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Old December 4, 2012, 04:45 PM   #1
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USMC pacific WWII Keep their combat arms?

In the past, I have heard people say things like " my dad brought such and such home and it was his rifle, carbine, pistol, while in combat in the pacific". That being said, My pop was a supply officer in the USMC during the war, and prior to his passing in 1993, he assured me that under no circumstances were any marines allowed to keep their combat arms, and that those who had carbines, Garands, 03's , and 1911's, after the war purchased them on the civillian market post war. Does anybody have knowledge to the contrary?
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Old December 4, 2012, 06:42 PM   #2
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They were not allowed to keep their assigned combat weapon. But, for example, we sent 70,000 Marines into Iwo Jima, and 25,000 of those were either wounded or died by the end of the campaign. That's a lot of "unaccounted" for service weapons for bringing an extra one home.
One vet told me that they had big warnings and announcements on every troop ship home that every duffel bag would be searched for contraband. And you could get a lot of nice stuff on the ships for a pack of cigarettes from people who believed that they really tried to search 5000 duffel backs (the story accompanying a near pristine Navy issued 1911 he was selling, picked up on the way back from Okinawa).
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Old December 4, 2012, 07:06 PM   #3
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those who had carbines, Garands, 03's , and 1911's, after the war purchased them on the civillian market post war. Does anybody have knowledge to the contrary?
Actually, many were stolen as well. Many may have been battle field pickups, etc. My knowledge of the history coincides with your grandfathers, aside from where some of those guys got some of those guns.
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Old December 4, 2012, 07:09 PM   #4
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The story of Marine's being allowed to keep their firearms is based on fact.
In the old days before WWII, a retiring Marine was allowed to BUY his rifle.

A lot of GI issue guns were stolen and brought home by GI's.
Most of these were pistols, which were easier to hide in duffel bags.

How much risk there was depended on the commanders of the unit, and the officer in command of a returning troop ship.
Many officers looked the other way, but very few would tolerate stealing rifles or automatic weapons.

In some cases officers just didn't care about pistols being taken by troops, others were dead serious against it as what it was...stealing Government property.
I read several accounts of GI's being told that a troop ship was going to be searched and anyone caught with a GI issue firearm would be in BIG trouble and wouldn't be mustered out.
Many of them threw guns overboard, only to never have any search done.
Other troop ships were searched.
The majority of stolen firearms were pistols, with much less stealing of rifles, carbines, or especially automatic weapons.

When people think a weapon was brought home by a vet, it's often a mistake in terminology.
An old vet says "That's the weapon I carried in the war".
What he actually means is "That's the SAME TYPE of weapon I carried in the war".
I once sat at a big gun show and watched as a man almost started a fist fight over an M1 carbine.
He wasn't trying to sell it, he just wanted to be told more about it. It was the carbine his father had carried ashore at D-Day.

He showed it to a carbine seller and was given an opinion.
He got very angry and was told to take it several tables over where a nationally known carbine expert was set up.
The genuine expert gave his opinion and the man almost got violent, accusing the people at the show of trying to steal his prized carbine.
This in spite of the fact he wasn't trying to sell it and no one even offered to buy it.
Security had to escort him out, loudly accusing the show of being thieves.

The D-Day carbine his father carried..... a 1960's Universal.
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Old December 4, 2012, 07:43 PM   #5
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they were not allowed to take them home however that does not mean that they didn't some of those GIs were crafty and found ever imaginative ways to take their guns home. many US arms were sold as surplus following WWII however that does not mean that all of them were obtained legally.

be that as it may, all WWII era firearms are now legal no matter they were obtained as the statute of limitations has run out so nobody can be prosecuted for owning, selling or purchasing us government property that was stolen 70 years ago.
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Old December 4, 2012, 07:59 PM   #6
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Battlefield captured enemy weapons were shrugged off, but few grunts actually had the time or inclination to loot dead enemy soldiers. US Government or Allied weapons were required to be turned in if recovered on the battefield. Did some folks steal theirs? Sure. But troops were required to stand inspection (it's called a "junk on the bunk", and there would have been few places to stash contraband since footlockers were inspected as well). Many found that when they returned stateside, they could buy those weapons just a few years later for a fraction of what they cost during the war.

