From The Battle of la Drang Valley, Cpt. Dillon’s AK47

Within the Leeds based Royal Armouries small arms collection in the United Kingdom there is a particular Soviet AK47 that is kept amongst the collection of other AKs. The serial number is ГЛ4027, in addition to a date stamp of 1953 with an Izhmash arms plant logo. Although the Armouries house a huge collection of Kalashnikovs, this exact one has a rather fascinating history attached to it. The rifle itself is nothing mind blowing, it just being one of several million Kalashnikov pattern rifles produced in the Soviet Union. It has a milled receiver which makes it slightly more interesting than the stamped AKMs that were to replace it in the 1960s, almost being a “Type 2” instead of the earlier Type 1 variant of the early Kalashnikov designs.

What is fascinating about it is the trench art that is featured on the stock. It simply reads “G.P Dillon” and then 1/7 underneath it. The 1/7 reference is to the 1st of the 7th Cavalry. For those history folks out there, you might recognize this of the “We Were Soldiers” fame, with Colonel Hal Moore at the battle of Ia Drang in 1965. This AK47 was captured at the battle of Bong Songfrom an attacking North Vietnamese regular. The name, “G.P Dillon” stands for Gregory P “Matt” Dillon, a retired U.S. Army Colonel. During the battle, Dillon was then a Captain and serving as the Operations Officer for Col. Moore. The role of an Operations Officer is to coordinate the tactical and strategic side of a battlefield. At the regimental level and below this is otherwise known as an S-3, at the division level and above, this is a G-3. Dillon would have been working with the numerous supporting assets to the battalion such as the artillery mentioned above, but he would have also been making sure close air support was being provided as well. While the battalion was in the States, he would have been in charge of training operations, making sure the training schedule was being adhered to and organized.

Some additional information on this capture, from the Royal Armouries-

Whilst clearing enemy bunkers and searching for weapons and intelligence, Dillon found and disarmed the NVA brigade’s executive officer, who was armed with this rifle and a pistol. The pistol was given to Colonel Moore, his battalion commander. Later, all captured AK rifles were ordered handed in to equip a special operation by ARVN troops. Dillon marked the stock of this weapon in order that no-one who had not actually participated in combat could claim to have collected it. He later saw the weapon in a newspaper article about ARVN HQ, where it had presumably been retained.

If you watch the movie, you can see the actor portraying Dillon as calling in artillery from his Huey during the battle. The actor John Hamm plays Dillon in the movie. Dillon is also known for bringing the photographer Joseph Galloway onto the battlefield. From a Stripes article written by Galloway recently

A young captain hurried past and I recognized him. It was Capt. Matt Dillon, Moore’s operations officer. I grabbed him and told him I needed a ride to the battle. He told me he was taking two Hueys full of ammo to X-Ray as soon as it got dark, but he couldn’t take me unless Moore cleared it. I followed him to a radio tent and listened as he reported to his boss on the nighttime mission. Then he told Moore “that reporter Galloway wants to come along.” Moore’s reply, over the sounds of battle crackling on the radio: “If he’s crazy enough to want to come and you’ve got room, bring him!

More about how the rifle got to the Royal Armouries is available here-

In 1971 the rifle, along with two other examples of the AK, were supplied to British MoD , and from thence to the Pattern Room, finally to the Royal Armouries as part of that collection on gifting in 2005.

Although a visitor to the Royal Armouries cannot see this rifle in person, you can see the entry for the rifle on the Royal Armouries collections website. Some of the information about the rifle is posted online, but the more intricate details were kindly provided by Curator of Firearms Jonathan Ferguson of the National Firearms Centre. Initially, knowledge about this rifle had been unknown at the NFC until a clever intern decided to research the name carved into the stock and found out who Dillon was.

Colonel Dillon today with his medal display.

As so far I can gather, Dillon is still alive today, although probably getting on with age at this point. It looks like he is still very involved in veteran’s groups of the 1st Air Cav, apart from everything else that must catch up in retirement.

