Treasure hunters find coded WWII message, uncover hilarious story

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How does it happen? In 1944, the German Army was conscripting children and people with very little training to fight against the Allied forces. Many of these “soldiers” had very little training and certainly no weapons familiarization with platforms and systems from other armies.


Yeah, but the children weren’t Italians.

The least they can do is to do a few shots from an unfamiliar gun and a single throw of an unfamiliar grenade. Even if there’s lack of munitions, at least the most basic weapons familiarization is worth the expended resources.

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This was during the retreat from Italy so the German troops involved were, I think, regular army rather than Volksturm.

Through extensive research (first page hit, Google search) I found the Italian L-Type grenade:

“The Italian L type grenade was designed for use against vehicles and tanks. It consists of a metal casing with a wooden throwing handle. On the upper part of the casing there is a tab (a) (see sketch) for removing the safety pin, and a small metal strip (b) protruding from the base of the handle. This strip is a second safety precaution. The metal strip (b) is held in position by the wire (d) on the side of the handle. This wire is held in position by a piece of wired tape secured by a pin ©.” -

Looks plausible given some Italian ordinance from that period had multiple safety precautions built in.


Sadly, the decrypt (“THEY THROW GRENADES…” etc) was not genuine - just a joke. Here’s the decrypt claim:

…and then the admission a little later that it was a joke:

So the content of the message is still unknown, and we’ll need a latter-day Cryptonomicon to get to the truth…


The story about a coded message in a bullet sounds fishy, but bullets reversed in the cartridge was not unknown. This was done in trench warfare when they expected to be shooting (with bolt action rifles) at close range, and the reversed bullet would hit almost like a hollow point. There is various folklore associated with this.


I heard a story similar to this during my sabbatical to the Scheldt, except it was Canadians instead of Americans, and the grenades were filled with confetti instead of explosives. Now that was a funny story. BoingBoing articles have a peculiar sense of humor lately.

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They actually had that image in the story, along with more pictures of the bullet and coded message.

Drink More Oveltine.


The Germans lost this battle, and the war.

I see what you did there. I think…

While undoubtably well-meant, consider that your advice is 70 years late, and directed at the wrong side.


You want a safety pin? I do you two-for-one… Eh? Eh?

Reading the link, the thing weighs 4kg and needs to be thrown at least 60M after which cover should be taken. Definitely only a weapon for large and fit soldiers.

They were, but by then the German army wasn’t what it was. One amazing thing about the German army is how it held out for so long, which tells you something about the German people. But most of the German army who were capable of taking initiative at junior leader level were already dead or in captivity. It held out in Italy for so long mainly because (a) Italy is a very hard nut to crack and (b) the Allies massively screwed up the early stages of the invasion and missed lots of chances. And that in turn was because at that point in the war Britain and the US had a severe shortage of experienced soldiers.


What amazes me is that the Germans managed to kick off two World Wars in a single generation. I know they have a disproportionately large population, but even so, that is an amazing display of resilience in the face of mass causalities.

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The situation with untrained folks having to deal with unfamiliar armament is happening over and over. The advice is generic enough to apply.

And there is no inherently “right side” in armed conflicts. Who’s “right” is usually determined by whose side won. That then gets the right to write the textbooks.

Nobody then thinks of the hapless plods whom the geopolitical lottery dealt the wrong cards.

See where you’re going wrong here, is expecting a military organisation to do the sensible thing.
Being sensible is not military.

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There should be enough of such knowledge between the general folks that if they get into a pinch there’s at least one in the group to come up with something.