ARMS & ARMOR

Here are some illustrations and detailed descriptions (and even some pretty blunt reviews) of arms and armor. Brace yourselves, and understand: this really is NOT just going to be your ordinary collection of “hardware…..”

This is a vector rendering of the M24 Chaffee Tank, used from the time of the Battle of the Bulge, late in World War Two, and on into the Korean War. Fast and light, it could zoom ahead of other, heavier vehicles, and could negotiate bridges which would simply have collapsed under a larger tank. This alone was the reason that so many of these light tanks ended up being used, early-on, in the American involvement in the Korean War, because there were lots of these little tanks already stationed in Northern Japan, in the wake of World War Two, since the rural bridges in the countryside of that region could never have supported anything heavier than a light armored vehicle. That, of course, meant that, when the North Koreans invaded South Korea, many of the handiest nearby American tanks that could be sent, right away, to oppose the Communist onslaught, were these “hostile, agile, and mobile” Chaffee Tanks. You can tell something about just how small these tanks were by noting how big the M2 Browning Machine gun looks, mounted atop the turret. Looking at other American tanks, you’d notice that the .50 would look much smaller, compared to the rest of the turret. This rearward mounting shown on the rendering was moved around to the front of the turret, in front of the Tank Commander’s hatch, for Korean War usage, and another radio mast was added.

If you’ve ever seen the opening scene of the movie, “The Bridge at Remagen,” starring George Segal, you’d have seen a column of these tanks, roaring-along a riverside road, at highway speed, all the while firing across the Rhine, at the German defenders. As far as I’m concerned, that scene ushered-in the public’s awareness of the era of high-speed, armored vehicle warfare, for never before had any movie-goer ever seen, on screen, a lightning-fast tank attack, as opposed to the customary, lumbering armored assaults, to which they’d become so accustomed, in the past.

Remember the little German halftrack that Matt Damon destroyed with a rocket launcher in a French meadow, in the first scene of David Spielberg’s movie, “Saving Private Ryan,” in which Damon’s character was revealed? Well, this rendering is of an earlier version of that same kind of armored vehicle, the Sd. Kfz. 250, painted and equipped as it would have been for duty in the North African desert. This version mounted two MG34 Machineguns, and was powered by a Maybach engine, under its armored skin. Field Marshal Rommel used a very similar one of these light “Afrika Korps” halftracks, as his command vehicle. To give you some idea of just how compact this halftrack is, the top edge of the hull is only 5′-4″ above the ground.

This is an 1858 “Napolean” 12-Pounder Field Piece from the Civil War. The fuzzy swab you can see between the spokes, under the barrel, was soaked in water, and then rammed down the muzzle into the breach, to extinguish any lingering embers from the last shot, before the gun was reloaded, to prevent touching off a new reload prematurely. Not everybody likes surprises.

This is an 11.75″ x 36″ poster of a 1928 Thompson, also known as a “Chicago Piano,” due to the mechanical clinking sound made by its bolt, heard along with the roar of its firing, even in the distance, during Prohibition Era gang wars.

OK, you’ll remember that I told you to “brace yourselves,” right? Well, the poster above, with everything but the little flags rendered-to-actual-size, depicts the “tools of the trade” of the group of very, VERY brave men that Winston Churchill called the “X Troop,” composed of Commando-trained personnel, all fluent in German, and all soldiers of the British Army. Oh, and all of whom were also Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Germany. I don’t think you could accuse any of these men of having any “fear of commitment,” right?

After vetting, each of them underwent a temporary name change, to a much more “British-sounding” name, so that a fellow born “Jakob Weiss,” for instance, might now “suddenly” become “Jack White.” In the meantime, simply to help conceal their real identities, along with their actual roles, these men would initially wear only the badges of non-Commando units, shown at the lower, left-hand base of the poster, to further avoid detection by members of German Intelligence, since you could never really tell who might be watching, or listening-in. Their trainer was an Oxford linguist, also a Commando, and also fluent in German, so who could say when one of these chaps might have been overheard, at some point, speaking, or even simply muttering some momentary complaint, in their native German? At this level of special operations, one could NEVER be “too careful.”

