Friday, December 11, 2015

Landing Craft Tank Mk6( LCT 6 ) #1094, WW2 Photo of Lt. JG William B. Brashears, 1945 Philippines

On December 7th, we observed the 74 year anniversary of the the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that propelled the US into WW2.  As my tribute to the men and women, of all of our armed forces, who answered the call of duty after that fateful day, I would like to present a personal photo that reminds us that all history is personal.  There were real people, who experienced that "musty old history" first hand.  Many of them never lived to tell their stories, and many more came home after the war and "got on with the business of living".  We only have a small number of our WW2 veterans still with us and their stories of that great conflict are more important than ever.  When no one is left to tell the stories first hand, then we can only hope that some of them were documented in writing and photos.  It is one of those photos that I would like to present today.

I recently purchased a bundle of WW2 photos off of eBay.  None of them were related to each other, but each one had a story to tell.  Unfortunately, the stories have taken a bit of detective work to bring out.  I will never have much, or any, of the personal details of the people in the photos, but I have documented a bit of the circumstances and details that the photos are telling us.

The photo presented today, depicts the commanding officer of the WW2 ship , Landing Craft Tank #1094.
When I received this photo, I was thrilled to find that it had some amazing information noted on the back.  Notations like this are rare on these old photos.  When photos like this are marked, it gives a whole new picture to explore!  History really starts to come to life!

On the back of the photo, we find the following notations:

Lt.JG Wm B. Brashears
L.C.T.(6) #1094
Navy 3964
San Francisco
Hasn't he lost

With the information noted, we can really start to fill in the background on this photo.  Here is what it tells us.

L.C.T. (6) #1094 tells us the ship is a Landing Craft Tank Mk6, with the hull ID number of 1094.  A little bit of research revealed that this particular ship was launched on May 24, 1944, and was delivered to the US Navy on June 29, 1944.  It was built by the Quincy Barge Builders of Quincy, Illinois.
The LCT 1094 is not listed as "Lost" on any of the WW2 ship records, so it is safe to say it survived the war.  I can find no record of the LCT 1094 specifically, regarding the locations it served, however all of the LCT ships in the 1080 and 1090 ranges seem to have been assigned duty in the South Pacific.  
We are very lucky to have this photo dated specifically, May 1945, with the location somewhere in  the Philippines.  Notations like this are rare on these old photos! 

We are also given the name and rank of the person in the photo:  Lt. JG Wm. B. Brashears.  On these Landing Craft, there would have only been one commissioned officer, and he would be the Officer in Charge, or Captain.  Since William Brashears is noted as a Lieutenant Junior Grade officer, we know we are looking at a photo of the ship's captain!
Based on the background features of the ship, and the location he is standing, we can deduce that he is standing on the open command bridge, on the starboard  side, of the ship.  There is a signal-light on the bridge and we can see the "M" signal flag flying.  This flag signals "My vessel is stopped and making no headway".  In other words, it is at anchor.

When we look closer at Lt.JG William Brashears, we can see some very interesting uniform and equipment details.  First off, he is dressed VERY casually and informally.  It appears that he is dressed for the South Pacific weather.  He is wearing what appear to be civilian leather, "penny loafer", slip-on shoes!  He is wearing the 1911 .45acp pistol in it's issue leather holster, on the web pistol belt.  He is wearing the ammo pouch on the front, with the belt latch on the far left side.......Definitely NOT regulation!
This is definitely a casual captain!

It is photos like this that really make the research fun and exciting.  When you can start with a small snapshot and end up with a "story", it makes the time invested more than worth it!  I hope you have enjoyed this little detective story, and the wonderful photo!

NOTE:  I have forwarded a copy of this photo to the folks at WW2 LCT Flotillas for their records and research.  WW2 LCT is a non-profit group dedicated to keeping the history of the the LCT's alive.  Check them out at this link:

To end this longer than expected blog post, let's take a look at a few photos of LCT's in service during WW2.  They are "sister ships" to the LCT in my photo.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

German Field Hospital, Invasion of France WW2, Wehrmacht Phanomen Granit 25H Ambulance & Opel Kadett K38 Staff Car, Original Photo

Today we'll be continuing along with a another one of my original WW2 German military photos.