I was told by my dad (who served in the Pacific in ww2) that people would pull up alongside the ships in boats and sell any kind of weapon you wanted (swords, rifles, pistols, helmets, etc) for a few packs of smokes or chocolate bars. That way you could show the folks back home what a hero you were. And of course, there was a huge milsurp market in the 50s, 60s and 70s.
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Old December 4, 2012, 09:00 PM   #7
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Some people rob banks, but that doesn't mean robbing banks is legal. And some vets brought back U.S. weapons, but that doesn't mean it was legal to do so. It was theft of government property, period. Keeping allied weapons was also illegal, but not many Americans acquired those since U.S. contact with allied forces was minimal.

I can tell you from personal experience that while those vets of WWII were heros and "the greatest generation" a lot of them were also the greatest liars. I wish I had a dollar for every vet I knew who got a pistol from a captured German Field Marshal, or who took a sword from a dead Japanese general. (The Axis powers lost because they had all generals and field marshals, no privates!)

I learned to "read a chest" at an early age; it helped when a "Marksman" badge (the lowest rating) was being passed off as a Distinguished Service Cross. Soldiers who never left the states claimed to be combat veterans; one told me he had captured Hitler but the SOB got away!

And of course families helped perpetuate stories about weapons, as Dfariswheel says. One officer's widow showed me the carbine her late husband "carried on D-Day." It was a Model 1873 carbine.

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Old December 4, 2012, 11:06 PM   #8
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I never questioned my dads authority on the subject, he was not the type to parse words, and he was quite clear regarding the official policy being that all combat arms were returned post engagement, and that even the "lost in battle" arms had to be officially de-listed and accounted for as lost up to and including interviewing any wounded regarding circumstances and conditions under which those arms which were assigned to them, were lost, damaged, or destroyed. Every single one had to be accounted for. From the earliest days I can remember going to gun shows though, I have heard these stories. You can guess what my dad had to say about them. Now days, it's always this was my dad, grand dad, uncle etc. rifle, and he carried it yada, yada, yada.
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Old December 5, 2012, 07:47 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by ketland
In the past, I have heard people say things like " my dad brought such and such home and it was his rifle, carbine, pistol, while in combat in the pacific". That being said, My pop was a supply officer in the USMC during the war, and prior to his passing in 1993, he assured me that under no circumstances were any marines allowed to keep their combat arms, and that those who had carbines, Garands, 03's , and 1911's, after the war purchased them on the civillian market post war. Does anybody have knowledge to the contrary?
Your dad was correct. The military has a very good inventory control system for fire arms. A few returning GI's may have stolen a rifle, but a rifle is very hard to hide. Pistols were the common item.

GI's could legally bring back captured enemy weapons. All that was needed was local unit paper work, like this.

The "bring back " stories are used to get higher prices and 99.9% are lies IMHO. If the gun in question has paper work then it's a "bring back" anything else is a story, or stolen fire arm.

War2 vets may have bought a carbine, Garand, 1903 post war and claimed it was "just like" the one he was issued. These statements grew into "was" the one issued instead of "just like".

I see a lot of guys claim it's a bring back because of no import marking. Anything imported before 1968 was not marked.
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Old December 5, 2012, 08:10 AM   #10
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Here we go with the stories, but . . . ;-)

I had a family friend who was an 1st Lt. (Army) who served int he Pacific. He had his 1911A1 that he carried. When I asked him how he was able to keep it, he sorta smiled and told me that when their ship docked, he put on an MP armband and walked off with it hanging on his pistol belt. With the MP band, no one questioned him.

His father was in Supply Sgt. in Battery E, 328th F.A. in WW I. He also was able to hang on to his 1911 when he came home. He and his brother owned a hardware store in St. Johns, MI. He told me the story many times of how after the Armistice was signed, he went out and picked up 10 German Mausers. Somehow, he crated them up and shipped them back to his brother who received the crate and put it in the back room of the store. Several years after returning, he decided it was time to open it up and get them out. He always laughed when he told of his surprise as he opened the crate and when he looked in, it was full of rocks and no Mausers. Somewhere on the way home someone else had helped themselves.