Once Commando-qualified, having undergone some of the most brutal, grueling training ever devised, individual X Troop Commandos were salted into British Army Commando and into Royal Marines Commando units, where their fluent German language skills could come in handy. Just think about it: how would you like to have to try to interrogate some deceptive, newly-captured SS officer, or to have to try to accurately translate some complex German engineering document, or one of their complicated battle plans, all while trying to struggle-through, using two years’ worth of high school German? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Once assigned to the Commando unit with which they’d actually be going to war, each of them was now wearing the beret badge of the unit to which they were assigned. There are examples of the insignia of one British Army Commando unit and a Royal Marines Commando beret badge shown in the lower, right-hand corner of this poster.

The red flag with crossed swords and the crowned lion is the banner of the British Army. The Union Jack to the far right, with the emblems in its center are “The Colours” of the Royal Marines.

The really grim hardware in this poster includes the simple, crude-looking British Sten Gun, a 9mm  submachinegun designed to save time and expense in its manufacture, as it was made up mostly of stamped metal parts, to help cut-down on machining. The Sten’s 32-round stick magazine loaded horizontally into the left-hand side of the receiver, not vertically, from underneath, like so many other submachineguns you see. One positive result of this arrangement was that a Commando lying prone could maintain a lower profile, “keeping his head down,” while firing, since the magazine was not hanging down, causing the gun to be propped-up from the ground. Sten Guns could go off accidentally, if dropped, because of their design, and they’ve been known to ”have a mind of their own,” in continuing to fire, until emptying the entire magazine, even after you’d let-up on the trigger!  All the more reason to always maintain “muzzle discipline,” and to ensure that you always keep the weapon pointed in a safe direction, good advice when handling any firearm, much less the Sten Gun. 

Shown on a diagonal, directly below the Sten Gun, is one of a relative handful (probably only about 116 examples ever manufactured) of the special purpose, custom-made DeLisle Carbine, a very well sound-suppressed .45 ACP Caliber weapon, used to silently eliminate enemy sentries, or their guard dogs. The rear half of the DeLisle was derived from the Lee Enfield bolt action rifle, and the magazine was from an American .45 Automatic, making for easy reloading. The big, chunky-looking, suppressor jacket ran the entire length of the barrel, silencing the muzzle blast, and the subsonic .45 ACP round made no sonic “crack” as it passed through the air, but even at subsonic velocities, depending upon the load, of between, say, 850 to 920 feet per second, its fat, heavy, 230-grain slug would still really clobber its target, downrange.

Since this DeLisle Carbine was a bolt action, the user decided when and if to cycle the bolt, to eject a spent cartridge, or to chamber a new round, so there was no problem with unwanted mechanical sounds, defeating the purpose of your using a “silenced” firearm. A Commando using a DeLisle Carbine could choose the best moment to cycle the bolt, so that he could do so slowly, and quietly, and so that he could catch the spent cartridge as it was ejected, to avoid the clinking sound of a large .45 cartridge casing hitting the ground. Now, if you were sneaking around on a sandy beach, or in a grassy meadow, the spent brass would make a soft, quiet landing, when ejected, but what if you were standing on a cobblestone street? What would be the point of an effective sound suppressor, if you’re going to allow the telltale sound of tinkling or rolling brass, as the spent cartridge casing was ejected onto a hard surface? You know, if you were a German soldier, warned to be expecting that there might be a sudden visit from British Commandos, even the sleepiest sentry might notice the sound of tinkling brass, even if he had initially missed the subtle “thump” of the round leaving the muzzle of the DeLisle’s suppressor jacket. These things were so quiet that it is my understanding that some of them were kept in British Special Operations’ unit inventories well into the the 1960′s. As Americans say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

The “Tommy Gun” the Commandos used was a 1928 A1 Thompson, built under license by Savage Arms, and modified with the unique, British-style topside sling swivels, and mounting a 50-round drum magazine. The drum mag had to be taken apart, to be loaded, and then “wound-up,” like an alarm clock, and took a while to load with all those bullets, and made the weapon heavier, but it also allowed one to lay down a devastating hail of bullets without having to reload as soon, in the first critical moments of contact.

Unlike stick magazines, which are loaded from beneath the lower receiver, the drum magazines, with little metal flanges on the front and aft faces of the mag, slide sideways, from either the left or the right, into horizontal slots in the inner surfaces in the magazine bay of the lower receiver, just in front of the trigger guard area. Even though it’s heavy, the drum magazine slides right over, and clicks into place, to seat it.

