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July 28, 2020

Tinker, Arms Dealer, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Mitchell L. WerBell III

By Mike Burns

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His shadow has loomed over nearly every major global conflict over the past 75 years. He has been paid millions of dollars by Coca-Cola and Hustler Magazine, overthrown multiple communist regimes, and was there the day of the Kennedy assassination. Along with all of this, his suppressor designs revolutionized warfare and changed the world. The story of Mitchell L. WerBell III is one of brilliance, courage, and espionage. Prominent around the military intelligence community, WerBell makes Jack Bauer look like a toddler with a water gun. His service during World War II would help inspire the creation of the C.I.A., his contributions to the advancement of suppressor technology would change the modern concept of combat, and his experiences as a mercenary have enough weight to make skin crawl. An icon of his time and a true American legend, Mitchell WerBell’s life, inventions, and legacy continue to inspire and astonish to this day.

Learn more about the firearms of Mitchell L. WerBell III in this episode of Guncovered.

Early Life, World War II, and the O.S.S.

Mitchell Livingston Werbell III was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1918. The son of a Czarist cavalry officer in the Imperial Army of Russia, WerBell was exposed to the military at an early age and quickly grew an interest in it. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1942, WerBell enlisted in the army as a private and joined the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.), the predecessor agency to the C.I.A. This wartime agency was dedicated strictly to undercover, covert, and secret operations conducted behind enemy lines during World War II. In his duties, he acted as a guerrilla operative carrying out undercover missions in places like China, Burma, and French Indochina. According to the Wall Street Journal, WerBell and his fellow operatives were paid in five-pound sacks of opium following their involvements during classified expeditions in China. Author Henrik Krüger notes in his book, "The Great Heroin Coup," that such trades were common during times of war among O.S.S. members and Chinese leaders. This payment option would hold value regardless of governmental or currency changes.

"Amid the chaos of war, opium and gold became the primary media of exchange, and cult-like bonds were forged among a small staff of Americans and high-ranking Chinese. Yunnan was a center of Chinese opium cultivation and Kunming was the hotbed of military operations, among them Claire Chennault's 14th Air Force and Detachment 202 of the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.)."

-Henrik Krüger

American Military recruitment poster referencing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

During this time of clandestine operations and secret assignments, WerBell was introduced to the suppressed and unconventional weapons that would later make him infamous in the intelligence community. Experience throughout the war would grant him complete knowledge on the weaponry used in special operations and the key elements to staying hidden behind enemy lines. Author Gaeton Fonzi notes that WerBell’s prolonged service and success during these missions would induct him into the “superspy fraternity” that included other prominent military leaders of the time such as Everette Howard Hunt Jr.,one of the men responsible for plotting the Nixon Watergate scandal. Along with this new network of contacts, resources, and partners, WerBell also gained the attention of other entities in the United States military that would not soon forget the bravery and advanced technical knowledge he displayed throughout his service.

Artist Stuart Brown's depiction of an O.S.S. guerrilla operation in Burma.

WerBell continued to serve in the U.S. Army even after the O.S.S. was disbanded in 1945, however, he would not stay for long. Compared to the excitement of guerrilla warfare and secret missions, the systematic and routine nature of commanding an infantry company was extraordinarily mundane for a soldier of his experience and skill set. He shortly resigned from service and returned home to start his own business.

Birth of SIONICS

Mac-10 sub machine gun fitted with a WerBell designed suppressor.

With the passion for weapons development still not entirely quenched, WerBell returned back into the world of firearms to help design suppressors for machine guns for use after World War II. Using his experience and knowledge gained from his time in the O.S.S., WerBell started his own development company called SIONICS sometime during the 1960’s. Short for Studies in Operational Negation of Insurgency and Counter-Subversion, SIONICS was initially tasked with producing a low cost, effective suppressor for the M14 and M16 rifle. Along with pioneering entirely new suppressors specifically for machine guns, WerBell also crafted methods and modifications to configure existing silencers to fit a wide number of different firearms such as bolt actions, High Standard pistols, and Smith & Wesson M76 submachine guns. WerBell is personally credited with over 25 different suppressor designs that he produced during his experimentation at SIONICS. Later, WerBell and SIONICS would partner with Gordon B. Ingram, the inventor of the MAC-10 submachine gun, to collaborate on designing and manufacturing weapons that incorporated both aspects of their inventions for the United States Army. Ingram’s SMG was paired with WerBell’s suppressor and marketed as “the Whispering Death.” Supplied to an undisclosed number of soldiers in Vietnam during the war for “combat evaluation,” these firearms were never officially adopted into the military.