This photo was taken sometime during the Invasion of France in 1939.  It depicts a group of Wehrmacht medics having a big meal behind a French barn.  There are bits of black paper and some glue on the back of the photos where it was removed from the original veteran's album.  Unfortunately, we will never know the complete story behind this photo.

 Note:  Click on the photo and it will open its larger scanned size for better viewing.

The most interesting thing about this photo, is the amazing variety of unique and iconic, WW2 Wehrmacht items that are shown.  
First off are the vehicles.  In the background to the left, we can see a Phanomen Granit 25H field ambulance.  The ambulance has a red cross flag on a short mast.  These ambulances were first produced in 1931, and the Wehrmacht put them into service with the military in 1936.  They served the German military in Spain during the Spanish Civil War and then continued their service throughout WW2. 
On the right side of the photo, we can see an Opel Kadett K38 staff car with the sliding rag-top open.  The Opel is marked with a red cross on the door and has two bundles of firewood tied to the front bumper.  These Opel Kadett's were produced from 1937-1940 and again in 1942-1943.  

When we look close at the soldiers seated at the table, we can see that there are open mess tins all over the place, including on the ground beside the benches.  There are buckets placed around the table, and the soldiers appear to be eating something like chicken or corn (just my speculation, but the buckets could be for the bones or cobs).  The soldier nearest to us, on the left, is wearing the early style Model 1936 (M-36) trousers with suspenders.

All in all, this is an amazing snapshot of "daily life" for a Wehrmacht Field Hospital Company during the early Invasion of France days.  It is also a wonderful addition to my collection of photos depicting various items in my collection.

Here is a link to one of my previous posts showing off a WW2 German Luftschutz First Aid Pouch that my grandfather brought back home from his service in the US Army, in Germany during WW2.  It is not the same type of kit that the Wehrmacht medics would carry, but very similar.

I also have a WW2 issue, Sturmabteilung Field Medic First Aid Pouch that I will be showing off later.  Stay tuned!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Reicharbeitdienst Soldat, RAD, German Labor Service Soldier, WW2 era Original Photo

Since we are still on the heels of our vintage military shovel and tool series, let's take a look at a vintage "shovel photo".  I have been on the lookout for good, original photos that show the various shovels in use.  When I saw this one for sale, I couldn't pass it up!.  It is an original, WW2 era photograph of a German Labor Service soldier.

This photograph is actually quite amazing when you look at it closely.  The photo shows a Labor Service soldier on guard duty, at the entrance to one of the German Labor Service camps.  
I say "soldier" even though the Labor Service troops did not carry weapons in the pre-WW2 and early WW2 years.  Even while they were working and doing labor for the Third Reich, they were training to be "future soldiers".  They drilled and marched with shovels instead of rifles.

You can read more about the German Labor Service (RAD) here: 

The Reicharbeitdienst, or RAD, German Labor Service in English, was started by the Nazi Party in the 1930's as a way to indoctrinate and organize the labor workforce of Germany.  It was a way to combat the devastating effects of economic depression and unemployment that was plaguing Germany after WW1.  It is interesting to note that the US did nearly the same thing with the CCC, or Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC even wore military type uniforms, like the RAD.

The RAD was also a "work around" method that the Nazi's used to train future soldiers while Germany was still banned from having a military force after WW1.  When Germany defied the Allies in the 1930's and started reactivating and rearming their military, the pre-trained RAD men were ready to trade their shovels for rifles.

The RAD built roads, maintained public infrastructure, helped build the Atlantic Wall defenses, and after the war began, supported the military with moving supplies and rebuilding infrastructure damaged and destroyed by combat.  At this time some of the RAD troops were actually armed.  In the final days of the Third Reich, many of the RAD troops were fully armed and thrown into the doomed defense of Berlin.

This particular photo was most likely taken in the pre-war years.  If you look closely at the photo, there are some very interesting details that will emerge.  The photo shows some amazing uniform details as well as construction details of the Guard Shack and barracks building.  In fact, if you removed the WW2 insignia, this trooper could very well be a post-war Bundesgrenzschutz trooper! (German Border Police, BGS).

