59 Comments

  1. From the uniforms and weather I’m guessing this was taken during the opening phases of Operation Barbarossa, probably in late June or early July of 1941.The amount of Russian materiel’ captured by the Wehrmacht in the first six weeks of the operation is hard to believe.

    Note the fellow in the back smoking a pipe. Also the bare-headed fellow at right front; he has a Mosin hanging from his right forearm, but right next to it is what appears to be either a Gew 41(W)or possibly a Tokarev carbine Model 1932 (the latter if it’s missing its usual large muzzle device).

    Now those actually would have been worth something after 1945.

    cheers

    eon

      • I was just noting that the pipe smoker was indulging a pretty common form of tobacco use in the Wehrmacht. The rifle over Mr. Prince Albert’s left shoulder is a Mosin, as evidenced by its angular bayonet, but I think the one over his right shoulder is a Kar 98k, probably his issue weapon.

        I think you’re right about helmetless guy having the SVT. What I thought was a strap on the guy behind him is apparently the big muzzle brake/flash destroyer seen from underneath. (?)

        They are almost certainly Waffen SS. They’re wearing the 1939/40 pattern spring/summer camouflage smock; the fall/winter version had an attached hood. The spring/summer camo was various shades of green, the fall/winter was a variety of browns. Again consistent with the opening phases of Barbarossa. At that time, the Waffen SS were about the only German formation that had specialized camouflage outerwear.

        cheers

        eon

      • The pipe-smoker seems to have his issue Kar98k on the right shoulder and a Mosin-Nagant on the left. Otherwise I don’t really know; the bare-headed soldier seems to have an SVT-40, but the angle and background make it difficult to be sure. (Plus I’m not that great in firearms photo recognition anyways.)

        • Neh. It is a SVT-40. I made a mistake with what seemed to be the distinctive AVS-36 muzzle break, and probably is a flower put in the muzzle.

    • That’s an SVT-40, I’m pretty confident. Looks like the underside of mine. The picture’s grainy, but you can see the vented forward metal handguard and the bayonet lug reflecting light, which is not like a Mauser bayonet lug.

  2. Considering that the Germans weren’t that great at logistics, these soldiers are pretty sensible in taking what arms they can take since the supply truck isn’t likely to show up any time soon. And if the truck does appear, it will be an outhouse-sized target for Russian artillery! Where’s the good old-fashioned supply-carrying ox-cart when you need it?

  3. The fellow to the left of the pipe-smoker, who is carrying three Mosins on his left arm, seems to have an SVT slung over his left shoulder. Not a surprise, since those German soldiers who captured one intact often used it in preference to the Kar98K. It’s semi-auto operation and greater ammo capacity made it a better fit for the assault tactics the German Army and Waffen SS favored.

    But it does bear saying that if we’re looking at men from an SS unit during Barbarossa, we are almost certainly looking at a group of war criminals.

    • I’ve never been able to get one to run really reliably. They tend to have chamber adhesion (even with the fluted chamber) and I wind up with either the neck or the rim of the cartridge ripped off. Unlike later Russian guns, the SVT didn’t have a chrome bore.

      • “They tend to have chamber adhesion (even with the fluted chamber)”
        Why? Is there reason to adhesion be different from other 7.62x54R automatic fire-arms?

        “I’ve never been able to get one to run really reliably”
        Is your example worn out? So far I know the Red Army want to totally replace Mosin rifle with SVT-40, so I assume that all serious issues were debugged.

        “and I wind up with either the neck or the rim of the cartridge ripped off”
        But this issues is rather cartridge-related issue that rifle-issue.

        The SVT-40 has wide range of gas regulator settings (this also apply to many other Soviet gas-operated fire-arms), the example when there is not setting guaranteeing reliable cycle of action is interesting.

      • As Mr. McReynolds points out below, the SVT-40 tends to work better with steel cases or harder brass. Similarly, the fluted-chamber HK91 likes harder cases better than softer ones. Thus, it works fine with the harder-brass Santa Barbara surplus 7.62 x 51 NATO, which the M14 tends to dislike. Conversely, the M14 tends to be happier with Italian surplus intended for the Beretta BM59 series, which like the M14 is a development of the M1 Garand.

        cheers

        eon

  4. This seems to be the best evidence that I’ve ever seen that the Soviet troops really did always fight with fixed bayonets. Every one of those 91/30s has a bayonet.

