Hello all -
My name is Troy Gustafson, and I am the youngest son of GA Gustafson (Gerald Gustafson). Ray IM’d me on another board when he heard about my dad’s passing and I thought I’d come over here and maybe answer a few questions. Below is a brief synopsis of my dad’s life that I wrote a few days ago, so I thought I’d just post it here as well.
G A Gustafson was born in south Texas in 1915 to very poor Swedish immigrants. They survived by hunting and trapping, and made what little money there was to be made by picking cotton. He nearly died at age 3 in the Flu pandemic of 1918. From his childhood on, he was an avid shooter and firearms fanatic. In Cotulla, Texas in the early 1900’s, I suspect most were avid shooters.
He did excel at school, and was able to gain admittance to UT at Austin to study mechanical engineering. There he was befriended by professor Dorr McFarland (father of famed automotive guru Jim McFarland) and they remained close friends for life. McFarland was able to help dad continue with college by finding work for him to do to raise money for tuition. McFarland and my father remained the best of friends, frequent hunting and fishing companions, and in constant contact until McFarland’s death in 1999.
Upon graduation from UT, he took a job in Pennsylvania working for Wolf’s Head Oil where he participated in a minor capacity with a team of engineers in perfecting the automatic fuel shutoff handle that is common on gas pumps today.
In 1940, he was offered and accepted a position at Aberdeen Proving Ground in the Small Arms branch of the Ordnance Corps, TECOM. There he performed tests on all manner of military weapons from pistols to early .45ACP silencers to belt fed machine guns. He was in charge of almost every aspect of M14 testing at APG. In retrospect, he was no fan of the M14 - he considered it a huge amount of money to spend just to add a detachable box mag and full auto capability to the M1 Garand, and from his testing he knew better than most about its issues with control in full auto. He actually greatly preferred the T48 FAL in .270 caliber as a main battle rifle, but his job was not to choose, only to test. The other engineers at Small Arms had similar opinions.
By now, in the early 1950’s, he was Chief Engineer of the Small Arms Branch. At that time, the various investigations into combat engagements vs ammo such as General Marshall’s ORO report, the Hall study, the Hitchman Report, and others were being conducted. Dad saw the benefit in a small caliber high velocity platform to replace submachine guns and the M1 Carbine, and took it upon himself to begin development of an experimental round for that purpose. By the time his development and testing were complete, he had alienated himself from the Ordnance brass since Aberdeen was not a development facility but purely a test facility. However, the results of his project had garnered interest among a few high ranking Army officials including General Wyman who later provided Armalite with the data from my dad’s testing and development. Armalite used the ballistic recommendations of my dad (55gr, 1 in 10 twist, etc.) as the basis for designing the .223 round to fire in the AR15. Indeed the final M193 spec only differs from my dad’s final design on a few minor parameters relating mostly to cartridge dimensions to ensure proper feeding in the new rifle.
Unfortunately, my dad’s boss, Dr. Fred Carten, was aghast at the thought of any weapons development being conducted outside of normal Army procedures, and was especially concerned about the effect this would have on the various armories such as Springfield. Thus he canceled the entire project, destroyed all of the data and the files at the Small Arms Branch relative to the project, and had my dad transferred out of Small Arms to Egland AFB in Florida where he would conduct testing of airborne ordnance and arms. Dr, Carten was apparently unaware that General Wyman had his own set of copies of my dad’s work, or that there were other copies in the Ordnance Corps as evidenced by the fact that they exist today in the Library of Congress. Also, upon my dad’s departure, William C Davis became Chief at Small Arms which was funny in that Davis had been intimately involved in the SCHV project himself working with my dad. Davis continued to champion the concept and eventually took a position at Colt.
While in Florida (where I was born, FWIW) dad became acquainted with General Curtis LeMay, who was interested in the now new AR15 (this was several years later). LeMay’s first attempt at purchasing the weapon was met with resistance so he asked my dad to write a spec for LeMay to submit as a request for a new perimeter defense weapon. Dad wrote the spec in such a way that only the AR-15 could possibly fit the parameters, but without specifically naming the AR-15, and before long LeMay had his weapons. Unfortunately, under Sec Def McNamara, the AR15 was soon declared to be the main and only combat rifle, as opposed to the original intent of my dad to replace SMG’s and M1C’s. The controversy of that decision and others made by McNamara’s office lives on to this day.
Dad, having now been vindicated for his earlier work, was offered a new position as Chief of the Small Arms Branch at APG and later he became Director of TECOM at APG. The family moved back to Aberdeen in late 1963 and Dad continued as Director until his retirement in 1972.