U.S. Carbines in Germany and Austria

Austria
and the
U.S. M1 Carbine

The History













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Please Note: The web pages on Austria are undergoing re-construction


Prelude

Adolf Hitler was born April 20, 1889 in Braunau am Inn, southwest of Linz, Austria. During his youth he lived near Linz, which he considered his hometown. His parents are buried in Leondig, a suburb of Linz. His father retired from a career with Austria's Customs Service. Though Austrian by birth, he shunned Austria and instead became involved in the German military and government. Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933.

On March 12, 1938 Hitler declared the unity of Austria with Germany. This is referred to in both countries as the Anschluss. Some Austrians supported this merger, some didn't. The Austrian military was prepared and in position to fight the German Wehrmacht, but the order from Vienna never came. Many Austrians were apparently under the impression this would be a unification of the two nations of Germany and Austria. In reality, it became an annexation of Austria to Germany, with Austria becoming the German state of Ostmark, also known as Donau und Alpen Gaue.

Austrians experienced the elimination of the Austrian culture and identity. Austria's military was disbanded and their soldiers were integrated into all of the various German military units. They fought not as Austrians, but as Germans. Austria ceased to exist as a nation. Like it or not, they had become Germans. During World War II Austria was home to all of the German military and civil operations experienced by a German state, in addition to the forced loss of a national identity and severe punishment for even verbal dissent.

The Austrian Resistance

Austrian Resistance member welcomes
French soldier. Both are armed with
U.S. M1 Carbines.
[courtesy of Professor Wolfdieter Hufnagl]
The first M1 Carbines provided to Austria were provided by the O.S.S. to Austrian Resistance groups some time pre-1945. Austrian resistance group members were not very active in combat. Their efforts in 1945 were primarily focused on preventing the Germans and Allied Forces from destroying key bridges, monuments, churches, towns, etc, and limiting the death of Austrian civilians as much as possible. Groups in Tirol, Carinthia, and Vienna became more visible and active in the final days of the war. In Vienna one group was discovered by the Germans and promptly hung. Resistance in Austria was hampered significantly by those loyal to Germany. It is not known how many M1 Carbines these resistance groups received, or what became of them.

Austria's Occupation

During the Yalta Conference in February 1945 the Allied Forces agreed that Austria had been Germany's first victim. Austria was not to be occupied and governed by Allied forces. Austria was to be restored to an independent sovereign state with democratic foundations. Austria's citizens would be free to elect their own government.

During the final weeks of WWII, Russian forces entered Austria from the east, American and French forces had entered Austria from the west. Vienna, the capitol of Austria, was captured by Russia on 13 Apr 1945. When the war ended the next month, Vienna was well within the territory controlled by Russian forces.

Russia refused to surrender the territory they held in Austria, until a new government was in place. It was clear to the Western Allies that the new Austrian government in Vienna was communist, and orchestrated by the Russians. Russia's continuous refusal to allow open elections and turn Austria over to the Austrians, kept all four nation's forces in Austria. In September 1945, occupation zones were established.

Austria and Vienna, like Germany and Berlin, were divided into four occupation zones, occupied by the French, British, Russians, and Americans. An oversight committee composed of representatives from each of these nations, formed the Allied Commission for Austria. The commission was responsible for civil/military affairs and government administration.

The American Occupation Zone was assigned to the 15th Army Group on July 5, 1945, which was reorganized and redesignated the U.S. Occupational Forces Austria. The Headquarters Company II Corps, 11th Armored Division, 42nd Division and 65th Division, previously assigned to Third Army and 12th Army Group, were assigned on 6 July to the newly formed U.S. Occupational Forces Austria, commanded by General Mark Clark.

Russia and the Austrian communists would become the driving force behind America arming Austria with the U.S. M1 Carbines, and other weapons.

