Some Other Marine’s Trophy Case

British machine gun in Beirut 1983 Cpl Kunkel

Here is another photo I found from my Beirut collection. One night on patrol I found this 9mm sub-machine gun and it was in perfect condition. I know it was stupid, (all of you reading this are cringing) but I picked it up. We found it off to the side of one of the streets in one of the small local business districts.

I was not leading the patrol, but was the machine gun team leader and we were near the front of the column if I recall correctly. I don’t know how the others missed it, but I saw it about twenty feet in front of me near the front hatch of a building. We stopped the patrol and faced outboard and I walked over with a few others and we looked it over. I went ahead and picked it up and inspected it. There was no magazine inserted and no round in the chamber. Turns out it was a British Sterling (not sure what model) with a nice, comfortable pistol grip and folding stock and it was in excellent shape, and was obviously nearly new, as you can tell from the photo. I took it back to one of our two SSGT’s stupidly thinking that they would let me keep it and send it home to my father, but they turned it over to our platoon commander who turned it over to our CO. It might have made it home into some other Marine’s trophy case, but it never made it home to mine! Semper Fi Jarheads!

Mike Kunkel
Cpl. 0331
Lima 3/8 Weapons Plt

20 thoughts on “Some Other Marine’s Trophy Case”

  1. BATF forbids the import of weapons capable of full automatic fire; and if it were “smuggled” into this country, someone could have faced some serious prison time. From the appearance of this submachine gun and its “newness”, I would guess this made its way to the G2 boys. The reason you could not keep it was because of the automatic fire capability.

  2. A other reason you should not pick it up. I myself was in Beirut had fellow Marine pick up a Ak it was wire to exploded killing to fellow Marines. Bad choice !!!

  3. Way back then, with the lax security and such at the time, I would’ve mailed it, FedEx it, whatever, home. Far less of a crime when compared to our scumbag leadership and politicians.

  4. Cpl Tom B, yes you are absolutely correct. It was a bad choice. Very stupid on my part and we were trained better. Just a stupid move on my part. We looked it over very carefully and saw nothing attached. But it was very odd to say the least. We did have a British unit staying with us and my guess is they accidentally left it behind on one of their patrols, but that does not mean it could not have been boobie trapped in between when they left it behind and we passed through on our patrol.

  5. As far as I’m concerned one less firearm for the bad guys to kill our Marines with. You may think you made a bad decision, but you cleared it properly as far as that goes. You may have saved other Marines lives by taking it. Even if you were able to get it past Customs, it would have been a crime to posses it in the US because of Federal restrictions and laws. However, you may have gotten an ATF stamp to posses it! But, all in all Brother, you did the right thing by turning it in. And how many of us would have had the same thoughts of keeping it and trying to send it home, probably everyone who reads this! Gorgeous weapon. SEMPER FI!

  6. I agree with the others. It was a bad choice. I heard too many stories of booby trapped weapons in RVN that cussed injury & death to a lot of our Marine Brothers. Besides it’s so very hard to even obtain a Federal Permit, I know because after I got out of active duty I spent 41 years in Law Enforcement and had the unpleasant experience of dealing with a stolen Full Automatic weapon in the hands of a bad guy. It was a very nice weapon in your photo, but turning it in was the right thing to do. Glad you made it home safe and sound. SEMPER FI. Sgt. G E “Ed” Day, VMCJ-1 RVN 1972

    1. Ed, Thanks for the reply. Yes, it was a bad choice. We looked it over very carefully before I picked it up, and saw no trip wires, but still it was not a smart move on my part and of course we were trained not to do so. However, I picked it up primarily not for a trophy but because I thought that leaving it behind might be giving the Sheite Muslims another weapon against us. Earlier, during that same patrol a farmer had brought a bull into town with its balls banded. We had stopped our patrol because it was a checkpoint. And while there the farmer yelled over, “hey Marines watch this”, as he lopped off the bull’s balls. The bull barely flinched but as we started moving out, the farmer yelled back, “tonight it’s your balls.” It scared the hell out of us I don’t mind telling you. That’s not why I picked the SMG up but I just felt at the time that it was the right move. Back then I was 19 maybe 20 and did not know of the federal laws governing weapons. But I was hoping to mail it home to my dad because I recalled reading stories of WW II, Korea and Viet Nam vets mailing home trophy weapons. I did not pick it up for this reason but I did want to send it home, but I knew the right thing was to turn it in to my Staff NCOs. Semper Fi bud! Mike

  7. Cpl. Kunkel: Wondering if you were in Beirut with SgtMaj Fred Douglass. He was a close friend and I never was able to get many details of his KIA in the 23 Oct. 1983 barracks bombing. At the time, I was looking forward to attending his retirement ceremony, not his funeral. If you have any information, I would appreciate it. Semper Fi. Master Guns – 1953 – 1985

