Vintage Saturday: More Spoils

German soldiers with captured American arms
Eight Garands for two guys? Sure, seems about right.

German soldiers with captured American small arms, circa 1944. The other guy’s stuff is always better than yours, right? Well, I would rather have an M1 than a K98k, but the Thompsons? No thanks. Interesting to see that Hans there has found both an early and a late Thompson, though. Note the differences in muzzle device (Cutts Compensator vs bare muzzle), rear sight (adjustable Lyman vs simple fixed aperture), and charging handle (side vs top).


    • Thompsons mostly rocked Hollywood.

      Next to the United States Marine Corps, the FBI, and the postal Service, the biggest owner of Tommy guns was… Warner Brothers, who started using them in their gangster epics in the late silent era.

      In the early ones, you often see the (red-painted) external blank-firing restrictors clamped on the Cutts compensators, before they figured out the trick with the internal bore restrictor.

      Most “gangsters” didn’t know that much about the Thompson, and didn’t feel like shelling out $200 for one. If they wanted a full-auto weapon, they’d generally steal a few BARs from a National Guard armory.

      Clyde Barrow (of “Bonnie &…”infame) had three stolen BARs in the car when he and B. Parker got fatally ambushed; he’d cut the stocks down to about a foot and cut the barrels off at the end of the gas tube. Well, after all, he was only five-foot-one.

      Al Capone’s mob had exactly two Thompsons, the ones used in the famous “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre”. They were kept in a hidden closet in Snorky’s mom’s house in Cicero. As to where he got them, they came courtesy of the Cook Co. Sheriff’s department; ironically, they’d been purchased by CCSD with what we’d today call a “Federal grant”- to ensure the Sheriff’s deputies were better armed than the local gangsters.

      John Dillinger and his gang had two “Tommys”- both stolen during his famous “fake gun carved from soap” jailbreak.

      NB; My late mother (1913-98) actually “ran into” Dillinger & Co. robbing the local store in her home town two months before he got capped outside the Biograph Theater. According to her, Dillinger had a Colt Pocket Automatic, .32 or .380, the two Bowman brothers had a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun and a .38 S&W revolver, respectively, the kid driving the car had a another .38 Smith, and nary a “Tommy gun” to be seen.

      So much for the Thompson as the “gangster’s weapon of choice”.

      Thompson’s Auto-Ordnance firm had a total of 23,000 “component sets” of 1921 and 1928 TSMGs made for them, by Colt, between 1922 and 1930.

      When in 1940, the British Purchasing Commission came knocking down their door, screaming for any auto weapons they could get right after Dunkirk, Auto-Ordnance was delighted to sell them every TSMG they could assemble from the remaining sets.

      All 21,000 of them.

      The “Gun That Made The Twenties Roar” was mostly a figment of Hollywood’s imagination.

      Anti-gun politicos have been making hay out of that ever since.



  1. “Well, I would rather have an M1 than a K98k, but the Thompsons?”
    Despite, some movies, Germans have never enough own submachine gun, so they use different captured sub-machine guns as Maschinenpistole 739(i), so it might be choice Thompson or nothing.

  2. The German troops were always eager to improve their firepower. In that context, it isn’t a Thompson in place of an MP 38/40, but in addition to the one they already had in the squad.

    • According to several accounts, the higher-ups on the Eastern Front showed disdain for the soldiers who exchanged their empty rifles, burned-out machineguns, and sadly empty submachineguns for salvaged PPSh-41’s, left over DP-28’s, and M91/30’s. But had those snooty officers experienced the crappy troubles of fighting with little ammunition left, they’d shut up. So it stands to reason that the Germans on the Western Front threw regulations into the wind when their ammunition supplies ran low. Why telephone a supply drop when tons of dead Americans and Brits with perfectly serviceable weapons and ammunition are right in front of you? The only problem will be reloading the Garand without mashing your thumb…

  3. I sometimes reflect on what the consequences of using a captured weapon against its former owners might be. If and when these men were captured with these rifles in their possession.
    Perhaps it may be better to be captured with your K98 than risk the wrath of angry men during the dark days of 1944 in central Europe.
    These are of course questions that are beyond my life experience to answer. Maybe in the context of total war, this is not a consideration.

