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The World War II Liberator (FP-45)
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The FP-45 Liberator was a pistol manufactured by the United States military during World War II for use by resistance forces in occupied territories.
The pistol had its origins in the US Army Joint Psychological Committee and was designed for the United States Army in 1942 by the Inland Guide Lamp Manufacturing Division of the General Motors Corporation in Dayton, Ohio. The army designated the weapon the Flare Projector Caliber .45 hence the designation FP-45. This was done to disguise the fact that a pistol was being mass produced. The original engineering drawings label the barrel as "tube", the trigger as "yoke", the firing pin as "control rod", and the trigger guard as "spanner". The Guide Lamp Division plant in Anderson, Indiana assembled a million of these weapons. The Liberator project took about 6 months from conception to end of production with about 11 weeks of actual manufacturing time, done by 300 workers.
The FP-45 was a crude, single-shot pistol designed to be cheaply and quickly mass produced. The Liberator had just 23 largely stamped and turned steel parts that were cheap and easy to manufacture. It fired a .45 caliber pistol cartridge from an unrifled barrel. Due to the unrifled barrel, it was intended for very close ambush (1-4 yds). Its maximum effective range was only about 25 feet (less than 8 m). At longer range, the bullet would begin to tumble and stray off course. Because of the low quality, it was nicknamed the "Woolworth gun."
The Liberator was shipped in a cardboard box with 10 rounds of .45 ACP ammunition, a wooden dowel to remove the empty cartridge case, and an instruction sheet in comic strip form showing how to load and fire the weapon. Extra rounds of ammunition could be stored in the pistol grip.
After production, the Army turned the Liberators over to the OSS. A crude and clumsy weapon, the Liberator was never intended for front line service. It was originally intended as an insurgency weapon to be mass dropped behind enemy lines to resistance fighters in occupied territory. A resistance fighter was to recover the weapon, sneak up on an Axis occupier, kill or incapacitate him, and retrieve his weapons.
The weapon was valued as much for its psychological warfare effect as its actual field performance. It was believed that if vast quantities of these weapons could be delivered into Axis occupied territory, it would have a devastating effect on the morale of occupying troops. The plan was to drop the weapon in such great quantities that occupying forces could never capture or recover all the weapons. It was hoped that the thought of thousands of these unrecovered weapons potentially in the hands of the citizens of occupied countries would have a deleterious effect on enemy morale.
In reality, the OSS never saw the practicality in mass dropping the Liberator over occupied Europe, and only a handful were ever distributed. Only the Chinese and resistance forces and the Philippine Commonwealth military in the Philippines received the Liberator in any significant quantity. The Liberator was never issued to American or Allied troops and there is no documented instance of the weapon being used for their intended purpose.
The original delivered cost for the FP-45 was $2.40/unit ($32 in 2010). A Liberator in good condition today can fetch approximately $1200, with the original box bringing an additional $500, with an original extremely rare paper instruction sheet the value could exceed $2000 to a collector of rare World War II militaria. Fakes of these sheets exist, but authentic copies have a watermark that can be seen clearly, which is difficult to duplicate.
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