Wednesday, August 04, 2010

One-sided matchups of history...

I have a WWII-vintage Italian Carcano carbine. It is equipped with a folding gizmo that can only be called a "bayonet" because it is somewhat pointy and on the opposite end of the gun from the buttplate. Roughly as sturdy as a bent coat hanger and fitted with a hinge wobblier than Noam Chomsky, this device was unlikely to inspire confidence in a hungry and miserably-led Italian draftee huddling at the bottom of a foxhole, knowing that somewhere out there in the desert were Gurkhas.

If there has been a worse mismatch in modern warfare than a company of Gurkhas jumping into a trench full of Italian conscripts in the middle of the Saharan night, I’m not sure what it is. It must’ve been like lobbing a sackful of weasels into a henhouse.

33 comments:

Boat Guy said...

Probly like that ... 'cept the Ghurkas most likely didn't eat the Italians

El Capitan said...

One of my uncles has one of those carbines (or carbine-like object) and one of my cousins had to use it during deer season. Poor cuz Mike never seemed to be able to swat a deer with it.

It wasn't so much his lack of shooting skills as it was the inability of the Carcano to deliver the round into the same zip code as where you were aiming...

Turk Turon said...

My favorite, from the Daily Mail story:

"Apocryphal? Probably. But among the documented accounts is that of the U.S. Air Force's Colonel John Alison on meeting uncharacteristically anxious Gurkha troops preparing for a glider assault on Japanese positions.

'We aren't afraid to go,' a Gurkha sergeant told him solemnly. 'We aren't afraid to fight. But we thought we should tell you that those "planes" don't have any motors.'"

Tennessee Budd said...

I've always admired the Gurkhas. Good to know they're still doing it--as in, the Gurkha lopping the head off the bad guy a couple of weeks ago.

wolfwalker said...

How about Okinawa 1945: US Marines wielding Garands and Tommyguns, vs. Japanese conscripts using Arisaka Substitute 99s with limited supplies of inferior ammo that misfired about one round out of four, and often didn't kill even when it did shoot.

Tam said...

There are plenty of posthumous Medals of Honor and Navy Crosses to testify that three rounds out of four could still be plenty dangerous...

Anonymous said...

The North African Goumiers, who were used by the French for similar purposes, had roughly the same effect. They, by way of the French Foreign Legion, introduced the charming habit of collecting ears into the various SE Asian wars.

Bob said...

Anonymous at 2:09 beat me to it; the Goumiers of Morocco featured in Samuel Fuller's novel The Big Red One, and also in restored scenes from the movie of the same name. The Goums (as Fuller referred to them) stampeded disciplined German soldiers in a scene that I won't describe, but will encourage you to read by buying the book or borrowing it from your local library. I'd say that the book deserves to be on everyone's shelf, but that's just me.

wv: loglint. Found deep in the recesses of knotholes on a log, much as belly-button lint is found on a log-like human critter.

Paul said...

bag full of weasels in a hen house....now that brings back some memories...not to mention a chuckle

Texas Gobbler said...

WOW...thanks to Bob and Anon above in referencing the North African tribal group. Brings back a History Channel documentary I believe on that campaign. They said the following which I can't forget and will paraphrase...These natural mountain fighters were the origin of the verb "to Goum". Its meaning among the troops was "to wildly exceed beyond expectation." I love it.

I would also like to say that there are lots of battles in history that show how plans can be upset by determined troops. Of late I have been reading up on the Russo-Finnish wars. Estimates on the high side are that a MILLION Soviet troops were killed fighting the Finns, a tiny nation of only 4 million. The story of the bravery of the Finns almost brings you to tears. They were fighting for their very survival. Again a great quote...Soviet general was asked after the armistice what had the Soviets gained in the war..."Enough ground to bury our dead."

Firehand said...

As to the Finns:
http://anarchangel.blogspot.com/2009/11/finland-be-afraid-be-very-afraid.html

Firehand said...

Well, I can't put the picture here, so:
http://elmtreeforge.blogspot.com/2010/08/with-all-attention-to-that-gurkha.html

Texas Gobbler said...

Firehand...as part Finn and getting up in years, I am connecting with my roots. Memories of my uncles and aunts are my reference points. I have to say I have not laughed so hard in a long while! I literally had to stop reading and watching the videos on that link. That made my day. And dude it is absolutely true !!! Thank you so much !!!

Ed Foster said...

Jimmy (Demetrios) Fanis, semi-retired owner of America's first Pizza Palace (pity they never copywrited the name)in Middletown CT,knifed to death an entire platoon of Italians as a teenaged boy.

A cold night in the Albanian mountains, everybody tucked inside their sleeping bags, including the sentries, and....

Jimmy had quite a bit of notoriety in the local Greek community when I was working there, nights after school. I've seen him throw a knife. I'm glad the old boy is a friend.

Ancient Woodsman said...

I cannot believe that you, with such an affinity for antique firearms, would denegrate such a classic example of precision artwork as a Carcano. Everyone knows that the Carcano - with late-50's era precision non-centered reticle 'Sear's Best' scope - is THE choice for snipers 'aiming' for a coup d'etat...especially in Dallas. My, what a delicately-built piece of weaponry it must be, capable of such precise shooting in such a short time. Yours by association must be worth a small fortune. Never fired, I'll bet, and only dropped once.

We used to refer to them as "tomato stakes".