  4. Fins, who knew a thing or two about SMGs said:
    1. PPS-43
    2. Suomi
    3. PPSh-41
    4. Beretta
    5. No other have a reason to exist.

    I would add Owen to the list, as I guess Fins did not have opportunity to test that one.

    • Thanks for the note on the Finns’ preferences regarding SMGs. That list makes sense, but why is the MP38/40 absent from it? Well, 1. I am sure they had the chance to test it and 2. Was it so bad?

      I surely would add the Owen to that list and perhaps (only perhaps) the PPD-40 (in the 5th position).

      • PPD-40 was not that great + was expensive to produce. MP-
        40 was very finicky if dirty. It was not that accurate either. People think of SMGs as inaccurate, but they are capable of hitting at quite decent ranges. Suomi @ 100m, left is single shot, right is burst:

        Yugoslavian post WW2 tests of SMG accuracy – MP-40 was only better than Sten…

        5 and 10 rounds burst used at 25 and 50m, 5 rounds burst at longer ranges. Standing shooting position.

        Overall P/H worst to best:

        Sten, MP-40, Thompson (M1 or M1A1), PPSH-41, Beretta, M56.

        25m – all equal

        – Sten 80% hit ratio
        – rest 95%

        – Sten – 50% hit ratio
        – MP-40 – 60%
        – Thompson – 70%
        – rest 90%

        Sten – 30%
        MP-40 – 35%
        Thompson – 40%
        Beretta – 65%
        PPSh – 70%
        M56 – 80%

        200m :
        Sten – 10%
        MP-40 – 15%
        Thompson – 15%
        Beretta – 25%
        PPSh – 35%
        M56 – 45%

        • Thank you very much for your reply. The results of the post-war Yugoslav SMG test are quite revealing. Also noticed how good the local M56 came out at 150m and 200m. Quite nice! As for the Sten and MP40 results, it is perhaps not surprising that both made use of alternative manufacture methods (eg. stamping).

          Yes, the PPD-40 was expensive to manufacture, but such was a typical problem for most SMGs of its generation. The Beretta Modello 38 was an effective SMG; it was large (carbine sized, actually), very well-made (from machined billet) and finished, but heavy – this was compensated by reliability; its main drawback was the production cost.

  5. The Waffen SS weren’t big fans of a lot of standard-issue Wehrmacht weapons. They took the bulk of FN occupation production of the M1935 HP ( Pistole 640b in German inventory) because they considered it more reliable with the variety of 9 x 19mm ammunition (ranging from P.08 standard loads to hot SMG rounds) they had to use. Its 13-round magazine didn’t hurt their feelings, either.

    They liked Mannlicher sporting rifles in 6.5 x 53mm for sniping, considering them more accurate than the Kar98 in 7.9 x 57. Later, they were the main impetus for setting the K43 semiauto rifle up for sniping duty with a built-in scope mount.

    As for SMGs, they preferred the Erma EMP with its wood stock and side-mounted magazine (Sten or Mp-18 style) to the later Erma MP-38/40. They found the folding stock flimsy and disliked its lack of any sensible place to put the off hand. They considered the Russian PPSh-41 to be inferior to the earlier PPD-40 for roughly the same reason.

    Contrary to popular myth, the rifle-butted MP-41 variant of the MP-38/40 was not SS issue, or an “export” item. It was a simplified MP-40, with a wood butt taken almost unchanged from the MP-18, a fixed 100m rear sight and no “pistol port/demounting bar” under the barrel,intended for and issued to “occupation” police in France and elsewhere. Its main purpose was being faster and cheaper to produce than even the MP-40, and not needing scarcer composition or metal materials, thus freeing up more of both for production of “the real thing” for frontline troops.

    Note that the SS made use of captured Thompsons, primarily in Norway. Since the Norwegian Army’s prewar standard pistol was the Model 1914 variant of the Colt 1911 in .45 ACP, ammunition was not a problem. Thompsons were also used to a limited extent by the Norwegisn army prior to 1940, and they were taken over by the SS, the Gestapo, and the Quislings.

