The StG-44 in Africa

A while back, a video made the rounds of a cache of StG-44 rifles being found in (allegedly) Syria – I commented on it here, in fact. It was pretty much without any context, though. Where did they come from? How did they get to Africa, considering that the German Afrika Corps was never equipped with StGs? Well, here’s an excellent post from the very cool blog WWII After WWII discussing the how and why of Sturmgewehrs in Africa:

StG-44 in Africa After WWII

To quote a small section:

Contrary to some more romanticized accounts, the Algerians did not discover long-lost caches from Rommel’s WWII Afrika Korps, as no StG-44 had ever served in any German unit in Africa during the war. Rather, these guns had arrived to Algeria via Czechoslovakia. When WWII ended in 1945, the Soviet army retained and stored every StG-44 it found. By best estimate, in 1948 there were about 102,000 StG-44s in Soviet custody. As the SKS and AK-47 were already entering Soviet use, the captured StG-44s were not issued to Soviet units but rather made available for transfer abroad, with Czechoslovakia being the first and main recipient, followed by East Germany. Hungary also received a small (about 4,000) batch, and Yugoslavia also received some prior to it’s split with the east bloc. These joined StG-44s captured by the Yugoslavs themselves. Finally the Soviets transferred a few to North Vietnam; these in turn were joined by more transferred from Czechoslovakia and East Germany (which themselves had come from the USSR) as those two countries phased the type out.

Good stuff! The whole blog is equally interesting – definitely something you should check out.

33 Comments

  1. Yugo StGs came from Czechoslovakia, 10000 were requested but only about 4000-5000 delivered before the split with Soviets. Production documentation and machinery was also requested from Soviets, some documentation was delivered, but only about 5% of total documentation.

    Some production documentation for G43 was delivered, and abortive attempt to manufacture it locally was made, but it came to nothing, as there were too much technical problems. Few rifles were made, probably less than 50.

    • Knowing “Zastava Arms” policy of making copies of weapons (pap, mg42, TT, akm, skorpion etc. Only indigenous design being crappy m70 pistol) it is most certain that somebody at some point there came up with the idea that Stg should be made also.

        • “M56 SMG”
          Did you mean this weapon:
          http://world.guns.ru/smg/yu/m56-e.html
          which stated that it is simplified clone of German MP40 submachine gun (however apparently technical specs are mismatched – in description it is 7.62×25 weapon, in specs 9×19).
          @Bojan: Is it that weapon you mean or other Yugoslavian SMG with that designation exist? If it is that weapon:
          @Bojan: That weapon is or is not copy of MP40 according to your sources?

          • Only things similar to MP-40 are pistol grip and underfolding stock.
            Historically, it was a development of Beretta SMGs
            M45 – 9x19mm, milled.
            M49 – combination of milled and some stamped, 7.62x25mm, PPSh fire control group
            M51 – underfolding stock
            M56 – stamped construction.
            So basically, bolt is Beretta, trigger group PPSh, general layout MP-40 – so pretty original as far as post-WW2 SMGs go.

  2. StG-44 in Africa? Not so strange. And then there was Viet-Nam. Who’d ever have thought one would be facing Panther tanks in Indochina?

  3. On 7th of April 1959 was 20 miles from point of destination (Casablanca) intercepted by French navy Czech liner “Lidice”. After delivering it into port of Oran (that time French Algeria) in was found that 581ton cargo contained large quantity od small arms and ammunition, much of it of German wartime origin. Weapons were intended for Algerian resistance. This kind of activity was conducted since 1957.

    It was a huge diplomatic embarrassment, part of the fact that “Lidice” caught with German weapons on board, was name of Czech village destroyed during wartime by Germans.

    • What is perhaps worth of mention is that the help delivered to various anti-colonial movements thru Africa and Asia by post WWII Czechoslovakia was not the only involvement.

      There was also a substantial help in terms of both armaments (largely of German origin) and also training (from paratroops to tank crews) provided to state of Israel. These activities took place between years of 1947 and 1951, that means into already new ‘communist’ period. Material deliveries were made elaborately thru Romania (port of Constanta).

      • It was probably way more plausible in shipping german guns from ww2 than the ones made in eastern block countries armories.
        In the face of international law relations I mean.
        Intention being clearly in pulling these new former colonies to the socialist/communist commonwealth

        • About legal issues, I do not think that was a concern; after all, none of WP countries had enough to export from their own source at that time (mid to late 50s). Later, after 1960 situation changed and Czechoslovakia was able to supply generously to Cuba.

          Country such as Algeria had some of their own interpretations of socialism on mind, not necessarily of Soviet/ Chinese type and that played well with her East block brethren. They have gotten later big time into buying Russian tanks and planes/ helicopters and that is true to this day.

