General thought about Bay of Pigs ammo


#1

I was at a small gun show in PA and bumped into Dan Dietz. He very excitedly produced a single brass 7.62x39 round which was drilled and converted into a key chain. I asked what was so special about it. He pointed at a total lack of a headstamp and said that this was ammo made by FA to supply allies around the world who captured Soviet AK’s. The lack of a headstamp was intentional to hide the production origin.
So I thought why wasn’t Bay of Pigs ammo produced the same way, without a headstamp? Would not that be the ultimate way to make untraceable covert ammo?


#2

A related previous discussion here on the forum:


#3

Vlad,

Unfortunately, while intended to be, the American 7.62 x 39 ammo
so visibly was of American cartridge characteristics that most everyone
familiar with ammunition knew it was American-made almost instantly
upon seeing it. Of course, I will admit that knowing something and
proving something are two totally different things.

John Moss


#4

Brian
I believe both FA & LC made this. As I recall the difference can be determined with either the original box or the annulus color EDITED TO ADD look below for corrections to this post. red FA & dark red LC. edited to add: also plain AK was made by B.E.L.L & those had a pale blue annulus)
Hopefully someone will either confirm this or set the record straight.
Think both of these are US with the FA on the top.
AK 47 FA over LC


#5

Lake City also made both blanks and ball rounds in 7.62x39 with no headstamps. I was visiting LC and saw them producing it in 1970 or 1971. The blanks were made for the Army training unit, I think in Texas, who had a training mockup of a Vietnamese village. The senior DOD contracting guy at Lake City gave me the tour (I was a Captain, recently back from SEA). He said the LC rounds were reverse engineered from Finnish (I think Laupa) rounds. The bullets had a non-mag GM jacket, but they had made one small batch of GMCS bullets but had not yet done any testing when I visited. LC did the vast majority of the production of this round. Apparently FA also made some of this ammo, but my tour guide indicated the LC effort was entirely their own. When I was there they were still making the cases from 7.62x51 cups so there was a great deal of waste. They were expecting the their first 7.62x39 cups any day. The ammo was intended for Cambodia I think. The rounds had a red/orange pa.

I have seen rounds that were reputed to be from FA, but I have no idea how to tell them from the LC rounds. I do not believe that FA ever went into full rate production on this ammunition, but if someone knows better, please join in.

These are my recollections. HSW Vol III, beginning page 456 has 6 or 7 pages with the details on this production. They do mention why there is no headstamps. To reduce costs they decided to reuse worn 7.62 NATO bunters and simply remove the headstamp. There was nothing clandestine about these cartridges as far as I know.

Cheers,
Lew


#6

Pete, both are LC. Box on top is a reference lot from 1970 and the one below has the thick letter printing that identify boxes from 1971-72 having a lot numbers with interfix “2”. Catridges inside the latter should have a GMCS jacket.

Regards,

Fede


#7

Thanks Fede & Lew,
Yes the lower (sealed) box has GMCS bullet jackets, & the upper box has a red/orange annulus seal


#8

@Lew, what was the mindset of this time? Was there desperation, stoic resolve, or quiet engineering?


#9

Jestertoo, It was just business as usual. Vietnam had been going on a long time and the system had adopted to it. Militarily we seemed to be doing pretty good. Much of the Viet Cong infrastructure was killed off during Tet and the bases seemed more secure and causalities were seemed relatively low. I was in Vietnam through the middle of 66 and then we were building up and optimistic that some real progress could be made, or so it seemed to a brand new 1st Lt. In 1969 and early 1970 I was in Udorn Thailand and our sorties were almost entirely against the trail. Again, losses were low, but there was a great deal of frustration that I heard about the large number of restrictions on what we could attack. Having said that, in both cases I was a flightline maintenance officer working long hours, usually 7 days a week so had little time to worry about anything but my immediate challenges, so my perspective is not very useful. When I came back I worked in Hq MAC (Military Airlift Command) and we were doing fine, but the country (the US civilian world) seemed pretty screwed up. I heard stories that the Army was having problems in Vietnam with drugs and other things, but all I heard were the stories.

Lake City was entirely civilian contractor employees with some Department of the Army civilian contract managers overseeing them. That just seemed as business as usual. About the time of my visit or a little later they caught a couple of employees stealing cases of 5.56mm multiple times a week. The ammo was “off the books” and they just drove it off base in the trunks of their cars. It was all going to the IRA in Northern Ireland. Nobody knew anything was being stolen until lots of 5.56mm showed up on the streets of Belfast when Army records showed the lots were still in storage at Lake City!

Nice to know the GMCS bullets were actually introduced. According to the story my tour guide told, an engineer who was a bit arrogant and disliked by the technicians had designed the GMCS bullet and had ordered 500 made for initial testing. He was going on vacation but demanded that the bullets be on his desk when he got back in a week or so. The technicians “misunderstood” the quantity and when he got back the he found 5000 or 50,000 or some large number of bullets on the middle of his desk. The center of his desk had buckled and bent down about six inches across the center and both legs on one end had collapsed. When we walked by it my tour guide took great delight in telling me the story and pointing out how bent down the center of the desk was and one end was supported by four bricks.Next to the desk was a large stack of boxes full of 7.62mm GMCS bullets. He handed me one as a souvenir which of course I gave to Bill Woodin.

