial “Tanker” model Garands showed up throughout the 1960s and 70s, building on the legend of the shorty M1 while at the same time burying it in crappy performance.

Note the $80 “Tanker” build under the M1

Fast forward to this week, and Springfield Armory (the Illinois-based company, not the storied federal arsenal) announced their M1A Tanker model. The rifle builds on the company’s proven .308 SOCOM 16 action with a detachable magazine and couples it with a walnut stock. It actually looks pretty nice and its huge muzzle brake will likely trim some of that blast.

The M1A Tanker

More on the newest stab at a compact M1 in my column at 

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