Beating Buttstocks Into Firewood And Barreled Actions Into Scrap Was Duty Of The Ordnance Disposal Officer Of World War Ii

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Sgt. Geo. Band of Phoenix holds MKb 42 in old Walther plant, 1945. Shipload of Walther arms was sent to States.

T/5 Russ McCarty, Mancelona, Mich., and T/5 Stan Stochla, Detroit, check captured rifles for live rounds. Jumble includes military arms from 1888 Mausers to latest Kar 43. Majority of such guns were broken up for iron and firewood.

vertised. Or. by sending along an additional buck or two. the dealer will put forth an extra effort and ship a hand picked select model. Rifles are even offered in grab bag lots by some dealers, where the buyer planks down his dough, and takes pot luck as to what the Expressman will bring. Handguns are offered in a similar package deal. For the price of one American handgun, the dealer will ship the budding gun bug a whole bucketful of used European pistols.

Am I complaining? Shucks no! I enjoy reading that type of advertisement as much as any other gun lover, and maybe more. It's just that the apparently abundant supply of these foreign weapons now on the collector's market has set me to wondering: wondering how so many of these old guns survived, and where the devil they were hidden!

How come there are still so many of these old timers around? What happened at all the small arms collection points in Europe and Japan back in 1945? Where did the late enemy store all his weapons in the years between 1945 and now? Or, putting it another way, who salted down all the old iron with an eye for future sales?

Let's go back thirteen or more years to a certain spot in La Belle France. Yours truly, then a Lieutenant of Ordnance, gets up from sitting on an old K-Ration box. Walking over to the regulation pot belly stove, I throw another few pieces of wood on the fire. It's cold in the room, and the poorly patched bullet holes in the walls don't exactly keep the heat in very long. I sit back and stare at the little stove as it starts to glow once more. The wood burns well and in a few minutes my room feels more liveable again. What kind of wood is it? Why, walnut of course; buttstocks from demilitarized Italian Mannlicher-Carcano rifles; well seasoned wood from the Models 38, M-91, and older models, from II Duce's vaunted arsenal of several million pieces.

Pvt. John Mauk, Chicago, cleans Polish and German rifles before delivery to French. Mauser 98 is substitute standard in French Army. Most other guns were scrapped.

First look at Schmeisser MP40 telescoping firing pin brings smiles of admiration to faces of GIs in Tunis.

Other nights, I heated my room with Austrian rifle buttstocks. The Steyr-Mannlicher Model 95 throws a good heat, also. I say this without casting any aspersion on the heating capabilities of the Austrian Models 1888-90 series, the Belgian Model 1889, the Czech Model 1924, or the Hungarian Model 1935. I burned them all, as well as even a few Jap Model 38s, though how they ever got into France, I'll never know.

ft might be well to state at this time that my G.I.s also kept their billets warm in a similar manner. Well seasoned walnut being the prime demand at our Depot in the winter months of '44-45, I was chief dispenser of the fuel. Why we were using poor old veteran gun stocks for such a purpose is the reason for the short sad little tale which I am about to relate. Maybe I should call this "My Confession, or How I Murdered 50,000 Guns." Anyhow, this is the story.

While the rest of our Ordnance Battalion kept on with its normal mission, my men and I had the back-breaking but interesting job of sorting, collecting, and "demilitarizing" the thousands upon thousands of captured enemy weapons which were being sent back to our Depot from the front. Working with my crew of three G.I.s, several French and Polish civilian guards, an interpreter, and some twenty-odd German POWs, our place of business was an old French garage. Inconveniently located as far as possible from our billets, Military Government had requisitioned the place just for our needs.

Once or twice a week, upon notification from Battalion, we would all journey down to the local railhead and look for sealed and well guarded box cars. (These were probably the same beat up old "40 and 8s" that carried our fathers up to the front back in 1918.) After settling the necessary paper work with the officer or NCO in charge of the train, the contents of the car or cars would be mine. Mine, at least for a while.

We would run our six-by-six trucks right up alongside the box cars, and then the fun would begin. The trick was to get inside. More often than not, we would have quite a struggle trying to pry open those car doors. Nine times out of ten they would be jammed shut because of overloading and the inevitable shifting of the cargo within.

Loaded hurriedly by our forward Ordnance units up near the front, the contents of any one of these cars would have made an old fashioned gun runner jump with joy. I'll freely admit that I opened each one of those many "40 & 8s" with more than just a professional interest, as practically all were veritable museums on wheels. However, after a rough journey over the war battered French rail-beds, the hardware within the box cars was usually in a perfect nightmare of a tangle. Machine guns, burp guns, artillery tubes, fire control instruments, bayonets, swords, helmets, machine gun mounts, boxes of gun parts, artillery breech blocks, old tires, and the wildest assortment of shoulder weapons imaginable would be piled helter skelter in an indescribable mass of metal.

They were piled to the box car's very roof, all these various items, and the weapons especially were very difficult and rather dangerous to handle. The danger, of course, lay not only in the fact that the great mass of metal would often tumble down on top of us, but also many of the weapons within the pile would still be loaded. The act of extricating any one weapon (Continued, on page 54)

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