The round bolt handle, located in the center of the top side of the upper receiver, is then hauled-back, cocking the piece, and then, well, God help anything in front of the muzzle. The bolt on the Thompson in this rendering is shown in the cocked position. Since the bolt knob is positioned between the rear sight and the front sight, there is a deep groove formed into the top of the knob, so that, when aiming, you actually had to view the front sight through the groove cut into the bolt handle’s knob, which cycles violently back-and-forth, while you fire, as blistering-hot, empty cartridge cases spew out of the ejection port, just above and to the right of the magazine’s position. The bolt knob’s movement is not distracting, because you’re looking through the U-shaped groove in it. From the side, if you’re watching the Thompson being fired, the bolt’s movement is just a blur, until the shooter pauses, between bursts.

Though the Thompson is not light, it is well-balanced, and, since your hands are holding form-fitted wooden handgrips, and your cheek, or, if firing from the hip, your elbow and ribs, are up against a smooth wooden stock, the weapon snugs right up to you, and the slotted Cutts Compensator, mounted at the muzzle, was designed to channel some of the muzzleblast upward, and backward, helping to dampen both recoil and muzzle-climb, so that the Thompson is not at all unpleasant to use, partly because the muzzle and the ejection port are not too close to your face, the way they are on some more “modern” sub-machinegun designs, which can be about as obnoxious to use as if you were holding the motor of a running, screaming “weed-eater” or chainsaw right-up against your face! Even after just a few bursts, with some of those more compact weapons, you’re left needing to wipe powder residue out of your eyes, and you’d already have the strong taste of gunpowder residue in your mouth, since the muzzle and ejection port are simply positioned way too close to your face.

You might wonder why this happens with a small sub-machinegun, and not with a handgun. That’s because a handgun tends to be held roughly 12″ to 18″ away from your face, depending upon whether you’re using a “Weaver” hold with the elbows more bent, or an “Isosceles” hold, with elbows more locked, whereas you might shoulder a small sub-machinegun’s stock, and be leaning into it, with the weapon’s receiver only about 5″ away, to peer through its rear sight, and on a compact sub-machinegun, that’s simply closer than you want to be to the muzzle blast, smoke, and flying cartridge casings. That’s probably why you see people in “B” Movies hosing-from-the-hip, since, blazing-away with blank ammo, they don’t actually need to hit anything. What I’m saying is, that even though the Thompson, with its more conventional configuration, was already, by the early 1940′s, an “old school” design, some of its ergonomics were still sound-enough to make it popular with the troops who used it.

Even after the cheaper-to-manufacture Sten Gun had become numerous, many Commandos insisted upon continuing to carry the old Thompsons, because of their firepower, and the effectiveness of their heavy, .45 ACP ammo. At close range, you get the distinct impression of absolutely pelting the target with large, heavy rocks, even when firing short, controlled bursts. I would describe the experience as sobering, and, truly, anybody who had actually used a Thompson would instantly realize, at a visceral level, that the long Tommy Gun bursts you sometimes see in movies would be completely unnecessary. Blank ammo produces dazzling muzzle flashes and noise, but live .45 hardball ammo roaring out of a Thompson’s Cutts Compensator simply obliterates everything in front of it…as I said, sobering.

The handguns shown, left-to-right, are a Browning “Hi Power” 9mm, then the sturdy, easy to use British Webley revolver, and an American 1911 A1 .45 ACP pistol, popular because of its power and reliability, and because its ammo fit both the DeLisle carbine and the Tommy Guns they carried. Though these “G.I. .45′s” were almost loose enough to rattle a bit, when shaken, that helped them not to be too finicky about some of the dirt and powder residue they’d pick up in a combat environment, and, while not as sophisticated as modern “Match” versions of a .45, the simple, crude “G.I.” trigger would allow a skilled user to shoot a coffee mug-sized group very, very quickly. For a fancy pistol, that’s not a particularly tight group, but, in an emergency, would you rather shoot a quick, “good-enough” group suddenly, or try for a tighter group, as though you actually had the time for that kind of slow, deliberate marksmanship? Now, having used the fancier, Match-grade .45′s, I’m not slamming these higher-end .45′s, simply observing that, compared to the “picky” trigger pull of the two Colt Gold Cup .45’s I’ve used (a lot), a good old “G.I.” .45 can often be snatched up, and used much more quickly, “crude” though it may be.

