KlondikeFox
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KlondikeFox
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Joined: March 3rd, 2008, 7:33 am

March 9th, 2011, 8:03 am #11

The above-captioned rounds are described in the German Army Handbook,
(Der Diesnt Unterricht im Heer)
which states "use of these rounds in maneuvers at ranges of less than 50 meters
is strongly forbidden, as
misfortunes might occur."
  The 7.92 mm version,
intended for use in Mauser rifles and MG34 and 42 machine-guns does feature
a purple projectile, made of hollow wood.  These were simply intended and designed
to facilitate chambering of those blank rounds into various weapons easier and less-
likely to jam or mis-feed.  There was no plan or intent for them to be used as
weapons, which would violate the Geneva or Hague rules of land warfare. 
This subject has been discussed here several times previously.
I find it long and wearisome to explain, which is why I did not post sooner. 
Leo Gillis brought some of the purple-tipped 7.92 rounds back to the UK with him at the end of
the Normandy campaign.  He tested them by firing them from less than 10 feet away at a paper
target attached to a tree.  Not a single sliver even made a mark on the paper.  The amount of
powder in those rounds had to be sufficient (considerable) to cycle the MGs on full-auto fire
and the powder charge disintegrated the hollow wooden tips, at the moment of firing, as the
designers intended.  In the odd case where a projectile failed to disintegrate, an injury could occur
to anyone standing in close proximity.  No German in his right mind would use those rounds in combat,
in a situation where his life depended on it. But many Germans in Normandy were staging anti-Airborne Invasion
maneuvers when D-day came and some of them might well have been equipped with belts of platzpatronen
ammunition, instead of the real thing.  This explains why many rounds of it were found in German positions
when they were taken. I have also speculated here in the past, that some German MG crews might have fired
belts of this stuff to make noise, which was better than doing nothing if real ammo was scarce or non-
existant on 6 June, 1944 in certain German gun positions.
I have seen dozens of these rounds in the effects of 101st vets who brought a few back and they have all been purple.
The French also used a green-tipped version in their Lebel rifles, so it was a European thing, not unique to Germany. I have disassembled both the German and French versions and both types were hollow inside and would almost certainly
disintegrate upon firing.
We do have testimony from vets who were shot with wooden projectiles and my theory on that, is that some enemy soldiers substituted solid wood tips for the hollow ones, which conceivably made it possible to launch those tips as
projectiles, because they would not vaporize at the moment of firing. 
The first Easy Co. 506th vet I ever interviewed circa 1972 or 73, was Walter Wentzel, who was also a past president of the Detroit area 'Nuts Club'.  Wally was ambushed and brought down by bullets on D-day, not far from where he landed and in a situation where he was alone.  Like others, the Germans who shot him did not finish him nor did they rescue him and render first aid.  Instead, they used him for bait the rest of that day, shooting at any American troops who attempted to rescue him.  (sounds like an al Quaeda tactic doesn't it?).
At any rate, Wally told me that even decades after D-day, fragments of wood were working their way out of his leg
wounds and he was convinced that they were fragments of wooden bullets.  If that was so, he must have been hit
by solid wood projectiles, which could be easily substituted for the hollow ones.  I was given a whole box of live
purple-tipped wooden Mauser rounds by a collector in the Falaise area in 1994 and will post a picture of those rounds,
if I can locate that box.  The hollow purple rounds, which were standard and ubiquitous with German defenders in Normandy are so lightweight and fragile, they feel like they are made of balsa wood and it is logical that they were
designed to disintegrate when hit by a powder charge strong enough to cycle a machine-gun.
Would I want to stand in front of the muzzle of a Mauser when one of those was fired?
No.  But I believe Gillis' testimony, as well as Wally Wentzel's.
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ardenneswoodwalker
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Joined: December 21st, 2007, 10:06 am

March 9th, 2011, 1:10 pm #12

Here is an example of a German WW2  20mm Flak Round with hollow wooden projectile........... its only purpose was as a training round to enable the weapon to be loaded, fired and to recycle and fire again..... the hollow round causes just enough back pressure in the barrel to allow for automatic fire..on leaving the barrel the huge pressure causes the round to disintegrate............ exactly same as in the hollow wooden tipped rounds...... a simple effective way to allow troops to practice without filling the sky with lethal rounds.
 Over 30 plus years I have yet to find a single solid wooden tipped live round in the Ardennes and have never met a farmer or anyone else that has found any lying around their buildings......... plenty of the hollow rounds.     I would suggest that any German soldier caught carrying wooden tipped round would have been dealt with very quickly and very permanently...........
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Drew Cook
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March 9th, 2011, 2:24 pm #13

