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"What Do You Know About Foreign Weapons?" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   An article stressing the importance of soldier's knowledge of foreign weapons, from the Intelligence Bulletin, March 1946.

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on enemy tactics and equipment published for Allied soldiers. More accurate data on German tactics and equipment is available in postwar publications.]


In the year 1346, French knights under Philip the VI of Valois rode into the Battle of Crécy and were slaughtered by a hail of English arrows. Their defeat can be attributed not so much to tactical errors, as to their failure to appreciate the capabilities of their enemy's weapons—in this case, the relatively new English longbow in the hands of English yeomen.

Today, most soldiers know that a knowledge of foreign weapons and matériel gives a man an insight to the capabilities and limitations of either a potential enemy or ally. Many have learned to appreciate the difference in bursting radius of a Jap grenade and its Australian counterpart, or the difference in range and accuracy between a "burp" gun and a Bren. Yet there is another reason why well-trained soldiers should be familiar with the operational use of foreign matériel.

Modern warfare is characterized by rapid maneuver dependent upon great masses of complex supplies. In the past there have been times when a unit, moving too fast for its supply train to keep pace, has found itself in great need of such things as ammunition, spare parts for motor vehicles, and replacement gun tubes. Very often this need for replenished supplies has been felt at the crucial and deciding phase of the operation. At such times, some commanders and their troops have saved their situation, or at least improved their position, by the resourceful use of captured foreign matériel.

[German 88 being used by U.S. troops.]
Any foreign weapon may be useful to troops seeking to better their tactical position, but weapons in which an enemy has a qualitative lead are especially valuable. Above is seen a common or garden variety of old German 88 being used by U.S. troops; below, a German 170-mm gun used by the British.
[German 170-mm gun used by the British.]

An excellent example of such initiative took place during the recent war in Europe. General Patton's Third Army, faced in the fall and early winter of 1944 with a stringent ammunition shortage, refurbished and put into action serviceable items of captured artillery. On 2 November 1944, one corps—the XX—was employing 39 such pieces, classed as follows: four 76.2-mm Soviet guns, ten 88-mm German guns, eight 100-mm fortress guns, six 105-mm German howitzers, two 122-mm Soviet guns, six 150-mm German howitzers, and three 155-mm French howitzers.

Up to that date, this corps had fired 30,920 rounds of ammunition weighing 660 tons and valued at $702,391. For the week ending on 29 October of that year, 80 percent of the artillery ammunition fired by the XX Corps had been captured from the Germans. One time-on-target mission fired on a German troop concentration at Amanvillers was executed by U.S. tank destroyers, 90-mm antiaircraft guns, 155-mm M1 howitzers, and by German 105-mm gun howitzers, German 88's, Soviet and French Schneider 155-mm howitzers. The Soviet weapons, and those of the French, had been seized from Allied forces earlier in the war, and had been recaptured by the Third Army.

[Previously briefed on Jap weapons, these Marines were prepared to make the best use of this Jap Type 99 LMG.]
The importance of rapid infantry advance under conditions inhibiting prompt supply makes the infantryman's knowledge of foreign infantry weapons a possibly decisive factor in many engagements. Previously briefed on Jap weapons, these Marines were prepared to make the best use of this Jap Type 99 LMG.

Any matériel that has been captured by U.S. forces is the property of the U.S. Army. In Italy, and again in France, Belgium, and Germany, the Nazis attempted to claim that the use of German weapons by Allied troops was illegal. The Germans—even the German G.I.—certainly knew better, for the German Army towards the end of the war resembled an arms museum, with small arms and every other type of weapon culled from every army in Europe. Arms and other matériel captured in combat have always, throughout history, become the acknowledged property of the conqueror, and may be used as he sees fit.

All that is needed is knowledge. Not only knowledge of what the ether man's weapon will do, but knowledge of how to make it work for you.

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