Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What They Really Wanted

Recently someone on a reenacting board posted the above photo dating from World War Two of a Kachin tribesman with an Indian Pattern Brown Bess Musket. It reminded me of a story I had come across some years back.

I was put in mind of some OSS types working with tribesmen in the CBI. They requested headquarters to sent them shotguns to equip the tribesmen rather sub machine guns. Their reasoning being sub machine guns were more complex than the tribesmen were comfortable with, but they were quite at home with the shotgun the OSS types had with them.

The shipment was delayed so the "experts" at headquarters (who had never been closer to a jungle than the Central Park Zoo and/or Tarzan movies) could confirm they really wanted shotguns. Their 'research' showed sub machine guns were much better suited to jungle warfare.

After the screaming fit the OSS types sent back a message saying “What we really wanted was muzzle loading muskets. The tribesmen could scrounge powder from enemy ammunition and they could load river pebbles and nuts and bolts from wreaks they encountered in the jungle for shot. But we didn't think you would send us muskets so we settled for shotguns."

Three guesses what was airdropped to them about a month later. Evidently there where tons of Civil War Muskets in warehouses around Washington. The OSS types screamed themselves horse when they saw the muskets.

But, you know what - the tribesmen loved them! They could scrounge powder from enemy ammo and they could shoot river pebbles and nuts and bolts from wreaks they encountered in the jungle. After cutting the barrels down to a more convenient length they were their preferred weapons to the end of the war.

I love a happy ending.


  1. "Everything old is new again"? Wasn't there a song?
    Never diss old technology -- someone out there can use it.

  2. This falls under the "sarcasm is lost on a bureaucracy" and "beware what you ask for" categories.

  3. I hope that Washington sent lots of percussion caps too!