The handsome, more modern-looking pistol you see in the lower, left-hand quadrant of the poster, the Ingliss Armament Plant-built Browning Hi Power, was manufactured in Canada, from plans sneaked-out of the Belgian FN plant that had been building these pistols for the French and the Belgian military, but which had, by that time, fallen into German hands. The Ontario Ingliss armament plant made these high-capacity 9mm pistols exclusively for Commonwealth Special Operations troops. Its ammo also fit the Sten Gun, so that was convenient for Commandos who carried that simple sub-machinegun. Ammo commonality can really come-in handy, should there be a breakage, or if you’re just running low. Weapon malfunctions are one really good reason to have some kind of backup. Many soldiers and law enforcement personnel have come to see the wisdom of having some “Plan B” to which to shift, in the event of the failure or loss of their primary weapon. Over the years, I’ve seen everything from broken firing pins to sheared-off safeties to stocks shot to pieces to rear sights flying off, due to recoil. It can end up having been IMPORTANT to have a “Plan B.” The Browning Hi Power is very sleek and trim, considering its high-capacity magazine, though the Browning holds only two rounds less than the more modern, but needlessly bulky Beretta M9 currently used by the U.S. military.

The Browning is easy to keep on-target, even in rapid fire, and is much, MUCH more accurate than any M9 I’ve used. Instead of having to cycle-through an initial double-action trigger-pull, you simply “drop” the thumb safety, and start right-off with a nice, crisp, single-action trigger-pull, and, keep in mind, I’m saying this as someone completely comfortable with double action shooting, having habitually gone through 450 rounds of large bore handgun ammo during each session at the range, all fired double action, so that it’s not a matter of being unfamiliar with that kind of shooting, routinely using large-bore double actions like Smith Wesson Model 19’s, in 2.5″, 4″, and 6″ barrel lengths, Model 27’s and 28’s, and the 29, in both 4″ and 6.5″ barrel lengths, and the 629 in a 5″ barrel length, plus Colt Pythons in 4″ and 6″ barrel lengths, as well as the Dan Wesson revolver, in a 6″ configuration. Among automatics, I’ve had to use Smith & Wesson double actions like the Model 645, the 1006, both Models 39, and 3913, and both blued and stainless Beretta 9mm’s. So yes, as I said, I’ve had to do LOTS of different kinds of double action shooting.

That said, even a heavily experienced double action shooter could not fail to notice that, after simply flipping-down the thumb safety on a 1911 G.I. .45, or on a Browning Hi Power 9mm, the short, crisp trigger pull, makes quick, “snap-shooting” much, much easier. The U.S. military’s reluctant adoption of the 9mm M9 to replace the .45 seems to have had to do with the fact that some in Congress had noted that other NATO forces used 9mm’s, and, perhaps, with the hope that it would be simpler to use, since you could squeeze-off an initial shot double action, and that the 9mm’s lighter recoil would improve shooting scores. Well, as far as the scores, the .45 is much more accurate, and as far as the recoil, I first began using .45′s as a young boy, so just how bad could the recoil really be? I know petite women who own, and who very purposefully and effectively use their own .45′s. Yes, .45′s produce recoil, but it really is not excessive, if a kid can use one, so it should be obvious that an adequately trained soldier ought to be able to use one, too.

The U.S. military had been training people to use .45’s for decades, and both the Army and the Marine Corps, at least, wanted to continue to use the .45, but Congress had the final say. Ironically, years later, when some much more serious people with Special Operations Command established a requirement for a potent new handgun (i.e., not the M9 9mm), their choice, the H&K SOCOM pistol, was chambered in, you guessed it, the .45 ACP cartridge.

Now, to be fair, in police usage, there really are some pretty nasty 9mm rounds, like the “+P+” 115-grain semi-jacketed hollow points, which actually do approach the ferocity of a .357 Magnum, so the use of 9mm hollowpoints by police agencies could make sense, but since the Geneva Convention forbids the use of hollowpoints by the world’s various military units, mandating instead the use of full metal jacket ammo (FMJ) in warfare, the problem is that the 9mm round, in that FMJ configuration, because it doesn’t expand, like a police hollowpoint round would, is much less potent than what you’d want for defending yourself. The Indiana State Police really found out about this the hard way, after they’d issued perfectly good Smith & Wesson Model 39 9mm pistols, but then subsequently made the mistake of issuing full metal jacket (FMJ) rounds to go in them, to their troopers, when a suspect waging a gun battle with them was able to remain up and fighting, despite having been hit 18 times with 9mm FMJ rounds(!) ‘Nuff said. The thing is, even in an FMJ configuration, at 230 grains, a typical .45 ACP round is TWICE as heavy as a 115 grain 9mm, and you wouldn’t still be “up and fighting,” after being slammed into with even a few of these .45 ACP “boulder-loads.”