      • Israeli weapons of the late 40s- early 50s are worth a study of their own because they used everything from everywhere. They flew Messerschmidt 109s alongside Spitfires, and simultaneously issued kar98k, smle, Mosin-Nagant, and P14 rifles.To complete their coverage of WWII combatants, the Israeli army was an enthusiastic M1 carbine user as well. I think the Sturmgewehr series were about the only things they didn’t use. They were also probably the only army to simultaneously use the Bren gun and its parent ZB 26, and the MG34.

  4. From archival files on MP43/MP44/StG44 troop trials it is clear that no earlier than April 1943 the modern weapons (firing from closed bolt) started to arrive in the hand of troops. All trials were on the eastern front of course, because that is where the fierce infantry fighting took place. There is not a single mention of Afrikakorps in the files.

    This is no wonder, because Afrikakorps capitulated on 12/13th May 1943.

  5. I remember news photos from the Sudanese civil war (1955-72) and the Djibouti civil war (1991-94).

    In both cases, the usual hodgepodge of small arms showed up, notably ex-US and Commonwealth rifles. M1 carbines and SMLEs of various marks were common in the Sudan conflict, and No. 4s were often seen in Djibouti.

    WARPAC armaments were common too, mainly via Czechoslovakia as it then was. Czech Vz52 pistols were seen in officers’ holsters, and Vz52 rifles in 7.62 x 45mm (NB: not the later Vz52/59 7.62 x 39mm version) were in the hands of troops.

    SKS carbines were common, as were LMGs of every description from Brens to Czech Vz52s, again in 7.62 x 45mm. (Did they call everything a “Vz52”?)Tokarev SVT 40 rifles were around, but in smaller numbers. Naturally, PPsH-41 SMGs abounded, and the Czech SMGs (Vz 23, etc.) in both 9 x 19mm and 7.62 x 25mm were “in residence”.

    In Sudan,there was also a substantial amount of German weaponry, no doubt ex-Ostfront. Mauser 98K and Gew 98/40 bolt-actions were in use, as were Mosin-Nagants from the “other side”.

    MG34 and MG-42 GPMGs were in service, as were Mp38/40 9 x 19mm SMGs.

    There were definitely 7.9 x 33mm Sturmgewehr there, as well. Mostly MP-44/StG-44s but also some of the earlier (and rather sturdier) MP-43s.

    Apparently, the ammunition for the 7.9 x 33 rifles was made in East Germany at the former Polte plant at Magdeburg. The 7.9 x 33 arms were issued to DDR reserve and VOPO units as late as the mid-Seventies, so ammunition production continued until at least that date.

    StG-44s later showed up in the hands of Iraqi “Popular Army” militia under Saddam from the late Seventies to their disruption in the 11991 war. (They were of course replaced by the Fedayeen Saddam after that.) My guess is these also came from Czech sources, and the ammunition most likely also from East Germany.

    While production of the ammunition may have continued for another thirty-plus years after V-E day, AFAIK no Haenel “Sturmgewehr” were produced after that date. Excepting modern SMG Guns semi-autos and various mainly Zamak non-gun “wall-hanger” replicas, of course.

    The STG-44 was rather heavy at 12 pounds and its round was and is somewhat inferior to 7.62 x 39mm in ballistics. Accuracy-wise, the two rounds and their usual “launch platforms” are about even.

    As far as durability goes, it’s no contest. According to the British small arms identification and evaluation unit at the end of WW2, the MP-43 was sturdy enough, but by the time the name was changed to first MP-44 and then StG-44, substitution of available materials had reached the point that a StG-44 could be rendered inoperable by damage by simply leaning it against something and them allowing it fall over and hit the ground.

    I’m inclined to believe that the Warsaw Pact used the African revolutions and civil wars of the post-WW2 period not just as a place to make trouble for the West, but as a place to do it on the cheap by using it as a dumping ground for obsolete and non-standard-caliber weapons they had no particular use for “at home”.

    cheers

    eon

    • I wanted originally to add my 12:35 discussion part as “reply” to yours. You can see from my condensed message what were general political directions of the time. Yes, there was lots of excess trophy equipment which found use in named parts of world; not necessarily always as part of anti-colonial drive.

    • “Did they call everything a “Vz52””
      Other devices called vz. 52 are:
      minomet vz.52 – 82mm mortar
      bodák vz. 52 – bayonet
      mačeta vz.52 – machete
      85mm protitankový kanón vz. 52 – 85mm AT gun

      • …you missed vz.52 pistol; other than that you do fine

        Those years were times when Czech armaments industries were ‘cooking’ and population was just ‘clicking’ – out of fear. Oh yes, I still remember some of that.

        There was a chance that Korean war will be transplanted to Europe by day to day, courtesy to official propaganda.