Land (State)English Name Occupying Nation
Burgenland Burgenland Russia
Kärnten Carinthia Britain
NiederÖsterreich Lower Austria Russia
OberÖsterreich Upper Austria United States (south & central), Russia (north)
Steiermark Styria Britain
Tyrol Tirol France
Salzburg Salzburg United States
Vorarlberg Vorarlberg France
Wien Vienna5 zones, 1 per Allied Nation

The Attempt to Restore Laws & Order

The original plan before the end of the war was for U.S. military police, backed by U.S. troops, to take over the duties of law enforcement and maintaining order within the American controlled areas of Austria. Within several weeks after the end of the war it became obvious this plan wasn't going to work. The M.P.'s had come to the conclusion they could not be effective without the assistance of the Austrians, who knew the culture, people, language, and lay of the land.

While Austria had not suffered the extent of damage and destruction experienced in Germany, the state of affairs after the war was borderline chaos. Austria experienced starvation, serious poverty, and the worst violent crime rate they had ever experienced, in part due to the hundreds of thousands of people that had been displaced from their nations by Germany, either as slave labor, prisoners of war, imprisonment, or internment in Nazi death camps. Collectively these people became known as Displaced Persons. Agreements between the Allied Forces regarding their disposition and return to their countries required many to be placed in Displaced Person's Camps. These camps experienced a high level of poverty, serious crime, and starvation.

Most Austrian and German soldiers were interred in prisoner of war camps. Those in the custody of Western Allied Forces journeyed home within months, as they were released. The volume of people moving in every direction across Europe became a serious concern for each nation's borders.

The Allied powers agreed Austria should and could have a national police force to address civil issues, under rigorous monitoring and control of Allied Forces. They agreed this police force would consist of a national police for the larger cities and the Gendarmerie for smaller towns and the countryside.

With the occupation well established, on April 10, 1946 the Allied Council agreed that members of the Gendarmerie could carry rifles and the police could have revolvers. Before the arms could be issued, the Russians insisted the Council approve all plans for training and use. An agreement was never reached. As a result of the Russian resistance the police and Gendarmerie were initially armed with various kinds of pistols, rifles, and carbines from various nations, with hardly any ammunition. The Vienna police had 3,504 pistols for 8,784 men, and almost no ammunition. [Waltzing Into the Cold War, The Struggle for Occupied Austria by James Carafano]

However, within the individual occupation zones efforts were quietly well under way, albeit not nationally, to arm the Gendarmerie and train them as an internal security force.

American M.P.'s started recruiting the assistance of Austrian volunteers to form an auxiliary police, and began the rebuilding of the Gendarmerie within the American zone. The police and Gendarmerie were initially not allowed to be armed, except when and where deemed necessary by local U.S. M.P. commanders. They normally patrolled, unarmed, alongside American M.P.'s. This continued until the M.P.'s were replaced by the U.S. Constabulary in July 1946.

The British, faced with troop shortages, no resources to form their own constabulary force as America was doing, and having to deal with the frontier bordering Yugoslavia, had armed the Gendarmerie in Carinthia and Steiermark with British Enfields, trained, then deployed, members of the Gendarmerie without close supervision by the end of 1947.

Almost all of the new police and Gendarmerie had served in the German Wehrmacht until the end of the war.

The U.S. Constabulary

In July 1946 border patrol and internal police duties in the U.S. occupation zones of Austria and Germany were turned over to the U.S. Constabulary, whose purpose included the training of a new Austrian police and Gendarmerie.

U.S. Constabulary and Austria Gendarmerie on patrol
Courtesy of William Bent

The Constabulary was organized into three brigades and ten regular regiments. Each regiment had three patrol squadrons and each squadron had five troops (e.g. "E" Troop, "F" Troop, etc). Only one American regiment, the 4th, was assigned to the American Occupation Zone in Austria and Vienna. Seriously understaffed for the task at hand, the U.S. Constabulary assumed a very mobile and high profile role, to give the impression there were more of them than there actually were. During 1946 and again in 1947 the U.S. Constabulary experienced a 100% turnover rate. America wanted their troops home from Europe and war, understandably. But this turn over rate left those troops who remained behind seriously outnumbered by the Russians. The American Occupation Zones in Austria were supposed to receive 73,000 U.S. troops, but by 1948 had only 11,345. [Boots on the Ground: Troop Density in Contingency Operations by John J. McGrath]

This shortage made the need for assistance from the Austrians even more critical.

