Vintage Saturday: Nazi Zorro

German Skijäger troops with Sturmgewehr rifles in the Ukraine, February 1944
A solution to the MP44 handguard overheating: fight in the snow

German Skijäger troops with Sturmgewehr rifles in the Ukraine, February 1944. Note how two of the guys in the background are using ski poles as shooting sticks. If there had been more of these guys at Hitler’s disposal Russia would have been in serious trouble.


    • That section covers competing designs that weren’t chosen as the winner. IBM was one of the contractors making the production version of the gun; they didn’t develop their own design for the light rifle trials.

  1. The use of ski poles as improvised shooting sticks was, and is, a common technique for most mountain warfare units.

    While there is absolutely no doubt concerning the battlefield prowess of the German ski troops, the Soviet Union also had her own equivalents who were just as tenacious and competent. Witness the epic battles between the Finnish and Soviet ski units during the Winter War, and those involving the Siberian ski troops in the defence of Moscow during that terrible first winter on the Eastern Front ( October 1941-January 1942 ). More Skijager divisions would have certainly slowed down Russian momentum, especially in the latter half of World War Two, but would it have been enough to actually stop the Russian counter-advance, especially considering all the other factors that figured into the overall political and military scenario?

    There is an interesting discussion about the comparative merits of ski troops from Finland, Germany and the Soviet Union at

    • And while we’re at it, let’s not forget the generally excellent battlefield performance of the Italian Alpini and Austrian ski troops. There were also many other smaller, but equally competent, ski units from the smaller West and East European nations.

      • The Italo-Austro-Hungarian theater in WWI is worth looking into for some interesting mountain operations. The usage of artillery was radically different from any other theater.

        • I’m reading Keegan’s book on WWI. I’m just getting past the Austrian loss of Cracow. I’ll get to it eventually.

        • Thanks, Kevin. That is quite a fascinating campaign history in its own right that has been largely ignored or forgotten today.

        • May I recommend a book “Blood on the Snow” It is a grueling account of how the Austro-Hungarian KuK Army was wasted in 1914-1915. They lost nearly a million in the first year alone. Despite great advances in artillery the Russians were at that time simply better prepared for war than the KuK. Accounts of the suffering in this little known part of WW1 are enlightening.

  2. The Collector Grade book “Sturmgewehr!” gives a lot of reasons why there weren’t more of “those guys”, at least armed with assault rifles.

    Like most German war materiel production, the assault rifle program (and just as importantly,the program to develop and produce ammunition for it) was afflicted with a great deal of management chaos. Hitler’s interference was merely the icing on the cake.

    • For some reason the ‘wise men’ always mention A.H. as a hurdle. Myself, I do not quite take it, he was not as almighty as is believed. One other example of his ‘errors’ was that he allegedly wanted Me-262 twin-jets to be used as bombers – pure nonsense by any means. I’d rather say that other priorities were the reason, and there were plenty. Just to steer this huge war production machine was monumental task and was most certainly above capabilities of other nations, being in similar situation. For comparison we can look at procurement system functions in U.S. defence system.

      Addie was a ‘phenomenal strategist’ by his own right, there is no doubt about that. He was referred to by German soldiers as “the greatest general there ever was”. Rather discrete way of critiquing the Leader, but is was tolerated; among front troops and officers anyway. They had 4 letter abbreviation for it, which I cannot recollect right now, but it sounds funny.

      • It makes a convenient blame source. Germany had so many cool things in development that people want to believe it could have won the war if it was available in sufficient numbers, but I’ve never heard convincing arguments in favor of them, and besides, usually if you dig deeper into the programs that were running slow Adolf isn’t the problem. For the Me-262 it was always the engines – the redesign to make them bombers was somewhat ignored anyway and was not a particularly complicated changeover, however, the Junkers Jumo 004 was always a nightmare to develop, manufacture and operate, especially with its ridiculously short service life due to the lack of titanium.