Now, I’ve heard claims that soldiers’ shooting scores improved with the issue of the M9, but since the .45 will group more tightly than the M9, I suspect that any lower scores turned in using .45′s had more to do with flinching shooters, blanching even at the moderate recoil, due to a lack of what’s called “practice.” Let’s just face it: there can be a bureaucratic tendency to want to show that you got a bunch of people to turn-in a passing, “C-” grade, using an inferior pistol, instead of requiring that trainees develop sufficient skill with a pistol that’s superior, but which requires practice.

The problem with practice is that it’s expensive, and it takes time, so that, if what you’re after is to improve your “graduation” rate, as opposed to seeing to it that your personnel actually learn to shoot, it’s just a lot easier to compromise, by letting people slouch-through with the supposedly “simpler to use,” but less effective weapon.

I guess I can see the bureaucratic merits to this; it’s only a matter of life and death, after all. Note that members of LAPD SWAT and the FBI’s elite HRT, people who could probably have been issued anything they liked, all carry .45 Autos, to this day, so what does that tell you? You see, since both LAPD SWAT and the FBI’s HRT are intent upon equipping personnel who know that they’ll be going in harm’s way with the best weapon for facing that grim prospect, then that was the sole criterion. But if your sole criterion is improving your graduation rate, well, you get what you get, but how fair is that to the troops you’ve been entrusted with training?

There has always been tension between the objectives of people who simply want to improve graduation rates, and serious people with hard-won, practical experience, who’d be more likely to want to insist upon solutions that actually work in the real world. As the late Colonel David Hackworth, who was, for years and years, until his passing, the most decorated living American combat soldier, used to wryly observe, “It isn’t that we’ve lowered our standards, it’s just that you no longer have to meet them!” Oh, well, “Hack” was the kind of guy who ruffled more than a few official feathers, by insisting upon bringing-up practical, tactical, real world considerations, and, predictably, one of those guys who habitually carried a .45!

Ironic as it may seem, the United States Marine Corps has recently placed an order for 12,000 units of an updated version of a 1911 .45, the Colt M45 CQB pistol, with much improved sights, a well-integrated accessory rail, and recurved area just aft of the trigger guard, to accommodate the knuckle of the second finger, and earth tone color applied to the surfaces, so, given the realities imposed by the ongoing combat in which so many Marines have been involved, in the last several years, a practical pistol is once again being re-adopted, albeit in a nicely modernized configuration.

Beyond the weapons, per se, were the considerations involving their modes of carry. A standard issue GI leather holster for a .45, properly broken-in, allows a MUCH faster draw than the nylon issue holster in which the M9 is carried, since, even with the flap closed, the .45 can be drawn in one circular “wipe” of the front edge of the flap with the outer edge of the hand, in a single, continuous motion, whereas the M9′s holster requires two distinct actions, going in two different directions, starting with having to tug-downward on a plastic D-ring…..slow, slow, slow. On the .45 holster, the flap can be bent so far open that it can be tucked-in behind the holster, out of the way, but the leather holster’s fit is snug enough to safely retain the pistol, within reason. On the M9′s holster, the flap cannot be tucked-away, only removed, and the fit of the holster is so loose that it will NOT retain the M9 properly, without a strap or the replacement of the flap. (Sigh!) So much for “progress.”

If anyone would like to argue about this, I would be glad to run, climb a rope ladder, or jump-and-down, wearing a .45 in a GI holster with the flap open, and tucked-behind the backside of the holster, and then see how long an M9 would stay in its nylon holster, without the flap fastened, doing the same thing, though I recommend against even trying this.

At least, in more recent times, troops have been able to use the tough carbon fiber composite holsters that hold the pistol properly, and release it into the user’s hand with just the touch of the index finger to a release on the side of the rig, allowing a much quicker, more natural draw. This is just one of the many innovations that have come about, as real world experience shows what does and doesn’t work.

Believe it or not, I don’t even dislike the Beretta 9mm. You ought to be able to tell that my comments are based upon having used these Beretta 9mm’s, extensively. I’ve OWNED both the blued and stainless versions of them, alright? I would carry one, if I had to; it’s just that I wouldn’t do so, if a GI .45 were available, instead. Some of you may remember the idiotic scene in one of the Mel Gibson “Lethal Weapon” movies, in which Sgt. Riggs shoots a “smiley face” into a combat target with the civilian version of the M9, the 92F.