The Cobray Company logo.

WerBell remained tethered to SIONICS for the rest of his life. Although it would eventually be incorporated into the Military Armament Corporation (later renamed the Cobray Company), WerBell continued leading and developing numerous counterterrorism training programs meant for high-risk executives, C.I.A. operatives, and private individuals throughout the 70’s and early 80’s. Many of the tactics and teachings used by WerBell at the Cobray School are still extensively used for military training and personal protection education today. The Cobray Company changed its name to Leinad following legal troubles in the 1990’s and closed several years ago; however, the “Cobray” trademark is registered to a privately owned company in the U.S. that sells Cobray replacement parts and accessories.

Soldier of Fortune Magazine discussing Mitch WerBell and the Cobray School.

At one point during his time working as an instructor for the Cobray School, WerBell ventured to Argentina to meet with officials from the Coca-Cola Company. Threatened by Argentinian communist groups ravaging the country at the time, Coca-Cola sought WerBell to assist in training, arming, and protecting high-level executives in the country from kidnappings or other risks using skills taught at the Cobray School. WerBell claimed in a 20/20 interview in 1979 that he was paid upwards of $1,000,000 to “take care of kidnapping threats made against Argentinian executives.” While Coca-Cola rejects this, WerBell’s experiences and proximity to the events of the time cast serious suspicion on these denials. In response to Coca-Cola’s repudiation, WerBell simply noted, “Coca-Cola hasn’t had anybody kidnapped lately.”

"Wizard and the Hustler," a short film about Mitch WerBell and his various exploits.

WerBell’s Suppressor Design

What made WerBell’s design so different from existing suppressors was the ability to alter the report of the firearm to such a degree that it would be rendered unrecognizable to forces familiar with standard M16/AR15 family of rifles.

One of many suppressor designs patented by WerBell during his time at SIONICS.

Enclosed in a tubular frame, a series of chambers along the inside of the suppressor would act as a method to evenly distribute gasses released upon firing. This housing would vary in thickness to help dampen sounds even further. Within the suppression chamber, sets of helical metal baffles redirect the sounds, forces, and energy emitted from the firing rifle, allowing sound vibrations to be absorbed or channeled in a different direction, drastically reducing the output of the action. The use of metal baffles was distinctive from the nonmetal materials and wipes commonly used in similar devices at the time. This choice of innovative and nontraditional materials employed in the designs, such as titanium, are still used in standard suppressors. Some WerBell designed suppressors also featured systems of valves (WerBell Relief Valves) meant to trap, release, and evenly disperse gasses that essentially mirrors the functionality found in car exhaust mufflers. WerBell’s suppressors were light, easy to configure, and cheap to produce, making them of serious interest and value to the United States Military.

Lot 424: Colt AR-15 Model 639 Carbine, Class III/NFA Fully Transferrable

Featured above is an example of a Colt M16 rifle fitted with a WerBell designed suppressor meant to conceal sounds, flashes, or other notable evidence of firing. Despite not being a true silencer, it was effective enough to surprise and confuse enemy forces. The "COLT/AR-15" logo is present on the left side of the magazine well over "MOD.639/CAL. 5.56MM./4790061," and the Colt Firearms Division address is stamped near the right handed "SAFE/SEMI/AUTO" selector switch. It is fitted with a checkered pistol grip and a two-position telescoping buttstock and includes a plastic hard case. This beautiful rifle carries some serious historical weight with it and is available during Rock Island Auction Company’s September Premier Firearms Auction.

