Digging up History, Eastern Front style

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These pictures and video were published on War History Online in two separate articles over the course of the past six months. The images and video are absolutely astounding. It seems that a duo of treasure hunters or artifact seekers, using commercial metal detectors have an excellent grasp of the battles on the World War Two Eastern front, and use that knowledge to discover all kinds of stuff still laying around. Some of it is still visible at ground level, while most of it is just barely covered with soil. You see one of them scrapping out an STG44, barely a couple inches below the surface, and in another clip a PPSH41 and an MG34 spare barrel. They certainly have the history knowledge down, but I hope they know a thing or two about high explosives, as they very foolishly/bravely are yanking out mortar ends and other ordnance out of the ground.

French and Belgian farmers have a term for this whole thing, the “Iron Harvest” where over 90 tons of metal/guns/ ordnance is pulled out of the fields through plowing. To this day in Europe, there is still unexploded ordnance killing civilians, long after the World Wars they were expended in. On a side note, for any Band of Brothers/101st aficionados out there, there is a passage in the book where Ambrose is with one of the Easy company vets on a trip back to their old battle sites of World War Two. This particular visit was in Belgium and one of the vets was talking about how they were set up in the field they were standing in, saying something like, ‘the Germans were over there, and we were along this way, and I set up my machine gun team at that corner right there’, while pointing to a spot where one of the vets grandchildren was standing. The grandchild looked down, bent over, and picked up a spent .30-06 casing that would have been fired out of the 1919A6 light machine gun the vet was talking about.

I’m not sure what the laws in Russia are when it comes to searching for, digging up, and keeping relics on former battlefields, but I know the United States has various laws about it depending on the site and equipment used. Some you can dig up and keep to your hearts content, others you can only search, but the owner/government has the first right to keep it, and others everything is strictly forbidden. From the relic hunters-

WWII Relic Hunting/Metal Detecting Episode V: This is a video of our February tour .We spent two days on the former Eastern Front, visiting multiple locations. Though it was a really short trip, we found some very good relics. We found a Sturmgewehr 44 or StG44, the Soviet PPSh-41, a German Karabiner 98 or Kar98/K98 and a total of 3 helmets, the M42 (2x) and the M40. We also found lots of smaller finds, like a tank track, a Wehrmacht belt buckle, war time coins, canteens, mess tins, casings etc.

And a very stern warning towards those wishing to profit off of their finds. They seem to be good stewards of history-

Dear viewers, recently we received several offers from different people to buy the video material we shot on our trips, as well as information about our finds and locations, to be used in films or documentaries (mostly about the international market in military objects). We’ve even been asked to take a film crew with us on one of the trips.

We have declined all these offers, because a) we don’t do this for money and b) since we have never sold a thing we have found (and never will) we do not want to help making a video about the relic market. If there’s one stereotype we don’t want to support, it’s that of the the amateur digger who sells his finds to the highest bidder.

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The region of Russia this was found in is called Nevsky Pyatachok, a site of a fierce battle where the Soviet Union fought to try and relieve the siege of Lenningrad. The BBC has an excellent article on some of the body recover efforts doing on there. You might be thinking, what is a Carcano doing in Russia, where most of the fighting was done with Mausers and Mosin Nagants? Well, the Italian army initially had more than 200,000 men deployed alongside German units, fighting the Soviets. 



Miles V

Former Infantry Marine, and currently studying at Indiana University. I’ve written for Small Arms Review and Small Arms Defense Journal, and have had a teenie tiny photo that appeared in GQ. Specifically, I’m very interested in small arms history, development, and Military/LE usage within the Middle East, and Central Asia.

If you want to reach out, let me know about an error I’ve made, something I can add to the post, or just talk guns and how much Grunts love naps, hit me up at miles@tfb.tv


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  • Phillip Cooper

    Fascinating stuff!

  • Zebra Dun

    The best place for a Carcano to be.

    • schizuki

      I agree wholeheartedly.

      Sincerely,
      Zombie JFK.