The U.S. Constabulary dismissed the auxiliary police and with the assistance of former members of the Gendarmerie and NCO's that had served with the German Wehrmacht, began recruiting and training of Austria's new Gendarmerie. The first class of recruits graduated in Spring 1947. Training facilities and Gendarmerie existed in each of the other Allied occupation zones, trained by the occupying nation. The Russians stonewalled the Gendarmerie, limiting their power and allowing them to be armed only with a rubber truncheon. At one point, Russian troops raided the Gendarmerie facilities within the Russian zones and seized the rubber truncheons.

In 1947 and 1948 the Austrian Gendarmerie continued to operate alongside members of the U.S. Constabulary, unarmed. The Gendarmerie took control of situations and/or arrests involving citizens of Austria or elsewhere. The constabulary took control of situations and/or arrests involving members of the Allied Forces. Over time, the Gendarmerie took over more and more responsibility until eventually, the U.S. Constabulary was retired from Austria in 1952 and the Gendarmerie handled law enforcement in the U.S. occupation zone.

The American Resistance

From the end of the war and into 1948 an ongoing political battle in America had kept foreign military aid from being approved. The situation with communist political parties and Russia throughout Europe in general, and Austria specifically, caused President Truman to act without waiting for authorization by Congress for aid to Austria. Secretly.

In March 1948 President Truman authorized the U.S. Occupation Forces in Austria to begin military training for the Austrian Gendarmerie. He also authorized U.S. forces to begin stockpiling equipment in Europe, for use in case of an emergency.

In March 1949 the American Joint Chief’s approved $12 million of military equipment for the Austria Gendarmerie and $100 million for an Austrian Army, to be stockpiled but ready for immediate use. However, this equipment was not to be handed over to the Austrians until Austria took control of their own country, and the U.S. Occupation troops left. “Because of the obvious need to maintain secrecy, administration officials strictly ruled out any public discussion of military assistance to Austria. No part of the proposed Military Assistance Program was more sensitive.” [Arming the Free World-The Origins of the United States Military Assistance Program 1945-1950 by Chester J. Pach, Jr][Austria between East and West 1945-1955 by William B. Bader]

The plans of the Joint Chief's were part of their preparations to institute international military aid, with the birth of the Military Assistance Program on October 6, 1949 under The Mutual Defense Assistance Act.

The problem was Austria was dealing with a very active communist party within their government, centered in Vienna, and surrounded by the Russian Occupation Zone in Lower Austria, with no end to the occupation in sight.

Operation Kismet & Austria's B-Gendarmerie

The Four Power Agreement in Austria prohibited any of the occupying forces from training and/or equipping an Austrian army. Contact with the Austrian government regarding establishing, training, and arming a new Austrian Army would eliminate secrecy because of communist involvement within the government. This contact was made with a few trusted members of the Austrian government in key positions. President Truman had already secretly authorized training of the "Gendarmerie" and the stockpiling of weapons, without the knowledge or approval of Congress, or the Russians. Officially, the entire stockpile of weapons was located in Germany ("Stockpile A") and France under the protection of American forces.

Operation Kismet was devised to circumvent these issues for the American occupation zone. Training and arming the Austrian police and Gendarmerie for police duties was not considered a violation of the Four Power Agreement. After President Truman's authorization in March 1948, military hardware from American ordnance depots in Italy was transported into and through the British Occupation Zone in Carinthia and into the American Occupation Zones in Salzburg and Upper Austria. The British provided documents that the equipment had been given to them under Lend-Lease, and was being provided to the Austrian Gendarmerie. The equipment included M1 Carbines, M1 Garands, .45 semi-auto pistols, Browning .30 caliber machine guns, mortars, and a variety of vehicles, including M8 armored scout vehicles armed with a 37mm cannon and machine guns. The exact number of each weapon stockpiled remained secret.

