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HISTORIC MOMENT WITH AMERICAN GUNS — 21 Comments

  1. It seems that the approach used to hit Heydrich was somewhat amateurish. The weapons used were suitable only for a close-range attack (grenades, pistols, a sub-gun). Furthermore, the weapon types (American pistols, British Sub-gun, British modified grenade) pointed to allied involvement. Maybe that was done on-purpose so that the allies would be blamed and the Czech people spared from reprisal? If so, it was foolish since the Germans were never going to let a top Nazi be assassinated without making someone pay. An example would be made even if it was the wrong people that paid the price.

    Indeed, the whole attempt might have been a failure if Heydrich had recovered from his wounds. It was really the after-the-incident infection that completed the job.

    Since Heydrich was foolish enough to drive around in an open-top automobile, it looks like a good marksman with a carbine could have taken him out with a single shot and without all the fuss of pistol shots and explosions.

    The Czech Vz. 33 carbine would surely have been readily available. It would fit within a guitar case and could be smuggled in as easy as the sub-gun. An 8 mm Mauser round through Heydrich’s head would have done the job and no mistake!

    Despite the bravery shown by the team that hit Heydrich, I am not impressed with the skill displayed in the attack. Still, one can’t argue that they did complete the mission and that this was about the only case of a high-ranking Nazi being assassinated successfully during WW II. Luck was on their side even if the Czech people paid a high price for it.

  2. Well Mas, I could have told them that about the .38 Super Auto Cambering for the M1911 Govt model semi-auto Pistol!

    As I mentioned in an earlier Blog posting here, the M1911, in .38 Super, was my 2nd handgun, and it was a real handful for a 15 Year old, I can tell you that, though even back then, I thought the price of a 50 round box of factory ammo was quite pricey, and one of the reasons I later started hand-loading almost all my own ammo, while serving in the U.S. Navy.

    Seems like I also recall that the .38 Super Caliber ammo was also one of the few caliber’s that was considered a major power factor in IPSC Combat shooting, below the .45 ACP level too??

    Paul

  3. Reading this blog since e few years, now I have to write something.
    Michael North is wrong, sorry. Heydrich was the architect of the “Endlösung” (final solution), together with Adolf Eichmann and another few men.
    Watch this documentary film: The Wannsee-Konferenz (with english subtitles). Its worth watching.

    https://youtu.be/URSNN5mnI2g

    I own a Colt 1911 Series 80 Mark IV, 9 Millimeter.

  4. Interesting bit of history.

    Armchair historian here, but in the book ‘A Higher Form of Killing: A Secret History of Chemical & Biological Warfare’ by Jeremy Paxman & Robert Harris, the authors speculate that the grenade used was laced with bacteria, but my feeling is that this is pure speculation bordering on conspiracy theory.

    The reprisals by the Nazis were savage. (Goggle: Lidice.) And according to same source lead to a downturn in co-operation between Czech resistance a& the SOE.

    This is mentioned in the cold-war thriller ‘The Crocus List’ by the late Gavin Lyall, a darn good read IMHO, were there is speculation on the difference in assassinations where the target has to die, because of their importance to the enemy, and assassinations where the target has to be seen to be killed, as a warning to others. The book suggests that ideally Heydrich’s death should have been disguised as an accident. Okay, the practicality of this isn’t gone into, but it was being used as an example by a lecturer in guerrilla warfare.

    Staying with world of fiction; I haven’t seen ‘Anthropoid,’ but I have seen an earlier movie on the subject, ‘Operation Daybreak.’ Well worth a viewing IMHO. Although given the subject matter it is somewhat grim.

    And moving from armchair historian to armchair gunslinger, I’ve always felt the .38 Super was one of those calibres which wasn’t as much of a success as it deserved to be. Perhaps it was a calibre that history left behind.

    But as I said a very interesting bit of history there.

    • I doubt that the grenade was laced with biological material. More than likely, the contamination came from the horse hair stuffing from the seats of the car and was carried into the wounds by the shrapnel.

