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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
My uncle is a WWII veteran who brought back an Ariska rifle, and I was hoping I could get some definitive identification from the resident experts. I know a little -- very little -- about Japanese military rifles, and I'd like to help him get the straight scoop on his rifle. I've never personally seen the rifle, but I have a few photos provided by his son, who has possession of the rifle.

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Here is the back story. My uncle enlisted (underage) in the Navy late in WWII, and was assigned to the USS LaSalle (AP-102), a troop transport. After the Japanese surrender, his ship entered Tokyo Harbor and tied up in the Japanese Yokosuka Navy Yard. He said the battleship USS Missouri (where the formal surrender was signed) was anchored nearby. My uncle said that one day, the ship's commanding officer and executive officer pulled alongside in a LCVP (a landing craft or Higgins Boat), which was piled high with Japanese rifles, bayonet and swords. Every sailor aboard was given a rifle and bayonet, and the officers were also given a sword. My uncle's recollection was that he picked up a Type 38, but traded another sailor for a Type 99. This is where my uncle's normally excellent memory seems a bit fuzzy. He said he wanted the Type 99 because it was in beautiful condition, and the other sailor wanted the Type 38 because it fired the heavier 7.7mm round. I'm thinking he has all the details correct, except that I believe his memory has reversed the type of rifle; I think this is a Type 38, which makes sense because it fires the smaller 6.5mm cartridge.

Before the dawn of the internet, he researched the rifle, but has lost track of what he'd found out. At the time he acquired the rifle, he was told it was a Japanese Marine sniper rifle, but I believe that was based on my uncle's assumption that the ladder sights were designed for long range shooting.

I believe it's a Type 38 from the Nagoya arsenal, Series 27. I don't believe it's a sniper rifle because it has no attach point for a scope, and the bolt handle isn't turned down. The mum is ground off, which my uncle said (as is commonly reported) that this was done to prevent the dishonor of weapons bearing the Emperor's symbol falling into the hands of the enemy. As I said, my uncle acquired this rifle within days of the surrender on September 2nd; records for the USS Missouri indicate it departed Tokyo Bay on September 6, so it was pretty quick work by whomever did the grinding.

From what I can see in the photos and been told by my uncle and cousin, the rifle is in outstanding condition. The stock looks like new, there's no visible corrosion or rust. My uncle and cousin have never fired the rifle. Several years after bringing the rifle home, he took it to a gunsmith, who said it was the finest Arisaka example he'd ever seen.

So, can someone please confirm this is a Type 38 and not a Type 99? And is it a un-scoped sniper rifle, Japanese Imperial Marine or otherwise? I've seen a few veteran's photos of their Arisakas that they said were sniper rifles, but those rifles had no scopes, either.

Thanks in advance for your help!
 

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Yes, it's a Nagoya arsenal series 27 Type 38. Your uncle probably got the numbers switched up over the years. To a GI anyone shooting at them that can't be seen is a "sniper." A sniper rifle would be scoped.
 

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Based on the info you gave, it's possible that the rifle came from the ship's armory of a nearby Japanese vessel. Those guns usually never saw much use and weren't dragged through the jungle. I have a Type 99 that's in the same general pristine condition which was brought home by the captain of a minesweeper who "liberated" it from an IJN vessel right after the surrender. He was able to sneak it by the "mum police", though.

Nice rifle!
 

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When I met my ex wife 25 years ago, she had an Arisaka type 99 with ground mum that her father, who had served on the USS Iowa brought back from Japan. At the time Arisakas were selling for $50 or less and a box of ammo was almost that much. When we got divorced and she headed off to Florida I told her I would hang on to the rifle for safekeeping. But she insisted, "no, it's my gun and I'm taking it with me." Now she has no idea what happened to it. It would have been nice to have that rifle because of the connection to her father.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
When I met my ex wife 25 years ago, she had an Arisaka type 99 with ground mum that her father, who had served on the USS Iowa brought back from Japan. At the time Arisakas were selling for $50 or less and a box of ammo was almost that much. When we got divorced and she headed off to Florida I told her I would hang on to the rifle for safekeeping. But she insisted, "no, it's my gun and I'm taking it with me." Now she has no idea what happened to it. It would have been nice to have that rifle because of the connection to her father.
Another sad divorce story. Why couldn't she have taken the golf clubs or the dog? Seriously, I wonder how many of these WWII artifacts have been lost, destroyed or deteriorated into a worthless condition because people didn't appreciate what they had? I'm sure your ex is sorry she didn't let you take care of it for her, because as you said, it's not just a rifle and a piece of history, it's a link to a family member and their wartime experiences.

My brother-in-law is a cop who used to paint houses for extra money. As he finished up one job for a nice older lady, she asked if he could help her out. Her husband was a Marine WWII veteran who'd passed away years before, and she was trying to clear out "some of his old stuff." She asked if she knew how to get rid of an old rifle she was too afraid to even touch. It turned out it was a Type 38 carbine in mint condition, mum intact. Then there was the little old lady who showed up at a police sponsored gun buy back with a Sturmgewehr 44, worth $40k. She had no idea what it was, and was happy to turn it in for destruction.