    NB; I know, technically the Geheime Staatspolizei was part of the SS, but the two segments, Gestapo and Waffen SS, never did really like each other very much. Think of the rivalry between KGB Border Guards Directorate and Foreign Section and you’ve just about got the picture.



    • Inter service rivalry pretty much doomed the Reich. Everyone squabbled for resources and backstabbing was a constant problem. The Luftwaffe did not let the Kriegsmarine have any good planes (Bismarck would have been saved if she had airborne escort planes to fight off the torpedo bombers) and the Heer was at odds with the Waffen SS if only because the latter threatened to purge the former of “unpatriotic” people, even if the individuals in question were simply pointing out unreasonable conditions in the overall plan… or am I wrong?

      • “Bismarck would have been saved if she had airborne escort planes to fight off the torpedo bombers”
        I am not sure about it. If AA artillery of said ship don’t work, why you suppose airborne escort would?

        • The ship’s flak guns were calibrated for faster monoplanes and couldn’t target the old Fairey Swordfish very well. But the Arado Ar. 196A-1 floatplane could easily rip the Swordfish to shreds! If only Bismarck had launched her floatplanes… Just check the aircraft in question and you’ll know what I’m saying.

          • Always wondered about that. The Japanese would sometimes toss their biplane seaplanes into the fray against Allied bombers (whether intentional or just aggressive pilots is unknown) and they managed to upset the coordination. Given the superior ability of the Arados over the Swordfish, the same could happen.

            Not sure long range fighters could make it to where the Bismark was. Maybe Ju88s, but they would have to be flying gas cans and questionable if they could be in the right place at the right time to stop an attack.

            Also, there may’ve been doctrinal differences for the use of seaplanes or fighter direction in the Kriegsmarine.

    • Eon,
      there never was a hot SMG load in the German inventory. That is an intelligence myth originating from people who noted the higher muzzle velocity of the 08 mE cartridge but overlooked that the bullet weighed only 6.4 g instead of 8 g. Muzzle energy is about the same.
      The labels “not for use in P08” were because the step in the P08 chamber was incompatible with steel cases and had nothing to do with the load.

    • It would be more accurate to say the Waffen SS had a lower priority for standard issue weapons than the Wehrmacht. This is why they ended up with a lot of Radom and FN pistols, instead of the standard P38, and similarly the SS used Steyr-Mannlicher rifles and Czech and Polish Mauser rifles instead of the standard kar98k. The majority of Czech vz. 26 and 30 lmgs in German service also ended up with the SS as a substitute for light role MG34s.

  6. Just reading the ideas in discussion; it is partly technical as would be correctly expected. I usually tend to ‘think around’ what I see and what comes to my mind is: “how the heck those Germies obtained those guns and in such quantity”? Soldier is supposed to NEVER give its weapon to enemy. Am I right? At least that is what we were taught. Kill them and if you cannot, kill yourself.

    Just one non-relating memory flash. My father was once wondering how was it that American soldiers thru up their hands when flushed out from their fortification in Korean war newsreel. The Americans never give-up so easy, do they? – was his question in resonance to his obvious sympathies with them.

    • What kind of war are you thinking of – tribal mass-murder, or Clausewitzian “continuation of political intercourse with the addition of other means?”
      (Note that WWII had both, depending on who was fighting where.)

      • War is War and it is “scheisse”, any way you think about it. That is what I think too.

        Here in this picture, they look temporarily jubilant. Next moment after, they will get shredded to smithereens be U.S. artillery. Another flashback, if I may. We traveled couple times into East Germany; I was still junior at that time. At one occasion we stayed over in dwelling of one elderly couple. Next morning during breakfast my mother asked lady of the house: “who at those young guys on the wall (all SS tankers). Lady of the house said: “they are our three sons; all killed on Eastern front”. Good mood was suddenly gone.

        • Well, there’s your problem – you know one kind of war, and you view all soldier’s action as if they were fighting that exact type of war.
          But while it is true that all war is terrible, not all wars are alike.
          Consider this quote from Vietnam:
          “We are the unwilling, led by the unqualified, doing the unnecessary, for the ungrateful.”

          • AMX, it has been also said: “you shall meet your enemy; he is in you!”. Do not believe in “just war”; no such thing existed. Both and all sides share the blame.

