The Keefe Report: Maj. John L. Plaster, U.S. Army (Ret.)

posted on June 18, 2019

It’s not every day that one gets to ambush one of America’s top secret commandos. But that is just what we did. Not long ago, Maj. John L. Plaster, U.S. Army (Ret.), who ran 22 secret missions behind enemy lines in Laos and Cambodia with the Studies and Observations Group (SOG), wrote about his “best friend” in Vietnam in “Behind Enemy Lines With The CAR-15” . “Some men’s best friends might be named Bill or Mike or Dave. But the best friend I ever had bore the unusual moniker, 905442. That was the serial number of my Colt Automatic Rifle-15, and ‘he’ saved my life many times.” 

You might recall the nearly full-page photo of Maj. Plaster holding his “friend,” a Colt XM177E2 carbine, after returning from a mission. In it, the electrical tape covering the CAR-15’s muzzle had been partially shot off, a sure sign of a recent firefight.

Mention of Serial No. 905442 in these pages set off a chain of events. It involved a conspiracy, started by Curtis Debord and Curt Wolf. They are the owners, respectively, of U.S. Ordnance and U.S. Armament. Then they pulled in Justin Baldini from Colt.

A few years ago, Debord picked a windmill at which to tilt. And that windmill was to perfectly re-create Colts from the Vietnam era with the AR-15 Military Classics series. It began with a perfect replica of the U.S. M16A1, obviously with semi-automatic-only fire-control components, and the XM177E2. Debord is a meticulous man. And when he set out to re-create these guns from the Vietnam era, he wanted them to be exactly the same as the original in every way possible. He did not default to commonly available components; he spent literally hundreds of thousands of dollars tooling up to make parts that Colt and its vendors had not made since the 1960s. He may have spent more of his own money on getting these parts exactly right than Colt did tooling up to make them in the first place. But that’s just the kind of guy that Debord is. You make it right, or you don’t make it at all.

The ambush of Maj. Plaster began with another Vietnam veteran who carried an XM177E2, Bob Sanders, who brought the article to the attention of Debord and Wolf. That’s when they decided they should make Serial No. 905442, and present it to Maj. Plaster. When Wolf called Baldini, it turned out that 905442 had already been produced—and shipped to a distributor. A series of frantic phone calls resulted in the gun being returned to Colt. And that’s where I came in. Wolf and Baldini asked if there was an appropriate venue where this rifle could be presented to Maj. Plaster in appreciation for his service to our nation during Vietnam, as well as his service to snipers.

I informed them that I knew exactly where Maj. Plaster would be at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 26, 2019. He would be presenting “Behind Enemy Lines: The Men & Guns Of SOG” at the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits in Indianapolis, a special presentation for NRA members. At this point I needed another co-conspirator. And her name was Gayle Plaster, John’s lovely wife.

As I introduced Maj. Plaster, I then gave up the podium to let Baldini speak for a few minutes about the Colt Military Classics series, and then very specifically about Serial No. 905442. And that’s when Debord and Wolf uncased the carbine and presented it to Maj. Plaster. This great American, a man who served his country so well as a Special Forces soldier and then as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve, was visibly touched. As Maj. Plaster approached the gun, he looked down at the serial number and said, “That’s my rifle!” Indeed it is, John.

Additional Reading:
Behind Enemy Lines With the CAR-15 Rifle  
Behind Enemy Lines: Weapons of Vietnam's Covert Warriors   


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