My uncle was a ship's doctor in the navy on a tanker in the Pacific near the end of the war and then went to Japan. I was always amazed at the stuff he brought back - Japanese helmets, Arisaka Rifles (at least 3), a nom'com samurai sword, etc. I remember he told me he traded a tube of toothpaste to a Marine for the sword. I would imagine that being a ship's doctor as well as his rank had a little to do with getting more than one Arisaka back home.

Several years ago, I sold a Colt 1911A1 with pistol belt, holster, magazine pouch and three magazines that had been brought back by a Navy pilot after WWII. I never asked him how he got it home but for many years, I was afraid to register it (I live in MI) for fear it would show up on a stolen government property list of some sort. When I decided to sell it, I had to register it and there was no problem. The lady at the Sheriffs Dept. just smiled and said that over the years she had registered a lot of handguns marked "U.S. Property". O course it was stolen by the pilot - but hey, that's human nature I guess.

Just think of all of the millions of dollars worth of government property that was dumped into the sea after the war because it was no longer needed. What a waste!
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Old December 5, 2012, 09:51 AM   #11
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Nice Post madcrate... Souveniers are a whole other story, and of course we all know lots of those came back.
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Old December 5, 2012, 10:38 AM   #12
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My grandfather kept the 1911 he carried as a USMC fighter pilot in the Pacific, and the man was about as straight-laced as they come. If it had been forbidden, I have some doubt he would have taken it home with him. He did retire a full colonel, however, so maybe it was different for officers.
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Old December 5, 2012, 03:09 PM   #13
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I can't speak for the Marines . My father was Army Engineers and he bought a Garand and a Carbine on Okinwa. He had some friends at the house and mentioned he had bought them. One friend commented "yea , you probably stole them". Highly insulted my Dad went upstairs in his desk and promptly returned with a title 10 reciept for a Garand and a carbine. I remember the M1 was $97 and change.
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Old December 5, 2012, 03:50 PM   #14
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My uncle was given an Arisaka by his friends father. The story was the friends dad was a pilot. After the war, some of the captured arms were shipped to England to be melted down for scrap. The pilot stole a trunk of weapons. My uncle said he went to his friends house and the dad showed him a crate filled with WW11 weapons. Arisakas, MP40's, machine guns, you name it. It sounds believable, so i buy it.
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Old December 5, 2012, 04:06 PM   #15
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Sorry, but I don't think anyone bought rifles and carbines during combat operations on Okinawa or anywhere else. In the post war period, after surplus guns became available to arms dealers, they did show up in post/base exchanges and military personnel bought them there. And military personnel who were NRA members could buy guns through the DCM just like any other NRA member, as military personnel can buy from the CMP today. But that is not the same as simply tucking your issue weapon in your bag and bringing it home. That was and is illegal.

And I did hear about one officer who "sold" rifles, carbines, pistols and SMGs to his men. He simply claimed the guns a lost, and pocketed the money. He may still be in Leavenworth for all I know.
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Old December 5, 2012, 06:17 PM   #16
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Most bringbacks were brought back by rear echelon types, front line types who were wounded or injured usually found everything of theirs disappeared, plenty of cases of duffle bags and footlockers that just vanished, many other front line types found the only thing you owned was what you carried, things mailed back to the States often didn't arrive. I have read accounts of troops who were shaken down onboard troopships, again, so much depend on individual officers.
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Old December 5, 2012, 08:09 PM   #17
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I have posted this before, but the silliest story I ever heard was told me by a vet's son. The vet claimed that his Japanese Type 99 rifle was captured in hand to hand combat with a Japanese general. His son, who was fairly knowledgeable and not on good terms with the old man, asked how the crest got ground off.

The vet told his son that Harry Truman personally kept track of every war souvenir and after he (the vet) got back home, Truman sent the FBI to seize the rifle; when they returned it, the crest had been ground off.

Golly, and Truman had time to be president too!

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Old December 5, 2012, 08:58 PM   #18
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Captured weapons were OK BUT not "PROPERTY OF U.S. GOVERNMENT." On the hospital ship they took our weapons when we went into surgery and just threw them into a VERY big, closet size, chest. When you got off the ship you picked up some 782 gear and a weapon, and made it back to your unit.
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Old December 5, 2012, 09:20 PM   #19
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I went to a HS with a guy who ended up a supply clerk in the Army. Once we were out for a drink and he told me who could get me any piece of Army equipment I wanted for pennies on the dollar. This wasn't WWII, it was at a bar though, so the lying might have been as epic as claimed above.

