Tag Archives: Vz.58

The hodgepodge that is the Dominican Navy’s small arms

The Navy of the Dominican Republic or Armada de Republica Dominicana (A.R.D), dates back to 1844 and has had lots of ups and downs. Mainly downs.

Just after WWII, El Jefe Rafael Trujillo expanded the ARD to a respectable force that was the largest in the Caribbean and, after the U.S. and Canada, the “ABC” states, Peru and Mexico was still solidly in the Top 10 in the Western Hemisphere.

The battle line at its height included a dozen ocean-going warships:

Juan Pablo Duarte (F-102)

Juan Pablo Duarte (F-102)

*Four frigates:
-Presidente Trujillo/Mella (F101), formerly River-class frigate HMCS Carlplace, active 1946-62
-Juan Pablo Duarte (F102), formerly Asheville-class patrol frigate USS Natchez (PF-2), active 1948-59
-Presidente Troncoso/Gregorio Luperón (F103), formerly Tahoma-class patrol frigate USS Pueblo (PF-13), active 1948-79
-Presidente Peynado/Capitán General Pedro Santana (F104), ex-USS Knoxville (PF-64), active 1947-79

*Five former 1,000-ton Canadian Flower-class corvettes:
Cristobal Colon (C101), ex-HMCS Lachute (K440), active 1947-78
Juan Bautista Maggiolo (C102), ex-HMCS Riviere du Loup (K357), active 1947-72
Juan Bautista Cambiaso (C103), ex-HMCS Belleville (K332), active 1947-72
Juan Alejandro Acosta (C104), ex-HMCS Louisburg (K401), active 1947-78
Gerardo Jansen (C105), ex-HMCS Peterborough (K342), active 1947-72

*Three 165 foot gunboats (former USCG cutters)
Restauracion (P-104), former USCGC Galatea (WPC-108), active 1948-85
Independencia (P-105, later P-204), former USCGC Icarus (WPC-110), killer of U-352, active 1948-98
Rafael Atoa (P106), then Libertad (P205), former USCGC Thetis (WPC-115), killer of U-157, active 1948-98

*Don’t laugh at these plucky little tubs, the Coast Guard used 26 of these type vessels across both World Wars and, as noted above both Thetis and Icarus accounted for at least one German sub each during the war and remained functional enough to endure into the late 1990s with the Dominican Navy.

In addition to the above they fleet had about a dozen surplus USN Admirable-class minesweepers, Cherokee-class fleet tugs, Sotoyomo-class tugs, Cohoes-class net laying ships and LSMs.

The Air Force in the meantime picked up P-51s (and was the last country to use them, all the way until 1984) while the Army grew to over 30,000 men, equipped with M1 Carbines and Garands, a smattering of Spanish CETMEs and Armalite AR-10s, and of course the Hungarian-designed but locally-produced Cristobol carbine.

Trujillo also expanded the ARD to include a naval infantry unit (though they were not officially called Marines until 2008) and a frogman unit (Hombres Rana) which were trained by some Italian and French mercenaries in the 1950s and early 1960s including the mysterious Elio Capozzi who claimed to have driven Chariot human torpedoes against the British in WWII before working for Skorzeny after Italy went to shit.

Italian merc Elio Capozzi (U.S. HBT camo and AR-10) speaks with a Dominican rebel with a Cristobol Carbine, 1965,

Italian merc Elio Capozzi (U.S. HBT camo and AR-10) speaks with a Dominican rebel with a Cristobol Carbine, 1965,

As noted by Brigadier General Edwin H. Simmons, USMC, an expert on the DR’s military at the time, he described the force as such:

There was also a Foreign Legion of sorts, consisting of six light infantry battalions. Originally it was planned to recruit an anti-Communist legion amongst professionals in Europe. Instead of getting high-class freedom fighters what was recruited was low-class riff-raff of the Mediterranean. After a series of imprisonments, mutinies, and so forth, the ranks were filled up with Cuban émigrés and Dominican volunteers. Most of the Legion was kept up on the Haitian frontier.

Well, after the Navy fractured during the Dominican Civil War and U.S. busted in the door in the DR in 1965, (which left Capozzi in a grave, the Hombres Rana scattered, and the WWII-era fleet largely tied to their piers until they were sold off as scrap in the 1970s), the force entered doldrums.

Since 2000, however, the force has rebounded a bit with the donation of more “new to you” equipment including U.S. Navy ships and Coast Guard vessels, and has expanded their land forces to include a full Marine battalion, Amphibious Command (Comando Anfibio), and a reborn frogman corps (Comandos Navales/Fuerzas Especiales)– some of whom served in Iraq as part of the Spanish-speaking Plus Ultra Brigade, where they had some heavy contacts.

Here are some interesting pictures from this year’s annual military parades.

The Dominicans are using new Czech Sa. vz.58 Military models with their very distinctive UA-VZP folding stock, AG-58 pistol grip and VFR-VZ rail system.

Marines...

Marines…

Froggers...(note the extra mags for 9mm sidearms)

Froggers…(note the extra mags for 9mm sidearms)

Of course, lots of M16A1s, donated around 1999, are still around

Of course, lots of M16A1s, donated post-1999, are still around

As are some very sweet looking M60E3s. Note the M203 to the left.

As are some very sweet looking M60’s. Note the M203 to the left.

The official sidearm of the force is the Taurus PT99, a Brazilian near-clone of the Beretta 92. Note the Philippine-made ammo

The official sidearm of the force is the Taurus PT99, a Brazilian near-clone of the Beretta 92. Note the Philippine-made ammo

Speaking of old school, now THAT's Naval Infantry!

Speaking of old school, now THAT’s Naval Infantry! Note the mix of both 1960s M16A1s and newer M16A2s and M4s.

Also, the DR picked up a bunch of surplus Mauser rifles from Brazil in the 1960s, but sold them as surplus some time in the late 1980s/early 1990s after reconditioning them. Details on said reconditioning here from Ian McCollum with Forgotten Weapons:

What the heck is that Combloc guy carrying?

While the Warsaw Pact went the way of the Dodo Bird once the Soviet Union broke apart, and over the past 20 years or so most of the former member states have joined NATO, switching religions on combat doctrine, they rocked some pretty interesting gear during the bad old days of the Cold War.

With the help of Partisan 1943, a blog dedicated to the military history of former Eastern Bloc countries, a took a look at some of these systems.

Polish marine with a Radom FB PM-63 RAK submachine gun. Go looking for one of these on the surplus market.

Polish marine with a Radom FB PM-63 RAK submachine gun. Go looking for one of these on the surplus market.

Yugoslav People`s Army soldiers crossing a river M56 Submachine guns. These Yugo-made room brooms were chambered in 7.62×25mm Tokarev and cheaply cloned from the classic German MP40

Yugoslav People`s Army soldiers crossing a river M56 Submachine guns. These Yugo-made room brooms were chambered in 7.62×25mm Tokarev and cheaply cloned from the classic German MP40

Czechoslovak People’s Army troops aim a locally sourced Skoda Tarasnice-21 recoiless rifle. An 82mm design similar to the Swedish Carl G 84, it was only used by the Czechs, East Germany and Albanians.

Czechoslovak People’s Army troops aim a locally sourced Skoda Tarasnice-21 recoiless rifle. An 82mm design similar to the Swedish Carl G 84, it was only used by the Czechs, East Germany and Albanians.

Albanian People`s Army troops man an obsolete M1939 85 mm AAA gun while they carry that country’s unique SKS design with their distinctive extra-long gas tube covers. Albania withdrew from the Warsaw Pact in 1968 and after her already dated armament was frozen in time after that. Dig the Chinese style stripper-clip belts (you can see it really good on the signal guy).

Albanian People`s Army troops man an obsolete M1939 85 mm AAA gun while they carry that country’s unique SKS design with their distinctive extra-long gas tube covers. Albania withdrew from the Warsaw Pact in 1968 and after her already dated armament was frozen in time after that. Dig the Chinese style stripper-clip belts (you can see it really good on the signal guy).

More in my column at Guns.com

The legendary Vz.58 rifle, CZ’s answer to the AK-47

In the 1950s, the Czech military, going their own way as usual, took a look at the Soviet AK-47 and decided, while the AK was nice, they could do better. The result was the Vz-58, which, produced by CZ, became one of the best modern rifles of the 20th Century.

After World War Two, the military of Czechoslovakia was, for better or worse, integrated into the Soviet-backed Warsaw Pact organization largely by fault of 1945 battle-lines and a deal made among the Western Allies in Yalta before the final defeat of Hitler. The Czechs had a robust military industrial complex prior to the war, making their own Mauser rifles, ZB light machine guns, and CZ-series pistols by the thousand.

Well membership in the Soviet super-friends club brought certain standards that all junior members were expected to follow. This included
using Soviet-designed weapons systems to ease commonality in the (eventual) war to ‘liberate’ the rest of Europe.

The Czechs looked at the two 1950s Russian designs, the SKS-45 and the AK-47/AKM and decided that, while they were nice, they just were not for them. This led first to the Brothers Kratochvl-designed Vz.52/57 rifle (which is very similar to the SKS), and then to something a little more…zippy.

Czechoslovakian Vz. 58
Read the rest in my column at CZTalk.com