The equipment was dispersed into covert storage throughout the American Zone in Austria. On July 8, 1949 the decision was made to train the Austrians with this equipment, and allow those trained to retain the equipment under their control. With the understanding that the equipment was still owned by the U.S. Army, with Gendarmerie members helping out to ensure the weapons were safely stored...by and with the Gendarmerie. [Waltzing Into the Cold War, The Struggle for Occupied Austria by James Carafano]

B-Gendarmerie in training (notice the leather holster)

B-Gendarmerie M8 Scout Vehicle w/gun removed

To respond to emergencies requiring rapid reinforcement of the local Gendarmerie, the Austrian Gendarmerie quietly established a quick response unit, known as an alarm battalion, later named the B-Gendarmerie. Their vehicles and appearance were no different than the Gendarmerie. By 1950 the B-Gendarmerie mobile response units consisted of three battalions and a mountain regiment dispersed to fifteen cities throughout every Austrian land excluding those occupied by Russia. In 1950 these units were instrumental in stopping the communist party by suppressing riots intended to lead to a takeover of the government.

By 1954 they grew to eight battalions in thirty-five cities and the mountain regiment, all outside Russian controlled areas. The Russians became aware of the alarm battalions and complained to the Western Allies, who dismissed the complaints, as the alarm battalions were considered part of the Gendarmerie, which by agreement with Russia was allowed to be trained and equipped.

The B-Gendarmerie was required to maintain a very low profile when armed. Tactics used included wearing American military uniforms with an American escort. In the picture depicting the M8 scout vehicle, notice the lack of the cannon barrel. The B-Gendarmerie of each occupation zone, excluding Russia's, were quietly armed with the weapons of the country controlling the particular occupation zone.

Because of the need to limit the involvement of the Austrian national government, and widespread knowledge amongst the Austrian government as a whole, the B-Gendarmerie was paid through a bank account maintained by the French government, the troop rosters were maintained by the Americans, the Austrian administration was limited to as few people as possible within the Ministry of the Interior outside the Russian occupied zones of Vienna. Austrian history commonly and openly refers to the B-Gendarmerie as Austria's "Secret Army".

When the U.S. Constabulary retired from Austria in 1952 the regular Gendarmerie had been quietly armed with M1 Carbines and .45 semi-auto pistols, which they were required to keep in "storage", but available. The "storage" facilities were their homes.

Austrian Independence

On May 15, 1955 Austria signed an accord establishing a free and independent neutral Austria. The occupation of Austria ended on July 27, 1955.

The Gendarmerie and B-Gendarmerie were required to return all of the military equipment loaned to them by the Americans. This equipment was still officially "British Lend-Lease equipment, owned by the British". [Britain and the Occupation of Austria, 1943-45 by Alice Hills]

The Military Assistance Program rearms Austria

Bundesheer troops with U.S. M1 Carbines

The records of the U.S. Military Assistance Program are maintained by the National Archives in Washington D.C. The National Archives has made the records available online. They indicate that sometime between October 1950 and 1963 Austria received...

...in addition to howitzers, artillery, mortars, tanks, medical equipment, jeeps, trucks, mines, grenades, and other military equipment. This equipment was provided as a grant.

Some of these numbers were significantly less than what was actually left by the American military.

