Thursday, August 26, 2010
Hugo Schmeisser, 24 September 1884 – 12 September 1953
Hugo Schmeisser was one of the most influential and prolific developers of weapons of the 20th century. Born in Suhl, Germany in 1884, Schmeisser followed the profession of his father. His weapons designs played a significant role in both World Wars, throughout the Cold War and up until this very day.
Schmeisser's most well known weapon, the MP-38/40 sub-machinegun
On April 3, 1945, American troops began to occupy the city of Suhl. Weapons manufacturing was completely prohibited during this time. Hugo Schmeisser and his brother Hans were interrogated for weeks by weapon expert teams of the American and British Secret services. At the end of June 1945, American troops evacuated Suhl and all of Thuringia.
Schmeisser's STG-44 in use on the Russian Front during World War II.
One month later, the Red Army assumed control over the area, starting a civilian works project to manufacture weapons for the Soviet Union. By August 1945, the Red Army had created 50 StG44s from existing assembly parts, and had begun inspecting their design. 10,785 sheets of technical designs were confiscated by the Soviets as part of their research. In October 1945, Schmeisser was forced to work for the Red Army and instructed to continue development of new weapons.
Schmeisser's brilliance impressed the Red Army, and he, along with other weapons designers and their families, were relocated to the USSR. Schmeisser's work while in Izhevsk (1946-1952) is shrouded in darkness.
General Designer of small arms for the Soviet Army, Mikhail Kalashnikov's design subordinates included the Germans Hugo Schmeisser, designer of the StG-44, and Werner Grüner (of MG 42 fame) who was a pioneer in sheet metal embossing technology in the 1950s.
Mikhail Kalashnikov, the man credited with creating the AK-47 assault rifle, which to this day bears his name
Beyond Kalashnikov's 2009 admission that Hugo Schmeisser "helped" design the famous AK-47, which strongly resembles Schmeisser's StG44, little is known of Schmiesser's life during this period, until 1952 when he and other German specialists returned home to Germany.
The StG 44 (Sturmgewehr 44 or "assault rifle model 1944") was the first modern assault rifle. Developed in Nazi Germany during World War II, it is considered the inspiration for the more widely known AK-47, or Kalishnikov post-WWII Soviet-designed assault rifle. (below)
Schmeisser's stay in the Soviet Union was extended beyond that of the other weapon specialists by six months. He finally returned home on June 9, 1952. Schmeisser died on 12 September 1953, and was buried in Suhl.
While the name of Hugo Schmeisser is known internationally, it is unknown to most Germans. The 50th anniversary of his death was honored by a ceremony held in Suhl, as he is recognized as one of the most important technical designers of infantry weapons of the 20th century.
Because of it's rugged durability and simple design, the AK-47 has been the most prolific assault rifle in the world for over fifty years.