I've enjoyed researching my Granfather's Kriegsmodell and my Uncle's Arisaka, and those rifles are a link to a historic time, and more importantly, the dedicated and selfless generation who won't be around much longer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Based on the info you gave, it's possible that the rifle came from the ship's armory of a nearby Japanese vessel. Those guns usually never saw much use and weren't dragged through the jungle. I have a Type 99 that's in the same general pristine condition which was brought home by the captain of a minesweeper who "liberated" it from an IJN vessel right after the surrender. He was able to sneak it by the "mum police", though.

Nice rifle!
WillRuss,

I wouldn't be surprised if something similar happened with my uncle's rifle. They were anchored in the Yokosuka naval yard immediately after the surrender. He said he spent one day just wandering around the deserted naval yard picking up souvenirs. It's certainly possible that a Japanese ship or warehouse full of rifles was at the Yokosuka yard waiting to be emptied of souvenirs.

I do wonder about the whole mum grinding mystery. He said his ship arrived in Tokyo Bay almost immediately after the surrender and that the USS Missouri was till there. The Missouri's records show it departed Tokyo Bay September 6th, four days after the formal surrender ceremony on her decks. That means there would have only been a matter of days for the order to deface the Imperial mum to have been issued and enacted on these particular rifles. You're lucky that your Type 99 was picked up with its mum intact. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the new owner being the captain. It's good to be king! Maybe that gives credence to the theory that some of the mum grinding was done by the U.S. Navy itself before the weapons were handed out.
 

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I've got a Type 99 with a partially ground mum and a Type 38 with the mum completely ground and I've often wondered who did the grinding? Was it done by the Allies or by the Japanese? In either case could the guns have been ground already by the time your uncle got his?
 

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I've got a Type 99 with a partially ground mum and a Type 38 with the mum completely ground and I've often wondered who did the grinding? Was it done by the Allies or by the Japanese? In either case could the guns have been ground already by the time your uncle got his?
Best we know is "both"; yes, it could have been ground already.

If you search this forum for "mum grinding" you will find several discussions on the subject.
 

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My grandfather reported that the two rifles he brought home in '46 were picked up at the dock from a pile that had been dropped there by a front-end loader. There were two or three boatswain's mates standing near the gangway with grinders. There was also a chief petty officer standing by a 50 gallon drum making the GI's drop their bolts in before they could board. Considering how bad he wanted to come home, he was more than happy to comply, losing the matching numbered bolts forever. One interesting thing is that they told him that he would be searched for contraband when arriving at San Diego and would be in a "world o' trouble" if he tried to sneak anything home. So he had about a half dozen Colt 1911's and what I believe to be a couple Nambu pistols in his bag which he decided to toss into Tokyo bay instead of spending time in the brig. When he got to SD, nobody searched him at all - or any GI for that matter.

W&E - Since the USN ground granddad's mums, it's possible that yours were ground at the skippers orders sometime on the way back to comply with Mac's order.
 

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i remember one when i was 10...to 15.....
smallest gun i ever saw at that time... type?
condition excellent not ground.....
...old man had two swords a pistol too...from when he went over...
he caught us his son got it down off deer paws looking at and holding it carefully on back porch....
next day he had drill two holes in it and drove nails through it put it on the side of the house.....
where it hung rusting till i was in college..
he moved to bluefield wv....wife was in hospital his wife too......
and he had the other stuff......gun i asked?
thrown in the trash when he moved....
wanted info on the other things...i told about here....he had been watching antique road shows
and $$$ was in his eyes.....he said the rifle was rare and he was at loss for words...
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
My grandfather reported that the two rifles he brought home in '46 were picked up at the dock from a pile that had been dropped there by a front-end loader. There were two or three boatswain's mates standing near the gangway with grinders. There was also a chief petty officer standing by a 50 gallon drum making the GI's drop their bolts in before they could board. Considering how bad he wanted to come home, he was more than happy to comply, losing the matching numbered bolts forever. One interesting thing is that they told him that he would be searched for contraband when arriving at San Diego and would be in a "world o' trouble" if he tried to sneak anything home. So he had about a half dozen Colt 1911's and what I believe to be a couple Nambu pistols in his bag which he decided to toss into Tokyo bay instead of spending time in the brig. When he got to SD, nobody searched him at all - or any GI for that matter.

W&E - Since the USN ground granddad's mums, it's possible that yours were ground at the skippers orders sometime on the way back to comply with Mac's order.
WillRuss,
I can't be sure of the hows and whys the mum on my uncle's rifle was ground down. It was nearly 70 years ago and while his memory is pretty good, some details drop out from time to time.

I've read several extensive threads on the boards about why the mums were defaced and how it happened. It's odd that after all these years no written documentation has been produced, but it does seem that some formal order was given by one side or the other, since nearly all vets know about the practice. Whether it was by order of a Japanese military authority, or part of the surrender agreement, an order by MacArthur, or even an order issued by U.S. Naval authorities, it's not clear. One would think that somewhere there would be a paper trail, because the preponderance of clear examples indicate that somehow, someone in an authority said "make this happen." My uncle came into possession of his rifle literally no more than a few days after the arrival of the first American occupying forces.

My guess is that it was a practice common to Japanese forces, and the Americans agreed at some level to continue the practice as part of the surrender agreement. There must have been a Fleet order issued if the stories about Navy enthusiastically joining in the grinding are true, because the practice seemed to be nearly universal.

Interesting. Not exactly the Amelia Earhardt mystery, but curious nonetheless. BTW, I nearly wept when I read about the Colt 1911's and Nambu pistols being chucked into Tokyo Bay.
 
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