06 Jul 2017

“What Is She Aiming At?”


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Look attentively at this gun… and try hazarding a guess about what it is? ;-)


Mosin-Nagant 1891/30 rifle


Well, if I challenged the knowledgeable author of this blog and his readers as well about what this interesting photo says, it’s because this little game of mine is more difficult to solve than it could seem at first glance. It proved to be difficult to me too, even though I claim to have an expertise on small arms of the period between the early central fire metallic cartridge (late XIXth century) and the end of WWII. For I spot on it several puzzling discrepancies I expose now.

The woman on this picture bears a thick military coat made for harsh winters on whose collar one can unmistakably identify the left insignia of a German SS Oberscharführer (see Wikipedia for further details about this Nazi Party paramilitary rank). This insignia here is shown at its right place, because the two lighting shaped S of the SS symbol are supposed to be on display on the right side of the collar indeed.

So we are invited to believe that this soldier is a (rare) Nazi indoctrinated female SS squad leader (placed under the order of the equivalent of a todays’ US platoon non-commissioned officer). This first assumption appears to be rightly supported by her gun, a rifle whose barrel end has a prominent and easily identifiable muzzle, which happens to be a rare peculiarity on small arms in WWII.

The knowledgeable gun collector will quickly recognize this muzzle, as well as the swivel and retaining band, and also the prominent and particular rear and front sights, as these of the early variant of a FG 42 (Fallschirmgewehr 42, meaning “Paratrooper Rifle Model 1942”) German assault rifle, identified as “Model I” (with metal made stock and pistol grip). This is secondly confirmed by the way the woman is handling her rifle. Because her right hand would be more visible on the photo if it was a late variant of the FG 42 (see photos of the two main variants of the FG 42 on Google).

For the record, the German FG 42 is a very rare gun today, and a highly desirable piece to many knowledgeable gun collectors. For it is a forerunner of the modern assault rifle, firing the 7.92 x 57mm Mauser cartridge otherwise commonly used in its time with all others German rifles and portable machine-guns, in semi-auto and full auto mode as well. One can say that the performances and overall characteristics (length, weight, caliber, magazine capacity and others) of the FG 42 are pretty similar to those of the 30-06 US Browning Automatic Rifle previously issued in 1918. The FG 42 was then conceived as an “individual portable machine gun”, an all-purpose gun capable to replace all alone a MP 40 submachine gun and a 98k bolt action carbine or a Gewehr 41 semi auto rifle.

Up to that point, all this bears a consistence with the fact that Russian Cyrillic characters appear on this picture. Indeed, most of the early version of the FG 42 the German produced were given to highly trained Special Forces, SS and paratroopers in particular sent to the Russian front more especially. This last fact explains why this gun is a very rare bird nowadays, and why it is seldom seen on pictures too.

So, this photo is much more interesting than it first appears because it shows at the same time two very rare things, but in a still rarer combination, to the point that it borders on the fringe of the unlikely. For if ever this woman is truly German, then she’s supposed to be a GI Jane of a sort or the female equivalent of Rambo. Well, a super female soldier.
Thence the reason this picture of her was shot? If ever this theory proved to be true, then her name was certainly associated with certain fame in the German Army, a fame we would still know about today.

But beyond all the extraordinary characteristics I just explained and commented, one may notice few other details of a no less interesting sort because they might provide us with a completely different hypothesis about the possible origin and story of this photo.

First, near the left and bottom corner, on the background, we notice a second personage, who, although details of him are blurred, can clearly be identified as a male civilian standing there as quietly as if he was looking at a show.
But this photo is a show, of course, since the photographer was courageous enough to face a “threatening and heavily armed female SS soldier”, and since her FG 42 has its big lateral 20 rounds magazine clearly missing. As a matter of fact, she doesn’t have any magazine pouch on her too, which makes her a disarmed and not that dangerous German soldier after all.

Second, the buckle of her waist belt doesn’t look much like this of any German soldier, be it SS commando, paratrooper or not, and the sides of its rectangular shape are too much curved to be a German military buckle. How come? Why?

So this photo has not at all been shot on a battlefield; still less during combat.
Then anyone can make his own idea about who is this woman holding such a rifle, and through which circumstances. Because of her gun, we all have to agree that it has shot no earlier than in 1943. For available German war archives tell us the first operational use of the FG 42, by German paratroopers and Waffen-SS commandos, occurred in September 1943, and in Italy; not in Russia.

Beyond all this my idea is that this photo shows a Russian woman disguised as a German SS soldier, and that the rifle she handles and the coat she wears were taken from a dead enemy or a captured one circa late 1943-early 1944, and that the whole thing was staged for sake of a Russian propaganda picture intending to show (in passing) that female enemies are no less dangerous than men. If this last guess is correct, then this photo remains a peculiar and interesting testimony anyways.

Bill in Tennessee

That’s’ how they deal with paparazzi in Russia.


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