        The Sturmgewehr isn’t much different. Hitler apparently threw a bit of a hissy fit when he found out he wasn’t told about it but quickly gave it his blessing, and they did produce quite a few at over 400,000 units. It’s not like it could have been available earlier to “turn the tide”, as the MKb 42(H) and MKb 42(W) were barely available in time for Stalingrad and it’s not clear if they even arrived there, and those were prototypes with their own problems.

        The one I find entertaining in the “AH blocks everything” crowd of Wehrmacht fans is the fact that none of them seem to know the production of the Panzer III – after the campaign in France Hitler had actually ordered all Panzer IIIs to be armed from then on with the 5 cm KwK 39 L/60, but as industry had just tooled up to arm the Panzer IIIs with the 5 cm KwK 38 L/42, they simply ignored him, much to his anger later on when he found out that they still weren’t being produced with the long barreled guns.

        Of course, none of those alone are “war winners”, as war is usually decided by tactics, strategy and numbers more than technology when both nations involved are of roughly similar capabilities as was the case in most of the European theater.

        • Actually, if you read “Sturmgewehr!” the German ordnance establishment made a LOT of missteps, from initially insisting on full power rifle rounds, to forbidding the use of the sort of normal gas port designs that virtually everyone else used.

          The bigger picture of German armaments procurement is one of chaos, corruption and arbitrary decisions. Hitler’s psychopathologies just made an already bad situation worse.

          The Germans oscillated wildly from massive duplications of effort to totally arbitrary cutoffs of research that could have paid off.

          But then that was the nature of the Nazi economy.

        • You brought up a very relevant point about the German military-industrial complex of the era. It was simultaneously in synchronization with Adolf Hitler’s ideas and ambitions but also working towards other ends and interests. The reality was that there was always a constant state of tension between Hitler and his supporters on the one hand, and the MIC ( the industrialists, businessmen and professional military ) on the other. Add to that the tensions and flux between Hitler and his own backers, as well as similar issues within the MIC, plus a whole host of other complex underlying relationships, and an incredibly complicated and ever-changing situation becomes apparent. A singular example can be seen in the form of Albert Speer, the Reich Armaments Minister, who was loyal to Hitler yet often saw the folly of some of his decisions, and who frequently and quietly circumvented them with the co-operation of the military as well as other political and business allies. At other times, Hitler would be right, but again Speer and his associates would work around the Fuhrer to fulfill differing interests.

        • “The one I find entertaining in the “AH blocks everything” crowd of Wehrmacht fans is the fact that none of them seem to know the production of the Panzer III”

          One of the very real problems for the Germans was that Hitler DIDN’T “block everything”.

          He SHOULD have blocked “Maus” and E100, but didn’t.

          He probably should have blocked the Tiger in favor of something closer to the T34 than the Panther.

          The Germans dithered on the Me262 to the point where by the time they started to get them, they couldn’t afford them, necessitating a frantic scramble for substitutes like the He162, based on immature technology and delusional tactical theories.

          Under National Socialist “leadership” the Germans lurched from one [usually self-imposed] emergency to the next until finally, the emergencies all coalesced into one mass of unstoppable catastrophe.

      • I am one of the “wise men” mentioned, because I examined the original files in 1974, which in the case of the Sturmgewehr are still existing.
        The MKb 42 was demonstrated to Hitler in one of the regular conferences on armament matters. He explicitly forbade its further development. At the same time he required a submachine gun (MP) of greater power than the MP40.
        This led to the well known MP43 designation (or charade). (Renaming to MP44, again, was explicitly ordered by him personally.)
        The personal influence by Hitler on these as well as on other armaments matters is well documented. Among the experts he was notorious for his detailed knowledge in this subject.

        • In response to you and all people in this thread: let me say how I appreciate you speak up! Now many years after, as we are exposed to “facts” and perhaps “presumed facts” we become sometimes caught in form of repetitive assertions which, in time, self-promote. This is where my skepticism is coming from.

          The reality is that the subject remains still potentially controversial, at least to some of us. I would not dispute the value of written documents as related to type of information you mention; we ought not fall into other extreme and doubt everything either, true. Tracing the technical part of history gives pretty clear picture as to what with great degree of certainty happened.

