.38 military usage (WNY)

I have a Hungarian made semi-auto with Waffenamt stamps which has been given to me with an identical story of German pilots abandoning P-38 because of the large frame and not enough room in the cockpit.

Vlad - I can’t comment on wither story about abandoning certain weapons to carry others. That happened surely on a few occasions. I personally knew an Army officer who picked up an M1 Rifle from a casualty during the Korean War and carried it in preferenced to the M2 carbine he was issued, and had little regard for after a frightening encounter with an NK soldier when his carbine failed him.

However, the Femura 37 Pistol was widely issued in the Luftwaffe, along with other foreign and German substitute-standard weaons for reasons other than size, just as the .38 Smith and Wesson Revolver was general issue to Navy Pilots during WWII. Of course one of the reasons in both cases is that a pistol was an emergency measure for non-combatents and for personnel not engaged in small-arms combat, such as pilots. Supplies of the standard P.08 and P.38 were insufficient for the arming of every pistol-carrying member of the German Armed Forces, POlice, etc., so they were generally issued to personnel where a real need for a pistol was recognized. For pilots, size may well have been one of the factors for issued the smaller 7.65 mm pistols. I don’t see that for the the Smith and Wesson, which is about as long as a Colt M1911, and about as high as one. The cylinder makes it somewhat bulkier than the semi-auto pistol. However, it was available in large qunatities and perhaps easier to teach marksmanship with due to lighter recoil (don’t know for sure if that was any consideration at all).

I doubt that in either the American or German service, personnel other than the higher ranks had my choice in the weapon they were issued. I know that some German officers bought their own pistols. I have a Franz Stock 7.65 mm pistol taken, along with his dagger, from a German officer by the father of a neighbor of mine who passed away and left me both items. The pistol is pure commercail - not military property marks of any kind. The cartridges in the magazine represented a small collection of German commercial 7.65 mm ammo. I found one in their, just a minor Geco variation, that I didn’t have in my collection.

I suspect in U.S. Service that any exchange of weapons, one in personal favor of another, was done by “midnight requisition.”


Another related note: In the “more modern” Air Force, after the introduction of CAD/PAD–rocket powered ejection seats, there was a concern that a downed pilot could end up with only one functioning arm, either from the shoot down event or the ejection, and it was reasoned that a revolver (Cal .38 was standard) would be more useful, esp. as the accepted carry for an automatic was NOT with a round already chambered. If you’ve ever tried to load and cock an M1911 by working the slide with one hand, this is easy to understand.

It would be interesting to examine in what scenario a .38 revolver could be envisioned as a survival weapon? No use against a conventionally armed enemy and not accurate enough for food gathering.
In a ‘push comes to shove’ situation waving a revolver like that around is just going to get you killed. Its not like in the movies.

Vince: I think tracer cartridges were often, if not invariably, issued to naval air crew in the second war for signaling purposes. As far as danger presented by being armed, U.S. naval airmen were in considerable danger of severe treatment or death at the hands of their potential captors in that war, armed or not. Jack

I second what Jack said. Most, if not all, the Navy Airmen were employed against the Japanese and that was a “not quarter” arrangement. Further, a .38 Special revolver is adequate in the hands of a determined user against one or two soldiers that might be encountered along a hoped-for escape route.
Further, a .38 can be used to take birds sitting on tree limbs, or lizards or snakes encountered. Not food fare I would care for, but when you have nothing, they are probably a feast.

All in all, a better proposition than the 7.65 mm Pistols the German pilots carried. While I have seen a couple of pictures of Japanese pilots getting into aircraft and armed with the miserable Type 94 pistol, it is certain that a good .38 Revolver is better than that, and better in most cases than the sword many of the officer pilots jammed in the little cockpits of their fighter planes.

By the way, the pistol could also be a good thing to have to coerce locals to give you food and water. The locals everywhere in the Pacific theater were not always willing to help errant American service men. There were even cases in the Philippines of U.S. stragglers or guerrillas being turned in by members of the indiginous population.