HomeMilitary Jeeps in the Congo

Congo flag 1963-71

Part 10: Standard M606s

Congolese Central Government 1964-1966


After a short period of relative peace once the Katanga secession had ended, a new rebellion broke out in early 1964. This became known as the Simba rebellion and by September 1964 had engulfed nearly half the Congo. The Armée Nationale Congolaise (ANC) was roundly defeated -- often without even a fight -- and it was only with considerable foreign assistance that the rebellion was eventually stopped and by 1966 all but eradicated (although small pockets remained for decades.)

A US military mission looking into the ANC's needs in 1962, proposed the delivery of some 300 CJ-3Bs or CJ-5s plus 80 CJ-6s with special functions (ambulance, radio, etc). The choice fell on the M606 as the standard type for the ANC and the first deliveries likely arrived in 1963. It is not clear whether the designation M606 was in fact in use that early but, for simplicity, it will be used here for all the militarized CJ-3Bs provided to the Congo by the USA. Additional batches were provided after US aid was stepped up in early 1964 and before long the M606 had all but replaced the pre-independence Jeeps.

Jeeps played a key part in the campaign against the Simbas, both with the Congolese units of the ANC and with the various mercenary units. This page will cover the unarmored Jeeps -- whether armed or not -- of the 1964 to 1966 period, while the armored Jeeps are described separately (see Part 11).

Unarmed M606s

Many M606s were in due course fitted with guns but others were used for staff transport or as general utility vehicles. Such unarmed Jeeps were usually not fitted with external storage bins or other modifications, either, but remained in factory configuration.

The Congolese were keen on parades and used Jeeps as review vehicles at every opportunity. In January 1965, the Congolese President Kasa-Vubu and Prime Minister Tshombe (former Katangese president) visited the large Kitona army base near the Atlantic coast (see the Congo map) and travelled around in Jeeps. The president and his aide got a specially converted CJ-6 with a handrail, while the prime minister had to make do with a standard M606 with a clip-on flag.... (Photo © Terence Spencer)

Note the hook fitted to the cowl of the M606 above, to hold the jerry can in place (50K JPEG); when not in use, the hook retracted into the housing, as seen in the photo below.

Using soldiers from foreign countries was not without its complications. The driver of this Jeep encountered a "liberated" civilian car driven by a British mercenary, who was going around a roundabout in Stanleyville (see Congo map) the wrong way. The state of the steering wheels and windscreens highlight that this was in the days before safety belts, but other than that the M606 apparently came out ahead. The US Aid sticker (130K PNG) on the side of the Jeep is clearly visible.

Another photo shows the accident from a different angle (170K JPEG). The yellow cross daubed on the car showed that it was in use by the government forces. The meaning of the "Bombheads!" and "For the cream!" slogans on the Jeep hood sides remain unexplained. (Both photos © Jan Hekker)

Some unarmed Jeeps also reached the frontline units, like this one belonging to 11th Commando in Yangambi, west of Stanleyville, in the spring of 1965. The vehicle is unusual in having no trace of a blackout light on the front fender, even though the bumperettes at the rear show that it is an M606 rather than an old colonial CJ-3B. Also note the mismatched tire sizes. The hood was not really designed to sit on and this Jeep, like many others, had a huge dent (90K JPEG) in it. The hood also has a white air recognition cross across it and there is a small formation sign above the broken footstep. In the background, a Congolese driver is doing some field repairs on his truck. (Both photos via J-P Sonck)

Most ANC Jeeps were left painted Olive Drab but some of those used in the north were given a mottled green over yellow-green camouflage, including armored Jeeps (see Part 11). The band painted across the hood was in this case likely red-orange, which was used as an air recognition sign for a period. This stock M606 belonged to the Ops North headquarters in Paulis (see the Congo map). It has a WILLYS stamping on the front but none on the side of the hood, which was perhaps a replacement item; the ANC had M606s both with and without the Willys name, depending on whether they were produced before or after the stampings were discontinued by Kaiser in 1963. (Photo via J-P Sonck)

Yet another ANC parade, this one in Kinshasa (the new name for Leopoldville since May that year) on Independence Day, 30 July 1966. Reviewing the troops is General Mobutu, who took over as president of the Congo in late 1965. The M606 and the International trucks behind it have all been given the traditional whitewalls. By this time the Simba rebellion had definitely run out of steam and the ANC was reducing its operations in the east and the north.

The Early M606 Gun Jeeps

Most of the new M606s were fitted with machine guns for use in the offensive against the Simbas. In due course the majority of the armed Jeeps were also armored to some degree (see Part 11) but others, like those shown below, were never given any extra protection.

Mercenaries of 5 Commando -- the mainly English-speaking unit commanded by Mike Hoare -- in Lisala (see the Congo map) in September 1964. This was the first major town recaptured from the Simbas by the mercenaries. The Jeeps are both M606s, as can be seen from the blackout lights on their fenders. They do not seem to have been modified in any way as yet and the .30-calibre machine guns used as armament are just resting on top of the hood rather than being mounted onto the Jeeps. The white sheet over the hood was an early air recognition marker. (Photo via Gustavo Ponzoa)

This M606 of 5 Commando in early 1965 has an unusual or possibly unique armament. It is fitted with a simple swiwel mounting with two Soviet RPD light machine guns: see a close-up view (130K JPEG). They were among the large quantity of weapons captured from the Simba rebels but it was very unusual for these Eastern Bloc guns to actually be used by the ANC. Also note the cut-down steering wheel, presumably the result of some minor accident. (Photos © Hugh Gurnell)

