Tag Archives: mat-49

Why not?

“There are socialists, communists, cubists, capitalists, Vichyists, fascists, meharistists, nudists, syndicalists, existentialists, lampisists, Marxists, monarchists, Gaullists, Bonapartists, violinists, pushers..etc.

If you’ve not made your mind up yet if you’re a man, why not become a parachutist?” –French military recruiting poster, 1950.

The French were actually one of the first countries to field paratroopers, after a group of officers studied with the Soviets in the 1930s, with the 601e G.I.A, forming in 1937. Continuing their service with the British during WWII as part of the SAS, the 1st Parachute Chasseur Battalion (1er BCP n°1) was formed in 1943.

During the Indochinese War, Paris organized almost a dozen Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian airborne battalions.

M1 Carbine/MAT-49-armed French/Viet paratroopers Indochina 1953. Also note the mix of camo to include former U.S. Marine Pacific-theater “duck hunter” HBTs. (Source: ecpad.fr) http://www.ecpad.fr/

These augmented an even larger force of Colonial Marine and French Foreign Legion units that raced all over Southeast Asia as a fire brigade to try and put out Viet Minh flareups.

French paratrooper, Indochina. You can notice his MAS 36 CR39 folding carbine and muddy reserve chute. He is collecting his main chute, note the camouflage pattern canopy. 

Some were rushed to Dien Bein Phu with their combat jump being the first time they hit the silk.

(Paracas del 2º BEP en Dien Bien Phu, 1954) French Foreign legion paratroopers during Operation Camargue, Quang Tri, Indochina, July 1953. (Source: ecpad.fr) http://www.ecpad.fr/

They kept up the trend in Algeria with the 14th and 19th Algerian Parachute (Parachutistes Algériens) battalions.

French Army Recruitment poster, the Algerian war, showing a Colonial Airborne paratrooper (Parachutistes Coloniaux). The poster reads, “my fortune is my glory, my trade is combat.” Note the MAT-49 SMG.

French Tunisia, Para légionnaires of the 1er REP left, and 10th Parachute, with Czech-made Mausers, a shotgun, and an M1 Garand with its buttstock covered in sacking

With the force shrinking after 1961– where the two airborne divisions (10e D.P and 25e D.P) along with the Legion’s 1e REP were all disbanded when they took part in the revolt against De Gaulle– today the Republic still has the 11th Parachute Brigade (11e BP), the French Foreign Legion’s 2nd Parachute Regiment (2ème REP), as well as the 2nd Marine Parachute Regiment (2e RPIMa) to call on.

Although they now use German-made rifles, because, why not?

Damascus Detritus via the Trans-Siberian Railway

To commemorate their involvement in the Syrian Civil War, the Russian military has sent a special train on a victory lap of sorts filled with interesting battlefield bring-backs.

The 14-car train is heavy with improvised fighting vehicles fielded by ISIS and various forces opposed to the Russian-backed Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad as well as a curious loot of small arms.

Apparently, one Jeep Grand Cherokee was missed during Cash 4 Clunkers

Among the guns captured are FN FAL rifles and FN FALO squad automatic weapons, French MAT-49 submachine guns, UZIs, early M16s and even a few German StG 44 “Sturmgewehr” rifles that date back to WWII.

More in my column at Guns.com

That My Khe beach aesthetic, tho

Here we see an excellent photo of a Vietnamese Ranger of the ARVN clad in sandals, shades and an nón lá “rice hat” over his U.S.-supplied duck hunter/frog lizard camo uniform (which was popular at the time among irregular units around Indochina). Armed with a similarly surplus M1911 .45 in his belt as well as what looks to be a French MAS 38 SMG over his shoulder, he sports binos and a commercial transistor radio for the latest in Saigon-based AM stations.

Note the more traditionally-equipped ARVN infantry behind him, armed with M1 Garands.

Speaking of which, this beauty came from a recent blog post over at the “WWII After WWII” blog examining M1 Garand use in Vietnam.

More of that here.

The brief affair with HBT camo and the U.S. Army, or, the Duck Hunters of D-Day

In the first part of 1943, the Army began flirting with a two-piece (jacket and pants) herringbone twill (HBT) camouflage uniform. Now, one thing to note is that this differed from the Marine HBT “duck hunter” or “frog skin” camo that was introduced around the time of the invasion of Tarawa as the Devil Dog kit was based on their P41 design while the Army’s was a slightly different variant based on Big Green’s M1942 fatigue uniform.