    1. Master Guns, No I did not know SgtMaj Douglass although his name does sound familiar. Maybe I read his name on a Beirut blog somewhere over the years. I was with 3/8 so we were in Beirut before the MAU headquarters bombing and then again afterwards so if the SgtMaj died in the bombing I probably never served with him, but again his name does sound familiar. Semper Fi Master Guns! Mike KUNKEL

      1. Corporal Mike: Thanks for the reply. BTW – I would have been very tempted to keep that found weapon and figure a way to get it home. On the other hand, if caught, you would have been in hurt city big time. You come across as being a squared away Marine who has remained as such. You did the right thing by turning it in … even if it did end up in the trophy room of someone else. Semper Fi, Mike. Master Guns

        1. Master Guns, yes I was a squared away Marine and have always tried to follow the guidelines of the Corps and have always been reminded of the tattoo on my left forearm that reads, “USMC Death Before Dishonor.” While I really wanted to send the SMG home, it never really occurred to me that doing so was being dishonest. I just looked at it as a found item. I assumed it belonged to one of the Brits who had been at our compound but had been gone by then for several weeks. My section leader, a former DI and my PlatoonSergeant, a two tour Nam vet were first rate Marines and explained to me why I could not keep it, but until they did, I honestly thought it was perfectly legal since in my mind it was a war zone. In an earlier reply I think I said I was 19 or 20 at the time, but thinking back now I was actually 21, (not that the extra year really matters) but at that moment I was not even considering the government laws of shipping a weapon home to the US. I was simply thinking of a cool looking trophy waiting for me when I got home. Semper Fi Master Guns!

  8. That gun is absolutely a keeper, and back in WWII you could have brought it back but certainly not now. The good news is (1) it didn’t blow up and you’re in one piece, (2) you made it back intact from your deployment, and (3) you have a hell of a war story to tell over a few beers. I was 3rd MAW in Yuma from 63-66, and the only war stories I have are centered around my frequent trips to San Luis, Mexico which was only 26 miles away. It was risky (risqué) business to be sure, but somebody had to keep up the USMC tradition of spirited liberty on forgein soil. Semper fi to all my Marine bros and sisters!

    1. Yes and that’s what I was thinking after we got back to the compound. Like I said in an earlier reply, my primary reason for leaving it was so that it would not get into the hands of any shitheads, but then I thought about reading of all those WWII vets who brought home trophy weapons and thought it would be neat. I figured I would tell my LT and that I could send it home to my dad, but my Section Leader said it had to go to CO before I could have it, but I never saw it again . Semper Fi buddy!! Mike

  9. In 1970 in Viet Nam, an AK was considered a prime souvenir, but alas, the same laws against sending automatic capable weapons were in effect and we were all warned not to even try. A fellow pilot, a lieutenant, decided it was worth the risk to break an AK down into its various components and send the pieces home once at time. Shortly after sending the first piece, he was summoned to the CO’s office, subjected to non-judicial punishment; confined to his quarters for a month except for meals, flying and worship services and a letter of reprimand was placed in his permanent record, basically ending the career of what was a promising officer. A LtCol was given an AK that had been milled in half and mounted on a plague, and presented to him by the men of his unit. It was confiscated as he left country. Despite what many may think, seniority is not a blank chit for breaking the law.

    1. Bob, At that age, I was really naïve about having to pass anything through customs and was not aware of the laws governing the transferring of automatic weapons, but I knew enough to know that I would have to let my leadership know that I had the weapon in my possession, which is exactly what I did. I figured the SMG was nothing more than a found item in a war zone. There is no way I would have attempted to send that thing home via the mail without telling anyone. We did have a guy in our unit who was busted for shipping home hash he had been buying from the locals, so we all knew that the mail was being checked. But, I turned the SMG in because I thought it was the right thing to do….but I foolishly thought they would tag it somehow and then let me keep it. Oh how dumb we are at that age. Like they say, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Semper Fi Bob. Mike Kunkel

  10. I think we were in Beirut at the same. As a member of HMM 263, I deployed with the 24th MEA/MAU. We were with BLT 3/8. I delieve the first cruise was with LtCol Black Jack Matthews.

    1. Ron, I believe you are correct. I always forget the MAU numbers and confuse my first tour with my second tour at times. To recall them I have to go to my drabs where I have all my places of travel and units written in magic marker! LOL. My CO with Lima 3/8 was Capt. Chuck Johnson. He is the one who jumped up on the Israeli tank and pulled out his .45.

        1. Remember that incident. That’s why we always flew low over the Israeli tanks to blow crap inside of them. They had to close up or get crap inside.

  11. Bad move …Good move . Yeah picking it up so it couldn’t be used against one of us ..Bad move . Bobby trapped possible.. I’m glad it worked out for you and your fellow Marines . Semper Fi…

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