Category Archives: Weapons Website of the Week

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Second City Cop

second_city_copWe find it hard to believe that, for all the times we’ve quoted, cited, or just flat chortled at the Second City Cop blog, we’ve never made it Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week.

Oversight, fixed.

SCC is one of the only two websites you ever need to read to understand crime in Chicongo (and in Chicagoland generally) and why the ineffectual official response to the same has been so, well ineffectual. (The other website is HeyJackass.com).

It’s because Chicago City management (Mayor and Aldermen and all their minions) and the senior appointed leadership and sucked-up-and-moved-up white shirts in the Chicago Police Department have problems with competence and character.

Competence? Yeah. Most of them couldn’t pour piss out of a boot, if the instructions were written on the heel.

Character? If Chicago ever wants to hold a reunion of its Aldermen, do you have any idea how many prison transfers would have to take place?

Of course, there’s competence and character in the Chicago Police Department, mostly in the blue shirts and in the actual, case-working, line-dog detectives. And Second City Cop is there to write about it — and about the management’s ongoing efforts to stamp it out, wherever found.

If you’re a Chicagoan, this stuff is, unfortunately, life or death for you. For the rest of us, it’s entertainment (and such entertainment!), albeit with a dash of black humor.

Second City Cop. Spend some time there and you’ll have a different angle on police work, for sure. It’s not like those TV cop shows, is it?

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Soviet Armorer

We won’t go deep into the weeds on what you can find here. Notes of a Soviet Armorer is an occasionally-updated (last in March) detailed review of aspects of historical Soviet weapons, especially the weapons of the Great Patriotic War. He takes information from Soviet-era archival sources, and Russian-language firearms forums, and posts rare but in-depth examinations of Soviet small arms questions.

SVT sniper

We could go into greater depth, but we’ll just refer you to his post on Tokarev SVT sniper rifles, which includes serial number lists and production counts. Most “SVT snipers” in the USA or here in the West in general are fakes and forgeries, so it’s worthwhile to see what Russian sources say about these rare firearms. (The rifle and scope are relatively common. The mount? Vast majority out there are fake). He also has a post with entire photo galleries of real period photos of snipers armed with these elegant sniper rifles.

If that’s not enough for you, here’s a comprehensive examination of Soviet-era ammo pouches as used with the SVT and Mosin-Nagant rifles.

Good stuff. If you collect Russian stuff, maybe priceless.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Aquellas Armas de Guerra

w4_aquellas_armasYep, this week’s W4 is en español. The name, Aquellas Armas de Guerra, translates as “Those Weapons of War,” more or less, and it goes on in great depth on particular arms, with many photographs and illustrations.

For example, the most recent post, “Steel Rain,”  is on multiple rocket launchers. It’s timely, because Vietnam has been placing long range EXTRA rockets (made by Israeli Military Industries) on islands it controls in the Spratly archipelago, to contest Chinese territorial claims in the region. (The Philippines also has conflicting claims in the area). The EXTRA is designed to be fired from the LAR-160, Israel’s home-designed multiple rocket launcher, and features extended range and improved accuracy (10 meter CEP). A version with the terminal guidance, but without the extended range, is called ACCULAR.

A previous post covered depth charges in similar, well, depth. These weapons seem like they’d be dull cans of simple high explosives, but there are a wide number of national and historical variations on them.

There are only occasional posts, but they’re good when they do show up. They can be useful in teaching a weapons-savvy person Spanish technical vocabulary, or you can simply punt, and instead of going to the main page to start, simply begin with Google Translate‘s version, and soak up the facts delivered in these stories.

 

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Royston Colour

We often lose the feeling of immediacy when looking at old photographs. Their black-and-white silver-based film somehow leaches not only the color out of the picture, but also the life. True, if you’re a historian you thrill to a good picture of a key individual, unit, piece of equipment or (especially) moment, and a lot of those old pictures were taken with very high quality cameras onto large glass or film negatives. But how sad it is they are not in color!

Enter Royston Colour (facebook link). This guy, presumably the eponymous Royston (Leonard), colorizes period photos and brings them to life, and his principal interest seems to be military history (although he’ll certainly do a period picture for the sheer art of it).