And of course we have Don Burgett's Currahee!, in which Don wrote "One of our men was hit in the cheekbone by a wooden bullet.  It had shattered into splinters, leaving a terrible wound.  The man lay on the back of a jeep moaning and unconcious.  I don't know whether he ever lived or died."
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Battle Detective
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March 10th, 2011, 12:16 pm #14

I would choose budgetary considerations over Nazi evilness for the use of wooden bullets too.
This a very well read page from the Dutch Soldier's Manual ("Handboek Soldaat") of 1960.
It is from the section describing the British .303 calibre Lee-Enfield rifle, issued to Dutch infantrymen at that time.

The first paragraph is named "b. Types of blank ammunition".
(1) Blank cartridge .303 inch, with wooden bullet;
[...]
Both types can cause severe injuries in the event personnel is located in a short distance in front of the barrel when fired.
For both types, it is therefor forbidden, to discharge weapons in the direction of persons, when these are located within a distance of less than 40 meters from the shooter."

The next paragraph is titled "c. Practice cartridges" and the center round features a wooden bullet described as "Blank cartridge with wooden bullet".
Sincerely,
Tom
"Battle Detective"

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ardenneswoodwalker
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March 10th, 2011, 12:57 pm #15

The term Practice round shouln't be confused with Blank round........ Practice rounds are totally without primers or charge in the casing, they use a solid wooden round for a couple of reasons. 1/. makes the round cheap to produce and 2/. the use of solid wooden bullet heads is because these rounds are designed to be loaded and unloaded add nauseum......
Blanks rounds on the other hand have to chamber easily and allow the weapon to either recycle or at very least go bang......... what is not required is a solid projectile blasting off even a few feet towards other trainees, hence the use of hollow head wooden rounds, ......... crimped blank rounds also have a danger of the nose of the casing shearing off and at close range not fun to get hit by one....... saw one guy get such a sheared casing nose go right through his uniform and ended up in his spleen, this is why modern weapons have the splitter attatchment fitted during blank firing excercises.
 
 
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wildwood15
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March 10th, 2018, 8:06 am #16

I have no knowledge of ammo but, FWIW, I recorded many of my father's WW2 experiences and came across a reference he made to wooden bullets used by the Germans in the hedgerows at Normandy after he landed at Omaha Beach. He said every 7th round was a wooden bullet. He sent one back, which I have. Didn't realize it was a matter of controversy until I started researching it.
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mmcalc
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March 11th, 2018, 8:50 pm #17

TCUNC76 wrote:     While watching a dvd documentary on Normandy 101st paratrooper Ed Manley said he encountered a German machine nest firing wooden bullets at him on D-Day and I have read or seen other sites mention this use of wooden bullets by Axis powers........perhaps a shortage of ammo production by Germany & Japan ? Saw this comment on another site and wonder if any of you had read similar things on this topic ?


                                                TC
To forum members:

Over the years, this issue might have surfaced and discussed in the past, 
but there still seems to be some confusion regarding the accuracy of the 
following observation:

My dad once mentioned that, as he entered Germany at the close of the war, 
he saw piles of "wooden bullets." Many have discounted this as one of the 
myths of war, noting that these wooden bullets were simply training rounds 
used for nothing more than practice, security, or target sighting. What 
seems consistent in the accounts is that they are often described as being 
more visible late in the war.

One point of contention was that such rounds would certainly not be lethal, 
and would not work in machine guns without a special adapter. 

Others claim that wooden bullets were indeed found among both the German 
and Japanese forces, and that these represented ammunition being in short 
supply. 

Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Any insights, explanations, or deconstruction from forum members on this 
topic?
German 7.92mm machine gun blanks used wooden projectiles. These were loaded hollow hardwood bullets. This was necessary to allow the blank to create enough impulse to operate the recoil operated machine guns. My Dad has a couple of belts of this stuff.
At close range they will be lethal. At close enough range even a paper loaded blank will be lethal. They were not intended to be lethal.

Mike
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arjones
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March 14th, 2018, 6:28 pm #18

I have a few wooden bullets and put pictures and have summarised the issue and put the real reasons why they existed in a brief article on the bottom of my website .. http://battlefield.guide   
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