I read a report about the amount of material lost in transit by the military. Not WWII but about 2004. It was astounding.

There have been many claims of people mailing things home. I am sure there was some sort of civilian mail service between Vietnam and the US and/or Europe in WWII. At that point no one would have interdicted a firearm in the mail except to steal it.

I have heard soldiers could buy surplus weapons at the end of WWII for almost nothing. I am not sure if that is true. If it is true, an astoundingly high number chose not to, even considering they were likely quite tired of the company.
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Old December 5, 2012, 10:55 PM   #20
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My Dad brought home a Jap rifle after the war, every one on his carrier got one, there was a mountain of rifles on the docks at Tsingtao. On ship coming home, Jap pistols and swords were used as wagers in card games. The US pistols that were circulating around under the radar were kept hidden away and traded between folks, but no overt stuff. The Marines on board had a good business going in their extra gear, pistols and knives. He said everyone just walked off the ship with what they had, no security at all. Lots of shells from the AA guns on the ship walked off, too, guess they were good souvenirs.
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Old December 5, 2012, 11:05 PM   #21
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My Grandad was stationed in Italy after WWII, no rifles or pistols, just brought home Grandma.
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Old December 6, 2012, 08:25 AM   #22
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You may recall the story Skeeter Skelton told about when he was going overseas as a Marine just after the war, I think it was. Being the sort of fellow he was, he felt the need to take personal weapons with him, two revolvers. Someone found out and he had to sell them. I don't recall who he had to sell them to that was allowed to buy them, though.

Sometimes units that are in one place for a long time somehow manage to accumulate a lot of junk, most of it literally junk but some of it good stuff. Lots of spare parts and accessories. The unit I was with was relocating to the states after being in the same location (under different names, beginning as the 11th Airborne Division) for something like 20 years. That sounds like a eternity when you're only 20 years old yourself. Anyway, the commanders realized that some units might possibly have some extra, surplus and mostly unauthorized stuff that no longer had to be accounted for but which they nevertheless didn't want dumped somewhere. They established a literal dumping location under the biggest tent they had for units to drop off anything they weren't supposed to have (and didn't want to keep). There weren't any complete weapons (and I looked carefully!) but there were machine gun barrels, mortar barrels (60mm) and all sorts of electronic equipment. That was only 44 years ago but frankly that's all I remember about it.

The same thing still happens, no doubt, and happened when my son's unit did the same thing. There were also lots of little unit museums here and there that really didn't fare too well with major relocations. Most of that was stuff like drums and flags and whatnot but in some cases, units had obsolete vehicles from fifty years ago that was still kept in running condition. My son reported that a couple of half-tracks were still around, ready to go. Don't know what happened to them.

The paperwork for a firearm to be brought back as a war souvenir was a little more elaborate than the one illustrated here already. Unfortuantely, by the time I got overseas, everything had already been brought back. My father spent the last year of his time overseas as a POW, so his chances of bringing home something useful were low but at least he got home.

Here's a tidbit about some postwar oddities. Some German vehicles used during the war continued in productioin after the war but they weren't fighting vehicles. And some German army decorations and awards were only manufactured and awarded (with allied permission) after the war, too, though only in very small numbers and the actual awards were of relatively poor quality.
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Old December 6, 2012, 08:50 AM   #23
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My Grandad was stationed in Italy after WWII, no rifles or pistols, just brought home Grandma.
Now that"s a BRING BACK!
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Old December 6, 2012, 04:53 PM   #24
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The Navy pushed aircraft over the side of aircraft carriers, so they could use the space for more important stuff, after the war. I suppose the aircraft were "accounted for", unlike the pistol in a duffel bag?
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Old December 6, 2012, 05:32 PM   #25
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You'd be amazed at what disappears legally or illegally.My grandpa brought back his 1917 Colt from France, and gave it to my Great grand pa,who then carried it as a deputy/prohibition agent/and bootlegger during the 20's-30's.A uncle brought back his m1 carbine from Korea,photos of him shooting it on the farm in 53 attests to this.I was offered a accurized 1911,built from parts for the pistol teams,for $75,you pick the serial number you wanted.

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