    • “that the Soviet troops really did always fight with fixed bayonets”
      This may be caused by fact that the bayonet has influence on point of impact (zeroing sights when rifle has mounted bayonet and without bayonet will have different effects). However I don’t know how much this difference will be – would it be noticeable?
      The “Наставление по стрелковому делу” (can be translated as a “Field Manual”) for Mosin rifle described removing the bayonet as a part of rifle disassembly (link: http://bergenschild.ru/Reconstruction/archive/mosina_vintovka/Index.htm ) so probably the bayonet was considered as a fixed part of rifle.

      • And of course, when the M44 carbine was made, the bayonet was permanently attached on a swivel. Just how stab-happy were the arms designers in Russia? And did anyone consider the lack of German logistics I mentioned earlier? Unlike the Red Army or the US Army, the Wehrmacht relied a lot on captured or stolen weapons and ammo. Many German infantry rifle spoils from before invading Russia were chambered in 8×57 IS already, so that was a relief. But once across Ukraine, there were no convenient captured ammunition depots with 8×57 IS or 9×19 Parabellum. So the Germans had to truck or send ammo and more weapons by train or by air-drop (and the Russians would inevitably attempt to shoot down the supply planes without exploding them and loot them later).

        • They may have been thinking about the Tsar’s logistics, which were always a bit fraught and failure-prone. At least with the toad-sticker on the end of their Mosins, the such-and-so Rifle Regiment could seamlessly transition to the such-and-so de facto Pike Regiment.

      • @ Daweo

        Yes, the bayonet makes a huge difference. The Mosins were zeroed at the factory (really, only the US, UK and Swiss had the idea that the soldier would zero his own rifle at that period) with the bayonet fixed, and no scabbards were issued. Normally, they’re pretty well zeroed for surplus.

        Take the bayonet off, and the shots go high and right, a couple of feet at 200 yards even. Incidentally, this is one of the “tells” for a fake sniper – if the front sight is off to the left and has a standard, short post the rifle was not a sniper – the real ones had a longer post, mounted more or less centrally.

          • @Ian,

            Are you sure a previous owner didn’t re-zero your Westinghouse? Try an 1891/30 with the stake mark on the front sight still intact. I had a 1933 one that shot absolutely to the sights with surplus with the bayonet fixed, but miles off without. I also had an M44 that was bang on with the bayonet extended, and shot right with the bayonet folded, till I re-zeroed it.

        • My favorite was the ‘war-emergency’ version of the British Rifle No. 4 with the two-position flip “L” rear sight like an early production M1 Carbine. according to John Weeks in Infantry Weapons (Ballantine 1972), the manual for it stated that th flip sight had two setting, 100 and 250 yards IIRC, and that to adjust for trajectory at range between those figure the “spike” bayonet was to be mounted or taken off!

          I used to own a No. 4 with the proper tangent rear sight. I am regrettably forced to report that it still was not remarkably accurate; my Brno 1943 Kar98k consistently outshot it at 100. The No. 4 was basically unissued, the Brno had clearly seen some service.

          Surprisingly, my M1938/44 Mosin carbine generally did as well or better than the 98k. It was the wartime version that did not have the folding bayonet, and as far as I could tell had no provision for the detachable angular bayonet, either. Markings on the receiver indicted that it had been in Finnish hands at one time, notably the rather large and obvious Finnish cross and the rework stamp from Valmet dated February of ’46.

          cheers

          eon

          • Have a No 4 Mk 5 that shot well with the flip up ladder sight. It was a post WWII model made in England, in Fazarkley if I recall correctly. Discovered that it had some shims placing upward pressure on the barrel near the muzzle. Bought it back in the 1990’s when barrels of them were coming over and being sold for around a hundred dollars each. The shims were old looking and must have been inserted when it saw military service.