Jacket, Herringbone Twill, Camouflage, via U.S. Military Forum http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/179880-the-abcs-of-collecting-wwii-army-issued-hbt-clothing/

Jacket, Herringbone Twill, Camouflage, via U.S. Military Forum

Trousers, HBT, Camouflage, via U.S. Military Forum http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/179880-the-abcs-of-collecting-wwii-army-issued-hbt-clothing/

Trousers, HBT, Camouflage, via U.S. Military Forum

These two-piece camouflage uniforms were fielded by units of the 2nd Armored Division, including the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment and 17th Armored Engineer Battalion for D-Day. They appear in photos between June to September 1944.

Private Joseph De Freitos of Yonkers (New York) of the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, 2nd US Armored Division, heats his rations on a stove, taken at Pont-Brocard in late July 1944. There is nothing particularly strange about the way he is wearing his e-tool; this was fairly common when the M1928 haversack was not being used.

Private Joseph De Freitos of Yonkers (New York) of the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, 2nd US Armored Division, heats his rations on a stove, taken at Pont-Brocard in late July 1944. There is nothing particularly strange about the way he is wearing his e-tool; this was fairly common when the M1928 haversack was not being used.

Records and photos indicate that at least some units of the 2nd Infantry Division and 30th Infantry Division received them also.

U.S. soldiers in HBT camouflage uniforms in a Half-track M2, Pont Brocard July 28, 1944, 41st Armored Inf. Regiment, 2d Armored Division http://www.flickr.com/photos/mlq/817019996/in/pool-529233@N22/

U.S. soldiers in HBT camouflage uniforms in a Half-track M2, Pont Brocard July 28, 1944, 41st Armored Inf. Regiment, 2d Armored Division. Cherbourg Library via Flickr.

hbt camo normady HBT Normandy camo-1 2nd armored HBT camo medic pants

Camouflaged US Soldiers of the 41st Armored Infantry Battalion working with the 82nd Reconnaissance Battalion (2nd Armored Division) study a captured German map during Operation Cobra in Normandy, France, in July 1944. Note the added foregrip to the M1 Thompson on the right and the German pistol holster on the scout to the left, the latter surely a “battlefield pickup.”

Battle of Saint-Lô July 1944,41st AIR, 2AD. LIFE Frank Scherschel Photographer

These surviving examples from the Normandy Tank Museum shows a diorama of 2nd Armored Div troops in your typical battlefield mix-match:

camo 2nd armor normandy

The first dummy has the regular GI shirt, camouflage pants, M1 Garand ammo holder belt, M36 web, M1 Garand reproduction, M28 bag, M1 helmet, gaiters very similar to the medic above. The second dummy has much the same but adds a T shovel worn in the same way as the C-rat connoisseur Pvt. De Freitos above, and gas mask cover. The third has the full HBT suit, original camouflage pants, and jacket, M36 webbing with FM-BAR belt and charger holder. He also seems to have ditched his gaiters because he is that kinda guy.

Saint-Georges-d’Elle Normandy France, July 1944, 2nd Infantry Division, note the camo on the one Soldier to the right. LIFE Archives photo by Frank Scherschel

Saint-Georges-d’Elle Normandy France, July 1944, 2nd Infantry Division, note the camo jacket on the one Soldier, the M3 Grease gun in his lap, and the censored unit patch. LIFE Archives photo by Frank Scherschel

The thing is, with so many Waffen SS guys and German Fallschirmjäger wearing camo smocks, the idea of GIs in camo proved unpopular and they were soon withdrawn from the ETO.

However, the material, especially that of discarded parachutes, was recycled by the locals.

“Homemade dress” made out of a parachute used on D-DAY. It was worn by Renée Catherine, a little girl of Sainte-Mère-Eglise

Speaking of which, there is at least some evidence that German paras found U.S. camo very useful in Normandy.

A German cavalry officer (note the spurs and breeches) during the battle for Normandy wearing a crude cover fashioned from U.S. parachute silk duck hunter camo peers through a hedgerow. Also, note his Beretta 38 SMG

Fallschirmjäger at Normandy wearing a cloth cover made from U.S. duck hunter camouflaged cloth, secured to the helmet with a chicken-wire keeper

Meanwhile, in warmer climes

Some U.S. Army units were issued some of the two-piece HBTs in the Pacific late in the war.