Information from Austria

Personal accounts of those present at the time the Allied Forces left indicate the American troops literally walked away from a large amount of military equipment, leaving it for the Austrian Bundesheer. Tanks included the equipment for a complete tank crew, including Colt 1911A1 .45's and assorted small arms, such as M3 submachine guns. Jeeps and trucks sometimes included small arms within them. Many Austrians were surprised at the amount of military hardware left by the Americans. [four separate e-mail interviews conducted January 2006 through July 2007 of retired Bundesheer personnel)

Professor WolfDieter Hufnagl is the son of an Austrian Police General and served in the Austrian army as a lieutenant. He has worked closely with special units of the Austrian police, Gendarmerie, and Bundesheer, amongst other Austrian and international law enforcement agencies. He has authored a number of books on these special units and in 2007 was continuing his work as a journalist in Austria and Europe. Hufnagl authored U.S. Karabiner .30 M1 - Waffe und Zubehor, published August 1994 by Motorbuch Verlag of Stuttgart (190 pp, illustrated, ISBN 3-613-01635-4). Hufnagl was interviewed by e-mail by this author, throughout 2006 and 2007.

According to research by Hufnagl, when the Americans departed Austria, they left behind the material of three infantry divisions, including:

Austria officially designated the .30 caliber Ml Carbine as the K-M1 (Karabiner M1).

All of the weapons were initially in possession of the Bundesheer. The Bundesheer was ordered to provide the following agencies with U.S. .30 caliber carbines.

The Bundesheer kept the remaining M1's, and M1A1's.

In addition to the American weapons, the French contributed German weapons such as the Mauser carbine 98k, P38, and MG-42. The Soviets provided 10,000 Mosin Nagant repeating rifles, 15,000 PPsH 41 submachine guns, along with T34 tanks. The British did not contribute weapons.

The Austrian numbers provided by Professor Hufnagl are an educated estimate from his first hand experience, the experience of others within the Austrian Bundesheer, Bundespolizei, Gendarmerie, and government 1945-2006. Keep in mind Austrians are prevented by law from disclosing this information. Austria did not gain access to secret U.S. documents regarding the B-Gendarmerie for a number of years. Even then, only two noted Austrian military historians were allowed access to the records. [B-Gendarmerie, Waffenlager und Nachrichtendienste, Der militärische Weg zum Staatsvertrag by Blasi, Schmidl, and Schneider]

U.S. M1 Carbines from Bavaria

Records from the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior indicate Austria purchased 2013 U.S. M1 Carbines from Bavaria in 1956. Bavaria had received the carbines during the American Occupation of Germany. These carbines are covered in more detail on the pages devoted to the use of the U.S. M1 Carbines by the Austria Gendarmerie, who received all of the weapons.

From those returned to America by the private importer INTRAC in 1993 and the U.S. Army in 2008 (transferred to the Civilian Marksmanship Program), it is clear that the Austrian Gendarmerie received in excess of 4000 U.S. M1 Carbines from Bavaria.

Disposition of the M1 Carbines in Austria

About 1959 the army began replacing their American rifles with the FN FAL. The M1 carbine was kept in reserve for use by reserve forces. They started phasing out their K-M1's and M1A1's starting about 1970. Those phased out were stored in government weapons depots. The Gendarmerie and police deactivated their Ml Carbine's officially on July 1, 1993. These were also stored in Austrian weapon depots. In 1993 officials examined a few K-M1's still in storage which were intended originally for the self defense of the Austrian parliament. There were approximately 1,900 K-M1's in new condition, still in the original grease. [Prof. Wolfdieter Hufnagl]

The Army Sport Association (Österreichischer Heeressportverband) received a number of the M1 Carbines from storage for sport shooting. Some of the M1 carbines were personally purchased and retained by individual members of the Bundesheer, police, and Gendarmerie. These required special permits from their government as the M1 Carbine, along with other weapons used in times of war, are prohibited for personal possession in Austria. The Bundesheer competitive shooting team competes with teams from other European countries in various shooting competitions, including competitions with the U.S. M1 Carbines. [Prof. Wolfdieter Hufnagl]

Information on the disposition of the M1, M1A1, and M2 Carbines used and/or stored by the government in Austria is prohibited by Austrian law.