            Decided to clean it up, refinished the metal, and got some new wood for it (the original wood had been beat up to the point that no amount of steam was going to raise the dents) and the thing is no longer accurate. Seems the fit / pressure of the forearm is important to how accurate it is. It would be interesting to know if the fiddling in the original stock was done at the factory or in the field. Another project for another day. Really have no user for the thing, but it seems a shame to not restore and take care of the sort of arm that saw England through its darkest days.

          • @eon,

            The two positions of the No.4 flip sight were: 300 yds with bayonet/ approx 450 yards without, and 600 yds without.

            Bayonet makes something like 6-8 MOA difference on the No.4, causing it to shoot low. Incidentally, on the No.1 SMLE, the bayonet makes the point of aim higher.

          • I own a post-war, Fazakerly built No. 4 Mk. 2 that performs considerably better than any of its wartime brethren (both Canadian and British-made).

  5. I agree, the bare headed fellow is carrying an SVT-40. Mine looks much like that from that angle, (I just checked), except for the difference in sling and sling swivel.

    Mine came with a standard type sling swivel, I purchased at a gun show what was supposed to be the correct sling. Now I am not so sure. (I have had that thought for a long long time.)

    I kind of like the SVT-40. Mine was originally unreliable, until I fashioned a wrench to adjust the gas operation. Then, it was good with steel cased surplus from at least 2 different sources.

    This wouldn’t be the first time a middle age gun enthusiast has made a gun work that teen aged draftees couldn’t, however.

  6. Two of them only seem to have SVT-40’s maybe they liked them… I can’t see their own guns, being carried by them or anyone else that’s visible and the fellow with the bundle of Mosins has deliberately shouldered his separately.

  7. To those saying the SVT is unreliable — not quite true.

    Most of the issues I’ve found with the weapon occur because the gas adjustment is set to some setting below 1.7 (Maximum).
    When set on 1.7 it will run fine just as an FN-FAL would; slightly more violent ejection and recoil but it will be reliable.

    The big issues with the SVT is not the rifle, but the cartridge. Automatic rifles using rimmed cartridges have always had problems with feeding and extraction for obvious reasons, and the SVT is no exception. Loading an SVT with stripper clips is more difficult than doing so with a Mosin Nagant, and this was the primary method of loading (plans were to issue each soldier with 2 spare SVT magazines in addition to the one in the rifle, but this is not known to have ever occurred). This issue is made worse by the horrible stripper-clip design for the Mosin that is neither smooth nor reliable.

    If the SVT had been built for a non-rimmed round like 8mm mauser or .30-06, it probably would have fared much better in the long run and gotten a better reputation.
    Personally, I find rimmed-cartridges are only good for light/medium machine-guns and not rifles.

    • Excellent information and solid data — thank you! However, I have not found the original stripper clip design for the Mosin-Nagant rifle to be wanting in any way with regard to the 7.62mm x 54R rimmed cartridge, as long as one is aware of how it should be properly applied. Having spoken to several long-term M-N users about this particular topic — including some wartime veterans — it would appear that the stripper clip set-up as used in the M91/30 works very well in a wide variety of climatic and environmental conditions, as it was designed to do.

      Perhaps, in this particular case, the real problem stems from the inherent incompatibility between the M-N stripper clip system and the relatively new SVT-40 design of the time. As for the statement that rimmed cartridges may work well for machine-guns and not for rifles, we may want to remember that the classic 0.303″ British Enfield cartridge, a semi-rimmed round ( call it what you will, it is still a rimmed cartridge in its own right, albeit of slightly shallower protrusion ), worked with equal success in a wide range of weapons ranging from the Lee-Enfield bolt-action rifle through the Bren LMG and Vickers MMG to the British 0.303″ Browning aircraft MG’s, just to name a few.

      I think that somewhere in this apparent contradiction, there must be a logical set of conclusions as to why, and that the combined knowledge base of FW readers will provide the answer. Any other ideas, anyone?

