Sunday, July 27, 2008

United States Combat Vehicle Crewman's Helmet (CVC)

eighth in a series of tanker helmet posts

Make way for American foreign policy!

Yep, this is how we yanks do it now, all big stick, and speaking very loudly. And now that the Abrams tank has replaced the U.S. Department of State here's the helmet our fighting men and women are wearing to protect their noggins while operating in armored vehicles. 

Behold the US Combat Vehicle Crewman's (CVC) helmet manufactured by those fine folks at Gentex Inc.  in Carbondale Pennsylvania, who've been in the biz since Vietnam days.
Right side view with boom microphone missing.
This newer version of the CVC  helmet (below) illustrates the mic in place.
Left side view shows the only other deficit of my example of this helmet, note one of the fastening straps for the cranial plate is missing.
Top view demonstrates the scuffing that typifies a "salty" helmet.
The significance of this tactical marking on the rear of the helmet is unknown to me.

----------------This Just In:------------
The numbers 4-6 usually are the vehicle number. We did this when I was in
> the Field Artillery. The helmets were assigned to that self-propelled gun
> and needed to be counted during inventory. We also painted logos on the
> helmets and sometimes put nicknames in them. I have one I happen to bring
> home one day after training. I also got 2 empty shells the supply sergeant
> was throwing in the dumpster.
> Tim W.

---------- back to regular programming--------

The inside is extremely well padded, and allows a great deal of airflow.  This view also begins our tour of the integrated electronics package of this helmet.

Headphones are well padded and recessed to provide acoustic insulation as well as comfort.
Throughout this helmet, component by component, there are a wealth of markings, these on the send/receive surfaces:

-----------reader comment --------
The function of the spring loaded toggle switch is to talk over the mike.
 When you pushed it back to the locked position, you can talk only internal
 to your crew. When it moved it forward, you can talk on the radio, that is
 why it was spring-loaded to the front. There also is a "spaghetti" cord
 that plugs into the helmet and into the vehicle CVC box.
 I used to love hearing new Privates (and Lieutenants) push the switch to
 the front and start cussing over the radio.
 Tim W.

This robust, spring loaded clamp holds the cabling in place at the lower rear of the helmet, nice and snug where it won't get entangled within the cramped confines of an AFV.
Below are the original Gentex Inc. fabricator's models demonstrating the conceptual R&D that went in to this fundamentally well designed CVC helmet:
That's right, a hard outer shell protecting a delicious chocolate center (Marine Corps model has peanut center). Same concept, except M&Ms don't use velcro and the CVC helmet won't melt in your hand or  in your mouth.
Although non-ballistic, this shell can take quite a bit of abuse.

As with all other components of this helmet, the shell is extremely well marked.

Below, the large velcro panel that attaches the shell (the "cranial plate") to the liner is very evident.

Looking quite vulnerable without the outer shell, the liner somewhat resembles the Soviet-style tanker's lid profiled in an earlier post, wouldn't you agree?

The strap at the nape of the neck allows for adjusting the snugness for a custom fit for the tanker...
and, when fastened, provides us with yet another piece of manufacturer's documentation.  This helmet has more marks on it than your dad's Buick after prom night!
The chinstrap is comfortable with no surprises.
And these large snap/strap combinations (along with the velcro) secure the shell to the liner.
Hey G.I. Wave if you like this helmet!
accession number: MOA hmar 298.78.95
United States Combat Vehicle Crewman's Helmet
Acquired 2007, ebay.
Purchase price :$25.00
Condition: very good

Watch for new posts every Monday
And while you're in the neighborhood, why not slip over to my toy soldier blog
to catch up on the latest regarding the Civil War combat that continues in my garden.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Spanish Leather Tankman's Helmet

seventh in a series of tanker helmet posts
Now don't get me wrong,  I think Spain is a country that has given the world great beauty.

This is a Spanish Beauty:
(photo by Massimiliano Uccelletti)

The Mme Grégoire Staechelin' rose is known as the "Spanish Beauty":

And this Moorish influenced Spanish architecture is certainly a thing of beauty:

This Spanish tanker's helmet, however, ain't no beauty:

This is the ugly cousin of the Italian M35 Tanker's helmet (profiled last week).  Although this helm tries to mimic the far superior Italian version, it fails in every aspect.

As with the Italian model this helmet is a leather covered fiber bowl surrounded by a padded bumper with a rear skirt and leather chinstrap/flaps.  The bowl, you'll note is considerably shallower than the Italian helmet, providing much less protection for the wearer.

From the top little difference can be detected between this number and the Italian model, except perhaps for the inferior dye job of the leather.

Its when one begins to examine details like the sewn seams that the inferiority of this helmet really start to become evident, clearly the person who sewed and assembled this bumper pad had other things on her mind.

The interior is, again, a copycat of the Italian M35 except for the lower grade and color of the suspension leather.

The finish of the neck flap is misaligned, miscut, and haphazardly assembled.

This Frankenstein assemblage of misaligned  rivets secures the chintzy chinstrap buckle.  One wonders if these workers are encouraged to come to work drunk.

The flannel liner has absolutely no value as a cushion to the wearer, again compare this to last week's entry on the Italian liner with its plush white felt padding.

