I was going to make my previous posting the last one on this subject, but I just learned something that may, at least partially, explain the origins of the surprisingly widespread myth that Mattel made M16 rifles during the Vietnam War. Two different guys (who both state they are Vietnam veterans) said that it was not uncommon for soldiers to write home to their dad or younger brother to peel a sticker or remove a decal from a Mattel toy and mail it to them. They would then affix the sticker or decal to their M16 rifle which undoubtedly was good for a few laughs with some of the guys in their unit. It would also explain why some former vets are absolutely convinced they saw “Mattel M16” rifles in Vietnam. I don’t know how widespread this practical joke was at the time but, if you think about it, is actually pretty funny. This still doesn’t explain why there are claims made about seeing Mattel M16 rifles in the 1980s or later but may partially account for some of the Vietnam tales (which seem to be heard with much more frequency).
Perhaps there may be a similar explanation for the “Can Company M3” submachine gun but, if so, I haven’t heard it. I suppose it’s possible that a unit armorer with a good sense of humor and too much time on his hands utilized metal stamping dies to embellish the fictitious name on the side of a grease gun or two. It wouldn’t take much effort to stamp “American Can Co." or something of the sort on the rather soft sheet metal body of the M3. However, permanently defacing government property in this manner (as opposed to adding a sticker that could be easily peeled off) would have been frowned on by the armorer’s superiors so I doubt if this would have been the explanation. I still believe the “Can Co M3” was simply the result of a joke that morphed over the years into an indisputable “fact."
I’ll try not to add a “Part Quatre” to this topic unless some new information comes to light. Maybe somebody will claim they were issued a Hasbro M16 while in Vietnam. Actually, that would probably make sense as Hasbro wouldn’t want Mattel, their main competitor, to gain market share on the lucrative contracts for military weaponry. I wouldn’t put anything past those dastardly toy companies. Who knows, maybe we’ll hear someone claim that Fisher-Price made M79 grenade launchers. At this point, it really wouldn’t surprise me.