He also gave me a nickle plated LC round. They had recently had some kind of senior DOD group through on a tour to see the 7.62x39 production line so had made up about 25 plated dummies as souvenirs for the guests. He had 6 or 7 left in a small paper bag and gave me one, which also went straight to the Woodin Laboratory.

There was nothing classified about this production, they were very open and talkative. I do not believe the CIA had anything to do with this ammo. As far as I know it was only made and supplied to Cambodia, though I am sure the ball ammo was used by the Army and Marines for training and orientation here in the US. My belief is that in the 1970s and later, the CIA procured ammunition off shore for their activities. It is interesting that US funded ammo provided to the Iraq forces about 10 years or more ago, was made by a number of foreign countries, and the headstamp was only the caliber on the top and the date on the bottom. I have seen belts of 7,62x54R like this made by PPU, and have a box of 9x19mm with an English label which is clearly made by Iran, but probably sold through a dealer in another country. Olympic sold ammo in other calibers as Greek made which was clearly made in Iraq.

Over the years the CIA has had a catalog of the ammo they can supply. At least one of these catalogs was copied and sold in the collector world. I had one but can’t put my hands on it just now. I’m sure some of the Forum members know more about this than I do.

Cheers,
Lew


#10

The information I have on these U.S. Military-made 7.62 x 39 mm
rounds is in conflict with some of the above. The first rounds were
headstamped L C 7 1. This is documented as I had a couple of these
rounds not too long after they were made. I know right now of a friend
of mine who has one, and I am sure there is one at Woodin Lab. This
evidently caused a bit of controversy somewhere in the chain of command,
because, I was told, they were not supposed to be headstamped. Headstamping
ceased very quickly and that is why the L C 7 1 is rare today.

This would indicate there WAS some measure of “security” involved with the
identification of these cartridges.

I was also told they were made by both LC and FA, and there are certainly differences
in the “look” of the cartridges, but not haphazardly. By this, I mean there are two "sets"
of cartridges, each with its own look (color tone of the PA, neck annealing, etc.), not just
a bunch of variations due to inconsistent manufacture.

I agree entirely with Lew that the primary target for this ammunition was the Cambodian
Army. They were very short of weapons in their initial fight with the Khmer Rouge. My
first Chinese Makarov came from a U.S. Air Force officer (not Lew) who was in charge of
the transport of approximately 10,000 AK-47 type rifles from captured stores in VN to
Cambodia, along with some ammo. This from the US officer who received the Makarov
Pistol as a gift from the Cambodian authorities for his assistance (although he said he
was only the officer in charge of the transportation, and had no part in the decision to
send the weapons to Cambodia). For me, this documents nicely that the Cambodian
Army did, indeed, have lots of AK rifles in their hands. The Chinese Makarov was, by the way,
for the Cambodians, a nice gift to give as it was captured from a high-ranking member of
the Cadre of the Khmer Rouge, and was a pistol found very, very seldom in Cambodia.

I have no knowledge, by the way, of how the absence of a headstamp was accomplished.
The rounds do not have the appearance of having been struck with an altered bunter, but
if the grinding off of the original headstamp on them was done with mirror-like precision,
that could well have been the case. I had assumed they simply were not stamped, as
judging from draw sets I have in various calibers, sometimes the bunter is part of the head-forming
operation, and sometimes it is not. I am very ignorant of these technicalities, so I readily admit
that my opinion from looking at draw sets could be completely off-base. It IS simply an opinion,
undocumented by me.

As to actual formal security classification of the ammo by the US Government, I cannot address
that. They are different levels of security classifications, from “For Official Use Only,” a remarkably
stupid classification since basically, any military materiel not declared surplus and for public sale,
is "for official use only, right up to classifications even higher than “Top Secret” (Crypto, etc.), or were
at that time. I was a Department of the Army Civilian worker for two years, at a low level, and had
a lower lever clearance (Secret), and I can tell you that especially civilian employees where I worked
were very careless in their handling and discussion of material classified “FOUO” and "Confidetial."
At least they were careful with Secret and above. I witnessed a nice round-table discussion
once, over one of the “Red Books” on foreign armies (Communist), all of which I had in my documents
container were classified either “For Official Use Only,” “Confidential,” or “Secret,” including reservists with no
security clearances. I mention this only because I don’t always give credence with what civilian workers
of the Government say in regard to anything, as to whether or not it is classified. Lots of them, when I
was in both the Reserve and a DA Civilian employee, had loose mouths. Being the youngest and newest
where I work, I kept my mouth shut about my opinion of the lax attitude of them. Had we been militarily
engaged at the time, I like to think I would not have. I had previously been in the Active Army, and was
assigned to a Signal Corps Company that included an Intelligence Detachment, and working as a
Personnel Specialist for that company and others in Yukon Command Headquarters, and security classifications
were taken seriously by all!

Just my thoughts on the matter. Some documented, some not.

