1959 0401 – Hqs Co, 51st Inf Div reorganized as 51st Aviation but still remained a part of the 51st Inf Div. with the aviation support mission. CPT Billy Dent was the commander at that time and remained so until 1963.
Two newspaper articles were published about a machine gun cache found at Ft Motte Strip.
“Knowledge of Guns Denied”
MATTHEWS, S.C — Three men charged with possessing crates holding 107 machine guns emphatically denied here Wednesday any knowledge of the contents of the boxes.
Officers reported that William H. Brunson Jr. 34, and Charlie Leavell, about 35, said the crates were left with them by a customer for machine gun parts at their scrap metal business.
Frank Warren, 43, a carpenter of St. Matthews and Silver Springs, Md. Said the Sumter men, friends of his, got his permission to store crated goods on his leased trailer home property six miles north of St. Matthews, adjoining a small airstrip.
All three men posted bond of $3,000 each and were released by Sheriff M.H. Rowell of Calhoun County. The next term of State Circuit Court at St. Matthews opens Sept. 25.
Harry Walker, legal aide to Gov. Hollings, said the Sumter men told of “foreign talking” men stopping by to purchase machine gun parts due in as part of an army surplus purchase order. The men then got permission to store some unmarked crates pending arrival of the parts.
These were the crates, Walker said the men explained, that they moved to Warren’s property about a year and a half ago when the customers failed to return.
Three of the machine guns were complete and operable, officers said. The others lacked barrels. Some additional ones had been stripped of parts and chopped into three parts as is the procedure before sale by the Government. About 800 rounds of ammunition also were found in the crates.
Rowell said Federal agents are trying to trace the guns from when Government last had them in possession, and who got them from the Government.
A crop duster using the airstrip, and looking for some spare parts—Warren had a small spare parts business at his trailer home – stumbled on contents of the crates last week and notified officers, Rowell said.
M.M. Weinberg Jr. of Sumter, attorney for Leavell and Brunson, said the men had no news statement to make in the case.
W.P. Dent, oil distributor here and a Major in the Army National Guard, said the airstrip is used by his 51st Infantry Division Liaison Air Company once a month for drill
Dent, who posted bond for Warren, said “many’s the time I have sat on those crates, not knowing what was in them.”
The crates were near the edge of the strip, covered with plastic and a tarpaulin.
Warren, Dent said, came here about three years ago and tried to make a go of the air parts business. He had worked as a civilian employee at Shaw Air Force Base near Sumter.
“He looked after the airstrip; would bring our men into town; would let us use his telephone; and did us hundreds of favors.”
Second article published by The State paper:
‘COULDN’T SEE FORREST’
Guard Unit Met Atop Arms Cache – By William E. Mahoney Staff Writer for The State
They couldn’t see the forest for the machine guns.
That apparently was the case of the South Carolina National Guard which held one-a-month briefings smack on top of the cache of 107 machine guns.
The guns were discovered at an airstrip near St, Matthews. Two men are being interrogated as to how they got there.
Maj. William Dent, in charge of the aviation company, said yesterday: “We held meetings right on top of then, I sat on top of them myself.”
Meanwhile, a woman who may be an eyewitness to planting of the guns there told The State yesterday she saw “several men putting down boxes there about a year and a half ago. ‘
Mrs. Frank Coker, wife of a fire warden, had to pass the site to reach the 85 foot tower near the airstrip where fire spotting was conducted.
She said she couldn’t be sure the crates were the same as contained th recently discovered machine guns, but “they look just like them.”
She said she was on her way to the tower “about a year and a half ago” when she noticed a truck, several cars and several men. They were piling up craters, she said.
“I thought nothing of it at the time.” She said. “I thought they were just surplus parts.”
Frank Warren, 48, one of the men being questioned, operated an airplane parts business at the airstrip.
1963 – 51st Aviation was reorganized as 51st Aviation Company and no longer aligned with the 51st Infantry Division. (The 51st Infantry Division was deactivated as a result of the 1963 major reorganization within the National Guard.) Click Here