Category Archives: Military History

Prototype of AK-47 made in 1948

Prototype of AK-47 made in 1948


Mikhail Kalashnikov began his career as a weapon designer in 1941, while recuperating from a shoulder wound which he received during the Battle of Bryansk. Kalashnikov himself stated…”I was in the hospital, and a soldier in the bed beside me asked: ‘Why do our soldiers have only one rifle for two or three of our men, when the Germans have automatics?’ So I designed one. I was a soldier, and I created a machine gun for a soldier. It was called an Avtomat Kalashnikova, the automatic weapon of Kalashnikov—AK—and it carried the date of its first manufacture, 1947.”

The AK-47 is best described as a hybrid of previous rifle technology innovations. “Kalashnikov decided to design an automatic rifle combining the best features of the American M1 and the German StG44.” Kalashnikov’s team had access to these weapons and had no need to “reinvent the wheel”. Kalashnikov himself observed: “A lot of Russian Army soldiers ask me how one can become a constructor, and how new weaponry is designed. These are very difficult questions. Each designer seems to have his own paths, his own successes and failures. But one thing is clear: before attempting to create something new, it is vital to have a good appreciation of everything that already exists in this field. I myself have had many experiences confirming this to be so.”

Kalashnikov started work on a submachine gun design in 1942 and with a light machine gun in 1943. “Early in 1944, Kalashnikov was given some 7.62×39mm M43 cartridges and informed that there were several designers working on weapons for this new Soviet small-arms cartridge. It was suggested to him that this new weapon might well lead to greater things, and he undertook work on the new rifle.” In 1944, he entered a design competition with this new 7.62×39mm, semi-automatic, gas-operated, long stroke piston, carbine, strongly influenced by the American M1 Garand. “The rifle that Kalashnikov designed was in the same class as the familiar SKS-45 Simonov with fixed magazine and gas tube above the barrel.”However, this new Kalashnikov design lost out to a Simonov design.

Prototype of AK-47 made in 1948

Prototype of AK-47 made in 1948


In 1946, a new design competition was initiated to develop a new assault rifle. Kalashnikov submitted an entry. It was gas-operated rifle with a short-stroke gas piston above the barrel, a breech-block mechanism similar to his 1944 carbine, and a curved 30-round magazine. Kalashnikov’s rifles AK-1 (with a milled receiver) and AK-2 (with a stamped receiver) proved to be reliable weapons and were accepted to a second round of competition along with other designs.

These prototypes (also known as the AK-46) had a rotary bolt, a two-part receiver with separate trigger unit housing, dual controls (separate safety and fire selector switches) and a non-reciprocating charging handle located on the left side of the weapon. This design had many similarities to the STG 44. In late 1946, as the rifles were being tested, one of Kalashnikov’s assistants, Aleksandr Zaitsev, suggested a major redesign to improve reliability. At first, Kalashnikov was reluctant, given that their rifle had already fared better than its competitors. Eventually, however, Zaitsev managed to persuade Kalashnikov.

In November 1947, the new prototypes (AK-47s) were completed. It utilized a long-stroke gas piston above the barrel. The upper and lower receivers were combined into a single receiver. The selector and safety were combined into a single control-lever/dust-cover on the right side of the rifle. And, the bolt-handle was simply attached to the bolt-carrier. This simplified the design and production of the rifle. The first army trial series began in early 1948. The new rifle proved to be reliable under a wide range of conditions with convenient handling characteristics. In 1949, it was adopted by the Soviet Army as “7.62 mm Kalashnikov assault rifle (AK)”.

Prototype of AK-47 made in 1948

Prototype of AK-47 made in 1948

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President George H.W. Bush's Naval Service

President George H.W. Bush’s Naval Service


Among America’s few seafaring presidents, former President George H.W. Bush passed away Nov. 30 at his Houston, Texas home at the age of 94. Bush enlisted in the US Naval Reserve June 13, 1942 on his 18th birthday after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. He had preflight training at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and became one of the youngest naval aviators. He was commissioned as an ensign in the US Naval Reserve June 9, 1943, days before his 19th birthday.

Bush was assigned to Torpedo Squadron (VT-51) as photographic officer in September 1943. As part of Air Group 51, his squadron was based on USS San Jacinto, part of Task Force 58 which participated in operations against Marcus and Wake Islands in May, and then in the Marianas during June 1944. The task force triumphed in one of the largest air battles of the war. Returning from the mission, his aircraft had to make a forced water landing, and then rescued by the destroyer, USS Clarence K. Bronson. On July 25, Ensign Bush and another pilot received credit for sinking a small cargo ship.

President George H.W. Bush's Naval Service

President George H.W. Bush’s Naval Service


During his service as a Navy pilot, Bush had a hit on his aircraft and was rescued by a submarine. According to Naval History and Heritage Command archives, after Bush was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade Aug. 1, San Jacinto commenced operations against the Japanese in the Bonin Islands, 600 miles south of Japan. Bush piloted one of four aircraft from VT-51 that attacked the Japanese installations on Chi Chi Jima in Sept. 1944. Although Bush’s aircraft was hit and his engine caught fire during the attack, he was able to complete the mission and bail out successfully. He was rescued by a Navy submarine, the USS Finback. Tragically, his two crew members were killed.

Naval History and Heritage Command archives also state that Bush returned to San Jacinto in November 1944 and participated in operations in the Philippines. When San Jacinto returned to Guam, the squadron, which had suffered 50 percent casualties of its pilots, was replaced and sent to the United States. Throughout 1944, Bush had flown 58 combat missions for which he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three Air Medals, and the Presidential Unit Citation awarded San Jacinto. Bush was reassigned to Norfolk and put in a training wing for new torpedo pilots. Later, he was assigned as a naval aviator in a new torpedo squadron, VT-153. With the surrender of Japan, he was honorably discharged in September 1945, and then he entered Yale University. (U.S. Navy video/Released)

President George H.W. Bush's Naval Service

President George H.W. Bush’s Naval Service