Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Volksturm Small Arms

Image taken from: Desperate Measures The Last-Ditch Weapons of the Nazi Volkssturm by W Darrin Weaver
Note the VG 1-5 in the soldier’s hands bottom left.

Volkssturm Gewehr 1 (VG1)
The 7.92mm VG1 was a last ditch weapon made in the last days of World War II. It has a crudely made bolt and stock and uses the magazine of the semiautomatic Model 43 rifle.
Firing the VG1 can be a risky affair, since they were made at the low point of German manufacture in World War II.

Volkssturm Karabiner 98 (VK98)
The 7.92mm VK98 uses the model 98 action combined with miscellaneous barrels from old German and foreign Mausers. The stock is very crude and is of unfinished, unseasoned wood. Most of these weapons were single shot, but some were fitted with the semiautomatic Model 43 rifle magazine.

Maschinenpistole 3008 (MP3008)
The MP3008 is another example of a weapon deliberately copied from the Sten, but in this case the motives were different. In the last few months of 1944, the German High Command was desperate for cheap and simple weapons with which to replace the staggering losses in Russia, and to arm the raw battalions of young men who were to make the last stand against the Allies. At the same time, the Volksstrum and various guerrilla bands were forming, all demanding arms.

The British Sten had been one of the outstanding successful designs of the war, despite it’s drawbacks, and it was noted for its economy of material and uncomplicated design. Accordingly, it was copied in an even cruder and simpler form, and several firms manufactured as many as the circumstances allowed. The resulting guns differed widely in finish and some were among the worst finished weapons ever made, but they worked, which was that was required of them.

The most obvious difference from the Sten was in the vertical magazine which fed upwards into the receiver. There were other changes, particularly in the design of the butt and in the joining and pinning of the components.

Approximately 10,000 of these weapons were made and, although few saw action, it was remarkable enough that these guns had been manufactured in the chaotic conditions then prevailing in a Germany where raw materials and machining facilities were in equally short supply.

Caliber: 9mm Length: 31.5 inches Weight: 6 lb 8oz Barrel: 7.75 in 6 or 8 grooves, right hand twist Magazine: 32-round detachable box Cyclic rate: 500 rds/min. Muzzle velocity: 1250 ft/sec

Versuchs-Gerat 1-5 or Volksstrum-Gewehr 1-5
The VG 1-5 was a self-loading assault rifle hurriedly developed by the Suhl based Gustloft-Werke as part of the Primitiv Waffen Programm of 1944: the weapons were intended for issued to the Volksstrum and sundry last-ditch organizations which ultimately came to nothing.

The rifle was designed by Barnitzke, Gustlof-Werke’s chief designer, who had developed the operating principles in 1943, taking the MP-43 as his base. The VG 1-5 is remarkable as the mechanism incorporates a textbook case of delayed blowback operation.

The VG 1-5 was designed to fire the 7.92x39mm Kurz cartridge, and in order to simplify production, used the 30 round magazine developed for the MP-43. Small scale production is said to have begun in January 1945, but none of the few weapons which were found after the war bear formal Wehrmacht acceptance stamps and it is presumed that whatever production did take place was entirely on the initiative of the factory staff, who, by that time, doubtless had one ear cocked for the approaching Red Army.

Caliber: 7.92x39mm Kurz Length: 35.85 inches Weight: 10 lbs Barrel: 14.90 inches 4 grooves, right hand twist Magazine: 30 round detachable box Muzzle velocity: 2150 ft/sec

12th SS-Panzer Division 'Hitler Jugend' I

The 12th SS-Panzer Division 'Hitler Jugend' was a direct product of Hitler Youth indoctrination and training. Thrown into action against British and Canadian troops in June 1944. it performed far more effectively than many on both sides had predicted. These young Panzergrenadiers of the division are receiving medals less than two weeks after the D-Day landings.

The 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend ("Hitler Youth") was a German Waffen SS armoured division during World War II. The Hitlerjugend was unique because the majority of its junior enlisted men were drawn from members of the Hitler Youth born in 1926, while the senior NCOs and officers were generally veterans of the Eastern Front.

The division, with 20,540 personnel, first saw action on 7 June 1944 as part of the German defense of the Caen area during the Normandy campaign. The battle for Normandy took its toll on the division and it came out of the Falaise pocket with a divisional strength of 12,500 men.

Following the invasion battles, the division was sent to Germany for refitting. On 16 December 1944, the division was committed against the US Army in the Battle of the Bulge. After the failure of the Ardennes offensive the division was sent east to fight the Red Army near Budapest. The 12th SS Division eventually withdrew into Austria; on 8 May 1945, the surviving 10,000 men surrendered to the US Army at Enns.