The Secret Soldier

While his official career and achievements are outstanding in their own right, what truly made Mitchell WerBell a virtual superhero was his seemingly persistent involvement in major global conflicts throughout the latter half of the 20th century. WerBell was present the day of the Kennedy Assassination at the Dealey Plaza in Dallas, was involved in multiple coups around the world, and was even given the billet of Major General in the U.S. Army to allow for free travel in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.

"There's a helluva lot I ain't said yet, and there's a helluva lot I ain't gonna say yet... I've been in so many places, so many countries, so many revolutions, it's beginning to get all mixed up in my mind…"

-Mitchell L. WerBell III

U.S. President Ronald Reagan speaking in front of the Berliner Mauer in 1987.

A staunch opponent to communism, WerBell’s activities overseas directly affected the greater global conflict raging at the time. In spite of the fact that the Nazis had been defeated, a new threat emerged from the ashes of the war: communism. Almost like picking teams on the playground, the world was starkly divided between the capitalist first world nations such as the United States against the communist second world nations such as the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc States; both sides trapped in a race to convert the world to their side. As political tensions and unrest rose in places like Vietnam, Korea, and Cuba, the opportunity to influence the ideologies and functions of the government in these countries became stringently apparent. With a chance to gain new allies, influence the politics of various regions, and potentially secure valuable resources, a decade long “cold” conflict of espionage, sabotage, and covert operations began. While the Cold War would introduce the world to a new age of technology, exploration, and discovery, it would also offer humanity a grim look into a frightening new reality of warfare the likes of which had never been imagined before. Nuclear weapons with the potential to cause irreversible global damage, advancements in science allowing for new types of chemical and biological fighting, and extensive surveillance methods (often from outer space) revolutionized war to a point where it almost became unrecognizable. Gone were the days of trench fighting and cavalry charges; however, an entirely new age of clandestine missions, government overthrows, and double agents would converge upon a new world granted clarity after awakening from the horrendous events of the Second World War. Mitch WerBell would be there to greet this new world and introduce it to his advanced technical and tactical knowledge.

Spies of the Caribbean, Coups, and Cults

At the beginning of the Cold War, sometime during the 1950’s, WerBell served as the security advisor to Dominican dictator Rafeal Trujillo. There, he helped plan a secret invasion of Haiti by exiled Haitians to replace the sitting leader, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, with a U.S. backed alternative in a mission called Project Nassau. The operation was financially subsidized by the United States Government (according to official documentation from the Federal Communications Commission and the House Commerce Committee) and was even going to be filmed by a CBS news team. The plan, internally called Project Istanbul, was to seed political unrest in the area to allow for an invasion of the island, effectively overthrowing the seated regime and installing a new form of leadership. The resulting revolution would be filmed and distributed by CBS to reach American audiences back in the States with a production crew comprised of various government operatives. The operation came to an abrupt halt after U.S. federal agents apprehended and arrested the “invaders” shortly after they departed for the island but before the plans could be enacted, WerBell being among them. Congressional hearings on the matter would ultimately dismiss WerBell without any charges.

Map of Central America that indicates the locations of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Columbia.

WerBell, almost a decade later, would find himself on the other side of the island with a similar mission in the Dominican Republic. Although his exact role in the Dominican Civil War of 1965 is unknown, it is a verifiable fact that WerBell served as the paramilitary advisor to the Republic Government shortly before the conflict erupted earlier that year. American troops were sent into the area to quell the tides and WerBell would be widely regarded as the mastermind behind the Dominican Invasion of 1965. United States forces would eventually leave the area but only after the country established itself as a republic by the newly elected president, Joaquin Balaguer.  American presidents would praise Balaguer in the coming years signaling a national seal of approval in leadership. One has to wonder what exactly WerBell did when he was over there. What did he see? Who did he meet? These answers have been lost to time, but the impacts of the event extend well into the modern day.

In the 1970’s, WerBell was involved in multiple coup d’états throughout the Caribbean and South America in attempts to subdue communist regimes. He was approached by members of the Abaco Independence Movement (AIM) who feared a rise in totalitarian leadership in the Bahamas, and requested aid in planning a counter offensive to combat a potential oppressive government. The original plan was for WerBell to lead a group of armed mercenaries into the Abaco Islands to declare unilateral independence and to inspire others to join the insurrection. The movement was funded by a larger liberation foundation meant to build free nations and micro nations throughout the Caribbean, but AIM dissolved due to internal leadership conflicts before the plans could be executed. Although AIM denied any involvement with him at the time, records show meetings between the agency and WerBell at his Georgia estate.

