Covert Ammunition Factory in Yugoslavia in WWII


#1

I was talking to an old time cartridge collector, even older than I am, last evening and he was telling a story he had heard of a covert ammunition factory hidden in a cave and run by Tito and his forces during WWII.

I have never heard that story before. Is there anyone who had heard this story?

Is there any evidence that there was a covert ammo factory in Yugoslavia during WWII?

If so, where was it and is there any documentation???

He compared it to the Covert ammo factory in Israel in 1946-1948 which is well documented and now a museum.

Cheers,
Lew


#2

Lew,

Perhaps this is what was being discussed:

Yugoslav Partisans, from Wikipedia

Equipment

The first small arms for the Partisans were acquired from the defeated Royal Yugoslav Army, like the M24 Mauser rifle. Throughout the war the Partisans used any weapons they could find, mostly weapons captured from the Germans, Italians, Army of the NDH, Ustaše and the Chetniks, such as the Karabiner 98k rifle, MP 40 submachine gun, MG 34 machine gun, Carcano rifles and carbines and Beretta submachine guns. The other way that the Partisans acquired weapons was from supplies given to them by the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom, including the PPSh-41 and the Sten MKII submachine guns respectively. Additionally, Partisan workshops created their own weapons modelled on factory-made weapons already in use, including the so-called “Partisan rifle” and the anti-tank “Partisan mortar”.

http://www.prvipartizan.com/history.php

"At the beginning of World War II the occupying forces heavily damaged the production facilities and destroyed the administrative building to the foundation. The town was liberated on September 24th 1941 and the arms factory started to work under the control of the Partisan military authorities. The ammunition production facilities and tool shop was moved to the underground tunnel safe of the National Bank and other production facilities were moved to plants in the town surroundings."

“During that period Uzice was the only town in Yugoslavia, and possibly in Europe, in which an arms factory was working under occupation. It had a very important role in equipping units of the National Libearation Army and it was known for its production of “thin and long rifles” (partisan rifles) and hand grenades. The factory stopped working on November 22rd after an explosion caused by sabotage claimed the lives of more then 120 persons.”


#3

Lew,

What Brian posted may represent the era when the FOMU factory became Prvi Partizan, which simply means “First Partisan,” referring to Marshall Tito. Don’ have time right now to research the PPU history.

Good posting, Brian. Thanks. I talked on the phone at length, with the same Gentleman as did Lew. I have known him for about fifty years (got my first chromed German Exerzierpatrone from him - drove 90 miles each way to get it). I had no answer for him, and aside from doing a little research on my own, actually got on the Forum this morning to ask the same question, on my other friend’s behalf, that Lew did.
I had heard or read something of a Yugoslav partisan tunnel-factory, but knew absolutely nothing about it.

We learn something new every day.

Wonder what caliber(s) of cartridges they manufactured there?

John M.


#4

While I understand the deserved Yugoslav pride on their underground factory, I think at least Poland had a similar one.
I would be very surprised, if Polish, Czech, French or Belgian personnel had not managed to reroute some products manufactured under German occupation to their own resistance movements.


#5

JPeelen,
I agree with you. In the early 1970s, 5.56mm ammunition was being stolen by the Case from the Lake City plant, and was showing up in Northern Ireland before those lots had been shipped out of Lake City. As I remember it was two guys on night shift simple hit it in the back of their cars and drove out of the factory!

BD,
Perfect! I printed out the history page on PPU you posted. Our friend has no computer so it is all mail, and I just posted the material. Thanks! Grand guy who helped me when I was getting started!

Lew


#6

I wonder whether they were manufacturing or remanufacturing ammo?


#7

What were the “thin and long rifles”?


#8

Vince, I know they were manufacturing ammo before the war. I have a 9x19mm headstamped "FOMU * " and I know John M has the following:

9 mm kurz - 6 variations dating from 1934 to 1940
7.65 mm Browning - 1 variation, undated (star in place of date)
6.35 mm Browning - 1 variation, undated (star in place of date)
9 mm Steyr - 2 variations dated 936 and 1940
8 mm Roth-Steyr - 1 variation, undated (star in place of date)

If someone has any other variations of the FOMU in autopistol rounds I’m sure John would be interested!

The official name of the factory was “Factory of Arms and Ammunition in Uzice” - FOMU.

The only 9x19mm I know of, have only seen a few, have the star but not the date.

I suspect they also made rifle rounds before the war. If I read the PPU history correctly, they just moved their machinery into the bank vault tunnel so I suspect there is no reason that they couldn’t continue to manufacture ammo.

I would love to know what ammo they made or remade, including the headstamps. Did they continue to use the FOMU headstamp???

I decided to take a long shot so I just sent them the following email. I hope they reply!

Lew

Dear Sirs,
The history of your production during the WWII period has been a subject of particular interest on the Forum of the International Ammunition Association ( Covert Ammunition Factory in Yugoslavia in WWII ),

The discussion centers on three questions:

  1. Did you make ammunition in your tunnel factory or simply reload ammunition?
    2 What calibers of ammunition were produced during the war?
  2. What headstamp (base marking) was used on this ammunition? Was it the FOMU used before the war or did you introduce a Partizan headstamp? Perhaps no headstamp was used at all, like on some of your early post-war 9mm Para before the introduction of your use of the “11” code?

Any thoughts or information would be greatly appreciated. You can join the Forum and post it yourself or you can send it to me and I will post it for you.

This is a very interesting and significant part of the history of ammunition production in Europe. I hope it is worth your time and effort to make this information public.

Thanks for your time and assistance.

Cheers,
Lewis Curtis


#9

FWIW, material from the 2014 PPU catalog:

Enlarged view of the headstamps shown in previous photo.