The Fallschirmjägergewehr 42 has become a zeitgeist in the history of Nazi German weapons development during WWII. The story of it’s creation is a fascinating example of innovation in the face of wartime necessity. Therefore the FG42 commands considerable attention by those interested in WWII weapons despite it’s rarity both during the war and now in the collector’s market. Despite the demand for information on the FG42 little is still available to those interested, especially information about where and how it saw combat.
The pinnacle book on the FG42 is “Death From Above” by Thomas B Dugelby and R Blake Stevens, published by Collector Grade Publications in 1990. This book covers the origins of the FG42 and it’s physical development well but lacks concrete discussion of it’s wartime use. Unfortunately this is a theme that persists in all available history concerning the FG42. Historians do not have access to clear and concise sources which detail the combat use of the FG42. What we do have, however, are a small number of available photographs which depict the FG42 in use by German troops. The photographs tell stories in themselves and can supplement the technical knowledge provided by sources such as “Death From Above”. Gathered here in one space are as many period photographs of the FG42 as this author can find, with attempt to present them in chronological order with accurate descriptions. Hopefully these photographs will shed light on how the illusive FG42 was actually used in combat.
The Raid on Gran Sasso, September 12th, 1943
A group of Fallschirmjäger and Waffen-SS led by Hauptsturmführer Otto Skorzeny and Major Harald Mors assaulted the mountain top mesa of Gran Sasso d’Italia to rescue the imprisoned Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Among the weapons used by the participating Fallschirmjäger are early Type E FG42s. Those issued the FG42 for the raid were also issued the FG42 magazine bandolier.
The Battle of Monte Cassino, January 17th to May 19th 1944
As the Allies pushed towards Rome at the beginning of 1944 they encountered the historic hilltop Abby of Monte Cassino. Among the Germans defending the Abby and the surrounding area were the Fallschirmjäger of the 1st Parachute Division. Clearly visible in the photography available are Type E FG42s.
Rome, Late May-June 4th 1944
After the reduction of the German defenses at Monte Cassino the Allies quickly moved to capture Rome. Germans withdrew and the images of the retreat from Rome show FG42 Type Es in use.
The Battle for Normandy, June 1944 – August 1944
After the invasion of Normandy the 6th Parachute Regiment was quickly sent to Normandy to secure the area around St. Lo. These Fallschirmjäger were armed with both Type E and Type G FG42s. No wartime photo has been found of the Type G in use in Normandy but an example with provenance exists at the “Dead Man’s Corner Museum”, which was captured by men of the US 101st Airborne Division near Carentan during the fighting. All photos available from this time show the Type E FG42 in use. The use of the FG42 Magazine Bandolier is absent among the combat troops photographed at this time.
Training Photographs, Mid 1943-Early 1945
Among the photographs of men in the field with the FG42, some photographs attributed to training and demonstration exist. Here the Type E and the Type G are both seen.
The Battle of Berlin, April-May 1945
A pair of photos exist from the Battle of Berlin which clearly depict the Type G FG42 laying next to the dead Fallschirmjäger who was using it. A Soviet artillery unit is operating in the background while a Soviet soldier is stepping past the Fallschirmjäger laying in the street. Concrete proof that the FG42 was used in the combat of the final days of the Third Reich.
Allied Evaluation of the FG-42
The Allies took great interest in the various weapons development odysseys produced by Nazi Germany. The FG42 was subjected to rigorous testing by the US Aberdeen Proving Ground research and evaluation facility, and eventually become the inspiration for the US M60 machinegun. Some photos exist of both the Type E and Type G FG42 being inspected by Allied forces.
After the war the FG42 was married with the feed system of the MG42 by American weapons developers to create a General Purpose Machine Gun called the T44. The T44 was chambered for the US 30-06 cartridge and began a series of prototype machineguns that ultimately led to the development of the US M60 GPMG.
Note: Many of these photos do not have captions, proven locations or dates. They are presented in the best approximation of chronology and location/setting by the author. MMH does not own these photographs and they are presented here under fair-use for education copyright law.