“Maximum Leader of the Panamanian Revolution,” Omar Torrijos and U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

In Panama, WerBell was asked to aid in the coup d’état against the “Maximum Leader of the Panamanian Revolution,” Omar Torrijos. Torrijos was most widely known for his role in the Torrijos-Carter Treaties that gave the country complete jurisdiction over the Panama Canal. While Torrijos enacted numerous social programs, made continued efforts to negotiate with U.S. leaders, and was regarded as the first Panamanian leader to represent the majority population of Panama, his regime approved a new constitution that essentially granted Torrijos unchecked and near absolute power. With complete control over the Panama Canal (one of the heaviest trafficked routes in the world), the country now held enormous leverage in trading and negotiating with the rest of the world. With rumors of large scale trade deals between Panama and other prominent nations circulating without U.S. consideration or inclusion, Americans became upset with the prospect of losing out on large swaths of potential revenue. Thus, Torrijos became of keen interest to U.S. agencies such as the C.I.A. Even though the coup was never executed and Torrijos died five years later in a plane crash, the C.I.A. has consistently denied ever being connected to the events, despite government records showing WerBell’s request for involvement.

In 1976, WerBell and a group of accomplices (including those he had previous connections with during his time at the O.S.S.) were apprehended by authorities for attempting to smuggle large amounts of marijuana from Columbia for unknown reasons. During his trial, lawyers argued that WerBell was acting under orders from the Drug Enforcement Agency (D.E.A.) saying that his history with weapons and revolutions does not implicate or indicate any involvement with drug activities. After the prosecution’s star witness mysteriously died in a plane crash (the plane stalled and crashed in an airshow over the Mohave Desert shortly before the trial was set to begin), and a strong case was made by the defense, WerBell and the others involved were cleared and the cases were dropped.

An F.B.I. document discussing LaRouche's involvement in the National Caucus of Labor Committees as well as the possibility or need for an investigation. 

For a considerable period of time, WerBell consulted and trained security services for Lyndon LaRouche. LaRouche was an American political activist, cult leader, and convicted con artist who unsuccessfully ran for President of the United States in every election from 1976 to 2004, founded the National Caucus of Labor Committees, and served five years in federal prison for mail fraud. Because of these controversial aspects of his life, LaRouche was the subject of interest to many and WerBell provided security from potential harm. Not much is totally known regarding WerBell’s involvement with LaRouche; but, then again, not much is totally known about LaRouche as well. LaRouche continued to be an extremely polarizing figure in American society up until his death in 2019.

The Kennedy Assassination

On the stranger side of events, Mitchell WerBell was reportedly present at the Dealey Plaza on Friday, November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. While not much is known or has been confirmed surrounding his alleged participation that day, WerBell has nonetheless become a subject of intense conjecture. Roy Hargraves, a former C.I.A. operative, told researchers in a 2001 interview that not only was he himself involved in a secret plot to assassinate Kennedy, but that WerBell had supplied him and his team with silencers used to carry out the assault. Hargraves and a small team of four others were ordered to Dallas with clearance from the C.I.A. headquarters in Miami by high-ranking officials. These allegations are supported by accusations that David Sanchez Morales, the chief of operations of C.I.A. headquarters at the time, bragged about the assassination to a group of friends saying, “Well, we took care of that son of a bitch, didn’t we?” Led by an anti-Castro activist named Felipe Vidal Santiago, the group reputedly carried out the conspiracy using suppressed weapons (acquired from WerBell) while making sure to fire one, unsuppressed shot from the Texas School Book Depository Building to falsely implicate Lee Harvey Oswald as the sole shooter. Hoping to portray Oswald as part of a larger plot orchestrated by Castro, the assassination would be used to spark support for an invasion of Cuba in retaliation.

