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.