Captain Dillon is pictured on the right with one of the company commanders.

Can you get in touch with Col. Dillon?

As a sort of a call to action, the National Firearms Centre and TFB would like to know if there are any readers out there who might somehow be in touch with 1st Air Cav veterans associations, or similar groups that Dillon might be a part of today. If so, we would like to get in touch with him over this rifle to let him know where it lies today. My email is listed below, I can forward any results of this call to action to the Royal Armouries NFC as appropriate.





Miles

Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at miles@tfb.tv


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  • SKZ

    Ia Drang, not “La Drang.”

    • iksnilol

      Sure it wasn’t “la Grange”?

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        A’ how how how how.

        • Calavera

          “Rumour spreadin’ ’round
          In that Texas town
          About that shack outside La Grange
          And you know what I’m talkin’ about
          Just let me know if you wanna go
          To that home out on the range
          They got a lot of nice girls…”

    • Zebra Dun

      Nope El Drano!

  • RavishedBoy

    Dillon, Dillion, make up your mind!
    The carving on the stock says “Dillon”, I would take that.

    • Walter Gurbisz

      ia Drang,
      Sgt. Walter G Camp Evans, 1/9 Cav. 1968

      • Rob in Katy

        1968 I was ten, thank you!

        • Hobby Shooter

          1968 I was just created. And even I knew it was Ia Drang

      • Zebra Dun

        Good to Go!

    • Ringolevio

      Just another example of sloppy writing.

  • Slim934

    um…..Ia Drang?

  • Mark Ranson

    The Royal Armouries in Leeds (my home town) is a superb museum and well worth a visit by anyone interested in arms and warfare. I’ve lived away for so amy years (mostly Hong Kong as I went there with the Brit Army as an officer in the 2nd Gurkha Rifles) but now I’m back in town I think I might just go for a visit. Thanks for reminding me.

  • lostintranslation

    Ia Drang is, I believe, the name of the river that runs through the valley. Therefore, it was the battle of the Ia Drang river valley.
    Map showing LZ X-ray and LZ Albany adjacent to Ia Drang river from: Small Arms as a Last Resort.

  • SP mclaughlin

    Hey, it’s an actual AK-47!

    • A bearded being from beyond ti

      Im right here

    • Wilma Dikfit

      *AK. The “AK-47” was a trials prototype

    • Zebra Dun

      Yup, Held by a Genuine, honest to Gawd Victor Charlie shortly before his untimely demise!

  • Steven

    La Drang? Where did they come up with that name. My LRP unit hunted the valley for a couple of months at the end of 68. Not much had changed since 65.

    • Old Vet

      Sat next to a 1st Cav’er the other night in a restaurant in Florida. He was there in
      ’68 as well. Chatted briefly, but I forget his name. Glad you guys made it back.

  • TheNotoriousIUD
    • Bucho4Prez

      eyeball to eyeball

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        Face down in the muck.

        • Bucho4Prez

          they certainly weren’t trying to find reverse on a soviet tank

          • TheNotoriousIUD

            Unchecked aggression.

    • Dietrich

      “Walter you were never in Viet Nam”

  • BrandonAKsALot

    That’s not almost a type 2, it is a type 2. Also, type 2’s are pretty special considering there were a hell of a lot less of them made than the type 3. They were only produced for about 2-3 years.

    • John

      They were produced from 51-55. This one is indeed interesting as it has the early type 1 barrel assembly. I bet at one point this has had its recoil assembly, top cover, furniture and gas tube swapped out.

  • Captain Obvious

    My vote would be for the National Firearm Centre to find Col. Dillon then invite him over (at their expense). They could then show him the AK, have him record an interview about how he got it, take some photos and then display all of them in their museum. Better yet, give him his AK back. 🙂

    • Jonathan Ferguson

      I did invite him, but unfortunately he was not well enough to travel.

    • RICH

      Give him ‘his’ AK back and a couple cases of free ammo to go with it ! !