There is no WAY that this pistol could create that “artwork.” You might even be able to do it with a little Smith & Wesson 3913, so double action 9mm’s aren’t hopeless, but the pistol with which Mel was pretending to shoot that group? You can just go-ahead and forget all about that, no matter who was doing the shooting. Complete Bravo-Sierra.

NOTE: I’m NOT saying that the Beretta 92F cannot be used effectively, since at least ONE complete national hero, Jeanne Assam, a woman who was volunteering herself, simply to protect fellow worshippers at a large church in Colorado, managed to use HER own, legally carried Beretta 92F to single-handedly face-down a deranged, active shooter who was loaded-for-bear, with a 6.8mm SPC version of an AR15 (more powerful than the usual, 5.56mm NATO version), two semi auto handguns, and a thousand rounds of ammo, and who was making himself busy, shooting innocent people, having already killed four people in two days, and having wounded several others.

Jeanne Assam summoned the Grace of God, and the training she’d received as a veteran street cop, and then this very brave, very caring person emerged from where she’d wisely been taking cover, observing from the corner of a side hallway, and mounted her amazing, one-woman, frontal assault, as she steadily and bravely closed the distance, starting from 63 feet away, while continuously demanding that the killer surrender, and since he refused, and just went-on firing, Jeanne had no rational choice, but to continue to fire as she advanced, all the way to the final, “handcuff-the-downed-perp” range, all the while, having had to advance into a hail of 6.8mm SPC rounds, to bring what would otherwise CERTAINLY have been an even greater slaughter, given the killer’s deranged agenda, to an abrupt end.

There is at least one Bible verse that explains the way in which something like this should be viewed, and it is this: “Greater love has no man than this, that he (she) lay-down his (her) life for a friend.” And that’s what Jeanne did, all by herself, just to do what she had always meant to do: “To protect and serve…”

It really is no wonder, then, that President George W. Bush took the time out, and made a special effort to get in touch with Jeanne Assam, and to come out, shake her hand, look her straight in the eye, and to tell her, “Good job.”

You know, even heroes need some encouragement. And our backing. So we each need to
take the time to pray for people like this, that is, our troops, our police and our other first responders, for our contract personnel, overseas, for our security operatives, for those in our Intelligence Community, and for all of their counterparts among the personnel from all of those Allied Nations who have shown themselves willing to shoulder the burden, along-with our own personnel. These men and women need all the help we can give them, or “call-in,” for them.

All I’ve got to say about that December 9th, 2007 incident is this: To all of the “sheepdogs” out there, you people need to just PRAY that, should anything even remotely similar arise, that YOU will be able to “stand-to,” and to “take care of business” the way that this kind, giving, and astonishingly BRAVE veteran cop, acting to protect and serve, did that day, with her Beretta.

Jeanne, people who know you, and the people who know what you did, are NEVER going to forget you, and neither will God. ‘Nuf said.

OK, then; back to the X Troop Commando poster: The length of rope you can see winding behind the other Commando gear was called a “toggle rope,” made with a loop on one end and a wooden toggle at the other, allowing each Commando to carry a portion of a climbing rope, which could be linked-together with each other man’s, until the unit had formed one long climbing rope, so that no one Commando got stuck carrying a ridiculously big coil of rope.

The “pineapple” grenades that you see are standard British “Mills Bombs,” named for their inventor, and the plastic-looking grenades are, in fact, plastic-encased, Bakelite “Assault Grenades,” which were invented to allow Commandos to throw them while charging, without being hit with their own shrapnel, since the plastic hulls did not produce much, because these Assault Grenades were designed to work by concussion, and not by fragmentation, which would have endangered not only the enemy, but the Commandos that were charging towards them.

Once a Commando unscrewed and removed the top of one of these assault grenades, and then lobbed the grenade, a small “fishing weight,” attached to a string, came streaming out of the grenade’s hull, as soon as the Commando threw it, released by the force of its being thrown, and that was what actually armed the grenade, making it so that one of these things would now automatically explode upon any kind of impact, meaning that a German soldier attempting to catch one of these devices, in order to throw it back at the charging British Commandos, would only end-up setting it off, the very moment he touched it. This unique British assault grenade was just about fool-proof, as these kinds of things go.