All of the RAD photos that I have seen, show the troopers carrying the same square spade-type shovels with a T-handle.  It is interesting that they had RAD unique shovels and not the "standard issue" military ones.

Let's finish things up with a front and back view of this wonderful photograph:

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Technishes Hilfswerk Bergungssäge, German THW Salvage Saw, circa 1950's to 1960's

Today we'll be taking a look at a vintage hand tool that I have in my THW collection.  This is a Salvage Saw that would have been part of a field kit for the Bundesanstalt Technishes Hilfswerk, known in English as the German Federal Agency For Technical Relief, or THW for short.  This is Germany's "do everything" civil defense organization.

This saw dates to the 1950's or 1960's time period and saw service with one of the THW field units.  The saw was a very generous gift from a good friend of mine in Germany, who acquired it directly from a THW field unit as surplus stock.

THW Rescue Team, 1952

This saw would have originally have been issued with a wooden box containing extra blades of various types.  The saw handle is very unique.  It can be placed in various angled settings to allow it to be used in odd or extreme angles that are often encountered in rescue operations.

The handle is painted in the old "THW Tan" color that was used back in the 1950's and 1960's.  Since the 1990's, "THW Blue" is the standard color, for both equipment and uniforms.  

THW Unit in Berlin, 1960's

There is a stripe of THW Blue paint on the handle, which would indicate that it saw continued service into the 1990's or later.

Before we get to the photo album of this unique saw, I would like to present a vintage THW photo with some very interesting details.  If you click on the photo, you can enlarge it for more detailed inspection.  

THW Rescue Team and Truck, 1955

It is very interesting to note that the truck is equipped with two of the old WW2 style shovel types.  The long handled shovels are the standard WW2 style Pioneer Spades, and the smaller, square bladed spades, (mounted on the door), are the old, early WW2 Trench Spade style.  It would be very interesting to know if these were WW2 surplus or if they were post-war manufactured.  The rescue saw would have been found on trucks of this type.

Here is the photo album.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 30, 2015

US Military Jeep Shovel: Number 2, Round Point, D-Handle, WW2 Vintage

Well we've been looking at quite a number of various military shovels and entrenching tools from my collection lately, but I think we are finally at the end........... for now!

Today we'll be taking a look at my WW2 vintage US Military Jeep shovel.  These shovels are correctly referred to as the " Number 2, Round Point, D-Handle" shovel.  These shovels first are mentioned in US Army specifications papers back in 1917, with updates in 1934 and 1940 (for the WW2 years).

These old shovels nearly always appear to be a "civilian shovel" to the untrained eye.  
In fact, I found this shovel at a local yard sale and purchased it for a few dollars, not realizing it was a "Jeep Shovel".  It banged around the garage for quite a few years before I rediscovered it and realized what it was!
They are normally found in their "natural wood and metal" finish and outwardly show no signs that they are a military shovel.  The US Army (and other branches), mounted these shovels on Jeeps and other armored vehicles, but they are most often associated with the iconic Jeep.

The US Army specification set out size shape and basic construction for shovels, but allow for a very wide variety of handle styles, handle attachment and blade shank variations.  From what I understand, the Army specifications were written so that it would be easy to source shovels from nearly any US manufacturer, without having to require them to re-tool for a new style of construction.
For those of you who need to know "every little detail" about the specifications, etc., please check out this web page.  It is by far the very best source of that information about these shovels that I have found anywhere!

Here are the basic differences that are spelled out in the different "War Years" Army specification papers.  
The size and shape of the shovel remains the same for all years, but the required markings change:
  • 1917-1934:  Marked with USED, Name and Trademark of manufacturer (USED means United States Engineering Department)
  • 1935-1939:  Requirement for USED is eliminated.  USA must be stamped, along with Name or Trademark of manufacturer.
  • 1940- on:     The only requirement is that the shovel must be marked with manufacturer's Name or Trademark "Where Necessary".
Along with the information listed above, the number "2" is always found stamped on the metal blade shank.  "2" is the shovel size.