Here’s an example of one of those perfectly composes Speed Graphic images from the US national archives…

royston - korean war jets before

…and here’s what Royston has done with it. His OD Green is a little too green, but other than that, his color makes the image of a Korean frontline airfield come to life. Moreover, on his page, he recounts the fate of each of the F-86 Sabres in the foreground (archival information about US aircraft abounds).

royston - korean war jets

Marines or soldiers on Guam, one of the last battles of the Pacific War, pass two knocked-out Japanese Type 95 Ha-Go tanks.

Japanese t-95 ha-go tanks guam 44 royston

We know this picture came from Stalingrad. We even know this tough-looking German’s name (Hauptmann Friedrich Konrad Winkler), his provenance (a prewar volunteer, he was commissioned from the ranks, not unusual in the Wehrmacht) and fate (he was taken alive by the Soviets in February 1943, but like most who fell captive in the East, died in captivity). The Germans treated Russian prisoners, but not Americans or Englishmen, just as badly as the Russians treated theirs; war in the East was war beyond civilized norms. It might as well have been no quarter asked or given; both sides’ soldiers feared captivity more than death.

royston stalingrad

He’s using a Russian PPSh submachine gun (the Germans used them in 7.62mm and converted to 9mm) and his helmet cover is Red Army camouflage material. The picture was taken during the defense of the Barrikady factory complex in the north of Stalingrad, presumably by a German field camera unit; they and their pictures must have been captured by the Soviets.

Royston has quite a few Stalingrad pictures, and they’re reminiscent in the bleakness of their terrain and what they hint about the horror of the fight there, to his many pictures of World War I.

Finally, he also dabbles in restoration. Can this image, double-exposed and with a broken glass plate, be restored?

Royston Ruined

Here’s how Royston did:

Royston Restored

That was a couple of weeks’ work. Still, somebody needs to hire this guy — the Imperial War Museum, perhaps. Meanwhile we can all enjoy his work at the site.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: WWII after WWII

wwii_after_wwiiOne of the greatest things about being a kid growing up in the 1960s, was the “Army Navy store”.  As late as 1975, 30 years after VJ Day, these stores were still full of piles and boxes of new equipment that had been made for World War II, but then disposed of afterwards because, with the war over, no one was going to need to equip an army of millions of men any time soon.

It was a boy’s paradise — everything from huge, double-sized BAR mockups to M1 Rifle grenade-launcher sights, new and in the wrappers or cosmoline, all for a minute percentage of what Uncle Sam had paid for them.

Bigger things were sold off, too: after the war, air races featuring leftover fighters were common. One race pilot, Tony LeVier, bought an F-5 (a photoreconnaissance version of the P-38) for, if we recall right, $1,500 and entered it in these competitions. He had his choice of hundreds of the planes; the vast majority, the ones that didn’t become race planes or rich men’s toys went to the smelter.

Transport planes, available for pennies on the dollar, launched almost all postwar airlines. Warships went into mothballs, but auxiliaries had short, expendable careers hauling freight and launched many a Greek shipping fortune. The reuse of all this valuable leftover World War II kit is the point of tonight’s Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week, WWII After WWII.

Militaries, of course, reused World War II gear in many ways themselves, and for a very long time. And the superpowers and colonial powers delivered their surplus tanks and artillery pieces to their allies, colonies, or new states with which they wanted to curry favor. The Israelis used (extensively improved) Sherman tanks in reserve units as late as the Yom Kippur War of October, 1973. And here’s a wartime Soviet SU-100 — just captured by these -2) Houthis in Yemen in 2014.

Yemeni Houthi captured Su100 2014

That SU-100 photo comes from onight’s remarkable Wednesday Weapons Websit eof the Week, which is called “WWII After WWII” and tries to document the long tale of consequences for World War II weapons and their makers, from Navy carrier tests of the German A-4 (V-2) missile, to the decline and fall of aircraft makers Curtiss-Wright (made from the merger of the two earliest American aircraft industrial firms) and Brewster. Curtiss-Wright made a series of bad product decisions that ultimately left it with nothing to sell. But with Brewster, the leadership was so bad (and so crooked) that the quality of decision-making barely registered among the reasons for failure. They hired con men (released from prison!) as salesmen, for one thing: never a solid basis for a going concern, that.

We’re not surprised to see trade unionism also implicated in Brewster’s demise:

The lowest point came on 23 August 1943, when the local United Auto Workers union at the plant went on strike, breaking the overall nationwide “no strikes until victory” motto. The strike was due to petty gripes between union security guards and US Coast Guard personnel patrolling the base. The saddest spectacle was a horrifying interview that the local union boss, Thomas de Lorenzo, gave to the Washington Post newspaper. He stated with no shame that he was fine with American troops dying because of the strike, as long as union privileges were preserved. The national UAW quickly distanced itself from the strike which ended shortly thereafter. (de Lorenzo’s big mouth attracted IRS attention and he was later jailed for income tax fraud.

For all that we’re willing to believe the worst of the UAW, under the labor-friendly Roosevelt Administration almost all wartime industrial plants were unionized, and apart from some difficulties with the mine workers, American union leaders and union men did their part and produced for the war. In this, as in so many things, Brewster was unique in its ruin.

Henry Kaiser actually managed to turn Brewster around, to a degree. But when he was called on to more urgent tasks, it collapsed back into incompetence and ruin, a tale told well by WWII After WWII.

It’s not all tanks, airplane factories, and German missile technology at WWII After WWII. If you’re interested in small arms, here’s some insight on the postwar careers of the British Lanchester submachine gun (which sailed on into the 1970s with the Royal Navy, and had several foreign connections), and the German StG 44 in Africa, and an interesting case study of German weapons in Viet Cong use.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Partisan Rifles

partisanriflesThis is a site that deserves a lengthy write-up, but for now we’ll just hit the high points. We do promise you that, if you are interested in obscure European 20th-Century history, or in Mittel- and Eastern European firearms, spending time at Partisan Rifles will reward you handsomely.

The author of the site, who goes by the nickname — we are not making this up! — “Hairy Greek,”  expresses clearly what his site is all about:

This site is dedicated to rifles from the Balkans region – the former Yugoslavia (Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia), Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Romania, and also Italy, Austria, Hungary, Russia, and Turkey – especially those rifles with soldier graffiti on them.  I cover anything I can get my hands on, which is mainly WWI to WWII, though there are many examples from the earlier Balkan Wars, and recent Croatian and Bosnian Wars.  While not technically in the Balkans, I have found some fascinating rifles from the Spanish Civil War, and will include those also.

Balkans-region rifles from the 1800’s and earlier have shown me that decorating rifles was a common practice, possibly stemming from Turkish or Middle Eastern decorations.  This tradition has been carried on well into the 1990’s.  A number of the region’s rifles bear initials, names, cities, dates, kill counts, and political symbols on them.  Most of these markings were made by non-government irregular forces, or militia members.  These markings create a historical journey by showing who used the rifle, where and when.  For example, the above rifle was most likely captured from the Italians by Tito Partisans in WWII.

Every old firearm has a story to tell, and on some of these the story is carved right into the wood of the stock. Fascinating site.

PS — he’s got some really flashy Montenegrin Gassers, a revolver we discussed recently.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Shipwreckology

shipwreckologyAnd now for something completely different!

Who doesn’t love a shipwreck? The ships, the crews, the wars and the weather — every wreck has a story to tell, and at Shipwreckology they make an effort to tell that story. It’s seldom updated these days (a book review posted last week was the first sign of life since February) but there’s a mountain of old posts to explore.

One post we’d recommend as a fair sample is 2014’s Cleopatra’s Needle. Saw this artifact in London, but it would have meant something had we known this story at the time.

Enjoy!

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Hungarian Police (Archive)

During the years of the Hungarian quisling regime, 1948-56 and 1956-90, the highly militarized Hungarian Police (Magyar Rendor) published a small magazine, containing photos of cops just doing their thing, marching up and down the square, demanding to see the peasants’ papers, and suppressing dissent.

hungarian police 50The magazine Hungarian Police had some teething problems, of the sort that go with writing and publishing anything in a police state. The first editor was, after a few months, taken out and walked through a show trial before being shot. But a new editor was found… in time, personnel actions came to be made without recourse to a firing squad.

