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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have heard that Cuba used to have and use FN FAL rifles. Does anyone know are there any differences between them and other FALs? What happened to them? Were they exported?
 

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Cuban FALs

These standard FALs (with woodwork etc very similar to British Commonwealth L1A1) were ordered by the Battista regime, and partly delivered by the 1959 New Years Day occupation of Havana and surrender of the Gov't to Castro's rebels.

The Rifles carried the National Crest of Cuba on the right side magazine-well wall.

After some use in Cuba (including the defence against the "Bay of Pigs" invasion,) the Cubans gradually accepted Soviet arms (and Czech) and changed to using Soviet Bloc ammo. With their ventures into South American and African "freedom movements" the FN-FAL rifles, because of their 7,62 Nato calibre, were ideal rifles for use in such countries, were ammo was plentiful (stolen from Government troops). In order to avoid identifiying the rifles as Cuban, the crest was "milled out" completely, leaving a half-dollar sized hole in the right mag-well wall, which did not affect function.

A few years ago, I watched a "propaganda" film, made in Africa (Zimbabwe or Zambia) about the Independence of the Belgian Congo, under the name of "Lmumba", about Patrice Lmumba, the Congo's first president, who was finally captured, tortured and executed by other rebels in the Congo civil war.(1960s)...The FN-FALs used in the film all had the typical "hole" left by milling out the Cuban crest...and it is well known that Che Guevara worked with the various Rebel groups close to Lmumba during the Liberation struggle and then after in other African colonies.

Some have trickled back via intel sources to collectors (in Canada), and feature in the Book "The Metric FAL".

Regards, Doc AV
AV Ballistics.
 

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Large numbers were provided to the rebels in El Salvador during their revolt. There was a really good article with detailed photos in an old issue of SOF.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
These standard FALs (with woodwork etc very similar to British Commonwealth L1A1) were ordered by the Battista regime, and partly delivered by the 1959 New Years Day occupation of Havana and surrender of the Gov't to Castro's rebels.
So the Cuban rifles were similar to the British version? How were they different to the standard Belgian? Also, how many were ordered, and did Castro order any more?

The Rifles carried the National Crest of Cuba on the right side magazine-well wall.
What did it look like? Was it a shield with the words Ejercito del Cuba?

After some use in Cuba (including the defence against the "Bay of Pigs" invasion,) the Cubans gradually accepted Soviet arms (and Czech) and changed to using Soviet Bloc ammo. With their ventures into South American and African "freedom movements" the FN-FAL rifles, because of their 7,62 Nato calibre, were ideal rifles for use in such countries, were ammo was plentiful (stolen from Government troops).
Could you give some examples, if you don't mind? Also, does Cuba still have any in their stocks, even if it's just reserve or mothball? PS, did Libya give any rifles or parts to Cuba?

In order to avoid identifiying the rifles as Cuban, the crest was "milled out" completely, leaving a half-dollar sized hole in the right mag-well wall, which did not affect function.

A few years ago, I watched a "propaganda" film, made in Africa (Zimbabwe or Zambia) about the Independence of the Belgian Congo, under the name of "Lmumba", about Patrice Lmumba, the Congo's first president, who was finally captured, tortured and executed by other rebels in the Congo civil war.(1960s)...The FN-FALs used in the film all had the typical "hole" left by milling out the Cuban crest...and it is well known that Che Guevara worked with the various Rebel groups close to Lmumba during the Liberation struggle and then after in other African colonies.
Could you tell me more about what Che was doing in Africa?

Some have trickled back via intel sources to collectors (in Canada), and feature in the Book "The Metric FAL".

Regards, Doc AV
AV Ballistics.

Could you tell me more about the book?
 

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I handled one of these that came out of Africa (some Government type got caught smuggling back a bunch of stuff in his personel property) This one was incomplete as I recall (no bolt group or top cover) but the Crest was intact and a crude Comunist hammer and sickle was painted on one side of the butt stock. It was well used (had the been their done that look most weapons which come out of Africa seem to have) but I remember thinking how cool the history behind it was. Mecanically despite the wear I have no doubt that had I found a bolt group this would have functioned just as well as it did when it was delivered in 1958.
 

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If I remember correctly, in the book "Deadly Business: Sam Cummings, Interarms, and the Arms Trade", 10,000 British Lend Lease Garands and a quantity of AR10 rifles were also on ships en route to Battista's armed forces in Cuba when Castro came into power.
 