U.S. Army Alamo Scouts, two in HBT uniforms. William E. Nellist (middle) pictured with unidentified trainees from the 4th Class. Cape Kassoe, Hollandia, DNG. August 1944. Via Alamo Scouts website. http://www.alamoscouts.com/photo_archives/420_439.htm

U.S. Army Alamo Scouts, two in HBT uniforms. William E. Nellist (middle) pictured with unidentified trainees from the 4th Class. Cape Kassoe, Hollandia, DNG. August 1944. Dig the folding stock para model M1A1 Carbines, very useful in jungle fighting. Via Alamo Scouts website.

Official caption: “Nissan Atoll, Green Islands, South Pacific, 31 January 1944: Inside enemy territory, a recon party lands, senses keyed up for sounds of the Japanese troops known to be present. A perilous fact-finding mission is underway.” The SMLEs and Mills bombs on the men in the center of the landing craft point to Commonwealth troops, probably Australian, in Marine frogskin camo. The non-camo’d fellows at the ramp are likely USCG. A Marine is at the rear, his M1 Carbine at the ready

That theater also saw the use of a one-piece uniform jumpsuit. They were reversible with regular mustard green on the inside.

27th Infantry Division trains in Hawaii before embarking on the amphibious operation to seize Makin in the Gilbert Islands, Fall 1943. Soldier in one piece camouflage uniform is to the right.

27th Infantry Division trains in Hawaii before embarking on the amphibious operation to seize Makin in the Gilbert Islands, Fall 1943. Soldier in one piece camouflage uniform is to the right.

Issued briefly, this zippered onesie was found by the Joe in the field to suck balls and was withdrawn.

Many of the Army’s surplus HBT went on to be donated to French forces such as was seen operating in French Indochina, and the Dutch trying to pacify their East Indies archipelago.

HBT clad French Paratroops in Indochina circa 1953 ready their Mat 49 sub machine guns for a assault on Viet Minh guerrillas

HBT-clad French Paratroops in Indochina circa 1953 ready their MAT-49 submachine guns for an assault on Viet Minh guerrillas

Dutch KNIL infantry with British SMLE Enfields figting Indonesian sepretists in 1948-- dig the ex-Army HBT

Dutch KNIL infantry with British SMLE Enfields fighting Indonesian separatists in 1948– dig the ex-Army HBT

Army SF guy rebooted the pattern briefly in the early 1960s, complete with a camo beret, and issued the same to CIDG units in the hills.

us army special forces vietnam 1966 note camo beret bar gun and m3 grease gun m-3

U.S. Army Special Forces, Vietnam, Sept. 1966. Note camo beret, BAR, and M3 Grease gun. D-Day in the A-Shau

Here is a look at how effective the “Beo Gam” was in Indochina:

And of course as with anything, both surplus and recreations were popular with hunters in the 1950s and 60s as seen in this 1952 sportsman’s catalog image:

Dig the pith helmet, srsly?

Dig the pith helmet, srsly?

They are popular with reenactors who likely wear it more frequently than the Army ever did.

Interestingly enough, Turkey, Iran, and Red China switched to duck hunter-ish schemes for a time in the 1970s and early 1980s, proving the last nails in the coffin for the pattern in military service.

Turkish soldiers stand ready during the war in Cyprus, the 1970s with locally made HK G3s and Aegean camouflage pattern, based on American frogskin

Iranian soldiers photographed during the Iran-Iraq War, in the 1980s. The man in front has a locally made version of American P42 camouflage, which was made in the 1970s for the Shah and continued to serve in the war against Saddam

This rakish Chicom soldier during the Sino-Vietnamese War (1979) is wearing Type 81 duck hunter camouflage, with a Type 56 AKMS over his shoulder and a painted combat helmet handing from the muzzle

The MAT-49: The best gun France ever made?

The words “great French weapons” are not often seen in the same sentence. Haunted by the adoption of several dated and troubled designs such as the disastrous Chauchat light machine gun, the pipsqueak M1892 revolver and the ‘also-ran’ MAS-49/56 battle rifle, the French military is not renowned for their modern small arms. The MAT-49 subgun, however, is something of the exception to the rule.

After World War 2 the French military, devastated and largely disarmed by the German occupation of 1940-44, had to be remade from scratch. One of the most widely spread weapons of the previous war was the submachine gun and France needed them badly. The French national arms concern Manufacture Nationale d’Armes de Tulle, better known as MAT, started working on the design. Adopted in 1949, the designation became the MAT-49 for obvious reasons.

And it wasn’t half-bad. (the rest at my column at Guns.com)

mat 49 in profile