Tag Archives: OSS

Whispers of a Portland Colt

You often hear, when talking about old firearms, “if only they could talk.” Well, they can’t, but sometimes their hidden history tells a story.

Speaking of which, I recently came across a nice early Colt 1903 Pocket Hammerless and did some digging on its background. Turned out, it was made in 1911 and was one of 25 pistols of the same type shipped to Honeyman Hardware in Portland some 111 years ago.

Who is Honeyman and why is that interesting? Find out in my column at Guns.com.

Taps for Jumping Jack

On 10 August 1944, Lt. John “Jumping Jack” Singlaub parachuted behind German lines with Jedburgh teams to work with the French Resistance Maquis groups that had swelled the resistance ranks after the D-Day invasion. His loadout of a folding M1A1, Denison smock, and S&W Victory is often shown.

Not shown are his cyanide pills.

Major General Singlaub died over the weekend, aged 100, just a decade after he was named a recipient of the Bull Simons Award, SOCOM’s highest honor. 

His induction as a Distinguished Member of the Special Force Regiment contains the “acknowledged” parts of his jacket:

Major General John Singlaub was born July 10, 1921, in Independence, California. He attended the University of California at Los Angeles, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. During his studies, he completed Reserve Officer Training Corps and was commissioned as an Infantry officer in the U.S. Army in 1943.

He served in World War II with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) as a member of Jedburgh team JAMES inserted into southern France as part of the landings in Southern France (Dragoon) and the subsequent push across France into Germany. He then went to China to join OSS Detachment 404 to train and lead Chinese guerrillas against the Japanese. Just before the Japanese surrender, he led a parachute rescue mission behind enemy lines to Hainan Island which resulted in the surrender of an enemy Prisoner of War camp and the subsequent release of 400 Allied prisoners.

MG Singlaub’s assignments include commanding officer, 1st Battle Group, 16th Infantry, 8th Infantry Division, Europe; chief, Training Division and later deputy assistant chief of staff, G-3, Headquarters, 7th Army, Europe; assistant chief, Force Development Plans Division, Plans and Operations Directorate, Washington, D.C.; chief of the Special Operations Group, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam; assistant division commander, 8th Infantry Division, Europe; chief of staff, Project MASSTER, Fort Hood, Texas; deputy chief of staff for personnel, U.S. Army, Washington, D.C.; deputy assistant secretary of defense, Washington D.C.; commanding general, U.S. Army Readiness Region IX, Denver, Colo.; chief of staff, 8th U.S. Army, United Nations Command, U.S. Forces, Korea; commanding general, U.S. Army Forces Command, Fort McPherson, Ga.

MG Singlaub’s military education includes the Infantry officer basic and advanced courses, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the Air War College.

MG Singlaub’s decorations and awards include two Distinguished Service Medals, the Silver Star, two Legion of Merits, two Bronze Stars, the Soldier’s Medal, two Purple Hearts, two Bronze Star Medals, the Air Medal, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge and the Army Aviation Badge.

MG Singlaub retired after 35 years of active uniformed service on June 1, 1978, but, remained very active in more clandestine affairs throughout the 1980s, just ask the Contras. 

Here is a great two-hour interview with MG Singlaub from 2013.

From his obituary: 

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to “W. Bradley Bauhof, Esq.” for the MG Singlaub Museum Fund, W. Bradley Bauhof law offices, 2333 Baltimore Blvd, Finksburg, MD 21048

A Celebration of Life service will be held 1:00PM Saturday, February 5, 2022 at Generations Church, 408 Church St, Franklin, TN 37064. A reception will follow from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Historic County Courthouse on the public square, 305 Main St, Franklin, TN 37064.

To view the service via live stream, you may use the following link: https://generationschurch.co/media/join-us-sunday-service-live/

To send flowers to Jack’s family, please visit our floral store.

The Best Concealed Carry Piece of 1903 Still Looks Good Today

Compact, slim, accurate, and simple. All mantras for the most modern concealed carry pieces today. They all apply to a design introduced 118 years ago as well – the Colt M1903.

While well-engineered semi-auto pistols abound today, the same statement simply wasn’t true in the early 20th Century. Most early autoloaders were downright funky (see the Bergmann 1896), had bad ergonomics (Borchardt C93), were overly complex (C96 Broomhandle, which are notoriously hard to disassemble), and proved to be evolutionary dead-ends (the Luger – not a lot of toggle actions in production these days). 

Enter the gun guru of Ogden, Utah, Mr. John Browning, who largely hit it out of the park with his freshman semi-auto handgun, the FN M1900 of 1896, the first pistol with a slide – let that sink in. A simple blowback single-stack chambered in .32ACP – which he also invented – he followed that up in 1897 with his short-recoil operated Colt Model 1900, a larger gun whose action was recycled into the Colt M1902, which we have talked about before, then scaled down to make the Colt M1903. 

And with a “carry melt,” easy maintenance, and outstanding ergonomics, the new gun is surprisingly modern when compared to today’s offerings.

Boom, sweetheart. 

More on the Pocket Hammerless in my column at Guns.com.

You never know what is in those Danish cookie tins

When I was a little kid, my Nana, who hailed from Central Europe and never really gave up the accent among other things, used to have a love of Danish cookies. The kind that come in the little tin. Well, whenever I visited I would love to run across one of these said tins and pluck out a tasty morsel.