John Moss


#11

Lew and John, great information, thanks for sharing.

Also, in 1970 there was a requirement for 55,000 AK magazines whose specifications were obtained by reverse engineering by a company in Virginia -probably Interarms-, and these were meant to be interchangeable in the Chinese, Soviet and North Korean rifles available in the Royal Cambodian Army (more than 50 percent of their inventory). This request also involded the procurement of dummies for firing tests that would be held in Okinawa, Japan.

Regards,

Fede


#12

Here are two LC boxes with the 2 interfix Fede noted with the GMCS jackets. and blank box which contains the left example with the red annulus,
The other two blanks: The middle has a dark purple PA & a previous owner has written “FA” on it. The right has the same color PA, but the color was applied somewhat lighter. Very, very slight differences in the forming of the mouth.
So this blank box must also be by LC, containing the red/orange PA blanks?
All three have a red mouth sealant below the case mouth.
LC AK 2-24 & 2-29
AK blanks bx
AK Us blanks oa
AK US blanks heads


#13

I have seen the LC 71 headstamped rounds floating around also. I understand they were a mistake, but have not heard anything else about a controversy in the change of command, but I wasn’t in that chain of commend. Still, all kind of rumors float around.

Since my original post, I have looked over Vol III. A quick summary of major points is below:

  • Original request to produce these rounds went to LC in July 1970 for an estimate for large quantities of both Ball and Blank ammo

  • Ball ammo was meant to be sent to Cambodian Army under a special aid program

  • At the same time the Army was procuring ball ammo through Interarms for training of Special Forces until a US supply could be established

  • During an early July meeting at AMC (Army Materiel Command) it was decided to cut the cost of production and speed it up delivery the Laupa design would be used and the cases would be made with headstamps to utilize excess and reworkable 7.62 NATO bunters as an economy measure. The requirement to identify each cartridge case was waived since it was unlikely AMC would receive malfunction reports from Cambodia.

  • NATO case and bullet cups would be used since they were on hand and excess to requirements.

  • Some powder problems were encountered and in August FA was asked to evaluate available propellents and finalize the Tech Data Package for this ammo.

  • Initial FA work was done with modified Norma 6.5x54 MS cases. Later in Aug 1970 FA made cases in-house.

  • Production was assigned to LC, with FA producing reference lots and confirming their production process.

  • In Sep 1970 FA produced their first Reference lot of 10K and their first pilot lot of 10K rounds. In Oct 1970 LC went into full rate production using red pa seals for rounds produced in building #1 and purple seals for rounds from building #2. (no purple seal rounds from Bldg #2 have been seen by the authors). By end Oct LC had produced and packed 6 million rounds, all to their preliminary design.

  • In December 1970 LC began receiving cups designed for the 7.62x39 case, so I must have visited in late November or early December 1970.

  • In July 1971, a 7.62mm M82 blank buner was placed in the 7.62x39 line by mistake and about 10K rounds were produced with the LC 71 headstamp. This error occured during the second shift in Bldg #2 where both the M82 blank and the 7.62x39 ammo were being produced. 960 of these cases were loaded before the error was discovered and these were fired as gun warmers at the test range, except of course for a “few” that fell off the cart by mistake!

  • In Aug 1971 the GMCS bullets were put into production.

  • Last production was in Jan 1972 with the acceptance of the last of the original order for 125M rounds. This number was classified at the start of the program, but was declassified in April 1971.

  • With the US training and special forces requirements, the total LC production was just over 141M rounds.

  • In 1975 and 1976, additional ball and blank cartridges were procured from US commercial and overseas sources.

Lots more detail in Vol III. I enjoyed reading it.

Cheers,
Lew


#14

Here is a picture of the first pilot lot made by FA:

Y-1


#15

Thanks Fede !
The upper box in my multi-corrected above post pretty much matches this first pilot box. So I got something right Yahoooo!

It has been opened but is full. The head and annulus color match the blank on the left in that photo and the bullet is GM-jacketed.


#16

Here the drawing from FA 1970 October , 27
Peter


#17

Great information from all. Coincidentally, when I acquired
my first SkS Carbine, I made ammunition for it by reforming
6.5 x 54 Norma cases as well. I could have used 6.5 Carcano
cases from Norma as well, and should have, as I ruined about
200 Norma cases about a month before the discontinued brass
in that caliber, but kept the Carcano. : - (

I still believe there was some measure of security involved with who
made them. Aside from economy of bunters, which seems to me a tiny
issue considering the money spent by government on things, what other
reason would their be for totally anonymous box labeling with even lot
numbers not normal format for the military production of a type not
normal for the factories involved?

Still a lot we don’t know about this contract, although not nearly so much
as with a real, well executed clandestine project like the FA 7.62 x 25 mm
Tokarev ammunition. A story for another time.

John Moss


#18

Is SKS legal in CA? Such an evil beautiful thing.


#19

Of course the FA 7.62x25mm was a CIA project, while the 7.62x39 was an Army project!

Lew


#20

General question about a minor detail on the Lake City 7.62x39 boxes: What does it mean if the lot number is “redacted” or “blacked out”?