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I had an old SOF magazine where there was an article that said many Cuban FALs were sent as aid to the Sandanistas but the crests were cut out.
Some made it out to the Sandinistas with the 'Republica De Cuba' shields. In the early 1980's, I briefly visited Costa Rica and saw two Fals that were traded to a Costa Rican farmer by Sandinistas for a couple of cows. They had wood furniture and had little if any finish, and both had the shields.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I handled one of these that came out of Africa (some Government type got caught smuggling back a bunch of stuff in his personel property) This one was incomplete as I recall (no bolt group or top cover) but the Crest was intact and a crude Comunist hammer and sickle was painted on one side of the butt stock. It was well used (had the been their done that look most weapons which come out of Africa seem to have) but I remember thinking how cool the history behind it was. Mecanically despite the wear I have no doubt that had I found a bolt group this would have functioned just as well as it did when it was delivered in 1958.
WHere in Africa did it come from?
 

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Many FALs were supplied to Cuba/Fidel in the late '50s by Venezuela who adopted the rifle in 1954. It has been documented that "Fidel's FAL" was actually the FAL of the Venezuelan cargo plane pilot who lent it to him on the condition that he return it as soon as he 'liberated' Havana. This was no a serious proposition by the pilot, a Captain in the Vzlan AF if I remember correctly, but Fidel took it seriously - he returned the rifle to the pilot as soon as the Castristas overran Havana.
 

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About 1960 or so the United States government made some quiet but official representations to the Belgian government (which partly owned FN) that it would be appreciated if the undelivered portion of the Cuban FAL order remained undelivered. And that's what happened.

M
 

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I have heard that Cuba used to have and use FN FAL rifles. Does anyone know are there any differences between them and other FALs? What happened to them? Were they exported?
Here's an article where the Venezuelan FAL used by Fidel is mentioned, detailing names more than events:

http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/cubanews/2007w05/msg00088.htm

"The aircraft, a C-46 piloted by José R. Segredo, transported
significant military aid in the form of weapons and supplies for the
Rebel Army, sent by Rear Admira¡ Wolfgang Larrazábal.

In his turn, Flight Lieutenant Carlos Alberto Tayhardt, chief of La
Guaria naval station, sent Fidel a FAL rifle as a present in
acknowledgement of his integrity and valor."

Here's direct metion of Fidel's use of this particular FAL (http://www.quintodia.com/archivos/418/edicion/index.php?dir=secciones&pag=internacional_2):

"Wolfgang Larrazábal envía un FAL a Fidel Cuando el comandante Castro se encontraba en plena lucha contra el gobierno de Batista en la Sierra Maestra, a fines de los 50, el entonces líder del gobierno de transición en Venezuela, el contralmirante Wolfgang Larrazábal ,le envío a Fidel un FAL del Ejército venezolano, el inicio de una colaboración que incluyó no sólo una línea de comunicación sino de abastecimiento entre Caracas y los revolucionarios de la Sierra Maestra.

Fidel sólo usaría dos veces el arma: la primera haciendo un disparo de prueba, y la segunda para fusilar a uno de sus compañeros el mismo día en que Batista salía huyendo de Cuba.

“El FAL de Wolfgang Larrazábal fue el primer fusil de su tipo que entró en combate en territorio cubano. Bueno, no exactamente en combate porque disparé con él una sóla vez como prueba pocos días antes del triunfo de la Revolución y la segunda vez que fui a utilizarlo, tampoco se trató de un combate, sino de un compañero que iba a fusilar el día del triunfo y que mandé a amarrar en un árbol del batey del central América, cuando Manolito Penabaz trajo la noticia de que Batista habia huido. ES decir, la mayor honra que se le puede otorgar es la de primer FAL en campaña. Quizá el primero en campaña en toda América.

O hasta en el mundo”.

I don't have time to translate it all now, but it basically tells of how Fidel claims his use of the FAL "in combat" was the first time the weapon was used in such a manner in this hemisphere and possibly the world (he executed a fellow revolutionary with it).

Here's an article where Raul Castro talks of the 200 Garands sent by Venezuela to Fidel early on http://www.granma.cu/espanol/2007/diciembre/mar25/Intervencion-Raul-Castro.html

I don't know if this is of any interest here, but I do find it so.

Eli
 

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Castro also bought several tens of thousands of FN FAL rifles with 20 rd. magazines and corresponding 7.62 ammo directly from Belgium. Here it is, straight from the horse's mouth:

http://www.cubadebate.cu/reflexiones-fidel/2011/04/15/la-batalla-de-giron-primera-parte/

The first delivery went without incidents. The second ship, the French vessel Le Coubre, arrived in the spring of 1961 rigged to explode. According to Castro, it was sabotaged in Europe, before it sailed for Habana. As they were unloading it, it exploded in Habana Bay. When people came to help, a second explosion went off doing even more damage. I was six years old and I remember it well, because we lived in a first floor apartment near the bay and all our glass windows shattered. My mother grabbed me and took me to the room furthest from the balcony. Then we started worrying about my Dad, who worked in an ice cream delivery truck and could have been close to the explosion (we didn't know exactly where it was at the time). As it happened, he was not nearby and came home safe and sound.

