When the United States entered the war in Vietnam, the country’s political situation had already been extremely complicated. What started out as an anti-colonial conflict against France ended up in a bloody civil war between the USSR-backed North and the USA-backed South.
Naturally, this proxy war became the main point of export regarding weapons and war material for both sides.
But while the United States decided to provide their allies in the South with relatively new weaponry, the Soviet Union saw the chance of disposing of vast numbers of arms seized during WWII from Nazi Germany.
It also took the opportunity to get rid of its own surplus guns, which were becoming fairly outdated.
Thus it was a common sight for the soldiers of the North Vietnamese Army, better-known by its abbreviation “NVA,” and the guerrilla forces of Viet Cong to pack guns and artillery previously used on the Eastern Front during the Second World War.
It should come as no surprise that roughly two decades after the largest military conflict in modern history, there was indeed a large amount of surplus weaponry which was still very much functional, not mention deadly.
Whether it was the 75mm PaK-40 (a standard German WWII anti-tank gun) or the FG 42 (one of the rarest assault rifles of the war), the NVA was receiving huge stocks of weapons and ammo which had previously seen action across Europe. Now, such weaponry was given another life in Southeast Asia.
Among other popular guns were some of the most iconic weapons used by the Wehrmacht: the Mg32, the MP40, and the MP38, as well as the very backbone of German infantry, the legendary Karg 98k.
The South Vietnamese Army, along with the United States, confiscated a number of these weapons. They also seized some other peculiar pieces of armament, such as the StG-44, the first-ever mass-produced assault rifle, as well as handguns like the legendary Walther P38.
Among other rarities found in the arsenal of the NVA were handguns dating even before the WWII era. One such weapon was the Mauser C96, popularly called the “Broomhandle” due to its detachable rifle butt.
It is presumed that these weapons were imported from the Soviet Union as well since a limited number of Mauser pistols were part of Imperial Russia’s arsenal and were subsequently adopted by the Red Army.
Apart from the USSR, other contributors to the North Vietnamese war effort were East Germany and Czechoslovakia. Both countries held a significant amount of WWII German weapons which remained out of use after the war.