If guns could talk, a particular Strumgewehr 44 (StG 44) would have an interesting story of survival. The German rifle from World War II’s next chapter is that it will be on display at the Naval History and Heritage Command. Of course, it’s how it got there that makes the story interesting.
The Nazi-era rifle was confiscated by Chesapeake, Va., police about a10 years ago. Police had been investigating a case involving multiple hit-and-run wrecks. When the police came across a van they thought had been used in the vandalism, they discovered the gun, a magazine and 26 rounds of ammunition.
The van belonged to a former Chesapeake resident named Eugene McGee, whose grandfather was a World War II veteran. Apparently he picked up the rifle as one of the spoils of war and decided to keep it as a souvenir.
A reporter with The Virginian-Pilot caught up with McGee, who has since left the state. McGee said the rifle was one of several items from the war that his grandfather had kept. He stumbled upon the memorabilia when he was about 11 or 12.
“This gun was just so cool, and I had no idea what it was,” McGee told the reporter. He and his brother played Army with it, he said, so it survived exposure to the rain and snow that extended beyond the battlefield. As an adult, years later, McGee rediscovered the old, rusty rifle and decided to research it, learning then that it was an StG44.
The StG 44—it’s name means storm rifle in German—is said by some to be the precursor to the M16 and the AK-47. The gun could be worth as much as $30,000.
After McGee’s trial almost a decade ago, the city council decided that donating the rifle would be more a more fitting outcome for it than destroying it. It was supposed to go to the Virginia War Museum, but instead, it got lost in the shuffle and has spent the intervening years in a police evidence locker.