Back to the FAL's--I don't want to bore you. They were used extensively at the Escambray mountains hunting down anti-Castro guerillas, but no more were brought in. Castro decided that the only safe suppliers of weapons were the Soviets and the countries behind the Iron Curtain. The rest is history. Here is a photo of Cuban soldiers with their FAL's. What kind of bayonets are those?

 

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I collected 1959 dated 7.62x51mm cartridge cases as surface finds in Cuba. These would have been for the Cuban FN FALS. These were wood stock furniture Belgian FALS that had the Cuban national Escudo de Armas with the royal palm tree, the five bands of the national flag, the key, etc. etc:



These rifles were the mainstay of the FAR during the consolidation of the Cuban revolutionary regime. There are photographs of Fidel Castro himself carrying one up the Pico Tarquino. The militia used Czech VZ52s and PPSh41 smgs and VZ23 and 25 samopal 9mm smgs and VZ52 LMGs.

These Cuban FALs were ordered by Batista after the 1958 arms embargo by the U.S just like the British arms, including the Hawker Sea Furies that sere used by the Cuban airforce at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961. Some were delivered before the downfall of Batista. Others were delivered after the M-26-7 took over. Still others may have been ordered by the Cuban revolutionary state and delivered.

These Cuban FALs were used until Soviet arms and doctrine were adopted in the late 1960s. Obsolescent, the rifles turned up in Latin America, often crudely sanitized by having a hole drilled over the Cuban national coat of arms. These were reported to have surfaced in Nicaragua during the FSLN overthrow of Somoza and his Guardia Nacional. There are photographs of them in Salvadoran FMLN guerrilla hands and other reports about them surfacing there.

gunbarrel: Thanks for the photo. There are others. At the Cuban state's museum at Playa Giron/the Bay of Pigs there are exhibits including Cuban FALs used in the battle and the repression of the counterrevolutionaries in the so-called "lucha contra bandidos" or the so-called "Limpieza del Escambray" which ended by 1965.
 

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@KVL: as far as what Che was doing in the Congo, he was attempting to aid pro-Lumumba factions after his murder by Moise Tshombe and the intervention by Belgium and other western powers provoked Lumumba to turn to the USSR, which led to his precipitous demise. The forces being trained by the Cubans were the "Simbas" based in the east near the border with Tanzania. The best single book, product of six years of research, is Piero Gleijeses, Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976 ​(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002): ISBN 978-0-8078-5464-8.
 

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[email protected]: I have a copy of the 1981 Milicias de Tropas Territoriales "basic manual" from the Cuban MININT. A line drawing of a FAL with camo wrapped around it appears on p.115 [I wish I had a scanner!] In the tenth chapter about infantry weapons, however, the FAL rifle does not appear at all, unlike other weapons that were used in the early 1960s during the consolidation of the revolutionary regime:
1. AK47
2. AKM
3. VZ52
4. 7.92mm Mauser
5. 7.62mm PPSh41
6. 9mm VZ23 and 25
7. 7.62x39mm RPK
8. 7.62x39mm RPD
9. 7.62x54mmR DP
10. Model 52 Czech LMG
11. 7.62x54mmR RP-46
12. 7.92mm Czech Model 37 HMG
13. RPG=2 rocket launcher
14. RGD5 hand grenades
15. F1 Soviet hand grenades
16. RG4 grenades
17 RKG-3 antitank grenades.

That the FAL does not appear might indicate that it was held for distribution to allied armed movements in Latin America and Africa.
 

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gunbarrel: Those look almost identical the FALS sold to Peru at about the same time, no?

KVL: African movements and nations that the Cubans had military ties with included the PAIGC in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde, the government of Congo-Brazzaville, the so-called "Simba" pro-Lumumba forces in Congo-Leopoldville/Zaïre, and the MPLA in Angola as well as the ANC Umkhonto we Sizwe. In west central Africa the Angolan MPLA/FAPLA, the Cubans, SWAPO and ANC were essentially allies against the SADF and Jonas Savimbi's UNITA.

In August 1986, in one of the largest arms seizures in Latin America, the Chilean armed forces under the then Augusto Pinochet regime captured the Frente Patriotico Manuel Rodríguez/ Partido Comunista de Chile's weapons cache at Carrizal. 70 tons of weapons and munitions worth about $30 million from the USSR, Sandinista Nicaragua, and Cuba. Details are sketchy, but something like 3,400 M16s, 117 RPGs, 179 rockets, 3.5 million small arms cartridges, machine guns, FN-FAL rifles, submachine guns, and even some vehicles were taken along with safe houses and something like 36 members of the FPMR. The following monty the FPMR attempted to assassinate Pinochet, ambushing his motorcade. The Chilean military responded by virtually eliminating the FPMR.
 
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