      • Zebra Dun

        LOL, y Brother bought one back when he was 16 cost Him $25.00 in 1972, you could put every shot from a rest inside a garbage can lid 24 inches in diameter. It shot 24 inch groups.
        I recall it was 7.35 mm and loaded with a stripper clip.
        A rugged rifle for sure but accuracy was not it’s best feature. I’ve heard the 6.5 mm would do better, Oh…Sorry JFK’s Zombie.

        • buzzman1

          The 6.5 Carcano was a terrible round. It was dubbed (I think) the peace mans round because you couldnt hit anything with it. After the Italians came over to our side US Military experts tried to fix the round so we wouldnt have to furnish them with new weapons. It was hopeless.

          • Zebra Dun

            I’ve read somewhere that the Carcano 6.5 and the Japanese 6.5 were listed as the most humane bullets used during World War two.
            Either the misses or the bullet simply drilled a 6.5 hole right through the body no tumbling, expanding or fragmenting.

    • The least accurate rifle ever made.

      • Zebra Dun

        The Italians apparently mixed their ammo up prior to shipping to the troops and the world with cartridges of different kinds and weights of gun powder.
        This cause them to shoot almost randomly across the battlefield.

        The Brothers rifle was an 1891 cavalry carbine with a folding attached bayonet that was not the most rigid of attached blades. it angled down like well below the barrel and wiggled like a snake with an erection.

      • J S

        Not true, I understand when they are used as a club, they are accurate.

    • bojan

      Not Carcano but Mannlicher 1886 or 1888. From Leningrad militia most probably.

      • Zebra Dun

        The Carcano used the Mannlicher design so what you see is a Mannlicher-Carcano.
        The en bloc Charging system uses the Mannlicher as does the Gewehr 1888 commision rifle which was a Mannlicher.

        It’s a Carcano.

  • Zebra Dun

    Oh by the way, were any Thompson Submachine guns found there lining the ditches along the roads?

    • Those came in Shermans that the American government supplied to the USSR, no?

      • Patrick M.

        Just read up on the Lend-Lease Shermans. I had no idea!

        • Oh yes Sherman’s thousands of trucks, ammo and many other tools including aircraft. Some were British Spitfires with the red star on the tail which looks strange by the way.
          The Airacobra which we hated were given to the Russians who loved it because of the large cannon mounted in the prop spinner. They had several aces flying it and used it for ground attack as well.

        • Bell P-39 Airacobra

          • Zebra Dun

            Every Nation that got these Aircraft loved them and the US considered them junk, must have been politics or the fighter mafia.

      • Zebra Dun

        No the Sherman’s had the Grease guns I believe LOL

        • If you have a decent link to support that I’d be pretty happy, because I couldn’t find any to confirm my memory ha.

          • Zebra Dun

            Grease guns as in Tools to apply grease with, sorry Bubba for the mix up.

          • Zebra Dun

            Most likely the Russian crews used their PPSH 41’s as crew defense.

            If a submachine gun was sent with the tank as a piece of issue equipment at the time it was most likely a Thompson.

          • bojan

            PPShs were unpopular due the barrel shroud that made firing through vehicle pistol ports* hard. Also due the fixed stock, not a handy thing in armored vehicle. Captured MP-40 were preferred, and also as they were practically disposable and could be carried on top of turret. Later PPS-43 were well liked.
            Thompsons were unpopular among tankers due the fixed stock and limited effective range. I have seen no pic or Soviets with M3s.

            *For same reason tank crews most often had Nagants instead of TTs. Captured “naked barrel” guns (Luger, P-38, Lahti) were VERY popular among tank crews.

          • Zebra Dun

            That makes sense when you think about it, the MP-40 even had a rubber bumper under the barrel to prevent shooting the side of the vehicle edge while firing from inside.
            The Thompsons range was the same as the MP-40 I personally like the overall effectiveness of the PPSH though the Folding stock was probably a better weapon.
            My Brother owns a Pistol in 7.62 Tok and it’s quite a fireball.