          In short of short, the mentioned guy was public motivational speaker at best and should have stayed out of the game, the German people struggled thru. Too bad for them they could not curb his influence earlier. That’s the way it sadly happened and they paid for it dearly.

      • Good point about the discretion. Front-line servicemen, with the exception of a handful of bold decorated veterans whom Hitler and the regime knew were too publicly popular or valuable to the war effort to be squandered or cashiered for insubordination ( and who could therefore speak their minds, at least within limits — Erwin Rommel, Josef “Sepp” Dietrich, Adolf Galland, Johannes “Macky” Steinhoff, Heinrich Bar, Hans Joachim-Marseille, Gunther Luetzow, Hannes Trautloft and Werner Molders, to name a few examples, come to mind ), could not openly express dissatisfaction with the Nazi government without getting into very serious trouble, often interpreted as treason or sedition and therefore punishable by the death penalty, along with risking almost certain retaliation against their families. They therefore had to develop a form of “belly talk” — to use an euphemistic Japanese term of the time — that was outwardly respectful of Hitler and company, but which also had a much deeper and indirect critical undertone.

        • Absolutely agree on that Earl!

          And as you say in your another discussion contribution: this was extremely complex and hectic period of world history, beyond comparison. On my own part, I personally spoke with Germans who experienced that time and managed to survived; they were/ are still flabbergasted with many aspects of it to this day.

      • @denny <>

        GröFaZ. Größter Feldherr aller Zeiten.
        At that time, Germans liked to create acronyms that were easy to pronounce (some are still in use, like Haribo and Adidas).

    • Not jut Management, but German have no raw materiel.

      In plus, infantry doctrine that’s team turn around an Machine Gun (MG34, M42 and MG18 …). The german soldier was with Mauser 98K, the SMG were for NCO/Officier/specialist ….

      In advers force, for the Soviet in 44, that’s all men of assault platoon have an SMG in plus you could found DMR (Mosin or SVT) clearing ….

      BTW, in batllfield the STG/MP44 is just margnaly better than’s an M1 carbine or an PSSH41/PPS42. The german was in postion to have 1 guy with 1 MP44 against 100 guys with PSS43 or M1 carbine

  3. Although slightly ‘off topic’ you might want to get a copy of Stephen Hunter’s first novel – “The Master Sniper” which deals with testing the MP44 and the Uhu night vision system…good read as are all of Hunters works – he’sd one of us – a true ‘gun guy’ who writes authentic firearms based action novels.

    CB in FL

  4. In attempt to be little creative I am bringing to benefit of all the page I found some time ago and which I consider as one of the best on the subject: Enjoy!

    From my own experience, when handling Stg43 I generally found it bit clumsy. What I felt missing the most is (as Ian has alluded to) some form of hand-guard. It would add some needed heft and definitely isolate bare hand from heat’s source. I do not understand why they did not have it, if say MP40 was well furnished in that way. This is job for a thermoset and which ‘bakelite’ is perfect candidate for.

  5. According a ret. RAF officer turned historian. Hitler was correct about fitting the ME-262 to be able to be a bomber. His thinking was, as previously posted, that as the engines wouldn’t be ready quickly that the few dozen that may be ready would be of great importance in delaying a western invasion.

    Even if a jet bomber would bog an invasion down a few days, it was considered enough time to be able to stop it.

    • This is new info to me and since our subject is small arms, I’d defer it for time being.

      But, if we want to go briefly into broader context, we might safely say that Germany’s chances after Allied landing were slim and shrinking by day. It was just plain impossible to compete with combined industrial output of United States, Canada and Britain, the backbone of war effort and German leadership knew it. There was hardly other alternative to the one which eventually became reality. Poor planning, poor strategy and splintered leadership, no matter how many combat capable ski-jaegers they might have had. It would make no difference whatever.

    • The problem is that the Me262 was a really LOUSY bomber.

      The Arado 234 was a purpose built bomber and would have achieved MUCH better results than the kimchi rig Me262 bombers. But then that once again takes us back to the chaotic and wholly arbitrary nature of much Nazi “decision” making.