The Congolese gun Jeep in its most basic form was quite simple. This Jeep snapped at Mwenga in March 1965 belonged to CODOKI, a sort of militia unit created by white settlers in the Kivu province to defend against the Simbas. The Jeep unusually retains its windshield and has no external storage bin, meaning it was likely given to CODOKI fresh off the supply line. It is fitted with a very sturdy gun mounting in front of the passenger seat while many other ANC Jeeps had a slimmer pylon similar to that used on CJ-3Bs before independence (see Part 1). The crate of beer in the back seat was a common accessory in the Congo! (Photo © André Dessy)

This M606 was photographed aboard a barge on the Congo River in March 1965, with troops on the way to recapture the town of Basoko. The marking "67 CDO" on the hood shows that the Jeep belonged to the 67th Commando: a small detachment of mainly Belgian mercenaries attached to a Congolese battalion. It has a pylon for a .30-cal. or .50-cal. machine gun behind the front seats but the gun itself was usually not mounted except on operations. The windshield has been removed, as on most gun Jeeps in the Congo. Hooked up at the rear is a standard M100 1/4-ton trailer. (Photo © Bob Houcke)

The same Jeep in Basoko (see the Congo map) after its capture, with the Notre Dame church in the background. The people having a closer look at the vehicle are all pilots of the mercenary 21 Squadron, which had some unarmed M606s (see Part 14).

A rear view (120K JPEG) of an advancing Jeep at Basoko -- again quite possibly the same one -- shows it with an FN MAG machine gun mounted. These early gun Jeeps were quite cramped in the rear and the gunner has to kneel on the floor with the tailgate open, surrounded by packs and ammo boxes. (Both photos © Bob Houcke)

A mercenary of 6th Commando leaning nonchalantly on his M606 somewhere in northern Congo. The name "Le Gaulois" could either refer to someone from Gaul in France, or the French cigarette brand. The machine gun mounting is just visible behind the man's head. Note that the spare wheel has a different style tire and is obviously taken from a civilian Jeep. (Photo via Daniel Despas)

An unfortunately rather poor image of an M606 that retains its windshield and has a gun pylon in the back, with some Congolese laborers holding on to the ammunition box mounting. The Jeep very unusually also has a bracket mounted on the front bumper, to hold a large storage box. (Photo via J-P Sonck)

Although photographed in 1966, this M606 shows none of the usual modifications applied to later Jeeps used by the mercenary units. It was in service at Kasindi, near Uganda (see the Congo map), where there was still occasional cross-border smuggling of arms to the remaining Simbas. The spare wheel has been strapped to the grille, in the way sometimes seen on early Katangese CJ-3Bs (see Part 3). There is no gun pylon and the FN MAG machine gun in front of the passenger seems to be resting on a one-legged bipod.... (Photo via Robert Muller)

Stanleyville Pattern Jeeps

After the city of Stanleyville was recaptured in late 1964 it became a logistics hub for the ANC in the northern Congo. In 1965, a maintenance center was set up for vehicles and a standard set of modifications was introduced for the M606 Jeep, including a large storage bin at the rear, a gun pylon fitted in the centre of the body, and a smaller pylon installed in front of the passenger seat. Many of the Jeeps were then also given some armor (see Part 11).

This aerial view vividly illustrates why military operations in much of the northern Congo were confined to roads and rivers: going cross-country was not an option, four-wheel drive or not. (Photo © Bob Houcke)

Just outside Stanleyville, a group of mercenaries watch a test firing of two heavily armed M606s. These Jeeps show the standard modifications, and the pylons are fitted with .50-caliber aircraft machine guns and 7.62 mm FN MAG light MGs. Both mountings could be used for different guns; many Jeeps carried .30-cal. rather than .50-cal. MGs, since the larger gun was really overkill against the lightly equipped Simba rebels. (Photo © Jan Hekker)

Another photo from the same occasion, taken from behind the above M606 when the gun was being fired. It shows the rear bumperettes (not found on ex-Belgian CJ-3Bs in the Congo) and also the style of the external storage bin fitted as standard to many M606s in the Congo as well as the gunner's backrest mounted on top of the bin; it was hard for the gunner to operate the gun from the back seat (if fitted) and standing up was impractical and dangerous when the Jeep was on the move. The gunner's legs are visible through the bin, showing that the tailgate was removed when the bin was installed. (Photo © Jan Hekker)

This M606 is similar to the one above but has a .30-cal. rather than an FN MAG at the front. Unusually, it also retains its windshield. The .50-cal. is carefully wrapped to protect it against the dust of the Congolese roads -- which would of course not be the case if any enemies were expected to be nearby. It was common for the gunner to sit on a pillow of some sort since no proper seat was normally fitted, only a backrest. (Photo via Marc Robyn)

Another view showing some details of the Stanleyville pattern standard gun Jeep. The rear is packed with spare ammunition boxes. The radio rack in front of the rear wheel, made to carry a portable infantry radio, was not installed on all Jeeps. The M606 is marked "6BCE", the French abbreviation for the 6th Foreign Commando Battalion, the main French-speaking mercenary unit -- normally known simply as 6th Commando -- and the photo was taken outside their headquarters in Stanleyville. Note that the mercenary in the background is waving a Thompson M1921 submachine gun: a "Chicago piano." (Photo via Marc Robyn)

Continue to Part 11: Armored M606s or return to the Table of Contents.

Thanks to author and researcher Leif Hellström. -- Derek Redmond

The flag seen at the top of this page was used by the Democratic Republic of Congo from 1963 until 1971, when the country name changed to Zaïre.

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Last updated 19 November 2020 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
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