Reviewed by J. David Truby

A Soldier of Fortune in the Balkans and Somalia

By Rob Krott
Casemate Publishers, 2008
239 pages, 30 photographs
ISBN 9781-1-932033-95-3

One of the great things about reading articles in SAR is that you know the writer has been there, done that and knows the firearms from personal, hands on experience.

It’s especially so with SAR’s own Military Affairs Correspondent, Rob Krott, whose first book of a trilogy on his life as one of America’s premier security contractors has just been published. Save the Last Bullet for Yourself is one helluva great read.

Before we go any further, as a matter of ethical disclosure, I must tell you that I’ve known Rob a long time as a friend and professional colleague. Whether that makes me biased or simply more knowledgeable is for your judgment.

Rob Krott is a former U.S. Army Infantry Captain who has been a professional combat soldier for more than 20+ years now. In his book, he also flares brightly as an entertaining storyteller and cogent writer. His warrior rhetoric impacts with strong effect as to the why of modern mercenaries and their attempts to do the right thing for the right people: naïve and old fashioned as it may seem.

Rob’s book tells of his going from a rural kid in the sparsely populated wilderness of Northwestern PA, to enlisting in the National Guard as a 17-year-old high school boy, to an Army commission, then up the ladder from Benning to the JFK Center at Bragg, to grad school at Harvard, plus infantry assignments in Korea and other military garden spots.

Explaining that special gene that makes some soldiers true warriors, Rob’s career tells how, where and why he became a military contractor, our current PC term for mercenary soldier. It’s an interesting explanation, too, along with the rationale and the action of his early contracts and assignments in Africa and in the Balkans, which is the venue and time frame of his first book. There are about 30 photos in his book, good personal shots of his fellow soldiers displaying a surprising variety of small arms.

One thing Rob told me recently, is how much of the 3rd and 4th world is still using military small arms from the WWII and Korean War era; he’s seen WWII pistols and rifles being used by locals in Africa and the Balkans during the early and mid ’90s, the period covered by his book. With a laugh, he added, “If it weren’t for the combat action, many of the field assignments reported in my book were like walking through an open air museum of classic military firearms.”

This phenomenon is what attracted him to SAR and he has shared those highlights with us over the years through the magazine, and, now, in his book. For example, in Bosnia, he saw everything from Yugoslavian Tokarevs to an old Marlin lever-action .22 rifle with a Tasco scope.

“The King Tomislav Brigade’s armory included a hodgepodge of weaponry: bolt-action Yugo Mausers, Yugo versions of the SKS carbine, various Zastava hunting/sniping rifles, WWII Russian PPSh-41 or look-alike Yugoslav Model 49 submachine guns, and even some poorly maintained Thompson .45 SMGs. There wasn’t any .45 caliber ammunition for the old Chicago equalizers. Just as well, as I don’t think I really wanted to tote one up and down the Herzegovina Mountains,” Rob writes when describing his first experience walking into his unit’s armory in Bosnia.

As he told me, “One really unusual weapon we used there was a South African ARMSCOR MGL Mark 1, 40mm grenade launcher. Very distinctive with it’s six-round cylinder and optical sight. We received a whole shipment of them, new-in-the-box, from South Africa.”

Rob continues in his book, “The PPSh-41 World War II Soviet submachine gun is easily recognized by its distinctive ventilated cooling jacket and 71-round drum magazine. The Yugos copied it as their Model 49. These weapons saw extensive use in the Balkans, for personal defense or close-in work in urban areas or trench lines.”

Rob adds, “Croatia produced a copy of the PPSh-41, their Sokac M-91, in 1991-1992. The receiver was identical to the original, except it was chambered for 9x19mm caliber, and had a plastic pistol grip and a folding stock like the CZ-24 Czech submachine gun. There were a standard model, a suppressed model, and an early version with wood furniture instead of plastic. But it was strange for me to see soldiers running around in the 1990s with a weapon from World War II.”

Obsolete subguns like this are better than nothing when small arms are scarce, but no substitute for a modern assault rifle, he concludes.

While working as a U.S. government consultant in Somalia in the early ’90s, Rob also ran across a number of classic small arms. “A really interesting find was a Smith and Wesson 1917 service revolver, the one chambered for .45 Long Colt, but used with .45 ACP cartridges and half moon clips. It had a short, snub-nosed barrel. The finish was 100 percent and the grips were unscratched. It looked like it was boxed out of the factory yesterday. Otherwise, it seemed like there was one of everything: Browning HiPowers, Thompsons, MG-42s, even a Breda Model 30. SKS carbines were piled on top of M1 Garands, which leaned against Mannlicher-Carcanos, flanked by Czech LMGs and rusting Mausers.”

Happily, this will not be Rob Krott’s only book. This is the first of at least two more books detailing the exciting, real and all very true stories of SAR’s own modern soldier of fortune. Personally, I hope he’s locked ‘n loaded and gets them down range soon.

Japanese Training Machine Guns
By William M.P. Easterly
62 page pamphlet
Order from the author:
PO Box 2814
San Juan, TX 78589-2814

William Easterly has been around the Class 3 community for half a century, and perhaps is best known for his Collector Grade Publications book The Belgian Rattlesnake, which is the definitive treatise on the Lewis machine gun. More than that, Mr. Easterly is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Japanese machine guns of the pre-war and World War II eras.

He has taken that historical passion and decades of study and put an interesting pamphlet together covering one often overlooked aspect of collecting Japanese machine guns: the machine gun trainers.

There are many variations of these trainers, all designed to fire blank cartridges. Like the regular machine guns that were brought back as trophies, many of the trainers are missing their feeding devices because that was a way of “deactivating” these as war trophies. The US Navy simply tossed the magazines and feeding devices overboard on the trip home from the Pacific battlefields. It is a great help for many collectors of these to see photos of the feeding devices that they need to find for the various models.

Since the trainers are machine guns, albeit blank firing, they were required to be registered in the 1968 Amnesty, and there are a surprisingly large number of them in private hands.

Easterly’s pamphlet does an excellent job of covering the history and development in Japan, and the why’s and wherefores of the manufacture of these interesting historical pieces. If you have an interest in World War II, Japan, and machine guns, this is a pamphlet you should own. We highly recommend a visit the his website as well; www.dragonsoffire.com

Available on his website for $26 including shipping in the US.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V12N9 (June 2009)
and was posted online on June 22, 2012


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