The Number 2 Jeep Shovel, along with other pioneer tools, were not issued with the vehicle when it rolled off of the assembly line and into the field.  Each unit procured their own shovels (axes as well) and outfitted their jeeps and other armored vehicles in the unit as they saw fit.

US Army Half-Track with shovel and pick, WW2 Vintage.
Nearly all of the tools were left in their natural finishes, but some units painted them OD Green before assigning them to a vehicle.  When you look at the old photos, you  see all sorts of shovel variations, and even non-regulation shovels, in the mounting brackets on the Jeeps and other vehicles.  The mounting brackets were designed to hold the military specification #2 shovel perfectly.  Any other shape or style shovel will not fit properly.

My shovel is from the post-1940 era, better known as the WW2 era.  The shovel is not marked with a maker or trademark, but is marked with "2" and it fits the military specifications perfectly.  This exact style of shovel is seen in many of the old photos.  Be sure to check out the link I posted above to see the wide variety of handle styles!
The handle is the "split-wood" type and is reinforced with metal bands and rivets.  It is in amazing condition for it's age and I have done only minimal conservation work on it.  Basically it is in "as found" condition, with a good coat of oil applied to the metal and wood.

Here is the album.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Czechoslovakian Vz.60 Canteens, Model 1960 - 1982, Czech M-60/82

Here is one of the most recent additions to the canteen and mess kit part of my collection.  They are a pair of Czechoslovakian Vz.60 canteens, also known as the Model 1960 canteens.

Both of these canteens are officially the last model of Vz.60 canteen style that was issued from 1982 until some time in the early 1990's.  In 1982, the specifications for the canteens were changed, doing away with an old cork cap and replacing it with a plastic cap-cork.  The only difference between the first model 1960 and the second model 1960/82, is the cap.  Other than that they are the same.

Even though both of my canteens are both the same model, there are differences.  Each one has a slightly different leather harness.  The difference being the rivets and the buckle type.  I believe the harness with the roller buckle is from the earlier Model-1960 era, and the flat, plain buckle is from the later Model-1960/82 period.  This is just a guess based on Czech leather gear and hardware that I have observed through the years.

The rough felt covers are held in place with a series of snaps, in the same manner as the old German canteens.  Each cover is marked on the inside, along the top trim area.  One canteen cover is marked with the date 1982 with some other illegible markings.  The other cover has the Czech crossed swords acceptance stamp and other illegible markings.  Unfortunately the markings are small and faint, and do not show up well in the photos.  Here is a shot of the trim areas with the case your eyes are better than mine!

The covers on my canteens are grey, but they were sometimes issued in "Czech Brown" as well.  It seems that both colors were interchangeable.  The felt is very coarse and seems to have been made with a crazy assortment of recycled fiber.

One of the canteens is stamped with the makers mark of FAX on the neck (double stamped actually).  The other canteen has no makers stamp, but does have an odd cross hatching on both sides in the center of the canteen, front and back.  I have no idea if this was originally applied at the factory or was scratched in later and then the canteen was repainted.

One canteen is painted in a gloss green and one in a flat green.

The plastic caps are slightly flexible and fit quite tightly when pressed into the neck.  The caps have a recessed area in the top that I understand was used to store water purification tablets of some sort.  The caps are secured to the canteen body with a length of "hemp" cord.  It is interesting that Czechoslovakia continued to use a cork style cap long after the rest of the "military world" had moved on to screw caps.

The canteen was meant to be attached to the soldiers belt when carried, but they were more often carried in the pack or bread-bag.   To attach the canteen to the belt, there is a "belt loop" area on the back strapping.  Neither of my canteens show evidence of having ever been carried on a belt.

These canteens are definitely unique.  Only Czechoslovakia used this style and configuration, however the actual body of the canteen is very similar to the WW2 German canteens.  The leather harness system for carrying the canteen is unique only to Czechoslovakia.  These canteens are out there on the surplus market right now, but I have a hunch they will disappear soon, seldom to be seen again.  Grab one or two while you can!

Lets take a closer look at the these canteens: