By: Marc Kelley
SYndicated by: Montana News
In May of 1940, The 3rd Reich and the Nazi regime invaded France, and within a month, Germany controlled the country. Aiding the Nazi's, was the French puppet government, known as the Vichy regime. Under the Vichy Government, Jewish members of French society were isolated from other French citizens, cataloged into an ethnic registry, had their property confiscated and many, were ultimately moved to death camps and murdered, as the Holocaust began.
To retain their position of power, an armistice agreement was agreed to by the French Vichy Government. Terms of this armistice agreement, required the people of France, pay the cost of maintaining the 300,000 strong, Nazi occupation force. Even though many French citizens tried not to antagonize the Nazi forces, many were forced to collaborate, giving aid and comfort to their occupiers. As the economic burden on the French people began to take hold, food shortages, malnutrition and brutal treatment at the hand of the Nazi's, became reality. As is human nature, when pushed to the extreme, human beings are capable of incredible acts of bravery and resistance. For the German soldiers who occupied France in 1940, the extent of this human strength was about to become their nightmare.
The Jewish citizens of France were not the lone target of the Nazi regime. Groups including homosexuals, Roma Gypsies, Rohingya Muslims, Jehovah's Witness, Poles and Russians were also persecuted and murdered by the 3rd Reich. By June 1940, a French citizen named Jean Moulin, began in earnest, to organize a formal French Resistance movement. Under the leadership of Moulin, communications systems were developed, allowing resistance fighters to coordinate and share intelligence which would hinder the Nazi's whenever possible. While the Nazi's controlled the cities of France, controlling the rural areas of the country, presented a much greater logistical problem. Capitalizing on this issue was a group of Resistance Fighters, known as the Maquis. Utilizing guerrilla style tactics, the Maquis accomplished their intended task of forcing the Nazi's to expend precious resources. In addition to wreaking havoc on German operations, the Maquis also focused on capturing Nazi weapons; as well as, disseminating weapons, which were provided by Great Britain and the United States.
One of the weapons which effectively sowed fear in the mind of the Nazi's, was the FP-45 Liberator pistol. The FP-45 Liberator, was designed in the United States and produced by the General Motors, Guide Lamp Division, in Anderson, Indiana. Nicknamed the "Woolworth Pistol", the Liberator was a cheap, stamped, single shot pistol, chambered for the 45 ACP cartridge. The pistol utilized a smooth bore barrel, making accuracy outside of a few feet, highly questionable; yet never the less, an extremely effective, close quarters weapon. In a period of 11 weeks, the workers at the GM plant would produce 1 million FP-45 pistols, with a final cost of $ 2.10 per unit.
Once produced, the Liberator Pistols would be air dropped to the French Resistance, packaged in small cardboard boxes. Inside the boxes were one Liberator pistol, five rounds of 45 ACP ammunition and an instructional drawing, showing how to load and fire the weapon. Once in the hands of the Resistance, instructions were passed from person to person, explaining the tactic which should be used with the weapon. German soldiers should be lured "by any means necessary" and when isolated, the FP-45 should be used to kill the soldier and recover his weapon for use by the Resistance.
The FP-45 pistols, were especially effective when used by the women of France, as they flirted and offered sex, to German Officers. Stories of French women utilizing this tactic have become part of the legend of the Maquis Resistance. Whether the stories are in fact true or have simply become an apocryphal account of history, no one really knows. One such tale of this tactic, which is often recounted by collectors of WWII weapons, is the story of a young woman who was living in Caen, France in 1944. Disagreements between Adolph Hitler and many of his Field Marshals are well documented in the history books. One of these disagreements, surrounded the utilizing the German Panzer Divisions. While General Rommel believed the armor would be best positioned on the front lines, Hitler was hesitant to commit the tanks to a specific area, because of the his uncertainty exactly where the Allied invasion would take place. Ultimately of course, Hitler won out, and many of the feared Panzer Divisions, were held in reserve, miles from the actual front lines.
A Panzer Division which was staged in Caen, (roughly 33 miles from the beaches or Normandy), was under the command of a seasoned tank commander named, Captain Hauptman. On June 5th, less than 24 hours before the Allied invasion at Normandy, Captain Hauptman, intended to relax after several long days preparing for the mobilization of his unit. As he was walking into his quarters, a French woman stopped and struck up a conversation with him. Exactly how the two managed to wind up in the Captain's bedroom, is a matter for speculation and lore. What is not up for debate, is the fact our German Panzer Captain, was found dead in his room, with a single, large caliber, gunshot wound to the head. The only weapon found in his room, was an FP-45 Liberator pistol, with one spent round, remaining it the chamber. How many lives were saved by this single act, will never be known; however, the psychological effect on the men of the Panzer unit, losing their commander, just hours before the D-day invasion, surly must have been profound.
Collectors can still add an original FP-45 Liberator to their collections, for just slightly more than the original, $ 2.10 production cost. The pistol themselves can be had for for around $2,000.00. A complete package including the original paper packaging, instruction pamphlet, and vintage ammunition will set you back as much as $ 6,000.00, if you can find a collector willing to part with their iconic piece of history. For those of us who appreciate the history, but cannot justify spending the money on an original, reproduction pistols are available from Vintage Ordnance starting in the $ 450.00 range.