      • Of the memoirs I’ve read from Red Army veterans, almost none praised the Mosin-Nagant.
        In fact, the last one I read said the opposite; nobody wanted the old rifles because they were practically useless when submachine-guns were far more effective at the type of engagements the Red Army participated in, especially 1943-onwards. If you had a Mosin-Nagant, you were most likely one of the hastily trained conscripts that was not part of a mechanized/mobilized division like any of the “Guards Rifles”. Although still Red Army infantry, they were deemed less valuable and had to walk across Europe and back.
        I’ve also never heard anyone praise the stripper-clip design. They do work better in the 91/30, but not much. What kind of scenario would a Mosin-Nagant clip work where a Mauser 8mm clip would not?

        Furthermore, I’d like to specify that I said Rimmed-cartridges do not work well in Automatic-Rifles, particularly those with double-stack magazines where loading has to be specific, a problem exasperated by the use of stripper clips. Of course with a rifle like the .303 Enfields you have a bolt-action system that was built around the cartridge, hence why it works better. The Bren, while reliable, isn’t hindered by stripper-clips as it is more-so a light-machine gun than an automatic-rifle, and as such the users were given plenty of spare magazines that were loaded outside of combat.

        For belt-fed machine guns, like the Browning or Vickers, Rimmed rounds work well as they are (somewhat) less likely to FTE because of the large rims. Being belted, there is also no need to worry about proper loading into magazines.

        • For most WW2 infantry engagements an SMG with a good SMG cartridge (7.62×25 Tokarev, hot loaded “+P” 9×19 Para) was better than any bolt action rifle, regardless of the rifle. The British had a high-capacity rifle with a fast action and a mediocre SMG (the Sten), so they did not notice it so clearly, but still it was concluded that for an average conscript the Sten was better. The Soviets, the Finns, the Italians and even the Germans used as many SMGs as they could get their hands on.

    • “I find rimmed-cartridges are only good for light/medium machine-guns and not rifles”
      The Soviet SVD (Dragunov) rifle was introduced in 1963 and is still used and produced, despite using the rimmed 7.62x54R cartridge.

      • Again, it was just an opinion/observation.

        If you want to look into the development of the Dragunov SVD in-depth, you’ll find that the magazine design took a significant amount of time to perfect because the cartridge was rimmed. The rumor I recollect hearing was that the magazine alone took more time to develop than the actual rifle itself.

  8. Jokes aside, collecting up the enemy’s captured arms would be a normal task in any war. You wouldn’t leave them laying around the battlefield for partisans to pick up. I have seen photographs of Canadian soldiers piling up huge numbers of captured German rifles. In some cases they were piled up in rough racks, in others they were just stacked like cordwood on the floor.

    The captured Soviet rifles in the picture above could have eventually ended up in the hands of rear area security troops.

    A rather interesting tidbit is that one of the major reasons that the British chose 9x19mm to be their standard submachine gun round is that they captured huge stocks of it from the Italians in Africa. It wasn’t a standard pistol round for them at that time (the Browning HP came later in the war), but they didn’t want to throw away all that captured ammunition.

    • Well, when the Italian army in North Africa basically surrenders en masse and gives you something like 30 million rounds of 9 x 19mm intended for the Beretta M1938 SMG, it’s poor manners not to make use of it.

      😉

      That said, the main reason for the Sten being a 9 x 19mm was that there really wasn’t another suitable cartridge in the British inventory. At one point somebody in the procurement chain demanded it be made for the standard 0.380in Revolver round, aka .38 S&W. Somehow, someone with some clout advised said demander to SD/SU, but when the FN HP pistol production was being set up at Inglis in Canada, some…person… demanded that it be redesigned for 0.380in Revolver, as well.

      Still, that’s not as bad as the “proposal” that’s still on record to have the HP redesigned for .455in Webley revolver. Yes, the revolver, not the self-loading round.

      I’ve long suspected that there were elements in RA procurement who were just opposed to self-loading weapons, period. Either that or they didn’t know much about small arms, period (again).

      Or both?

      cheers

      eon

      • “That said, the main reason for the Sten being a 9 x 19mm was that there really wasn’t another suitable cartridge in the British inventory”
        When the British Army start to using the Thompson SMG? It was introduced during Lend-Lease or earlier?

        • I agree they could have used .45 ACP, but at the time the only production facilities for it were in the U.S. Every round of .45 Auto that the British Army got came across the Atlantic along with the Thompsons. There are still a lot of both on the seabed there, courtesy of the U-boat wolfpacks.