"Was WerBell the source of the silencers? Of course! He’s the only clean source. Every other source for silencers would have strings attached to it. If you tried to get it from one of the intelligence agencies, they’d want to know the whole thing. . . . If (WerBell) got nailed he wouldn't give you up. And he knew if you got busted with his stuff, you wouldn’t give him up. There were so many of the sound suppressors in circulation that he had deniability at his end. There’s no way to prove that you acquired them through him."

-Roy Hargraves

Famous photograph of the JFK assassination with a red arrow pointing to the infamous "umbrella man."

Some have speculated that WerBell might have had some involvement with Jack Ruby, Oswald’s own assassin. Others question WerBell’s relationship with Gordon Novel, a known C.I.A. operative and surveillance technologies manufacturer, who lived with WerBell at the time. Novel is suspected by many researchers to be the true “Umbrella Man” of Dealey Plaza. WerBell is also rumored to have ties with Chauncy Holt (suspected as one of the three “Tramps” photographed at Dealey Plaza), John Nardi (a Teamster Union official and organized crime leader), along with Gerry Patrick Hemming and Bernardo de Torres who claimed to have been made offers in the past to participate in similar plots. Hemming is directly quoted by researchers investigating the event as saying that WerBell was integral to the entire event.

“If you want to get to the bottom of the JFK assassination, look at WerBell.”

-Gerry Patrick Hemming, fellow covert operative

Hustler Magazine

Perhaps the most bizarre story to emerge from the legacy of Mitchell WerBell would be his involvement with Hustler Magazine, its publisher Larry Flynt, and an offer to kill four men including Hugh Hefner and Frank Sinatra in 1983. There’s no need to reread that last sentence again. Yes, Mitchell L. WerBell III was offered a $1,000,000 check by the publisher of Hustler Magazine, Larry Flynt, to assassinate some occupational rivals such as Playboy founder, Hugh Hefner, and Penthouse photographer, Bob Guccione.

“Larry Flynt one evening called an individual by the name of WerBell to his home and allegedly offered him $1 million if he would arrange for the death of these four individuals.”

-Los Angeles County Sheriff, Sherman Block

While the official motives behind the request remain unclear, it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to connect the dots as to how Flynt might benefit from the elimination of his industry rivals. What remains so incredibly strange about this case are the other figures involved such as legendary singer Frank Sinatra and Triangle Publications owner Walter Annenberg. Apparently, Flynt was not very discrete about plotting his schemes either, as Guccione stated that one of Flynt’s own bodyguards had informed him of the plot a year prior. Hefner, seemingly unshaken by appearing on a hit list, brushed the events off as a consequence of being rich and famous. Sinatra gave no comment.

Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler Magazine.

WerBell had been introduced to Flynt three years prior in 1980 when he began working security for Hustler Magazine. While their exact relationship isn’t entirely known, the two were comfortable enough around each other to, apparently, plan assassinations together. The original plan was for WerBell to assassinate the four men with payment from Flynt before completion. What happened next is still debated and not completely understood. The assassination attempts would never be carried out as WerBell would die from heart failure a month after receiving the assignment, however speculation around his death would just begin. Evidently, Flynt’s brother-in-law, William Rider, was an aspiring bodyguard and private security agent with an interest in WerBell’s highly acclaimed counterterrorism school, the Cobray School. According to the owner of a Beverly Hills security firm, Flynt and Rider both pour nearly six ounces of a powerful heart relaxant into WerBell’s drink during a cocktail party at Flynt’s L.A. mansion. Their supposed plan was to contact WerBell under the guise that they would hire him to assassinate various industry rivals and then kill him , effectively taking over the Cobray School. WerBell died only a few days after the party at Flynt’s house, a month after receiving the compensation for the plot. When asked to comment on the death of WerBell and allegations, Flynt was “unavailable for comment.” Flynt and his accomplice never gained control of the school and were never formally charged with any crimes.

Promotional poster for the 1984 movie, The Cotton Club.

