FWIW, I go back a bit further than Ketland. I was 12 in 1945 when the troops started to come home. Some from the ETO were given 30 days leave before being sent to the Pacific; some of those still in transit or on leave when the war ended were told to just wait for orders, which usually meant discharge papers.
Most of those who had actually seen combat did not talk a lot about it, but even some of them could not help bragging to a young boy. I listened to guys who had captured Hitler (he go away), who had taken a Walther PP or P.38 "offen Goring personal", captured Italy single handed, and so on. Not to take anything away from the real heroes, but the men of the "greatest generation", believe me, were also the greatest liars.
But some would tell it like it was with captured weapons. Pistols were often taken from prisoners captured in real fighting, but long guns were almost always taken from depots and dumps where captured weapons were kept. The GI's who were rotating back and who wanted souvenirs were taken in trucks to a depot or weapons dump and told to pick out a rifle and take it with them. Many rifles were without bolts; the bolts were in another pile.
(The bolts were removed when the prisoners were first captured to that if they tried to escape they couldn't just grab a working rifle.)
In the Pacific, most of the rifle bringbacks came from depots in Japan; the "mums" were ground off by Japanese workers before the rifles were surrendered to the heathen Americans. Not in the states, not on the ships, not by Japanese troops with power grinders, not by Harry Truman. By Japanese, under an agreement to allow that small face-saving measure.
If anyone thinks about it, stories about capturing a half dozen enemy rifles and bringing them back don't make sense. No one who has ever been in the service could believe that an infantryman could carry around not only his own rifle but even one captured piece. And they were NOT allowed to mail guns home; that was prohibited, and the army post office enforced the rules.
As to those rules and laws. The main deterrent to stealing U.S. weapons (and that is what it was, no matter how many fables you hear) was that if caught the smuggler would spend a couple of years in Leavenworth. Those vets wanted OUT! Now! They had no desire to change olive green for the dyed brown of army prisoners. The desire to go home, for all but a few, far outweighed the value of any weapon they might steal.
Last edited by James K; December 24, 2012 at 02:16 PM.