Q. In a history of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) I was reading, the author made reference to procurement of the M42 submachine guns, but did not explain any further. Can you tell me what an M42 submachine gun is? Was this gun ever issued to conventional American or Allied troops?
A. No M42 submachine guns were issued to the American Armed Forces during the war, but it was supplied to several allied countries during the war, and it was an item of issue to the OSS for use in various clandestine-related operations. The M42 was invented by Carl Swebilius, who was affiliated with the firm of High Standard. High Standard developed the prototype and produced a few early versions of the gun, but the Marlin Firearms Co. manufactured approximately 15,000 of these guns.
Most were chambered in 9 mm, but a few .45 ACP versions were made as well. The M42 could accept a conventional box magazine and also had the ability to be used with staggered side-by-side magazines. Government records indicate that 2,405 9 mm Marlin MD 42 submachine guns were airdropped in France from January to October of 1944 for use by OSS-related resistance operations.
The MD 42 was an unremarkable submachine gun with no outstanding virtues or glaring vices. Since it was not an issue item to U.S. armed forces, it is a little- known arm today and extremely few examples survive.
-Bruce N. Canfield
Originally published September, 2006