      In a lot of ways, the myth of highly organized Nazi decision making is just that, a myth. Nazi organization often didn’t rise above the level of that of the average inner city crack gang.

  6. “…to name a few examples, come to mind ), could not openly express dissatisfaction with the Nazi government without getting into very serious trouble, often interpreted as treason or sedition… ”

    This phrase was used in reference to a deceased leader of a defeated country. BUT, has anyone noticed how similar it is to our own military and leadership today…… Seems history is repeating itself.

  7. My experience with the StG 43/44 is that they are not at all the wonder weapons that they appear to be. They fire from the open bolt which has a noticeable jump when the trigger is pulled. The magazines are just awful.Cheap and unreliable. They are not all that accurate; those fit with with telescopic sights are wishful thinking. I have fired both real select fire and semi auto versions and find the semi auto versions with new made magazines more accurate and reliable. Are they better than the M1/M2 carbines? The Germans who could find an M1 carbine valued and carried it. The StG 43/44s area great idea but poorly executed.Would they have made a difference on the Eastern Front; probably.In the Western Front the combined Allied Forces were well armed and had the M1 rifle and troops who were motivated to use them. If the Allies were delayed it most likely have resulted in a more horrible Air War with more cities firebombed or possible even nuked. Maybe the lack of StGs saved the survivors? The Allies flattened Germany from East and West. Small arms would not have saved them.

    • Andrew, I am coming back to this historically enticing chat and reading your contribution; and I am rewarded. It is one of the most insightful ones.

      Regarding field tactics: in addition to what you said about Allied small arms, I’d think that Soviets had full=match weaponry to their disposal as well. After all Germans used invariably Soviet captured small arms.

      Where I am in full agreement with you is the possible effects of extended war – absolutely so! The Europe would have met its own Frankfurt-saki and Berlin-shima. TG it did not turn out that way!

    • duchamp you are correct they do fire from a closed bolt. they still jump about when fired. my experience comes from capturing them in the middle east where thy are still in use due to wide spread warsaw pact aid to opposition groups. have you ever fired the real ones? the one imported into the US are nicer to shoot and are closed bolt operation. my impression of the StG is that it is no better than the AK and not really better than the M1/M2 US carbines. thank you for pointing out my error.

    • If I remember correctly from “Sturmgewehr!” some of the VERY early MP43s (prototypes or field trials guns?) also fired from an open bolt.

  8. Germany was close at winning a war, yet they blew it. In 1943. they realised their position, but it was too late. Beside bad military decisions, there were also many bad economical, I’ve said it before but this is most notorious; v2 program costed more than the american Manhattan Project (and just compare the short term results of them two).

    On the other hand, Japan lost the war the moment they attacked the USA.

    • Several of Japan’s best and brightest military officers, including Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, had repeatedly warned against starting a war with the United States because they realized that it was a losing proposition in the long run. Unfortunately, the raging internal politics within the military and government in Japan at the time, centered around the bitter dispute between the “Strike-North” and “Strike-South” factions with the Emperor and his Cabinet playing both sides to their own advantage, eventually led to Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into the Second World War. Ironically, Yamamoto — ever the conscientious objector, but still bound by duty as a serving military officer — was put in the position of becoming the architect of the Pearl Harbor strike by the manipulations of the powers-that-be, a duty he fulfilled brilliantly as a professional forced into an untenable situation, but which he personally regretted to his dying day.

  9. Poor leadership doomed the Third Reich.
    One of Hitler’s favourite management tactics was assigning a similar goal to two or three underlings, then watching them compete for fuel, weapons, manpower, etc.
    For example, TR fielded 3 different armies: Wehrmacht, Waffen SS and Luftwaffe ground troops. When the Nazi Party’s armed wing: Waffen SS could not procure enough weapons through regular channels, they contracted with Czech, etc. factories to produce obscure SMGs (MP41) or anti-tank rifles.
    When the Luftwaffe ran out of airplanes, Goering refused to transfer troops to the regular army: Wehrmacht. Instead Goering created Luftwaffe field units that won few battles.

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