– Only to find they were, more often than not, filled with knickknacks, sewing supplies, or other odds and ends of grandmadom.

Well, in Denmark, it seems that you never really knew what was in gran’s attic, closet, or basement. Maybe gran’s family was in the Resistance back in the day…and kept some of the goodies just in case.

The South Jutland Police posted images to social media last week of some 25 weapons and 100 grenades turned in as part of a reprieve for those with illegal or unregistered arms, many of which may have a connection to Danish history.

Occupied by Germany during World War II, Denmark was home to a well-organized network of underground resistance units, often equipped by the Allies through the OSS and SOE. Among the weapons brought down from attics and up from under floorboards last month were STEN submachine guns, an anti-tank rocket launcher, a BREN light machine gun, and various bolt-action rifles including German Mausers.

What a cookie assortment!

Check out more in my column at Guns.com.

And don’t get too exited on that next tin of cookies.

Related: Freddie Oversteegen was 14 years old when a gentleman visited her family home in the Netherlands to ask her mother if she’d allow her daughters to join the resistance.

 

 

Not your average Grease Gun

Ian with Forgotten Weapons takes a close look at an SMG used for clandestine operations by the OSS — as well as a booby trap attachment for the same.

While the M3 was a simple .45ACP burp gun popular with the late-war regular GI’s of the day and designed as a cheap and easy replacement for the much more complex Thompson, the gun in Ian’s hands was made for use in more covert operations. Specifically, for an assassination team behind the lines in German-occupied Europe.

The war ended before this specimen could be used, leaving it in collector-grade condition including its wire mesh screened over-barrel suppressor.

As for the booby trap trigger device, stick around and check that little dirty trick out separately.

CIA SKIFF Semi-Submersible

This mysterious little midget was photographed in the CIA Museum in McLean, Virginia in 2011.

cia-semi-submersible-skiff-3 cia-semi-submersible-skiff-1 cia-semi-submersible-skiff-2

From the official description:

CIA designed and manufactured this two-man semi-submersible in the 1950s. It carried no weapons, was cramped, had limited endurance, and required a “mother ship” for transport and recovery. However, the vessel could approach areas ships could not.

Then there is the rest of the story.

Codenamed the SKIFF, the craft could be towed to a location and cached at a depth of up to 30 feet below the surface if needed.

Designed in the tail-end of WWII as part of the OSS’s Project NAPKO, these craft were to be used to deposit specially trained Korean Americans and Korean prisoners of war for infiltration into Japanese-occupied Korea, and ultimately into Japan itself. Their mission was to collect intelligence and conduct sabotage in advance of Operation Olympic, the planned US invasion of the Japanese home islands in November 1945.

Half the 2-3 man teams would be landed via nylon boat from fleet submarines coming danger close while the other half would infiltrate via our trusty little submarines towed within 30-40 miles of shore. The little semi-submersibles could be cached just offshore on the seabed and used by (surviving) agents to exfiltrate back to sea.

As noted in a great 11-page article from Studies in Intelligence, the agents would go local:

“Typical of NAPKO missions, the teams were to carry minimal equipment and supplies: 100,000 yen, a radio, appropriate clothing for passing as locals, and a Japanese-manufactured shovel for burying the team’s equipment after landing.”

The boats, built by John Trumpy and Sons of Camden, New Jersey, were termed “Gizmos” and never used, though the Navy did keep them around for awhile, one even lasting long enough to be put on display at the USS Massachusetts in Fall River, incorrectly labeled as a Japanese suicide submarine for years.

In 1953, the CIA thought the concept valid enough to commission two more from Trumpy, codename SKIFFs.

“SKIFF also appears to have come close to operational use, but at least two missions for which it was deployed were canceled.”

Some 19-feet long, the craft drew 2’8″ when buoyant and could ride almost four feet low when semi-submerged, leaving just a foot or so of the low-profile hull above surface. Powered by a 25hp “Atomic Four” gasoline engine with 30-gal tank, the craft could putter along at 5-knots when buoyant or 4.1-kts semisubmerged with a combat radius of 110 nm. The craft weighed 3,650-pound sans crew. Without removing the slabs of ballast, the maximum cargo carried including crew was 608-pounds (exclusive of the weight of two submachine guns). If the ballast was scuttled this could be boosted about another 100 pounds.

The 49-page declassified manual is here. Enjoy!

The ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ at work

During World War II the Allies dropped literally tons of arms and munitions to local resistance forces across occupied Europe to give the Germans a little heartburn.

Allied aircraft delivered over 20,495 containers and 11,174 packages of vital supplies to the resistance forces in western and northwestern Europe in 1944 and 1945 alone ranging from batteries and radios to guns and explosives.

Range Days in France has a great collection of various items supplied by the SOE (Special Operations Executive) and OSS (U.S. Office of Strategic Services) to French Resistance groups during World War II that is almost pristine.

(Photos: Range Days In France)

Click to big up. (Photo: Range Days In France)

The .303 Enfield is a U.S. made Savage No 4 Mk I* dropped into the Lot Valley by parachute. The STEN Mk II fell into the Gironde region with 48 rounds of 9mm ammo in a paper carton. The 250 round tin is Winchester-made .303 British ball. The canvas bag contains a BREN light machine gun replacement barrel.

More, including a detailed description of all the explosive kit, in my column at Guns.com.