  6. The Russians manufactured Mp44`s, MG34`s and K98ks using factories in their zones after the war to supply anti West
    groups without getting the blame.

    the MP44 quality did not change as the war progressed only the
    rust proofing finish got worse

    • John, any proof of that claim, please?
      No, the weapons were not MANUFACTURED after 1945 – I mean, no new parts were made. But, as the plants that ended up in Soviet zone were captured with MOUNTAINS of parts in various phases of fabrication, some small batches of weapons were assembled post-1945. Same thing behind the Iron Curtain: remember French activities at Mauser in Oberndorf? They were making P08s, Kar 98ks, P38s and HScs in 1945, 1946 and almost all of 1947, before gutting the factory then blowing it up in 1948.
      The plants in question were mostly East German and Czechoslovakian, as those in Poland were “evacuated” (to read: gutted and plundered)before the Soviet took their ruins, and when re-organized, they were fitted for production of Soviet weapons from the start. The East Germans assembled single-digit thousands of P08s, PPs and P38s, the Czechs also made some Kar98ks and overhauled MG 34s with DP-style bipods. And that’s about all. There were hundreds of thousands of the ready, zero-expenditure captured genuine Nazi stuff – why bother manufacturing it?
      By the way, first MG-34s to be used in Vietnam came with the French, and not from the USSR. In 1946-1949 the first phase of Vietnam war was fought with French, Japanese, German and American weapons from the French side, and with Japanese and OSS-supplied US weapons by Viet-Minh – the Soviet/ComBloc-supplied German weaponry started to get there only after the 1949 Communist victory in mainland China. I wonder whether all these ex-Nazi stuff in Syria was only ComBloc-supplied – some might have been imported by the French, whose mandate Syria was until 1946… Same story as in Indochina: the French military was using tons of captured stuff, and that’s why German captured weapons were the first choice to supply to Soviet-backed countries: they were cheap (free in fact) and perfectly deniable, as everybody and his brother was selling ex-Nazi war surplus in late 1940s.
      What the ComBloc ex-Nazi plants were making after 1945 was the ammunition. The 7.9 kurz was manuafctured by the Czechs well into 1950s – and except for small amounts of 1946 S&B headstamped laquered steel cases, all of that production was made of ex-Nazi stocks of bullets, cases and primers. The boxes were also ex-Nazi stocks, just labels were in Czech. This productions dried up when the stocks were exhausted – the latest dated box I examined was made in January 1955, with ak St+ – ## 45 headstamp, where ## is lot number.
      When these stocks went off, the East Jerrys started anew, in two plants, 04 and 05, dated between 1958 and 1961 (Ian, no new kurz production in DDR after that – they switched to AK, and Stgs were given to various internal security troops. I remember seeing East Jerry railroad police with them on their backs in 1974.

  7. In addition to StG’, Mp40;s, MG 34’s and -42’s, and Mausers from Czechoslovakia, the ALN also requested CETME’s from Spain. These were intercepted in transit and can be seen in the hands of some Commando de Marines later in the war.

  8. Syria is not in Africa. Please check a map.

    Syria is well known for having received ex-Nazi Germany weapons. The Israelis captured WWII Gernan armour from the Syrians, including a Panzer IV and Stug III . These are on display at the Israeli Armoured Corps in Latrun, Israel.

  9. How many collectors would love to get their hands on one of the StG-44’s from Syria. I’m shure after the conflict the jihadies will be more than happy to turn them in for destruction for things like McDonald’s gift certificates. It’s a shame we have the 68 gun control act and the 86 firearm owners protection act on the books. It’s sad than many of these historical firearms will meet their demise from a chop saw or cutting torch.

  10. Some time ago I read somewhere on the Internet (can’t recall now where exactly – it was a Serbian-language website) that when Angola had become independent in 1975 Yugoslavia had given it an ‘indenpedence gift’ in the form of few (ten or so) T-34 tanks plus a number of StG-44s with ammunition.

    The StG-44 had been just withdrawn from serwice with the Yugo airborne troops being replaced by domestically-built AKs, so they could have been ‘donated’ to a friendly new-born country.

    I have also an impression that the Kurzpatronen were produced in Yugoslavia until quite recently.

    • Yugoslavia- amongst other Warsaw Pact nations, Cuba, and China- was big on aid for Portugal’s former colonies. That aid increased when Angola gained its independence and commie support coalesced behind MPLA fighting against FNLA, UNITA, and South Africa.

  11. Dear Leszek,

    I have seen numbered MP44`s in a different style of script
    and with barrels and other parts having no waffenampts. I think that the Russians mainly used parts found in factories
    after the war and made parts that they could not find.I have heard that some of the MP44`s in Syria are marked MP45.

    As to the K98k`s, these were made in the Czech Skoda works as
    described in the book “The Weapons Merchants” by Englemann
    (page 155)
    The Czech MG34 plant was overrun by the Russians on Jan 20th
    1945 yet there are huge quantaties of 45 dated MG34`s about
    so I think that the Russians kept the factories going.

    Have you ever studied in the Pattern Room at Leeds?

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