Tuesday, March 15, 2011

GDR Klappspaten, East German Entrenching Tool & Cover (E-Tool)

For the past week, Sweet Pea's been up at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, Washington, (the San Juan Islands are just across the water from us), at the Friday Harbor Irish Music Camp.  One full week of all Irish music, all the time!  For those of you who may have missed it, Sweet Pea's a fantastic Irish Fiddler............  Well, she made if back home to me and the pug dogs on Sunday, with a great gift or three that she picked up for me on the island.  Which brings me to today's item to showcase:

GDR Klappspaten,  East German Army E-Tool

The shovel is in brand-new, unissued condition and came in a "last issue", Strichtarn camo cover.  This style of shovel (e-tool, entrenching tool) is the smaller style that was issued to East German Paratroops, Engineers, Pioneers and Motorized Infantry units.  

The handle is a very stout hard wood.  The blade is VERY heavy forged steel with teeth down one side and a nail-puller slot in the middle.  The locking nut is a very tough, plastic, similar to the old WW2 German bakelite nuts, but probably not as brittle.   The shovel can be used with the blade fully extended as a spade, or locked at a 45 degree angle and used as a pick-hoe.  From the archive photos that I have found in my research, the shovel could be carried folded in the carrier with the handle pointing up or down.

The blade is stamped with "MADE IN GDR" across the front.  From what I understand, these shovels were manufactured by the East German Army and were stamped for export, probably to other foreign armies.  

I have read reports that during the US invasion of the Caribbean nation of Granada, in 1983 (Operation Urgent Fury), a number of East German Army (16), North Korean Army (24), Libyan Army (3 or 4), Cuban (600) and Bulgarian Army (14) soldier-engineers,  were captured along with a large supply of East German military equipment, including these same type of shovels that were stamped with the same "MADE IN GDR" on their blades.  If I can find a photo of one of these actual captured shovel's, I'll post it later.

The shovel cover is a "last-issue" UTV, (Universaltragevorrichtung ), pattern.  This style of of attachment and webbing was was developed in the late 1980's as a replacement to the earlier pattern East German field gear.  The UTV gear was produced and stored in large quantities, in warehouses, but was never issued out to the general troops.  It was worn in the field by a few East German Army observers that were invited by NATO to a joint military maneuver around 1990, but aside from that, the UTV gear was never issued, and ended up being sold off as surplus after the reunification of East and West Germany.

The UTV gear (Universaltragevorrichtung ), was the East German equivalent to the US styled LBE, or Load Bearing Equipment.  Basically the changes were a better combat harness-suspenders, green nylon webbing and a new attachment set up.  The UTV items can also be recognized by their green metal fittings.  There were also UTV grenade pouches, canteens, ammo pouches, gas mask bags, and pistol holsters produced in this style that were never issued, but are now found on the current surplus market.  So basically, these UTV pieces are an unique bit of "what could have been" historical surplus!

As a great little side story, here is the info on where Sweet Pea found the shovel..........  There is a large alpaca llama farm on the island, just out of Friday Harbor that is run by a "retired" couple.  On the farm, they have two small shops, one sells alpaca wool items and the other sells military surplus, guns and ammo!  How's that for a combination?  It seems that the husband is an avid military collector and this is his side business.  I guess he's only in the shop when he's not out working in the field or on the farm.  It took Sweet Pea two trips to catch him there, and when she finally did, he was covered in grease from working on farm equipment! So, if you're up on San Juan Island, be sure to check them out :)

And here are a few pictures of this gear in use:
Photo from 1990 NVA Manual showing UTV equipment use.
Photo from NVA manual showing 2nd Pattern equipment use.

A few pictures of our US troops in Granada during Operation Urgent Fury, 1983:

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