      I agree with Michael North’s comment below too – the Czech economy, and more importantly the factories producing war materiel for the German war effort was working very well. The Nazis imposed the same work conditions on Czechoslovakia as in Germany with the same level of benefits, pensions, sickness pay etc. which was a big increase in those of pre invasion Czechoslovakia. The Brno rifle works and Skoda in particular were important contributors to the Wehrmacht supply chain.

      • Well, that was speculation by a couple of authors, which while possible seems rather far-fetched. And frankly if you’re planning to pump the bastard full of a magazine’s worth of nine millimetre, a rather unnecessary embellishment.

        Obviously Heydrich was considered an asset to the Third Reich, hence the effort put into assassinating him. True Heydrich’s policies in Czechoslovakia included improved conditions, but they also included mass executions. Apparently this policy was called “Whip & sugar.” His involvement in Nazi atrocities, including his chairing the Wannsee Conference, is a matter of historical record.

  5. “Hangman” Heydrich was targeted by British Intel because he was doing his job too well, Czechs we’re increasing production because of his careful governing. He was not the architect of the Final Soution. Sounds like they should stick to firearms history and avoid commentary

    • Interesting comment, Michael. Since most historians name Heydrich as one of the chief architects of the “Final Solution”, would you please provide a source for your saying he was not?

      Your assertion that his governance increased production and thus made him a target, what production are you speaking of? The efficiency of the death camps, war material production, or just doing a great job implementing the Nazi form of governance, causing Britain to fear that people would prefer that model? I sincerely hope you were not implying the latter.

  6. Deployment tip: for close range elimination of Nazis.
    (in our times terror perps in some s—hole country)
    Start with the grenades, (into the car please)
    then lay down a blanket-o-bullets while your rocks
    are still in the air. Now…..enjoy the silence.
    Jammed guns are embarrassing, use something that always works.

  7. I agree with Mas that “Anthropoid” (2016) is a film worth watching for anyone wishing to learn how courageous Czech Resistance agents assassinated Reinhard Heydrich in
    Nazi-occupied Prague in 1942. Whoever watches the film
    “Anthropoid” should also watch the film “Conspiracy” (2001) that details precisely how Reinhard Heydrich and other Nazi leaders planned “The Final Solution” during the Wansee
    Conference held in 1942. Chilling! Absolutely chilling!

    Just under three decades ago, I was privileged to have an
    elderly Polish-American gentleman tailor my clothing. He had served as a member of the Polish Resistance from 1939 to 1947. The enemy consisted of Nazi invaders and
    occupiers followed by Soviet invaders and occupiers. I
    remember well him telling me that the Nazis and Soviets feared deeply facing an armed populace and pulled out all the stops to enforce total bans on private gun possession by
    executing any Poles found with guns in hand or nearby. I also recall him telling me that his fellow Polish Resistance fighters and he determined quickly that “enemy soldiers and secret
    police officers ceased to be fearsome when shot dead!” I have never forgotten those words of wisdom spoken by a man who had chosen to live and operate “well armed” in the forests and mountains of Poland to fight heroically to free his beloved Poland from Nazi and Soviet beyond brutal oppression.

  8. Sir Winston was brilliant – the right man, right place & right time!!

    For those interested in an in-depth Churchillian history, Dr. Arnn of Hillsdale College (hillsdale.edu) offers an online course and volumes of detail … Well worth the visit! He cut his teeth doing the research.

    Great subject Mas, and one fading … as we rewrite history? Three great quotes:

    “The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” ― Winston Churchill

    “Facts are better than dreams.” ― Winston Churchill

    “Well intended things we do, when they go wrong, will still have behind them the force of our good intentions.” ― Winston Churchill

    Good stuff!

  9. Nice post, Mas – having visited the UK a lot, and having been privileged to know a couple of British WWII vets and heard of their exploits, I am grateful those “gentlemen” could be equally tough, nasty bastards. And I mean that sincerely in the best possible way! We owe a debt to them for passing along the lessons they learned while fighting Hitler’s forces prior to our entry into the war. Granted, it was a symbiotic relationship, wasn’t it?