  • KestrelBike

    Those early rifles are gorgeous.

  • YZAS

    La drang… sheesh, millenials…

    • Ringolevio

      They don’t know anybody who served in Vietnam and they think they’re smarter than anybody (and they don’t believe in proofreading and copyediting)…

      • Man, I shouldn’t have even bothered serving. In addition to being in an infantry battalion that received its name from the high casualty rate it endured (1/9 “The Walking Dead”) during the Vietnam War.

        But I don’t know any Vietnam Vets and I’m a millennial. So what do I know?

        • Ringolevio

          You should be proud of your service, as I and many others are proud of you for serving. But as a writer you made a really dumb mistake; as I noted, I didn’t even go to Vietnam and I know it’s Ia Drang, so there’s really no excuse. So why don’t you own it instead of copping such a defensive attitude about it? (And that’s a rhetorical question, so there’s no need to respond.)

    • Zebra Dun

      LOL yes they are that lost, La Drango would be as likely.

  • KUETSA

    Saw this post the other day, and enough commenters mentioned it, so I
    didn’t, but it’s some real sorry **** that you didn’t change it to Ia,
    as in ia drang. I read a GREAT write-up about this battle in SOF
    magazine back in the 80’s – Bloody Ia Drang. (That’s a capital i in front of the a)

    • Sorry dude. Shoulda emailed me, I would have changed it right away. I assumed the “Ia” was an uncapitalized “La”. Honest mistake. You’ve never made one of those before?

      • KUETSA

        No offense intended – I just saw all the comments – and then days later it was not changed.

  • Trey

    One of my gun books I bought as a kid in the 1980’s had a picture of that rile in it. I always wondered who “Dillon” was. The book was an UK publication, so it makes sense where they got their pictures from. The question now is: How did that rifle from a battle in Vietnam with American forces end up on a British museum?

  • Ringolevio

    Hey, I wasn’t even in Vietnam and I know that it’s Ia Drang, not “La Drang”. If you can’t even get that right, it means your credibility is down the fuckin’ toilet.

    • What is this? Amateur Hour in Middle School? Do you really have to resort to cussing? If you don’t like my articles, you don’t have to read them. It’s a free world.

      • Ringolevio

        No, it’s not “Amateur Hour in Middle School”, although that does describe the nature of the mistake you made. And “cussing” bothers you? Sheesh! Were you really in the USMC? (Who, by the way, are largely to thank for it being “a free world”, or at least significant parts of it.)
        [See my other comment.]

        • Blake

          You’re kind of a douche aren’t you? If a capitalisation mistake makes you lose trust in a writer then you really need to rethink your journalistic standards.

          Also, you might want to get back to work on your 9th GED attempt as it’s going to take you a *lot* of work if you can’t comprehend the difference between something bothering someone and something that just has no place in a civilised comments section.

          • Ringolevio

            Thanks for your personality assessment; I’ll defer to your greater expertise in the area of douches.

            You seem to be right in touch with current “journalistic standards”, which, sadly, are all too tolerant of errors caused by ignorance, carelessness and laziness. As a writer, proofreader and editor I certainly do tend to lose trust in a writer who exhibits such flaws.

            By the way, on this side of the pond we spell it “capitalization” and “civilization”; are you a Brit, or do you just affect British spelling, or do you not even know the difference?

  • Charlie

    How about getting this rifle to the NRA’s National Firearms Museum. Maybe Col Dillon could visit it there. Nice piece of history.

  • Zebra Dun

    I recall ITR, ICT at CLNC Stone Bay the HQ had a Japanese anti tank gun in front of it shot to hell captured at Betio and on a wall in the Co’s Office was a Genuine AK-47 with Vietnamese script on it, captured at Khe Sanh by the Skipper when he was a Butter Bar Plt leader.
    While policing the area and cleaning the HQ us future Grunts would stare at it in slack jawed awe!
    GOLLY Sgt Carter!