The dagger just below the Sten Gun’s crude stock is a classic Fairbairn-Sykes model, and you can see that the retention band at the top of its scabbard is just a piece of elastic, so there wouldn’t even be the sound of a snap being unfastened, the way there would be on most knife scabbards. The Fairbairn-Sykes dagger blades were designed to be just thick enough to be strong, and just long enough to penetrate through a German soldier’s overcoat, tunic, and undershirt, and still be lethal, and no, I’m not kidding.

The balance, as on any well-designed fighting knife, was butt-heavy, for better weapon-retention, the grip heavily knurled or checkered, and the end of the handle fitted with a metal ball for crushing strikes to the temple. Horrible as it sounds, this knife, and its inventor, Commando trainer and third-degree Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, William E. Fairbairn, had this all down to a very grim science, where incapacitation times were measured in his official field manuals, literally, in seconds, and fractions of a second.

Fairbairn himself even carried his own dagger on the left thigh of his Commando uniform, positioned for a left-handed draw, though he was right-handed, simply because most opponents would expect that a right-handed knife attack would be more likely. As I said, these chaps had all of this down to a science.

Now, before you judge these British Commandos to have been a bunch of ghouls, just look, practically speaking, at what they were up against!

Let’s face it, if you were living in Nazi-occupied Europe, awaiting liberation, you’d be a lot more understanding about what the Allied troops were going to have to do, in order to stand up to the Nazi menace.

This real-world recognition of what it really takes to overcome a brutal, committed enemy could stand one in good stead, in today’s world, that is, if you are actually intent upon surviving, as an ongoing “lifestyle.”

Have you ever had bullets pass by your head so closely that you could feel the vibration of their passing? Have you ever had to remove a 2.5″ piece of steel from your own body? Have you ever had your ribs broken by a well-thrown side kick? Once? Twice? Three times? Have you ever had to quickly relocate your own shoulder, or two of your own thumb joints, just so that you could carry-on with the next thing you were were up-against? Have you ever been knocked unconscious? Have you ever had to stop a home invasion? Have you ever had to remove the full-circumference bullet jacket fragment from a .44 Magnum round from someone’s upper arm, without anesthesia, with nothing better to use, than a small pair of pliers? Have you had your life threatened, once, twice, or three times? Would any of these events have changed your attitudes or your perceptions? No? Really? Well, each of these events certainly made an impression on me.

Just out of curiosity, I once took a two-part test. The test sought to determine what you knew about violence, and how likely (or unlikely) you were to engage in inappropriate, or unjustifiable violence. Now, this test was intended for the general public, and not meant for evaluating martial arts instructors, or Green Berets, etc., so they weren’t looking for actual expertise, or something, but on the “what do you know?” portion, the score was 97%. Where they were determining whether you would be likely to engage in needless, or unjustifiable violence, you’ll be relieved to know that the score was a 0% likelihood. I think it’s called “socialization.” Thank God, one less “loose cannon” to worry about, right? So what’s the point? The point is that a person can have had training or familiarity with things having to do with violence, without being predisposed to needless violence, but it can certainly be helpful, should violence rear its ugly head. Not only that, but the more you know, and the more prepared you are, the less violence you may have to engage in, in order to restore peace and order. You can sometimes avoid having to strike someone, if you can block their attempt to strike you, and then slowly shake your head, warning them away from further folly. Not being able to figure out why they missed you can make them lose interest.

Here’s the thing, though: There really are three types of people out there: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. The sheep are harmless, and, unfortunately, largely defenseless. The wolves, well, they’re the wolves, so what would you expect? So, what are the “Sheepdogs?” Well, those are the ones who protect the sheep against the wolves. Sadly, some of the more skittish, ill-informed sheep have been known to mistake even the most nurturing, well-intentioned “sheepdogs” for “wolves,” which is not only a gross injustice, but also can create a handy opportunity for the actual wolves to have an unrestricted opening to attack all of the sheep, not just the ill-informed ones, which ought to be a sobering, cautionary thing to consider.

So, at this juncture, let me take this opportunity to ask you, just how intent are YOU, upon accurately differentiating between sheepdogs and wolves, or “wolves in sheep’s clothing?” Are you able to benefit from exposure to another perspective? People who have never actually faced  assault with a deadly weapon, have no such frame of reference, so they’d have to play “catch-up,” in order to adjudicate this sort of thing fairly, and realistically. Unfortunately, I haven’t always managed to coast-through life with any such experiential basis for that kind of “let’s just keep pretending that everything’s alright” naiveté, so, in some respects, you might say that I’m simply seeking to provide a sort of well-meaning public service, here, in awakening the more “fortunate” as to at least some of what needs to be considered, in a more reality-based view of how to better attempt to understand what other people have had to face, in some of the grimmer kinds of scenarios.

