Thursday, May 31, 2007

Soldiers Finding WWII Weapons in Iraq

While searching for weapons caches, American soldiers near Abu Ghraib often play the part of accidental archaeologists. Iraq is a country steeped in history, but the artifacts that soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry have periodically stumbled on are not born of the Middle East. Instead, they have migrated from Europe and Asia, remnants of past battlefields that have been pressed into service again.

Rifles etched with the Nazi eagle and swastika, Tommy guns seemingly straight out of black and white gangster movies, and a British Sterling submachine gun familiar to any World War II enthusiast have been found among the weapons troves of insurgents. The weapons, often preserved in their hiding places in motor oil, are discovered in perfect working order, a startling incongruence to their surroundings in Iraq and modern warfare. “Most of this stuff should be in a museum and not floating around,” said Capt. Rene Diaz, 29, of Puerto Rico. “You normally can only read about these kinds of weapons.”

The unit finds about two to three weapons caches per week, said Capt. Shaun Trinkle. The finds vary in size from a couple of guns with a few hundred rounds to larger caches with dozens of weapons and explosives. Trinkle, a 27-year-old from Fort Hood, Texas, said soldiers typically find a variation of the AK automatic rifle, a weapon common to many Iraqi households.

But on a dozen occasions, the troops have found weapons that date as far back as the 1930s and 40s. The weapons, from places like Russia, Germany and the United Kingdom, are worth tens of thousands of dollars to collectors, Diaz said. Diaz, a gun enthusiast, spends time pulling apart the rare weapons, studying the sturdy design that has allowed them to continue performing more than a half century after their manufacture. “These old weapons were designed to be pounded and punished,” he said. “In World War II they were made simple and easy to use. And here they still are.”

Trinkle, another admirer of vintage weapons, said it is anyone’s guess how the guns — some worth upwards of $25,000 on the antiquities market — could have found their way into dirt holes in the orchards and rutted fields of western Baghdad. “Sometimes it amazes me,” he said. “Some of the guns may have been family heirlooms passed down. Some may have been surplus weapons sold by other countries to Iraq. Some may have been floating around on the black market.”

The appearance of British weapons has the most plausible explanation, the soldiers said. The guns were likely remainders of the colonial British presence in Iraq during the early part of the 20th century. Iraq achieved independence from the British in the 1930s. “The weapons are pretty rugged,” Diaz said. “But a lot of them were destroyed after [World War II] so that’s why they’re collector’s items.”

Diaz said he hopes some of the antique guns are displayed at the unit’s home base in Fort Hood. The process of clearing the weapons for return to the United States involves a lot of paperwork, he said, but otherwise the guns will be destroyed or turned over to Iraqi authorities. “This is real unique stuff that you definitely don’t see every day in the United States,” Trinkle said. “Here you just find them buried in the ground.”


Texas Man Found Dead After Dispute Turned Deadly : "Smith County Sheriff deputies are investigating a dispute that turned deadly after one man allegedly threw tools at another at a home near Gladewater. Smith County Sheriff Sgt. Randy Meadows said the shooting occurred in the 22100 block of County Road 374 about 12:30 Saturday morning and left a 40-year-old man dead. "We got a call that there had been a shooting and when deputies arrived they found George Edward Hill dead at the scene from multiple gunshot wounds," he said. Meadows said detectives at the scene saw evidence of a struggle, including a sling blade that was stuck in the wall. "It appears at this time that Hill showed up at the home and began arguing with David Allen McBride and then began throwing tools at him," he said. Meadows said Hill was throwing different types of tools and McBride reported he feared for his life and armed himself with a handgun and fired multiple shots striking Hill. "Right now it appears to be self-defense, but the investigation is ongoing," he said. "No charges have been filed at this time."

Tables turned in Florida attack : "Jacob Seckler keeps a gun in his pocket when he mows the lawn. He keeps a gun in his pillowcase when he tries to sleep, but the shadows dancing across the bedroom walls keep him awake. “I’m strictly against guns. I never wanted them in the house,” said Seckler. “Now I wouldn’t be in the house without a gun.” Seckler’s stance on guns changed the morning of May 16. He was mowing his lawn when he turned around and saw two 20-year-old men standing behind him. Seckler said one of the men was pointing a gun at his head. After Seckler, 50, raised his hands to the sky, the two men pushed him past the garage toward the front door of his home in northeast Cape Coral. They held him at gunpoint and said they were getting into his house no matter what. A struggle ensued at the front door. Seckler refused to let the men inside and they beat him over the head with the pistol and their elbows and fists. One of the men bit Seckler’s back. Seckler’s fiancee, Elizabeth Kachnic, 37, said she heard screaming and the door slam repeatedly. “I don’t know what happened to me,” said Seckler. “I was so scared. I’m not crazy like that, but I knew I had to do something.” The gun was pressed against Seckler’s temple. He said he pushed the assailant’s hand down and the gun fell to the ground. Seckler said he screamed for Kachnic to call 911 as he and the two men scrambled for the weapon. “I got the gun. I just turned around and shot,” said Seckler. “If they did not come here with a gun, they would be alive. It’s their fault.” He fired every bullet in the clip. One of the men, John Patrick Moore Jr., was hit as he sprinted across Seckler’s driveway. He stumbled to the edge of the street and died."

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