Manufacturing Marks of WWII

© Jerry Penry

Links are formed pieces of steel that interlock and join the .50 caliber casings together into a linked belt. These links were produced in the same mass quantity as the brass casings since there is one link for every casing. Collecting links is much different than collecting .50 caliber casings by headstamps. The casings have the year imprinted on them, but the links do not. The identifying marks on a link is by manufacturer and by die number. Neither of these marks represent a year, so unless you are certain that the links you find were used in areas specifically during WWII, there is no easy way to determine if the links were produced earlier or later than WWII.

Many of the links used during WWII are also blank, however those with the identifying marks could be directly traced back to the company making them and to the specific die. This was very important since the links had to work perfectly to feed the .50 caliber shells into the machine guns. If a jam occurred, and the link was found to be the cause, the problem could be traced back and corrected at the specific manufacturing location.

The link codes in the photos below were found at sites used only during WWII. Finding steel links in good condition can be difficult because they are often completely corroded depending upon the soil in which they are found. The number of variations for different links may never be known and there can exist 50 or more different variations of link stampings for just one company. For example, a link has been found for the Firestone Steel Products Company (Akron Plant) with a die number of 50. It then stands to reason that there were at least 50 different die machines making links at the Akron Plant, each with a different stamping.

The metal flats for the links were pressed out of hardened high-tensile spring steel. An attempt was made to flatten a link to show the shape before the curls were made. After a strong application of force, a piece of the curl snapped off. They cannot be flattened out. A representation of a flattened link is created in the diagram below. The steel used for the links is slightly less than 1/16" thick. The flattened length is 5 1/4" and the width is 1 7/16" on the area that slips over the casing.

Actual size of a flattened link before curling.

Link Code List
This Code List was retyped from a list dated November 30, 1942, for .30 caliber link manufacturers.

Known WWII Links

American Can Company

Dies B, C, S, T, V.


Dies 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

British Pen Company WWII

Die B II.

Continental Can Company

Dies 6, 9, 19.

Crown Cork & Seal Company

Dies 22, 57.

Edward Katzinger

Falls Spring & Wire Company

Die I.

Fedders Manufacturing Company

Dies D, E, P, Z, 7, 20, 22, 33.

Firestone Rubber & Metal Products - Akron Plant

Dies 6, 13, 29, 45, 47, 47, 50, 54.

Firestone Rubber & Latex Products - Fall River Plant

Dies 29, 35, 36, 51, 79.

Firestone Steel Products Company - Memphis Plant

Dies 21, 38, 44, 59.

Firestone Tire & Rubber Company - Wyandotte Plant

Dies 1-6, 9, 11, 12, 15, 20-27, 29-32, 35-40, 44-46, 48, 53.

Fort Pitt Bedding

Dies A, B, C, F, G, J, K, L, N, Q, Y, 4, 8, 9, 13.

General Aviation Equipment Company

Dies A, F, I, L, N, O, P, R.

H. L. Judd Company

Dies B, P, Q.

International Silver Company

Dies 3.

Jackes - Evans

National Stamping Company

Dies K, 11, F, H.

Owen Illinois Can Company

Dies 2, 5, 6, 7, 9, 15, 21, 24, 25, 30.

Serrick Corp. (Acme - Lees Div.)

S. W. Farber Company

Dies 7, 10.

Stanley Works

Dies S, X, 12, 51.

Westclox Company

Unknown Companies


Unusual Styles of Link Connections

Found in Australia and marked SD.

Probably modern manufacture and not WWII. Marked WM M9.

Galvanized links found at a WWII site in Australia.
Note the two different styles at the top of the shoulder points.

Link Shipping Boxes

.50 caliber links were packaged in long cardboard boxes of 10 links each. The individual boxes were stacked 10 boxes high and 10 boxes across for a total of 100 boxes in a crate totaling 1000 links. Each crate weighed 45.5 lbs.   Links for the .50 caliber came in boxes of 10 because the linked shell casing belts were assembled 10 at a time. The 10 links were placed on a small hand operated machine above 10 loaded shells. By operation of a lever, the shells were pressed up into the links. This was repeated 10 shells at a time until the long link belt was created.

Borg-Warner Corporation.
The zip code on the crate address indicates these were produced after 1962.

J. L. Company

Fort Pitt Bedding Company

Firestone Steel Products

Fedders Manufacturing Company

Link Loading Machine

The hand-operated machine shown above was used to push ten .50 caliber shells into a string of 10 links, thus forming the belt. This process was continued when 10 more shells were added each time to the continuous belt.

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Thanks to the following contributors who have supplied information or images for this website:
Danny Benger, Andrew Brock, Fritz Gehring, Rich Morrison, Ali Ozder, Joe Pilbeam, Manuel Tappe.

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