All too often, there are people who look askance at soldiers, police officers, or even at everyday citizens who’ve actually had to defend themselves in grave circumstances. While I’m no advocate of the excessive use of any kind of force, I can only hope that people can at least try to understand what some of the best and bravest have been called upon to do, before registering ill-informed disapproval. You would NOT want to have had to “walk a mile” in these men’s boots.

Some of the men wearing those boots carried the kind of knuckle knife shown just below the DeLisle Carbine’s trigger guard. This knuckle knife was worn blade-down, on the hand, so that the wearer could still also be holding a rifle or a Tommy Gun, and still be ready to throw a brass knuckle punch, or to lash-out at an enemy soldier, close-at-hand. The large, improbably cartoonish knife just under the suppressor jacket of the DeLisle Carbine was called a “Smatchet,” and despite its cartoon appearance, there was nothing funny about it, as it ended up being used much like a Roman Short Sword.

The circular shoulder patches have the British Commando motif, reflecting the “combined operations” aspects of their missions, so the patches had the eagle of the Royal Air Force, up top, the anchor symbolizing the Royal Navy, at bottom, and, in the center, the Thompson Submachinegun, the standard individual weapon of the British Commandos. The patches for the right and left shoulder were different, so that the Tommy Gun embroidered onto each man’s shoulder was always shown facing forward. Considering the offensive nature of these chaps, all of that sounds spot-on.

With sudden British Commando raids going on, Hitler became so infuriated that he signed the (totally illegal) “Commando Order,” which mandated the summary execution of any Commando captured, even though everyone could obviously tell that they were all clearly uniformed soldiers, fully covered under the Geneva Convention, and, thus, fully eligible for legitimate treatment as POW’s.

Sure, director Quentin Tarantino created his spoof war movie about Jewish commandos retaliating against the Nazis, but this group, the X Troop, were the reality. There was also an (ultimately unused) American OSS unit, made up of German-speaking members, some American, some defecting, anti-Nazi, ex-German soldiers, brought-together for use in sewing false German units in amongst the real Nazis, just to create confusion.

Photos of this clever OSS unit look just like a formation of genuine German soldiers, and the pivotal, German-speaking member of this phony band of “German soldiers” went on to be become the man known as “The Father of the Green Berets,” U.S. Army Colonel Aaron Banks.

This poster contains some of the gear carried by the anti-Nazi German soldier, Feldwebel Hugo Stiglitz, who joined-up with American commandos in Quentin Tarantino’s spoof war movie about retaliation against the SS. In real life, though, the larger weapon, an Erma MP40, was used by the German Army during World War Two, and was built by forced labor in the Erma Werke weapons plant, located in Erfurt, built very conveniently nearby the notorious Buchenwald concentration camp. Ironically, this same kind of sub-machinegun was later destined to end up being issued as the first standard weapon carried by Israeli Defense Force Paratroopers!

Don’t get the wrong idea about this rendering; my father was very nearly killed by the Nazis, on several occasions, as an American infantryman , carrying a Browning Automatic Rifle, or “BAR,” fighting his way through the German’s Waffen SS advances, and a bitter Belgian winter, in the Battle of the Bulge, losing one assistant gunner after another. Two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart later, he would end up lying for hours in the snow, motionless, his bones fractured and flesh slivered by the fragments of seemingly unending German mortar barrages, until he was finally found and carried to an Allied aid station, where surgeons were even more concerned about some of the frostbite casualties they were treating than some of the war wounds, the cold was so severe.

One of the reasons for the initial success of the German offensive, the progress they’d made in creating the “bulge” in the front lines from which “The Battle of the Bulge” had gotten its name, was that the horrific weather of the winter of ’44-’45 had kept all but the most intrepid Allied pilots grounded, preventing the Allies from using what would otherwise have been overwhelming Allied air superiority.

Once the prayers of General George S. Patton’s chaplain had resulted in the clearing of the winter storms, American and RAF fighter bombers played catch-up, clobbering German armored units with intensive close air support, helping Allied ground forces to demolish the remaining German units.

After experiencing desperate combat in one of the worst examples of Northern European December weather in memory, Winter Sports just never held the same sort of allure they once had for my father, when he’d worked in a New Hampshire ski factory, before the war, and small wonder.

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