Yep, and some claim to have an original Stradivarius, and an original Rembrandt. Problem is, Stradivari was a lousy painter, and Rembrandt made crappy violins.

Nice post, though.

Tam said...

Why people always refer to hitting an 8" target at 90 yards with a scope-sighted rifle like it's some kind of marksmanship miracle is beyond me.

I recommend more Appleseed. :)

D.W. Drang said...

Donna Barr is a local artist who has/had a graphic novel titled The Desert Peach , about Erwin Rommel's gay brother.
In one issue, there is a running gag about "How do you tell the nationality of the foe?" i.e., you put a helmet on a stick and hold it up over the edge of the trench. The Italians are building a road to retreat on. With the Americans, you get no response for 30 minutes, then an the artillery barrage.
"If they're Gurkhas, they're in the trench with you..."

Ancient Woodsman said...

Appleseeds get stuck in the teeth.

I like the smiley face, but I think you missed the point; there is no miracle to that kind of shooting is obvious to a real shooter, yet the internet abounds with 'experts' who seem to think it could not have been done for the very reason that 'it was a Carcano'...same lot that plied you with their expertise learned on the 'net on cans & subguns.

Sorry, next time I jest I'll bee less oblique and use shorter words. Yet, I jest again. Sorry to have offended. Enjoy the lovely tomatoes!

Ritchie said...

El Capitan (and others), beware of a Carcano with a trimmed barrel, as that gun has "gain twist" which increases the twist RATE closer to the muzzle. So, heavy bullet or issue ammo may not stabilize. If that really matters.

Tam said...

Ancient Woodsman,

There was no offense on this end. I'm sorry if I gave any.

Vaarok said...

Everybody hates Carcanos, but so many chopped ones are floating around with people trying to feed tem .264 bullets it's no wonder.

The really neat thing, in my opinion, is the disaster the Moschetto Ballila children's trainer was when distributed to schools. Apparently quite a few kids got bayoneted on the playgrounds, which is why unmolested MB's command a good $400ish.

And which variation of folding-bayo M91TS, exactly? They made over a dozen latch variations, pushbutton, sliding collar, etc.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Well, since you said it was "Modern Warfare", I'm assuming a Doughboy from Tennessee armed with a 1911 and a bolt action rifle taking on a bunch of Krauts running water-cooled Maxims in the trenches of France and winning might count as a being a little lopsided, don'tcha think? What was that guys name again, Yack, Yonk, something like that ; )

Joseph said...

The idea of Italians being incompetent soldiers would have seemed really strange during the Roman Empire.

Anonymous said...

More on the fighting Finns:

Finnish Fighter Squadron LeLv. 24 taking on the Russian Air Force and achieving the highest victory ratio of any aircraft in the entire war, by a factor 2. An amazing 26 to 1.

Using Brewster Model 239 Buffaloes.

BoxStockRacer

J.R.Shirley said...

Ahayo Gurkhali!





That's what I always yell when I brandish my kukuris, anyway...

Craig S. Miller said...

Gurkhas vs. Italian conscripts. Wow that really is a mismatch. This matchup shows why if you have a Carcano Carbine with minimal scuff marks where it was dropped it should be valuable.

Goyo said...

My favorite Gurkha anecdote, this variation from an Eric Morris essay on Gen. W. J. Slim in the MHQ anthology "No End Save Victory" that I just happened to finish. p. 612:

When [the battle of Imphal] was over, some Gurkhas were engaged in collecting Japanese corpses for burial. One Japanese who was picked up proved to not be as dead as expected. One Gurkha had drawn his kukri to finish him off when a passing British officer intervened. "You mustn't do that, Johnny." (The British called all Gukhas "Johnny.") "Don't kill him."

"But sahib," said the Gurkha in pained surprise, "we can't bury him alive."

Steve Skubinna said...

I read once that during the Falklands War the locals used to unnerve the Argentine conscripts by telling them Gurkha stories. Whether that worked or not I couldn't say, but a lot of the Argentine troops couldn't surrender fast enough given the chance.

My brother met some Gurkhas on South Georgia Island. He was admiring one's kukri and asked if he could see it. The trooper turned so that the sheath was towards him and lifted his arm, saying "You draw it. If I do, it can't go back without blood."

Ancient Woodsman said...

Um...I thought I was the one who should apologize.

E-mail sent.

Thanks for the "wobblier than Noam Chomsky" line, too. That was hilarious.

AW

staghounds said...

Back on topic, Colonial militia from Boston taking to the forest against angry Iroquois?

Living in Babylon said...

Kicking the shit out of Ethiopia (and barely, even with poison gas) and then strutting around calling yourself Ceaser is like stepping on a lizard and calling yourself a dragonslayer.

Tam said...

Vaarok,

I believe this one would technically be termed a Mo. 91/38 Moschetto Cavalleria. It has the pushbutton slider to latch the folding bayo, and the crude fixed 200m sight.

The Carcano does get an unfairly bad rap, but the basic action, which is just a modified Gew.88, did not age well and was thoroughly outdated by 1901. They're accurate enough, but balky to operate, especially if the fragile clips are distorted in any way.

Anonymous said...

My friend Maria grandfather was an Italian conscript in North Africa.

He said they were well positioned and equipted on the front but had very little water.

Day 2 the officers left to go get help.

Day 3 the NCO's left to go get help.

When the Brits showed up on Day 5 they would have surrendered to the Girl Scouts for some water.

Did most of his POW time in the USA and said getting captured was the luckist thing in his life.

Gerry