In 1993 the American Importer, INTRAC of Knoxville, TN, imported approximately 7500 U.S. M1 Carbines from Austria. These carbines were sold wholesale and retail 1994-1995 by Centerfire Systems of Kentucky and Tennessee Guns. A second shipment of approximately 7000-7500 carbines from Austria was blocked by a change in American gun import laws. For further information, refer to the web page on Imports/Exports.

Between 2002 and 2009 Euroarms Italia of Concesio-Brescia, Italy, sold U.S. M1 Carbines they obtained from the Austrian agency, Zoll. Their website indicates they received carbines ZW 0001 through ZW 3850. A number of these carbines are displayed on this website's Armory web page. According to the owner of Tennessee Guns, who was involved with INTRAC at the time they attempted to import the second shipment from Austria, these carbines were amongst the second shipment they were blocked from importing.

In 2006 the German Import/Export firm Franconia was purchasing M1 Carbines from Portugal and importing them into Germany. One of these carbines was marked as having been used by the Austrian Gendarmerie. Communication with Franconia revealed this one carbine was an exception amongst all the others currently being imported. The employee at Franconia indicated his firm has imported M1 Carbines used by Austria into Germany, from an African nation Franconia did not wish to identify.

Although Austria is not a member of NATO, the Austrian Bundesheer has provided assistance to United Nations peacekeeping missions in the Congo (field hospital, 1960-1963), Namibia (police assistance, 1989-1990), and most recently Chad (2008- ). [Austrian Cultural Information System]

In 2008 Austria returned approximately 6700 U.S. M1 Carbines to the U.S. Army. The army transferred these carbines to the Civilian Marksmanship Program, for sales to support and promote civilian marksmanship in America. These were part of the second shipment INTRAC attempted to import.

Secret CIA Weapons Caches found in Austria

On January 20, 1996 The Boston Globe published an article, from information gathered from a leak in the CIA, regarding numerous weapon caches the CIA had left behind in Austria in the late 1940's and early 1950's. Hiding the weapons in Austria was done in anticipation that the country would be overrun in the event of a Russian invasion. Inquiries to the Department of State from Austria regarding this information, confirmed the CIA had found documents indicating the weapons were still hidden in various locations throughout Austria. The CIA claimed they had advised Austrian intelligence of the weapons back when they were put in place. Apparently even the CIA had forgotten they were there until the records were discovered in January 1996.

This news was not well received in Austria. During the week it took for the CIA to assemble a list of the locations and what they should contain, public imagination in Austria brought this news international coverage. Austria was provided with a list of seventy-four locations the weapons could be found, the majority located within what had been the American zone of occupation. The Austrian military conducted a salvage operation to recover the weapons.

Sixty-eight of the locations were found to have weapons, all of American manufacture. The majority of these locations were set up for less than a dozen people to operate out of, conducting guerilla type warfare. All totaled, there were less than fifteen hundred small arms. Two locations were designated explosive camps, due to the volume of high explosives and equipment with which to use them. These two locations had less than ten M1A1's each. All of the M1 Carbines found (fifty) were amongst the majority of weapons and explosives, located in the Mariazell region of Steiermark, near it's border with Lower Austria. Steiermark was part of the British occupation zone. Lower Austria was part of the Russian occupation zone. The American occupation zone was not near Mariazell.

Given the level of attention these caches received, the number of weapons found were not what some expected. The biggest surprise was the amount of explosives. At the Mariazell location they recovered 450kg of C3 and 450kg of C4.

Austria took possession of all of the weapons, M1 Carbines included. Again, their laws prevent releasing any information on the disposition of small arms. [B-Gendarmerie, Waffenlager und Nachrichtendienste, Der militärische Weg zum Staatsvertrag by Blasi, Schmidl, and Schneider].

The weapons caches should have been of no surprise to Austria. Other European nations had already discovered similar cache's, throughout western and southern Europe. Austria's cache's were a small part of a much larger operation for all of Europe, planned and prepared by NATO. [NATO's Top Secret Stay-Behind Armies and Terrorism in Western Europe by Daniele Ganser]


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