Peeling away the flannel reveals the Pinata-like dome of this lid.  About the only shock absorbtion available in this helmet is the fullness of the hairdo of the wearer.

North Korean nut-job and dictator for life Kim Jung Il might have enough of a bouffant "do" to bring some level of effectiveness to this helmet, but here (as in most instances) he is the exception.

Where the Italian neck flap is tightly sewn into place, the Spanish version is crudely tacked on.

And note how those tacks often tear right out of the cheap, thin leather.

The chinstrap assembly too, suffers by comparison with the Italian model.

The unscreened vent holes don't even communicate through the flannel liner, rendering them quite useless for providing ventilation.

The only aspect of this helmet that gives it any aesthetic value is the Spanish eagle affixed to the front.

The helmet bears no maker's or inspector's marks of any sort.  It's as if no one wants to claim paternity of this waif.

I think the reason that the bumper pad is not attached as that on the Italian model, is to facilitate disassembly of this helmet making it easier to fit into the trash compactor of history.

But who am I to criticize, after all, as these photos demonstrate, proud Spanish tankers did fight on to defeat...


oh right, now I remember!  They went on to defeat the Incas!

And for as ugly as this poor excuse of a helmet is, now comes the really ugly part;

This is former Spanish strongman and prick, Francisco Franco:

And here he is on his wedding day as the blushing bride of Satan (the man to the left)

What a lovely couple, I think they're registered at the genocide boutique.

España es una tierra de contrastes.


accession number: MOA hmar 248.68.8
Spanish Leather Tankman's Helmet
Acquired 1991, Grand Rapids Michigan.
Condition: excellent

Next Monday another tanker helmet will be profiled.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

M35 Italian Tank crewman's helmet

Sixth in a series of posts on tanker's helmets

Ahh, Italian design, chic, elegant, sexy, usually black and generally leather ,always appropriate and in the best of taste.

At least that's what we've come to expect.  It wasn't always so.

Submitted for your consideration the M35 Italian tanker's Helmet of WWII and beyond.

La mia qualità! Ciò non era che cosa stavo prevedendo.

True, it is black, and leather, so far very Italiano, but design-wise, this is a pretty goofy looking lid.   Looking like a bowler hat  combined with a contraceptive device for an elephant, this zany piece of headgear was sported by Italian tankers for over thirty years.   But if, as American sculptor Horatio Greenough stated, "form follows function" I'd better analyze the function of this helmet before I spend too much more time harping on its ungainly  appearance.

As these all too grainy photos indicate the Italian M35 was worn with a certain elan by Italian tankers of the pre war era,

And this helmet continued to see service with Italian armor during and after World War Two.

So one can safely assume that this piece of protective gear, while looking totally unmartial, must have had certain protective aspects that made it effective and popular with the troops.

Let's examine the details.

This side view shows to good effect the leather skirting, the padded brow bumper, as well as the tall leather covered fiber bowl.  The leather is of a very high quality and the stitching is heavy duty and very tight.

From the rear it becomes clear that the skirt is designed to keep dust, oil , and debris from going down the back of the tanker's neck.  The 360 degree bumper provides outstanding protection from all angles, and is very sturdily constructed with an effective combination of firmness and flexibility.

From the top the bowl shows the very symmetrical nature of the helmet, there is none of the ovoid shape of the helmets of many other nationalities.  The superior stitching on the bumper is also shown to good effect.

Ventilation is provided through two screen covered vent holes which communicate fresh air through the bowl and the padded liner.

The natural color leather liner is made of high quality hide divided into seven "fingers" or flaps with an adjusting thong connecting each.  From the pristine condition of this liner I believe that this particular helmet was never issued.

Beneath the leather liner is the white felt padding, both thick and comfy which is suspended with about a half an inch between it and the skull of the bowl.  This space is crucial in preventing skull fractures when the bowl is struck.

This view of the stitching shows that the bumper is securely and permanently fastened to the body of the helmet.

Two nice stamps are particularly crisp and colorful in this liner.  This one indicates size and manufacturer...

while this one provides the date of manufacture.  Although this helmet was first issued in 1935, this individual was manufacured 26 years later.  Nice longevity for a helmet design.

This detail shot of the chinstrap assembly demonstrates well the superior materials and workmanship of this Model 35.  This is that type of tailoring that one expects to find in a high-end Italian leather jacket.  Brava Italia! on a very effective and long-lived tankers helmet.

There you have it, a very unusual looking helmet that does an unusually good job of protecting the head of the wearer.  And if this detailed exploration isn't convincing enough of the efficacy of this helmet, there's always that old adage:  "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery".  To that end, next Monday I'll showcase the Spanish leather tankman's helmet, the ersatz version of the Italian M35.  And believe me, in my side by side comparison you'll see that the Spanish version is the poor cousin to the Italian.

The devil will be in the details.

accession number: MOA hmar 156.43.48
M35 Italian Tankman's Helmet
Acquired 1990, Lansing Michigan.
Condition: unissued

And while you're in the neighborhood, why not slip over to my toy soldier blog 
to catch up on the latest regarding the Civil War combat that continues in my garden.