How They Were Betrayed

In the upcoming November issue of Esquire, there will be an article entitled “How They Were Betrayed”. It is an adaption of a chapter from C.J. Chivers new book “THE GUN” …

The unnecessary bloodshed and lives lost were tied to an American rifle and ammunition combination that was not yet ready for war, a circumstance directly related to the AK-47’s breakout and global spread. My investigation into the flawed introduction of the M-16 and of the young soldiers and Marines — who were knowingly failed by the Pentagon, a prominent American firearms manufacturer, and their own commanders and generals — became “The Accidental Rifle,” a chapter in THE GUN.

I was given a copy of THE GUN and am really enjoying it. I will be posting a review once I have finished reading it.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • I’ll have to break down and buy a copy at retail to see what new sources he has uncovered.


    Chiver in a 40 minute interview on NPR-pretty interesting.

  • Jim

    Man, that sounds interesting as all hell. Also the reason why I would never join the military- sometimes the bureaucracy fails you, and when they do, they cover it up.

  • Lance

    The A1 was flawed ion Vietnam BUT the A2-A4 are far superior to the AK-47.

  • Ivan

    Well, “AK-47” is experimental model, the military designation is just AK(issued in 1949). Sorry for my grammar nazi.

  • R

    Be sure to read Edward C. Ezell’s classic “The Great Rifle Controversy” for a thoroughly researched look at the development of the M14 and M16. Amazingly well researched and written. I’m guessing Chivers read it, and probably Ezell’s book about the AK47, equally well done. Another great book about US small arms development is “Misfire” by William H. Hallahan (available at Amazon), or at libraries. These are not necessarily easy to find cheaply, library may be the best bet. I have all three in my library, they are all key works.

  • jdun1911

    The A1 wasn’t flawed. The lack of understanding a well oiled rifle is a functioning rifle. That’s what doomed the A1, maintenance.

    Even today the clean rifle mentality is with us in the military. Lightly lubed and clean is great for parades and impressing the boss but when it comes to combat you better over oiled so she don’t bitch.

  • Jon Mac

    The real crime was the government and Colt-pushed hype, plus a lack of issued cleaning kits that led to the problems experienced. Lethality and other aspects were also over-hyped. There were some bugs that needed ironing out, but the weapon was otherwise no more or less flawed than any other major infantry arm you can think of. You only have to compare it to the story of the SA80, and the great success of the AR after Vietnam, to see that the M-16 and the US have actually done pretty well all things considered.

  • Pete

    Betrayed?! You call this “betrayed”?? LOL…

    Ford Motor Company was sending high-tech machinery and top engineers to the Gorki Plant in Russia (that factory was built by Ford in the 30´s) while the war was going on…Gorki plant manufactured 70% of the military vehicles used by the Vietnamese Communists…and this is a very small example…the exact same thing was happening during the Korean war…lol

    The anti-aircraft missiles that were shooting american airplanes were all built using american technology. 95% of the USSR technology was imported, 2/3 were american. LOL!

    You know who were the 2 that made the Rules of Engadment concerning the war in Vietnam? Dean Acheson and McGeorge Bundy…Dean Acheson was the owner of the lawyer firm that defended Alger Hiss (one of the founders of the United Nations turned out he was a Stalinist and Soviet agent)…McGeorge Bundy (and his brother William) were accused by Joseph McCarthy of being a Soviet agents…lol…McGeorge Bundy was in charge of the Bay of Pigs operation, every single survivor pointed his finger at him, Kennedy fired him after the Bay of Pigs fiasco…later, Bundy was in charge of the Warren Commission…LOL!

    The USSR lacked the grinding machines to make the minature ball-bearings that are essencial to make MIRVed ICBM missiles…Bryant Chucking Grinder was allowed to ship 45 of this grinding machines when the USA had only 33 under heavy protest of the Department of Defense and many people…Henry Kissinger was the guy that was personally behind this scandalous tranfer of technology.

    This are very very small examples, i could go on and on and on…You guys dont know what betrayal is.

    Read and watch everything from Antony C. Sutton you can find.

  • Emperor Fabulous

    “Bundy was in charge of the Warren Commission…LOL!”

    The Warren Commission was run by Chief Justice Earl Warren, with Gerald Ford and more notably Allen Dulles (the guy Kennedy fired from running the CIA) being the ones setting the tone of the investigation.

  • Cymond

    “McGeorge Bundy (and his brother William) were accused by Joseph McCarthy of being a Soviet agents” – I don’t want to wander too far into politics, but that sentence implies there was someone McCarthy didn’t suspect. I think most of us would be shocked if we found a complete list of ‘suspected’ and investigated Reds.

  • M.Werner

    Just listened to the Fresh Air segment with the author on NPR. Seems like a savvy fellow; ex-marine (Iraq) and all.
    The show was primarily concerned with the AK, but he talked a bit about the M-16 and it’s Vietnam-era difficulties.

  • W

    “The A1 wasn’t flawed. The lack of understanding a well oiled rifle is a functioning rifle. That’s what doomed the A1, maintenance.”

    The A1 was a modification of the original M16, which was fielded first in Vietnam.

    “Even today the clean rifle mentality is with us in the military. Lightly lubed and clean is great for parades and impressing the boss but when it comes to combat you better over oiled so she don’t bitch.”

    obviously you have never been in combat lance. a heavily, over lubricated weapon attracts dirt and grime, leading to excessive carbonizing and decreased reliability after prolonged firing. in a desert environment, light to moderate oil on the rotating parts will ensure the weapon functions properly without attracting dirt. To make the situation worse, the us military’s usage of CLP compounds these problems (i recommend using militech or FP10).

    I also disagree that the A2 and A4 M16’s are “far superior” to AKMs. Each design has their strengths and weaknesses in particular situations. M16’s are more characteristic as a rifle while the AK series are more characteristic as machine guns.

    and yes, it was betrayal. It is easy to perceive a “lesser” betrayal by someone who wasn’t on the front lines of vietnam with a jammed rifle. Yes, betrayal indeed.

  • Greg

    Would the bigger controversy and/or lost opportunity be not pursuing the British “ideal” 7×43 round which out performed the Soviet 7.62×39 and was nearly as good as the 7.62×51 and could be used in GPMG as well as easily handled in auto in the originally designed EM2 (UK) and the FNFAL whereas the US round made aimed auto virtually impossible. US trials agreed, but the old desire for flatter trajectory was used to keep a full power battle rifle cartridge. A better outcome in the late 40’s and 50’s trials would have greatly served Americans soldiers and Marines in Vietnam and other Cold War conflicts. I am sure UK and other Europeans and Pro-Western countries would also have enjoyed the benefits.
    Here is some footage on the tests. The Bren would have been easily adapted (the Czech did so with their 7.62×45 which the Soviets would not use) and they had desined a belt fed Bren GPMG to fire it.

  • Greg

  • Greg

    W…I used an M16A2 in Saudi Arabia and Iraq…a well oiled AK is a good rifle, an M16 of any variant needs to be very carefully oiled as it is so tight that the slightest bit of sand/grit will lead to misfeeds, but the desert also proves damper than you would think. Keeping an A2 properly lubed is not as easy as it sounds. Lay the oil on and it turns into sand paper, don’t use enough and it will rust…and mine was used by only 1 man before me…I had it from Sep 89 until Aug 91.

  • Greg

    Sorry, the comment was for Jdun. Largely agree with your post W…you are probably more recent than I. Last fired an M16A2 in 1991 and haven’t touched one since.