What is even more interesting is the revelation of these details resurfacing almost five years after WerBell’s death. The allegations and involvement of Larry Flynt would only be brought back into question during the 1989 Cotton Club murder case of Roy Radin. Radin was an American movie financier during the 1980’s and is best known for his involvement in the production of the film "The Cotton Club," that starred Richard Gere and Diane Lane. Radin was the victim of a murder for hire and disappeared while traveling to a conference in Beverly Hills in 1983. The resulting trail featured a slew of high-profile figures, each with a different theory and attempted explanation of Radin’s disappearance including various descriptions and allegations detailing WerBell’s connections with Larry Flynt and an alleged assassination plot.

The Firearms of Mitchell L. WerBell III

Mitchell WerBell could very well be considered the Thomas Edison of weapon suppressor technology. With over 25 different designs credited to him alone, WerBell’s contributions to suppressor development is unmatched to anyone of his lifetime. Changing warfare drastically, his suppressors shifted the focus of combatant offensives from quantity to quality by choosing to advance the elusiveness of a soldier rather than provide them with excessive amounts of reinforcements. This saved lives and would alleviate the routine need for large battlefields and grand armies.

His collection of weapons has never been offered, publicly, until now. Coming straight from the WerBell family, these rare and exciting pieces were owned by the real life James Bond. Who knows what kind of action these particular firearms have seen. They could very well have played a secretive role in major government overthrows or even assassination plots.

Lot 1553: Gold Damascened Astra Model 2000 Cub Semi-Automatic Pistol

Damascened Astra Model 2000 pistols are some of the most underrated embellished handguns in the world. The astonishingly elaborate engravings, detailing, and depictions found on these pieces confounds the mind as the features are so small and so precise, it is hard to believe they were made by a person and not a machine. Pictured here is a factory embellished vest pocket pistol, manufactured in 1955. Featuring a blade front and notch rear sights, standard markings, and Spanish commercial proofs, this gun features bold, gold Damascene embellishment with semi-relief gold inlays, a mix of Arabesque scroll and floral patterns, and an underlying blue finish to provide a striking contrast. The grips are steel and Damascened to match the continued motif of the pistol featuring the Spanish coat of arms on the right panel. With the Great Seal of the United States on the left, matching engraved and gold decorated grip screws, and gold inlaid "C/W/E" monogram on the back strap, this pistol might as well belong in a frame.

Lot 3455: Ithaca U.S.A.F. Property Marked M6 Survival Rifle/Shotgun

This excellent example of an original Ithaca Gun Company M6 Survival rifle (as issued by the United States Air Force) is yet another interesting look into the work and life of Mitchell WerBell. Certainly no stranger to covert and undercover missions, a rifle such as this would be extremely useful because of its strength and portability. An original version with the 14 inch barrels, this rifle has been correctly registered with the B.A.T.F.E. as an A.O.W. (Any Other Weapon) and marked appropriately. These rifles have a break open action, a squeeze type trigger, and a skeletonized stock complete with a cartridge block located inside. Truly more than meets the eye, the comb area of the rifle lifts up and exposes the spare cartridge block within holding nine .22 Hornet cartridges and four .410 shotgun shells. A rare piece of history and a stunning testament to the bravery and heroism of those serving overseas and in combat.

Lot 1487: Chinese Type 64 Class III/NFA Integrally Suppressed Pistol

Maybe the most interesting of all the items from the WerBell collection to be available during Rock Island Auction Company’s Premier Firearms Auction would be the extremely rare Chinese Type 64 integrally suppressed semi-automatic pistol. Not only does this piece feature a remarkably unique design, but the story behind its possession is even more extraordinary. While in Vietnam to promote and market his suppressor designs, Mitchell WerBell was nearly killed by an assassin who was aware of his dangerous reputation. The assassin, armed with the Type 64 pistol, attempted to kill him but WerBell thwarted the assault, killed the assailant, and took the gun right out of his still warm hand faster than a hot knife through butter. The suppressed pistol would remain in WerBell’s possession for the rest of his life. The Type 64 was designed as a complete integrally suppressed system as opposed to the more traditional method of modifying an existing pistol to fit with a detachable external suppressor. The integral suppressor uses a combination of wire mesh and rubber wipes/baffles to slow down, and cool the escaping propellant gasses. Further enhancing its usefulness as a clandestine firearm, the breech block can be locked in place, eliminating the sound of the action cycling. It features a blue finish, checkered grips, and a correct Type 64 leather skeleton holster as well. It is truly a rare piece of technology with an even more amazing story behind it.