        • marathag

          Lees had Thompsons, and they were Lend Leased to the USSR

          http://albumwar2.Com/the-crew-of-the-m3-lee-tank-leaves-combat-vehicle/

  • toms

    Could have been from a Finnish SS unit or volunteer fighting in that theater. My wifes grandfather served in the soviet army around Lenningrad. He said that the Finns were encountered in German units as scouts, snipers, sappers. Finns utilized carcanos and 6.5 was a popular sniper round for the same reason they are popular today. Probably from the Italians though.

    • My guess would be that Finns used Swedish Mausers (chambered in 6.5×55) in addition to their own redesign of the Mosin-Nagant. Sweden volunteered men and materiel to help Finland smash the Bolshevik hordes stepping on their turf.

      • toms

        Finns definitely used the carcanos in addition to swedish mausers, mausers, and nagants. You can see the finn marked ones for sale on occasion.

        • You learn something new every day! I’ve never seen one in person but will definitely look for one at the next gunshow.

          • Zebra Dun

            They a hoot to hoot, to shoot don’t expect much though.

    • Moist-Nuggets

      Toms, I’m afraid your theory is full of holes:

      – The volunteers that Finland had to send to the SS in exchange for German military assistance were deployed in Ukraine and the Caucasus, nowhere near Leningrad, and were armed with standard German service weapons.

      – The defense line that the Finnish Army held from 1941 to 1944 on the Karelian Isthmus was to the northeast of Leningrad, nowhere near Nevsky Pyatachok, which is located to the southeast of the city. Finnish troops had strict orders to not advance towards the city or to shell it.

      – The Carcanos that Finland received from Italy after the Winter War were issued to AAA, coastal artillery and military-auxiliary units but not front-line troops. They were definitely NOT used as sniper rifles and were generally considered very bad rifles by soldiers.

      Rumors of Finnish snipers, scouts etc. being attached to German units surface every now and then (“My cousin’s neighbor’s mother-in-law’s mailman saw one!”) but have never been substantiated. I’d say that your wife’s grandfather’s stories are most likely the result of confusion, hearsay and wartime propaganda.

  • Bojan

    Rifle is NOT a Carcano but Mannliche 1886 or 1888 straight-pull (more likely second). Leningrad militia used those (WW1 captures) in 1941.

    • Zebra Dun

      The Carcano used some of the the Mannlicher design I believe. The random mixing of cartridges with different powders caused the accuracy problems.The Japanese ordered a lot of these rifles and who knows how many captured ended up on the eastern front.

      • bojan

        Carcano used modified turn-bolt Mannliched design, similar to Romanian and Dutch Mannlicher rifles.Also Mannlicher en-block clips.

        Easy ID point – Carcano has no spacing between mag and trigger guard.
        Rifle above however is straight pull model 1886 or 1888 Mannlicher, used originally by Austro-Hungary. Google it, fits perfectly. It (among a lot of other exotics*) was available en-mass for arming Leningrad People Militia.

        *Lebels, M1917s, P14s, Lee-Enfie,lds, Bertiers, various Mannlichers, Arisakas etc. Even some Fedorovs survived there, and were possibly used in combat in fall of 1941.

    • buzzman1

      Many rifles used in WW2 were 6.5 CALIBER. Beyond the caliber they were totally different rounds. The Carcano bullet was very long and bunt nosed. It was worthless for any application.

  • Miffed

    Begs the question, why in the world would you call the cops over a rusted piece of medal….

    • Anton Gray Basson

      Oh you know cop logic, in my country a muzzle loader isnt a regulated fire arm. We dont even know how they found out.

  • 6.5x55Swedish

    In Sweden we have to get a license to own a metal detector, it is harder than getting a gun. We have a lot of history to protect in our soil. Neraly every time they work on a road they find something. Honestly, I’m glad it is hard to get a metal detector, I’d hate for our viking age history to be sold off to some random person. Our history belong to all of us and should be on museums.

  • walter12

    I had two uncles serving in the Wehrmacht during the great retreat of 1944. They both survived the war somehow. And they both said that the retreat was horrible. They, also, said that the Soviets suffered terribly and their losses were incredible. Sometimes the casualties were 8 Soviets to 1 German. But the Germans could never make up the losses and were also fighting the Americans and British on the other side of Germany.
    The vast majority of American know absolutely nothing of the Great German-Russia war.