U.S. Carbines in Germany and Austria

and the
U.S. M1 Carbine

The M1 Carbines
West Germany

The Bundeswehr

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Allowing Germany to rebuild and arm their military forces was, understandably, strongly opposed the first ten years after the war. As tensions with Russia and communism grew, slowly Western Europe and NATO realized they could not defend Europe without the assistance of West Germany.

On May 5, 1955 the Allied occupation of West Germany ended and the government of West Germany took control. The same day, West Germany became a member of NATO. The new military of West Germany was named the Bundeswehr, also known as the West German security forces. On 12 Nov 1955 the first soldiers of the new Bundeswehr put on their uniforms for the first time. The Federal Ministry of Defense commands the Bundeswehr.

On 02 Jan 1956 the first units of the Bundeswehr became active and began the task of training new recruits, with the assistance of American military personnel assigned to assist training the Bundeswehr. On 01 Apr 1957 the first conscripts were called up. In the 1950's and early 1960's the majority of the weapons, ammunition, and equipment used by West Germany was purchased from other countries. Article 3 of the North Atlantic Treaty required West Germany to reimburse the United States for the military assistance and occupation costs 1948-1961, totaling over 69 million Marks. The U.S. Military Assistance Program provided West Germany over $1 billion in all forms of equipment and military assistance for the Bundeswehr. [The Bundeswehr, Partner in the Western Alliance, by the Press and Information Office of the Federal Government in Bonn, Third edition. 1963]

Not long after the formation of the Bundeswehr they were issued approximately 6000 U.S. M1 carbines. ["Munich" movie editorial, Visier Magazine 25 Jan 2006]

Courtesy of DWJ Magazine
Courtesy of The American Rifleman

The November 1957 issue of the American Rifleman pp. 17-20 In the West German Army...Arms and Arms Training by Jac Weller, gives a brief overview of the Bundeswehr, their weapons, and training. The Germans were asked their opinion of each of the American weapons they were using including the M1 Garand, M1 carbine, M2 carbine, Browning machine guns, BAR, Thompson .45, and the 1911A1 .45 pistol. The concensus of the Germans, confirmed by American military personnel involved in training, was the quality of the American weapons was very good, but they didn't care for any of the weapons due to a different warfare culture. With two exceptions. "They do not for a moment believe the M1 carbine is the equal of the Garand [which they thought too heavy] in power and accuracy, but they do like it because it is shorter, lighter, and handier in the field. They like the M2 version of the carbine better because it has a selective lever for full automatic fire."

My personal conversations with German police and military that used the M1 carbine and M2 carbine, revealed the same sort of love/hate relationship opinion shared by our own troops. They generally either liked it or hated it. The M2 carbine was more popular than the M1 carbine due to it's selective fire feature. Those that used the M1 & M2 carbine in a job consistent with it's original design and intended purpose, usually liked the carbines with a preference for the M2.

The recruits depicted in this picture have been divided into their platoons. The carbines have been placed in the stationary position on the supports. The purpose of this particular exercise, was learning how to obtain a sight picture. Only one in seven recruits were actually allowed to fire the carbine. The remaining recruits walked up, sighted, then returned to the end of the line to be cycled through the process once again. German culture placed low value on expending more than 20 rounds a year per recruit. This was true of all the rifles, not just the carbines. The exception was the machine guns. German infantry tactics relied heavily on the use of large numbers of crew served machine guns. A lesson learned from fighting the Russians during their advance on Germany and Berlin during WWII.

At the time this article was written the Bundeswehr was seeking a main battle rifle of NATO caliber. They had purchased a limited number of the FN/FAL 7.62 NATO caliber rifles from Belgium, and were experimenting with the Spanish Cetme. By 1958 West Germany was unable to obtain permission to manufacture their own FN/FAL under license to FN of Belgium. In 1959 West Germany chose the Spanish Cetme, obtained a license from Spain to manufacture the rifle in Germany at Heckler & Koch in Ulm, with certain modifications preferred by the Germans. This rifle became known as the H&K G3.

H&K G3 production began replacing the M1 carbine, M2 carbine, and other American weapons in possession of the Bundeswehr in 1961. Transition to the H&K G3 was completed in 1967/1968. As the M1 carbines and M2 carbines were phased out, they were retained for use by reserve forces and in case of emergencies.

Configuration and Markings of the M1 & M2 carbines used by the Bundeswehr

This part is currently the subject of further research and investigation. As is the disposition of the carbines.

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