The Legacy of Mitchell L. WerBell III

Mitchell WerBell is a true American icon. As a soldier, he endured the stress and horrors of covert missions during the Second World War. As a designer, he is responsible for single-handedly engineering more than two dozen different suppressor designs. As man who held firmly to his convictions, he took a stand against the rise of communism around the world by teaching the value of survival and adaptability. Absolutely an international man of mystery, WerBell valued safety, responsibility, and preparedness above all else.

“Don’t be prepared just by buying a pistol or a revolver somewhere, learn how to use it, and learn NEVER pull it out unless you’re ready to kill someone.”

-Mitchell L. WerBell III

Mitchell L. WerBell III

Rock Island Auction Company is excited to have this opportunity to find the exciting personal belongings of Mitchell WerBell a new collection to call home. Surely anyone can relate to some of WerBell’s experiences, maybe not the degree of being under fire behind enemy lines during a planned coup d’état thousands of miles away from home, but perhaps in the courage of taking that first, momentous step into the unknown or having the restraint to remain calm when everything else seems to be falling apart. Mitchell L. WerBell III, while an elusive figure in history, contributed to some of the most significant events of the past century while also designing technology that is still used today.

Despite being out of the classroom for almost 40 years, Mitchell L. WerBell III still has much to teach the world.

Author’s Note:

This was an extremely interesting article to write, not only because of the sheer awesomeness of Mitch WerBell, but also because of the extensive lengths it took to research even the most basic aspects of his life. Seeing as most of his career was spent undercover or assisting in secret government programs, a great deal of information regarding his life has been kept classified (if it even still exists). That being said, these collections of stories from his life were compiled with the attempt to make sense of slivers of information spread out across the entirety of the internet. Old VHS tapes, magazines that have been out of publication since the 90’s, and even 40-year-old police reports were consulted in order to capture the full picture of Mitch WerBell’s life, but it still seems like it only scratches the surface. If interested in learning more about this legend of an American, it is encouraged to conduct individual research and learn about his exploits and adventures starting from some of the resources provided.

Rock Island Auction Company is no stranger to coming face-to-face with rare pieces of history such as these items from Mitch WerBell and others. If there are any questions about the authenticity of these items, information about bidding on or purchasing these items, or simply would like to know more about auction schedules, please contact Rock Island Auction Company.


John Simkin. “Mitchell WerBell.” Spartacus Educational, Spartacus Educational,

Antczak, John. “Hustler Publisher Allegedly Offered $1 Million in Death Plot.” AP NEWS, Associated Press, 27 Oct. 1988,

“CPT Mitchell Livingston WerBell III (1918-1983) -...” Find a Grave,, webmaster. “CUBAN  INFORMATION  ARCHIVES.” PROJECT NASSAU Menu,

Dunkin, Tom. “Cobray: Turning the Tables on Terrorists.” Soldier of Fortune, Jan. 1980, pp. 46–50.

Ecker, Ron, et al. “Our Man in Powder Springs: Mitch WerBell.” The Education Forum, 26 Nov. 2004,

Harvey, Ian. “Mitchell WerBell - The Man Who Was Involved in Everything.” The Vintage News, 19 Oct. 2018,

Krüger Henrik, and Jerry Meldon. The Great Heroin Coup: Drugs, Intelligence & International Fascism. Trine Day, 2016.

Major General John Singlaub, Mitch WerBell, Lt Col. William Mozey (1984). American Mercenaries: The Story of Mitch WerBell (video). Powder Springs, Georgia: Brigade Quartermasters.

“Shadow Box.” TogetherWeServed,

War Is Boring. “Mitchell WerBell Silenced the U.S. Army's M-14s and M-16s.” Medium, War Is Boring, 16 Apr. 2016,

Woodworks, Rock N. 1966 Porject Nassau/OperationIstanbul/Eloy J Escagedo Lliraldi. Youtube, 11 June 2019,

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