The reputation of the division has been affected by war crimes committed by members of the division during the early battles in Normandy.


The training of the 'Hitlerjugend' Division was distinct from that of other Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS formations, and reflected many of the core values of the Hitler Youth. In particular, the idea that youth must be led by youth was reflected in the relatively young age of the cadre of former HJ members who provided many of the officers and NCOs of the division. For example, Max was called back from service with the Leibstandarte Division to take command of a company in the 25th Panzergrenadier Regiment of the 'Hitlerjugend' Division at the age of only 23. Even the commanders of the Division were relatively young, with the original commander Fritz Witt being aged 34 at the time of his death in 1944, while his replacement, Kurt Meyer, was only 33. The youth of the division as a whole was reflected in the fact that its members were issued with a ration of sweets instead of cigarettes, much to their disgust. Although he had few qualms about throwing German children into battle, Himmler remained concerned to the end that they not learn the habit of smoking.

Max joined the recruits of the 'Hitler Jugend' Division at their training facility at Beverloo in Belgium in August 1943. The boys he trained had come straight from various Wehrertuchtigungslager, and were fit and highly motivated. They looked up to Max, the experienced veteran of the Eastern Front, as a model to emulate and impress. Training at Beverloo reflected the comparative egalitaranism of the Hitler Youth ethos. Max was encouraged to develop a close relationship with his 'men', and he took pains to explain the purpose of orders rather than expecting unthinking obedience. In this way, the military unit itself was supposed to mirror the ideal of the Volksgemeinschaft. Little emphasis was placed on drill, training instead aiming to give as realistic an idea of actual battle as possible. The terrain games' of the Hitler Youth supplied the model for this, with boys of the Hitler Jugend training intensively in exciting and demanding field exercises.

12th SS-Panzer Division 'Hitler Jugend' II

The idea of a Waffen-SS division composed of Hitlerjugend (HJ) members was first proposed by Gruppenführer Gottlob Berger in January 1943. Berger approached Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler with the proposition, and Himmler soon became an enthusiastic advocate.[1] The plan for a combat division made up of all Hitlerjugend members born in 1926 was passed on to Adolf Hitler for his approval. Hitler was also enthusiastic about the idea, and on 13 February 1943, the official order for the creation of an Hitlerjugend division was issued.

Berger nominated himself as the divisional commander, but Himmler instead chose 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler (LSSAH) veteran, Oberführer Fritz Witt.

A competition was held to design insignia for the new unit. The winning design, picked from thousands of entries, depicted the Hitlerjugend sigrune crossing a key from the 1st SS Panzer Division LSSAH's insignia.

While the Hitlerjugend members, who had grown up under NSDAP  propaganda, were committed to the Nazi cause, they had no military experience. To provide a skilled backbone for the division, veterans from the 1st SS Panzer Division LSSAH were assigned to the Hitlerjugend division and provided all the regimental, battalion and most of the company commanders. However the SS could not provide all the officers required and 50 Army officers were assigned. They served in their army uniforms but were completely part of the division.  Training for the division was unusual. Witt, realizing that the division had to be made ready for combat as quickly as possible, ignored many rules and regulations and instead focused on realistic combat scenarios and live-fire exercises.  A result of this was that the morale of the HJ was exceptionally high, and the relationship between the officers, NCOs and men was an informal one, based on mutual trust and respect.

Panzergrenadiers on a Panzer IV during training 1943, some idea of how young members of the division were, can be obtained in this picture.

In March 1944 the 12th SS was deemed ready for active service and was ordered to move to Caen in Normandy and became part of the 1st SS Panzer Corps. Throughout the spring of 1944 the division continued training exercises in the peaceful area around Caen, familiarizing itself with the terrain. This was to prove invaluable in the months to come. On 27 May, Witt celebrated his 36th birthday and his recent promotion to Brigadeführer. The peaceful 'holiday atmosphere', as one grenadier described it, was soon to be shattered.

Hitler Youth visit the 12th SS Panzer, 21 March 1944 in Belgium.

At the beginning of June 1944 the division was declared ready for combat operations. The Division's tank strength at this time was 81 Panther and 104 Panzer IV tanks. The division was also equipped with Jagdpanzer IV tank destroyers, three prototype Wirbelwind flakpanzer vehicles, along with a number of 20 mm, 37 mm and 88 mm flak guns, Hummel, Wespe and sIG 33 self-propelled guns and regular towed artillery pieces.

Its tank destroyer unit, SS Panzerjäger Battalion 12, however, was not considered ready for action and was understrength in Jagdpanzer IV.