Rummaging through my file folder entitled “It must be true because you just can’t make this stuff up” I found notes on a tale related by Glenn Dubis at Lones Wigger’s memorial service which was confirmed by two hoary old AMU alumni, Jim Meredith and Rick Hawkins. Confident that most of the principals are either dead, living in retirement in a nation with no extradition treaty, and/or that the statute of limitations expired with German reunification, I feel free to pass on the tale.
The story begins with two kindred spirits meeting in occupied Germany in the late1940s US Army lieutenant Frederick J. Kiefer, on occupation service in Germany, befriended Werner Seibel, a young man on the hustle to put Hasenpfeffer and Spätzle on his family’s table in desperate post war economic times.
Kiefer found himself trying out for the All Army Pistol Team at Fort Benning in February of 1950, beginning a long association with what would become the Army Marksmanship Unit. The unit was established in 1956, at the direction of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, to, ostensibly, win international competitions. At the time international shooting was dominated by the Soviet Union so it was likely more of a political decision rather than competitive one. Because to goal was to embarrass the Soviets the AMU had liberal funding. Kiefer eventually became the AMU’s “International Coordinator” at a time when the cash rich AMU was regularly traveling to Europe for training and competition.
The AMU teams traveled back and forth to Europe aboard Military Airlift Command (MAC) flights which landed at Rhein-Main Airbase. Kiefer’s buddy Seibel has a car rental business just a hop, skip, and a jump from Rhein-Main and it wasn’t long before he and Kiefer were scratching each other’s backs.
The AMU rented vehicles from Seibel and he, or one of his employees, would pick up the team at the airport and then go to the garage to complete the rental paperwork. The procedure was reversed upon departure, with the team staying at a small hotel that Seibold had arranged for near the garage. There is no doubt that the shady Seibold was “wetting his beak” with the friendly hotelier.
The teams, rifle, pistol, running game, and shotgun, operated on the philosophy that one never had too much ammunition unless one was on fire or had fallen into deep water. Therefore, they always brought an ample supply of training and competition ammunition which was never completely expended. Ammunition is heavy and there was always lots of paperwork to be completed when shipping it on MAC flights. Like all travelers the AMU teams wanted no delays in returning home and ammunition paperwork was an unwanted speed bump.
Additionally the teams always visited the Anschutz, Feinwerkbau, and RWS factories to test barreled actions and ammo. Quite often this resulted in finding an exceptional lot of ammunition which was then purchased.
Thoughts of how to avoid the reams of required paperwork paper work and lugging the ammunition back to Fort Benning began to percolate in the minds of the team leadership. At some point Wigger decided they would just leave their surplus ammunition in Germany. Some think that Wigger asked Dieter Anschütz if they could store it at his factory and was told no. Others surmise that Wigger just didn’t want to call in that kind of favor.
Leaving US Government ammunition with a German national was certainly not legal and Seibold, as well as the team, must have known this. Seibel, grifter that he was probably presumed it was a temporary arrangement worth the risk. The incentive of possibility offending the AMU and losing its car rental business, along the cash cow of hotel kickbacks, allowed him to turn a blind. Reluctantly he allowed himself to be strong armed into permitting them to use storage space in the back of one of his single car garages
Off the beaten path and full of junk, It was a perfect place, if not the last place, anyone might think of looking for choice lots of match ammunition. The ammunition, everything from .22 through .308, and 12 gauge, was carefully packed in cans and stacked in the very back of the garage, covered with a tarp and debris, and hidden behind a sheet of disreputable plywood. It goes without saying that this ammunition bunker was not authorized by anyone in authority.
German gun control at the time was the most stringent in Europe, a left over mix of the Nazi era 1938 German Weapons Act and Military Government decrees, with harsh penalties. Seibel knew this and grew fearful that someone might find out about the secret cache of ammunition, tip off the Kommunalpolizei. This would be followed by a quick appearance before a magistrate and a long term of breaking rocks at the local Justizvollzugsanstalt. so he began haranguing Wigger about clearing out the garage.
Wigger responded In the late 1980s when the team was in Suhl, East Germany and he was hospitalized for a severe nose bleed. The Old Lion summoned Dubis to his bedside and directed him to go to Seibel’s garage and conduct an inventory. Dubis’ elevated status on the team, justly earned by setting a few world records on his way to his first world championship, did not trump the fact he was the most junior person on the team.
Within a few years of Dubis’ inventory the last of the ammunition had been removed and shot up with no one having gone to jail. Soon after Seibel faded into the swirling mist of shooting mythology, having either sold his business or retired, possibly living high on the hog from the ill-gotten gains from the hotel kickbacks.
The only question remaining is, with the demise of Seibel’s auto rental business, who has assumed the mantle of European vehicle purveyor to the AMU?