The magazine’s photo archive has been posted online, with minimal (and Hungarian-language) captions.

Hungarian sources pose particular linguistic challenges. While we can read most European languages, the Baltic States, Finland… and Hungary, have jawbreaker tongues that are not as closely related to one another as the Romance, Germanic, and Slavic languages of the rest of the Old World. Even the Google Translate of Hungarian sources is rough, and, to make matters worse, the archive page is not one in which Google Translate can follow the links.

Still, we can figure parts of it out. Here are policemen recovering a cache of Mauser rifles.

hungarian police 87

And these images show a “rural identity check.” This is the dreaded moment when the regime’s facilitator demands, “Papers, please!” or just plain, “Papers!” The guys with armbands are a civilian police auxiliary — dependable Communists playing goon-for-the-day.

hungarian police volunteers paper checks 2 hungarian police volunteers paper checks hungarian police volunteersOther pictures reveal details about the activities and dress and equipment of the uniformed police (if the secret police had a house magazine, its photo archive has not surfaced. But if they had a house magazine, they’d probably have been a bust as a secret police).

From the same story on identity checks in a rural area, have a look at the policeman’s holster in the next two pictures.

hungarian police note holster hungarian police note holster 2

It’s hard to tell what sort of pistol he has in there, but it seems probable that it’s a Hungarian-made Tokarev, because the holster resembles other Tokarev holsters (including the cleaning rod storage, etc.).

What is interesting is what the armament says about the expectations of the Hungarian Police. The lack of long arms, and the classically European flap holsters, as much as the cop’s body language, suggests that these cops are not expecting trouble. The pistol is not there because they’re expecting to shoot people, or compel people at gunpoint; it’s a badge of office, no more.

That’s very interesting, because these photographs ran, and probably were taken, short months before Hungary convulsed in the Revolution of October 1956.

In any event, you’ll probably find something interesting in the Magyar Rendor archives — this week’s Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week.

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Set Europe Ablaze

set_europe_ablazeBritish historian Nigel Perrin’s blog, Set Europe Ablazetakes a somewhat opposite approach to this one: instead of generating a lot of posts, he generates few posts, but each one is of superior quality, and of great interest if you are interested in the secret war in Europe 1939-45.

While it’s mostly about the SOE special operations organization — the command, “Set Europe ablaze!” was Churchill’s command to the organization’s first leader — it also includes some information about the separate MI-8 POW escape and evasion network, and (if memory serves us well), the networks of the Secret Intelligence Service. (SIS materials have not been as thoroughly and completely declassified as SOE ones which are a treasure trove in the British National Archives. We suspect this is because of an ongoing concern with the protection of intelligence sources and methods, but we don’t know).

This was a high-stakes war, and the Germans were quite good at it, and utterly ruthless. (Not as good as the equally ruthless Russians, as we’d learn trying to run OSS/SOE tactics against the Soviet Union and Satellite nations postwar). The fate of the Interallié network (which was organized by Polish intelligence officer Roman Czerniawski (Cher-nee-AHFF-ski), is instructive.

Among them were two Polish émigrés, Wladimir de Korczak Lipski and his teenage daughter Lydia, both of whom Czerniawski had personally recruited. For nearly a year they had worked together as a team, collecting details of troop movements, noting the positions of anti-aircraft batteries, running errands, quietly doing whatever was asked of them. Lydia’s passion was for dancing but she also discovered a talent for technical drawing and often copied blueprints of factories and German military installations for Interallié’s regular courier to London; the network codenamed her Cipinka.

