5 July 21
“When you’re ahead of your time, it is inevitable you will anger some people for leaving them behind.”
Matshona Dhliwayo
The “ahead-of-its-time” MG34
Toward the end of WWII, several hundred-thousand Nazi troops were stationed in Norway, and after the D-Day invasion (6 June 1944) they were immediately scheduled to be transported by ship to the fighting in France.
But, Norwegian partisans sunk the transport ship, so Nazi soldiers were thus stuck in Norway until the conclusion of hostilities. When it became obvious that the Allies were winning, and the War was coming to an end, Norway’s stranded “Nazi contingent” promptly surrendered!
All were eventually repatriated, but the Norwegian government, of course, seized their weapons, including many thousands of 98K Mauser Rifles, and MG34s (“MG” is the abbreviation for “maschinengewehr,” which literally translates to “machine rifle”)
Since the official Norwegian military rifle at the time was a version of the long-obsolete Krag-Jorgensen, they decided to simply supercede it with the “appropriated” Mauser Rifle, which they now had in abundance!
Most Mauser Rifles and MG34s were eventually re-barreled to 30-06 caliber from 8mm Mauser (7.92×57), so as to be compatible with War-aid they and others were receiving from America. These caliber-converted Mausers and MG34s subsequently established a good reputation. All ran fine and served for many years thereafter.
However, later re-conversion of MG34s to 7.62×51 (308 Win) in the 1950s did not go well, and the project was eventfully abandoned. Conversely, the MG42 was successfully converted to 7.62×52 and re-designated the “MG3,” but it was superceded (2015) by H&K’s MG5.
Designed and manufactured in Germany in the 1930s by Mauser and others, the MG34, with its rotating-bolt, recoil-operation, and firing from an open bolt, required special alloys and many complex machining operations and thus could not be produced as fast as needed by resource-strapped Germans after WWII broke-out. So, toward the end of the War it gave-way to the roller-lock MG42, also firing from an open bolt, but which was assembled mostly from stampings. The MG42 also established a stellar reputation!
Interestingly, the belt-fed (non-disintegrating) MG34 was not “formally adopted” into the German military until 1939. Prior to that, its development and even its existence (by 1939, over 50k MG34s had been produced and deployed) was a loosely-held secret, as it represented a clear violation of the Versailles Treaty that ended WWI.
During the interwar years, while the Allies were vainly trying to “revamp” obsolete WWI technology (foolishly believing their own press-release that WWI was the “War to end wars”), Hitler didn’t have that luxury, because Germany’s WWI armory had been seized and mostly destroyed.
So, Hitler’s modern army had to be built from scratch (at first in secret, then openly, as noted above), a fact thought to represent a disadvantage, but it turned-out to be a real force-multiplier, as what resulted was an up-to-date war machine, unburdened by outdated technology!
The MG34 represents a prime example. The Allies had nothing like it!
The MG34 was clearly ahead of its time! It was elegant, light, durable, highly-portable, featured quick-change barrels, self-adjusting headspace, and ran just fine from a bi-pod.
It represented the first of an entire generation of GPMGs, which continue to dominate the world’s battlefields to this day, as noted. All modern-day GPMGs can trace their ancestry back to the ‘ahead-of-its-time” MG34!
MG34s (surplussed from WWII and subsequently procured by the Israelis through Czechoslovakia, and still chambered for 7.92×57 Mauser) were used extensively by the Israelis, with good effect, during their 1948 War of Independence.