Taking aim at a pivotal pistol

A captured enemy pistol was one of the most popular souvenirs brought back by GIs serving overseas during WW ll. They were readily available, of no practical use to the U.S. government and easy to carry. The U.S. military permitted GIs to bring back these coveted war trophies by the thousands. The pistol pictured above was brought home by World War II veteran Louis Venditti.

Louis was a member of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division. They were the “Band of Brothers” made famous by the 1992 Stephen Ambrose book and the 2001 HBO miniseries. We’ll share more of Louis’ wartime memorabilia and history in future postings. For now, let’s focus on the pistol, which has a unique role in the annals of modern warfare.

Although manufactured under license by Fabrique National D’Armes de Guerre in Herstal, Belgium, since 1935, the 9 mm FN HI-Power was designed by American John Browning. In May 1940, shortly after the outbreak of WW II, the Germans occupied Belgium and seized the Fabrique National factory, which was still operational. Deeming many of the Belgian made firearms acceptable for use by their own troops, they kept the assembly lines rolling.

The Germans officially designated this weapon as “Pistole 640(b)”. It was in such demand, that some 300,000 were manufactured while the factory was under their control. Its popularity stemmed in part from its 9 mm round and the fact that it had a magazine capacity of 13 rounds: almost double the capacity of the standard pistols being used by Germany as well as the Allies. It was often used by Germany’s elite combat units.

This particular piece is 100 percent original, with matching serial numbers. It is liberally stamped with German Waffenamt proof marks, indicating it was inspected by German armorers and approved for issue to their military. It also has tangent sights, rather than the more common fixed sights, and it isn’t slotted for the attachment of a stock. Based on the serial number range, overall quality of production and Waffenamt markings, it was manufactured while the Fabrique National factory was under German Occupation, some time between late 1941 and early 1942.

Germany continued production until late 1944, when Belgium was liberated and control of the factory was restored to Belgian management. The FN Hi-Power proved so successful, that Fabrique National D’Armes de Guerre continued its production until 2017. It has been manufactured, under license, in several other countries, and it is the only pistol issued by both sides during WW II. A version was also manufactured in Canada for use by Allied troops. It has proven to be one of the most popular military/police weapons of all time, and 85 years later it is still widely used throughout the world.

Did you like this? Share it!

Steve Corbo

A founding member and corporate secretary of the Italian American Veterans Museum, Steve Corbo is the museum’s curator and a military consultant for Fra Noi. He has served for 25 years as president of S.A. Corbo & Associates Inc., providing professional liability insurance to health care providers. The son and nephew of World War II veterans and a passionate military historian for over 50 years, he has written and published articles on a variety of topics, including military history, and serves as the military consultant for Fra Noi, the Chicago-area Italian-American magazine.

0 comments on “Taking aim at a pivotal pistol

Comments are closed.

If you haven’t already done so,
please join our email list.