Battle-Damaged Weapons

Guns That Speak
39

The canteen likely does more to sustain a soldier’s life in combat but a soldier’s individual weapon is his most cherished possession. I have myself shared a sleeping bag with both an M16 rifle and an M9 handgun and found both to be proper company.

For most modern Americans, war is a distant abstract thing. The fact we can remain at war for decades without suffering as a population is one of the reasons it never seems to end. However, for the dedicated student of history, nothing brings the reality of war to life like battle-damaged firearms.

Will bought this Japanese Type 99 Paratrooper machine gun from the son of the man who killed its previous owner. The flapper muzzle cover broke off when its original owner was killed.

Japanese Type 99 Paratrooper Machine gun

On December 6, 1944, Japanese Airborne forces conducted their third and final parachute assault of the war on the Pacific island of Leyte. Some 409 Japanese paratroopers droned toward their drop zones in Ki-49 and Ki-57 transports before jumping from 700 feet. One entire stick perished when their static line anchor failed.

On this certain captured airfield, a young Army Air Corps mechanic was roused by shouts about Japanese paratroopers. He grabbed his M1 rifle and left his tent just in time to see the billowing chutes of the enemy soldiers descending toward the runway. The young man picked a nearby paratrooper and took careful aim as he descended under canopy.

The American mechanic hit the Japanese soldier solidly. He said the enemy paratrooper was dead when he hit the ground. He landed, per the young American’s description, “Like a sack of wet cement.”

The firefight went on all night, and the attacking Japanese were killed to a man. The following day the Americans buried the Japanese dead in a communal pit, policed up the weapons, and burned off the ammunition. The young mechanic claimed the machine gun belonging to the man he had killed as a souvenir.

The soldier brought the gun home and registered it during the 1968 amnesty. I bought it from the man’s son who had little interest in such stuff. The weapon’s sole flaw is the flap cover to the muzzle is broken off where its original owner fell onto it during his ill-fated parachute drop.

SKS

This Chicom Type 56 SKS rifle was captured by a trooper named Mike from the 101st Airborne during Operation Apache Snow in Vietnam in 1969. The buttstock is cracked, the upper handguard is burned, and there is shrapnel damage to the magazine. Mike brought the beat-up rifle home as a memento of the most extraordinary period of his life.

After a rocky divorce, Mike sold the gun to a buddy in his National Guard unit. Their understanding was Mike could buy the gun back for the same price whenever he wanted it. Tragically, Mike developed cancer from Agent Orange exposure and died in 1991 at age 41. His friend knew I would give the weapon a loving home and graciously passed it to me.

This Japanese Type 99 Infantry rifle caught a pair of .30-caliber rounds, one of which undoubtedly blew the extractor off the bolt. Will found a replacement bolt online.

Japanese Type 99 Infantry Rifle

This beat-up old gun was a serendipitous GunBroker.com find. The owner had no idea about the circumstances behind its sordid state. The original bolt was missing.

The gun is a fairly unremarkable Type 99 bolt-action Infantry rifle. However, there is a .30-caliber hole bored top-to-bottom between the stock and the receiver. The bullet tore through the gun and ruined the original bolt.

A second round creased the outside of the stock along a parallel trajectory, leaving a burned groove for its passage. I presume this means these two rounds were fired from an automatic weapon like an M1919 or a BAR. The specific circumstances behind the capture of this rifle were lost to history, but balance of probability was some poor unfortunate Japanese soldier died clutching it.

No. 4 Lee Enfield

Small arms have all the sex appeal, but field artillery is the primary killer on the modern battlefield. The civilized mind cannot comprehend the scale of destruction wrought by a tooled up battery of howitzers. A WWII combat vet buddy described human entrails draped in trees following an Allied artillery strike on German troops in the open.

This battered No 4 Lee Enfield rifle was another GunBroker find. I honestly cannot clearly elucidate why I bought it. The stock is shattered and the entire barrel is bent at a crazy angle. Passing shrapnel gouged the barrel badly enough to expose the bore. The gent from whom I purchased this wreck had bought the rifle at a gun show and had no idea of the story behind it.

The stock of this German Spandau Gew 98 rifle was damaged near the comb. Some long-dead artisan very skillfully excised the broken bit and made a plug to repair it.

A Different Time

These days literally everything is disposable. I once bought a sports car boasting 72% of the thing was recyclable. There was a day not so long ago, however, when broken stuff was fixed rather than discarded. This axiom also applied to military weapons.

The German Gew 98 had some kind of damage to the top of the buttstock. The faulty bit was carefully excised and a replacement block installed in its stead. The subsequent repair was carefully sanded smooth and refinished before being returned to service.

The M1 Garand was a DCM rifle purchased from the government. The British SMLE was a gun show treasure. Both weapons had cracked upper handguards. At some point some armorer artisans carefully ripped slots crosswise to the grain and glued shims in place before sanding the repairs smooth.

Combat is man’s most violent pastime. Chaos is its currency and wanton destruction the ultimate goal. In these battered old guns we get to glimpse genuine handheld history.

Thanks to WorldWarSupply.com for the support gear used in the photos.

WorldWarSupply.com

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