          When it came to actually gearing up for cartridge production, the 9 x 19mm won on three principles.

          First, the round was small, not much larger than a .380 ACP, and took less material to manufacture per round than the .45 ACP.

          Second, it was lightweight, so a soldier armed with a 9mm SMG could carry more rounds for the same load weight than .45.

          Third, it was much more accurate and reliable in feeding and ejecting than its nearest competitor, the .38 ACP, which was in fact made in the UK.

          (By Kynoch; I have a couple of yellow-and-red boxes of Kynoch .38 ACP FMJ that date to the 1920s, marked “For Webley Automatic Pistols and Revolvers”, the latter meaning the Webley-Fosbery recoil-operated “automatic revolver”. Note that these are not .38 Super rounds, and putting .38 Super into any Webley made for the .38 ACP could have unfortunate consequences.)

          Some people maintain that the deciding factor was that captured German 9mm ammunition could be used. I rather doubt that it was a “deciding” factor, but it was probably an extra inducement.

          I think the major factor, though, was simple reliability. 9 x 19mm weapons, if at all reasonably designed and properly built, tend to be very feed-reliable because of the profile of the cartridge, which tends to drop into the chamber rather like a tapered peg into a funnel.

          It’s often forgotten, or rather not generally known, that the U.S. forces used some 9 x 19mm SMGs during the war. Most notably the United Defense M42 designed by Carl Swebelius and built by Marlin. Some 15,000 were made, mostly for a Dutch contract, but after the fall of the Dutch East Indies in early 1942 the bulk seem to have ended up with the OSS, who put them to practical use in occupied Europe and found them to be entirely adequate for sorting out gentlemen in field-grey uniforms.

          I suspect very few UD M42s ever made it to the Indies, simply because none ever showed up in use by Japanese forces later in the war. The IJA and Naval Special Landing Forces (“Imperial Marines”, as they were often misnamed by Allied G2) were as prone to augmenting their armories with effective captured weapons and ammunition as anyone else.

          As such, if they didn’t use “Dutch” M42s I am forced to assume that it was because there weren’t enough available to be worth it from a logistics standpoint.

          Just a guess.

          cheers

          eon

          • The NEI took no delivery of UD 42s or of Johnson rifles. The Rising Sun was flying over their capital (Batavia?) before the gus were ready for delivery. Like other contracts for France and other occupied countries, the US took them over. OSS got a lot of that stuff because their needs were minor, easily met by the odd lots available, and their people were trained in very small batches and not expected to be interchangeable in the same way that a line-dog soldier or infantry Marine was.

    • An uncle, sadly passed on now for several years, who was in the 3rd Army said that often times captured arms were thrown in a pile and driven over by a tank. Seems like an awful waste, but they were well supplied and had no time to waste.

      Did see it written somewhere that some of the captured German arms and ammunition were put in cosmoline and stashed in a variety of hiding places in Western Europe just after WWII. The idea being that if the Soviets moved West that the stashes could supply partisan groups. One reason why the US special forces were familiarized with MG42’s up into the 1960’s.

      • Having had the questionable honour of finding such a stash while clearing out my great grandads basement I can confirm that they existed. Probably still do for that matter.
        The stash included about a dozen bolt action rifles of various makes and model and a crate of ammunition for each, three Sten SMGs, a couple of revolvers and a box of live German handgrenades.
        As you might imagine I called the EODs right quickly after that.

  9. Not just small arms, the British Army in the desert issued a guide showing what mortar rounds (German and Italian) were usable in British and captured Axis equipment.

    I can’t remember where I saw it though.

    • I thought so, but I could not say for sure at the time given the problems I was having with photographic close-ups on my computer ( isn’t technology wonderful — NOT, at least sometimes!).

      Thanks very much for confirming this, and good to hear from you, as always, Javier!

  10. aah, error in my post of December 21, 2014 at 12:42 am: should be – on the No.1 SMLE, the bayonet makes the point of *impact* higher.

