Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Ironies of History

Readers may recall (perhaps with ennui) that I've been working on restoring a German K98 Mauser battle rifle from WW2. Some 12 million K98s were made during the war, and after Germany's defeat they were literally scattered across Europe.

A number of GIs smuggled them home in their duffle bags as trophies, and these 'GI Bring Backs' fetch some of the highest prices from collectors today. The US and Britain destroyed millions of them, recycling the metal and taking weapons they didn't want getting into the wrong hands off the market. The Soviets and various Eastern Bloc countries cleaned up and stored several million -- just in case they needed to send millions of men armed with bolt-action rifles charging across the steppes of Europe against Americans armed with tanks and atomic weapons. Hundreds of thousands of the K98s ended up on the international arms market, both legal and illegal, and found their way into the hands of just about any group buying arms in the late 1940s.

One such group was the nascent Israeli Defense Force, then a network of paramilitary organizations dedicated to defending the growing Jewish settlements in Palestine from the political and military chaos of the region. These groups bought thousands of K98s, which became the primary battle rifle used in the fighting leading up to and following the creation of the state of Israel. The IDF chose the K98 as its primary battle rifle, and had thousands more made by the FN company in Belgium. However, there were a total of about 100,000 Nazi-made K98s which were rearsenaled by Israel and stamped with Hebrew letter identifications and the Star of David. In a few cases, the Star of David was stamped right over the Nazi markings on the receiver.

Israel later adopted the semi-automatic FAL rifle in NATO .308, but the reserves continued to carry the K98 (those still in use were modified to use the NATO .308 round instead of the German 8mm Mauser) into the '70s and it saw action in a number of the wars Israel has fought.

Surely not something that the German makers of the rifle intended.


Rick Lugari said...

Readers may recall (perhaps with ennui) that I've been working on restoring a German K98 Mauser battle rifle from WW2.

Not at all. I'll take posts about guns, chicks, and gadgets over primordial soup or placenta stuff.


Anonymous said...

Hey! Some of us actually ENJOY reading about primoridal soup and placenta stuff!>_<

Darwin, did noogs and Babs have any hand in the restoring of the K98? :)

Fidei Defensor said...

do u have one of the Isreali marked k98s?

Darwin said...

No, I don't have an Israeli marked K98. It seems like a cool idea, but I'm thinking that's one of those "one of these days" things like getting a Finnish M39.

First I want to complete my 'Big 4' WW2 collection by getting an Enfield and an M1.

In the mean time, MrsDarwin has decided that working on refinishing the stock is lots of fun and not so different than her enthusiasms for wood furniture and wood floors. So I have a for useful partner-in-crime than the toddlers.