            To clarify myself: I am libertarian, not a leftist in conventional sense. I also believe in equality of all and for all. I know, it sounds like dangerous concept to rulers.

          • Denny, this is not about “just war” – quite the opposite, actually.
            The more pointless the fighting, the less reason is there for the soldiers to kill and/or die.

          • “To the command of despotic dictators
            They marched to fight in a senseless war
            Most of them were just puppets and children
            The battle was lost before it began.”

            Perfect, Daweo!
            But, knowing all this does not prevent us from seeking interesting technical knowledge. Am I correct?

    • Also all leather rifle slings. Canvas slings showed up late 1942, while leather slings stayed in service as long as they lasted, it would hint at this being earlier in the war.

      Even if the German troops were not going to use the arms, they probably did not want the local resistance to aquire then.

      • That’s called killing two birds with one stone. Get more weapons for your team and deny said weapons to the other team! It will make a difference if your own supply chain is constantly in danger of being hijacked by resistance fighters!

      • It doesn’t work that way exactly, in front line situations. You are issued your battle rattle based on what is available in your unit, and what you can scrounge. As new issue items are created, they very often make it to the front line units last, or as a trickle as replacements are brought forward. Most previous issue items are “Use until unserviceable” at the front.

    • M29 Italian uniform camo (which the Germans commonly appropriated for their own use, especially after the Italian coup) early Thompson, etc. I am betting January 1944 Cisterna (part of the Anzio operations). They captured a bunch of US Rangers there. US Air Superiority was not nearly as established and the Germans didn’t have that hunted down mentally exhausted look as much in Italy as they were to develop later in the war. They still thought they could win.

  7. Perhaps it could be evidence of a German equivalent of what I believe the GIs called ‘bring-back’. Or maybe they had a business motive, e.g one Thomson = 200 cigarettes, or four cans of corned beef. Collecting souvenirs also must have been as popular in Germany as anywhere else. Although most of it must have got hoovered up and recovered during the subsequent occupation. But not all I bet.

  8. These Germans appear to be wearing Italian m29 camo pattern uniforms which the Germans used extensively. So this picture is somewhere in Italy. I am guessing these are US Ranger weapons captured at Cisterna January 1944. It would be something worthy of a propaganda photo.

  9. One of the parts of “consolidating on the objective” is policing up all the left over weapons. Those two might have been doing just that, and only that. There is always the problem of ammo when using the other guy’s stuff

  10. Seasonal greetings from germany.

    This was not collecting souvenirs. The german army used a lot of booty weapons on a regular base.
    They all had so called “Beutenummern” followed by a letter in brackets which indicates the country of origin. (a)standa for american, (b) for belgian, (f) for french and so on.
    The german name of the Garand was “7,62 mm SlGew 251 (a)” – SlGew stands for “Selbstladegewehr”.
    The german name of the M1 Carbine was “7,62 mm SlKb 455 (a)” – SlKb stands for “Selbstladekarabiner”.

    Thompsons had four different names. The Germans captured some french, yugoslavian and english Thompsons in the first years of the war and some american Thompsons at the end of the war. The name was “11,43 mm MP 760 (f),(j),(e)or(a)”. They were only in local use. The ammunition supply was bad.

    • Did not the Germans have indigenous ammunition production of 45 ACP after capturing the Kronsberg arsenal in Norway?

  11. I’m sure Hans and Fritz would have a non trivial task of keeping their M1’s and Tommy’s charged with ammo.

    Gathering enough ammo to make hauling around an extra M1 day in and day out might be troublesome.

  12. So we are all agreed these are German soldiers in Italian M29 camo after picking up weapons from captured Rangers at Cisterna in January 1944?

    • The SS Charlemange had only an insignia on their right arm. The helmet looks like standard Heer issue with the German national colors on the right. I am pretty certain they are in Italy as they are wearing Italian camo uniforms. I don’t think the French were used in Italy.

  13. The Thompson to the left is a M1A1 model. The one to the right is a 1928A1 model with a vertical front grip (which is quite rare according to FG).

  14. If you look closely like M1928 has no for-end. I would like to know what battle and unit this was? And the cavalry cartridge belt!

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