    An interesting project for retirement would be making shooting tests so as to make the definitive list of the influence of the bayonet on as many rifles as possible 🙂

  11. The picture illustrates quite accurately how well trained troops can defeat “conscripts” in open battle. But with hindsight, we know war involves much more than that. The Russians “learned” and there was more of them, they produced more tanks, Ppsh’s etc, more everything and there was always more.

    eeek…

    • And sadly for the Nazis, their weapons were not always mass-produced enough so that everyone on their team got the good stuff. In fact, most of the Waffen-SS got crappy weapons early in the war!

      As for well-trained soldiers beating the pants off rookies, Imperial Japan started that way as well. The average Japanese soldier in 1941 had at least two years’ worth of combat experience kicking the Chinese Nationalists and Chinese Communists (who were also killing each other at the same time, mind you) before Japan vandalized Pearl Harbor (inefficiently, I might add). The average American soldier at this time was a high-school graduate with no experience in any field other than the football field. If one were to pit the GI against his Japanese counterpart one-on-one in 1941, the former might expect the latter to quietly sit still while the former is lining up his Springfield and the latter would expect the former to run away screaming mommy while the latter charges with his bayonet fixed in the hopes of impaling the former. But even if the soldiers are good, they must stay alive if they are to continue kicking over countries’ butts. Attrition turned the tides of the Pacific theatre against the Empire for very obvious reasons. Small professional (and very expensively trained) armies can’t win attrition wars too well against hordes of sufficiently mechanized (and sensibly not battle-crazed so that they can train their recruits) armies.

      • There was an even bigger disparity in the aviation world. The German and Japanese airmen (especially the Japanese Naval Aviators, who were probably the most painstakingly trained men in the entire war) were better trained and more experienced than their British and American opposite numbers early-on in the war. But neither country did well at setting up a training scheme that replaced attrition with similar quality; they both expected a short war and kept running training on a peacetime basis.

        By the time the training problem was recognized in Berlin and Tokyo, the Empire Training Scheme and the US’s massive system of flight-crew and maintenance schools were both producing tens of thousands (ultimately hundreds of thousands) of airmen who were “good enough,” just as American and British machines were coming on line with their own advantages over once-dominant Axis types.

        Midwar, there were definitely deficiencies in US pilot training (especially in instrument flight, where a lot of USAAF-issued instrument cards were a dangerous lie) but they were able to face the enemy on a basically level skills basis. As the US and Allies got better, the Germans and Japanese panicked and cut vital parts out of training. (Both of them were badly fuel-constrained, too. Do you use that fuel for training and starve your combat units, or do you fuel the combat units and, essentially, eat your seed corn? Neither option ends well).

        By 1945, both Axis powers were sending airmen into combat who were more hazardous to themselves and their crews just flying than they were to the enemy. Sheep to the shearing. The Germans actually planned to send Hitler Youth up in rocket planes with only single-digit-hours’ training in primitive gliders. Fortunately for the boys in question, the plan didn’t come together in time. The Japanese squandered the lives of no-hope recruits and valuable aces alike in ill-conceived suicide attacks.

        • I often wonder if those German and Japanese pilots of the early war period were as good as has been claimed. In his book Me 109 (Ballantine 1968), Martin Caidin points out that Luftwaffe claims of RAF and USAAF planes downed rarely matched RAF and USAAF loss records. Also, some Luftwaffe aces seem to have “padded” their scores, claiming aircraft damaged or “driven off” as victories rather than “mission kills”. (Hans-Joachim Marseilles, the “Star of Africa”, seems to have been especially prone to this.)

          Probably the best observation on this came from RAF Group Captain J.E. “Johnny” Johnson, the top British ace with 38 kills;

          ” I have found it possible to make a detailed check of some of the claims of a well-known German pilot who has been called ‘the unrivalled virtuoso of the fighter pilots’. His greatest day in the Western Desert was on September 1st, 1942 when he claimed seventeen victories, eight of them in the space of ten minutes. But our own records show that on this day we lost a total of only eleven aeroplanes, including two Hurricanes, a type which the German pilot did not claim. In fact, some of our losses occurred when he was on the ground.”