  10. Thanks Mas.
    I will be reading that book and enjoying that movie. One of the pleasures in life is to learn of the heroic exploits of men such as Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik.
    Best wishes,
    John Mohan
    Chicago, Illinois

  11. When the Brits ordered all the handguns Colt had in stock in 1940 they had many 38 Super pistols.As these were an odd chambering and underground fighters were unlikely to get replacement ammo nor likely to shoot their handguns too often before they were killed or captured they were frequently issued to SOE types since it kept more common weapons for the military forces.Hence the Supers in Prague not because they were planning on shooting through the auto as it was an open vehicle.Actually the security was terrible for such a high offical of the German forces and of course the issue with the Sten is pretty bad also.This was likely because he had it in the safety notch and forgot to take it off or he was using a magazine that rubbed on the bolt causing it to slow up and not thusly able to fire the cartridge, a common problem with Sten guns you will find and the reason you always need to test your magazines in all open bolt weapons.
    It was disappointing to see the M1903 pistols replace the Super pistols as they were noted by the Germans as captured and are on display I believe in Prague where to this day there is serious debate about whether it was a good idea.It was the last time a high German offical was killed since the Allies had some real debates about whether it was better to get rid of known bad guys to be replaced by unknown perhaps worse bad guys.
    You might also want to note that the Supers issued by the Brits had red painted bands around the slides and receivers so the typically brain dead Brits would not confuse the 38 Super with the 38 S and W cartridge and try to jam them in place and then tell everyone they did not work properly!They did the same with the M1917 and BAR’s we gave them on Lend Lease since otherwise they would try to load them with 303 ammo instead of the 30’06 ammo.
    Both Sykes and Fairbain always liked the 30 Mauerr cartridge for its’high pentration and said it was much more effective than many think.An interesting article appears in the American Rifleman for 1940 from the height of the SMP Armory about a selective fire Colt Government style pistol in that chambering they had picked up somewhere.And of course Noel always thought a selective fire Colt Government Model would be the best thing for “trench clearing ” in his experience and remember he ran the trench fighting school during the war.
    A good 38 Super, especially the alloy frame Commander Model,is much easier to use than a 2 1/2 inch M19 Smith with loads of equal poser although obviously it will never really be as powerful as a full size (4 inch or more) 357 with serious loads.But rather like the 10mm to the 41 Magnum perhaps 85-90 percent as good and much easier and more comfortable to shoot plus of course more ammo and faster reload although for most applications those points mean nothing.
    What people carry when they have a choice and it is not an issue thing is always an interesting subject.At least if they are serious members of the “gun culture”.I do not know whether you knew my friend the late Kent Lomont but he was likely the most experienced gun guy around, perhaps more so than even Elmer Keith since he did class three stuff also all the time and Elmer only occasionally.He was hard core and a really tough guy thinking nothing about going up in the mountains of Idaho for weeks at a time shooting in the height of winer.His last carry guns were a pair of Glock M20 pistols, using hard cast 170 bullets at 1200 fps for deep pentration on animals, He carried one on his hip and the other in a chest rig over his clothes.From a sitting position he could hit an oil drum at 400 yards with it within 3-4 shots.All in all a pretty good recommendation for the Glock M 20 I think.
    Hope all is going well with you.My new book on the J frame Smith should be out some time this year.Still have not found a photo of Frank McGee of the 3 inch M36 fame so if you come across one let me know.Plan on using your photo in the famous users chapter of course.
    Tim Mullin

    • “An interesting article appears in the American Rifleman for 1940 from the height of the SMP Armory about a selective fire Colt Government style pistol in that chambering they had picked up”.
      TJ Mullin, do you recall what 1940 issue the SMP article appeared in? I’d like to read it. Thank You.

  12. Mas, this is great stuff. A perfect example of “asymmetrical warfare” that was well planned and carried off in spite of unexpected turns. Well done, Patriots!!!

    As you often are known to say, “any gun will do if YOU will do”. They had guns, some good, some not so much so. They were determined to “do” and do well… and the ones they had with them did as well.

    But now you’ve gone and done it…. that book is a must add to my growing list of good books to get/read “when ky ship comes in”.

    I learned about the sabotage of the heavy water plant in Norway, its partial success, and the completion of the mission by the sinking of the ship being used to transport it to Germany. VERY fascinating story. Again, asmymmertrical warfare being used to good ends. Basically fewer than a dozen men, well trained and determined, ENDED Hitler’s nuclear explosive aspirations.

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