On 18 November 1941, Czerniawski was arrested with his mistress, and the collapse of Interallié soon followed. Within hours his deputy, the extraordinary Mathilde Carré, began giving up nearly everyone she knew, and four days later she led the German secret police to the de Lipski’s Montmartre apartment. Not yet seventeen, Lydia would spend the next eighteen months in miserable conditions in La Santé and Fresnes prisons, sometimes in solitary confinement. Smuggling in notes to her, Wladimir tried to keep up her spirits; in one he wrote, “Do not forget that you have great talents, and that one day you can have a beautiful and happy life”. They were reunited briefly at the fortress at Romainville on the outskirts of Paris, but in July 1943 Lydia was deported to Ravensbrück concentration camp. There she spent several months in the punishment block, which regularly supplied human guinea-pigs for medical experiments.

Remarkably, both Lydia and her father, who was deported to KZ Ravensbrück, survived.  In fact, most of the forty agents of Interallié survived. But about that German ruthlessness:

[Czerniawski] and more than fifty of his agents were arrested by the Abwehr. Some agreed to collaborate, but Czerniawski held his nerve and cleverly conned his interrogators into sending him to London as a double agent. There was one condition to his freedom, however: as insurance against any further treachery, Czerniawski’s agents would be held as hostages. If he cooperated, his comrades would be safe. If he decided to change sides again or renege on the deal in any way, they would suffer the consequences.

But once in England Czerniawski did turn again, and as MI5’s agent “Brutus” he became one of the heroes of its double-cross system and a crucial player in the success of the D-Day deception strategy. His MI5 case officers did a tremendous job in fooling Czerniawski’s handlers, and to the end the German High Command’s faith in Brutus’s reports remained unshakeable.

If so, how did the de Lipskis wind up in concentration camps? Write this down: you can’t trust a hostile intelligence officer.  Perrin found out that the Germans were as treacherous as they were skilled:

The Abwehr did not keep its promise.

Shocking, I know. “The Allied services never did something like that!” The hell we didn’t. The concentration camps, no. (Well, Russia as an ally had its own). The medical experiments, no. (USSR? Maybe. But we think Biopreparat used ordinary domestic convicts as its test animals, not politicals). But as far as lying to some agent? If the case officer ever tells the agent the truth, it is only because the truth best serves the officer’s purpose at that time.

Beginning in March 1943, a total of forty of Czerniawski’s agents were packed aboard trucks and deported to concentration camps in Germany; classed as “Nacht und Nebel” (Night and Fog) prisoners – political opponents of the Nazis – they could expect the most brutal treatment and were unlikely ever to see France again.

It may be indicative of the care with which Czerniawski selected his agents for Interallié that a remarkable 33 of the 40 returned to France; but luck was also a factor, when any guard was free to beat a prisoner to death for any or no reason, and capricious disease might kill one, sicken a second, and pass over a third entirely.

A great deal of this sort of research is archived within Perrin’s blog, even if his posts these days tend to be short notes of Resistance obituaries — every one fascinating — or tips to his own book reviews in Times Literary Supplement, which are unfortunately not available except to readers of the dead-tree TLS.

(Editor’s Note: due to an editorial oversight, this post was not delivered on time but was posted approximately 10 hours behind schedule. It has been backdated to fit in where it belongs. We regret the error). 

Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: Nuclear Archives

FOOM!

FOOM!

It’s obsolete, it’s defunct, and it hasn’t been touched in nine years. But it’s still worth looking at. It’s the Nuclear Weapons Archive, last updated in 2007 after a rocky ride around various sponsoring non-profits and hosting sites, and it’s full of interesting nuclear documents, like this short British run-down on what it will take to make His Majesty’s first nuke, as of 1947. (The link is to a .pdf).

Another, similarly defunct site that was a parallel and cooperative site with the Nuclear Weapons Archive was the Trinity Atomic Web Site, which appears to have assumed ambient temperature in 2005, but exists in a sort of undead (and un-updated) state.

But if you really want to understand the technical factors involved in the production of the first A-Bombs, factors that are often glossed over by highly verbal but innumerate and scientifically weak writers, you need to buy one book: Atom Bombs by John Coster-Mullen.

Coster-Mullen is not a professional historian or archivist, but you would never know that from his book. (He is actually — we are not making this up! — a truck driver). Through sheer determination and hard work, he mastered the subject and wrote the definitive work on it (with equally definitive documentation and illustrations). If you go to the Amazon link, and select all buying options, the seller coster60 is the author himself.