          – Caidin, p. 142

          With the possible exception of Maj. (later West German Air Force general) Erich Hartmann, whose score of 350+ over the Eastern Front is largely confirmed by Russian records, and Adolf Galland, who had a score 0f 100+ but started during the Condor Legion deployment to Spain in 1937, I believe that if you take the “official” score of a typical Luftwaffe ace and cut it in half, you’re probably very close to what they actually accomplished.

          Those who flew the longest, like Galland, tend to have higher scores that way, which is what you would tend to expect on statistical grounds.

          Hartmann was apparently an anomaly, and Marseilles… well, he may simply have been a better fighter pilot in propaganda publications than he was when actually in the air.

          cheers

          eon

          • Applies both ways. The practice is called “overclaiming” and pretty much all fighter pilots did it, often quite innocently but sometimes probably knowingly as well. German records routinely show lower losses than the Allies claimed. Introduction of gun cameras in US fighters towards the end of the war probably lessened the factor of overclaiming, as did some countries’ practice of positive confirmation of a “kill” by another pilot, but it has been accepted for some time that most pilot kill records are probably more or less optimistic. German claims probably more so than Allied claims, however, for various reasons.

            It must be noted that often it was not even possible to confirm if an enemy fighter was shot down or just seriously damaged. Fighters rarely exploded in a dramatic way and sometimes the pilot was dead or unconscious, so he could not bail out, which would have confirmed the kill.

          • Marseilles was also the “bad boy” of his squadron, listening to Allied radio stations, disrespecting the rules in general (and getting a rap sheet about the length of your arm), and once drove a kubelwagen right through a squadron-mate’s tent as a joke (but apparently not while under the influence of alcohol).

        • An excellent, analytical synopsis that I agree with. To this I would add that the overlap ( arms race ) in producing the next — and superior — generation of fighter aircraft did start to swing back towards the Axis powers near war’s end, but which occurred too late in the cycle to significantly influence historical events. Coupled with severe disadvantages in logistics, training, time constraints and the sheer pressures of war, the whole evolution of events basically resulted in a death knell for the Axis air arms.

          The well-known examples of the German Me-262, Me-163, et al., have been touted by historians beyond the pale, but what has been severely neglected is the history of the new generation of Japanese fighter aircraft that came into service late in the war, fighters such as the Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate, Mitsubishi Reppu ( this aircraft was about equal to the later Grumman F8F Bearcat and therefore a quantum leap over any naval — or air force — fighter then in service ) and Mitsubishi J2M Raiden ( Allied code name “Jack” ) that easily outflew and outperformed contemporary versions of the Grumman F6F Hellcat, Lockheed P-38J Lighting, Republic P-47D, P-47M and P-47N Thunderbolts, North American P-51 Mustang, Supermarine Spitfire XXI, etc., all else being equal. And I stress the term “all else being equal” — at war’s end, this was hardly the case, as you have already mentioned. Add to that the inability of Japanese ( and German ) production lines to generate anything like the sheer numbers of the aircraft needed to a consistent quality standard, the severe deterioration in overall trained aircrew quality ( surviving aces notwithstanding ) and deterioration in the quality and reliability of key components such as engines due to the exigencies of war ( the late-model Japanese fighters all suffered in this respect ), and it is quite clear why the Axis air arms were doomed to face eventual defeat.

          Which once again reminds me of the old firearms adage that “best is often the enemy of good”.

      • The Imperial Japanese Army which had invaded China was definitely not small and neither was it professional in the sense of being a voluntary army. By 1941 it was experienced, but mostly it had been fighting against poorly equipped Chinese with very variable morale and training. The Chinese were especially lacking in armor and artillery, which made the rather feeble Japanese tank formations and artillery look much better than they were. When they encountered the Soviets at Khalkhin-Gol in 1939, they lost despite the Red Army being less experienced and probably less motivated. The Japanese actually had a slight superiority in men, but the Soviets had a lot more modern artillery and tanks. The Japanese fought bravely and caused large casualties to the Soviets, but they couldn’t match the sheer firepower of the Red Army, and in the end suffered even larger casualties.

        The defeat at at Khalkhin-Gol (or Nomonhan as it was called by the Japanese) was, by the way, the final nail to the coffin of “continental” grand strategy advocated by the Japanese Army, and pretty much set the stage for the Pacific War.

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