Monday, April 24, 2017

Vietnam, National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) combat sun helmet (c.1968)

Hey look...It's me.  I wasn't in Vietnam but as a radioman aboard Naval Communication Station Guam during the war I supported the effort by communicating with United States warships operating off the coast of Vietnam. 

How I wish I still had that hair.

The United States was involved in the Vietnam War from 1959 to 1975; a sixteen year investment in blood that led to 58,315 American deaths, and countless lives among the Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians.

And today I own shoes that were recently made in Vietnam.  So it goes.

This is widely accepted as the first war that the United States lost...though keep your eyes on Afghanistan gang.

The United States, and its allies, brought massive amounts of men and materiel to that war.  We came up against an unwinnable insurgency war with the National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) and the highly motivated regular troops of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA).  Caught between these two formidable foes...fighting on their own ground...for their own independence...they were indefatigable and ultimately victorious.  And now they make great shoes.

Today I work as a Park Ranger for the National Park Service and I'm stationed in Washington DC on the National Mall.  Frequently I work at the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial.  It is a sobering reminder of the cost of the War to the American people.

Why we lost the war is still argued here in the United States and many diehards insist that we won, though they're grumpy old men who are only getting older (and grumpier); but as a people we seem to agree that we lost, and we're over it.  For a while we were averse to getting into another Vietnam-like "quagmire"...but we eventually got over that too...didn't we?

Enough with the history of the war, my Vietnamese manufactured shoes, and my one-time luxurious and curly hair, and on to the helmet.

Now for the walkaround:

This wartime version is a light grayish-green color.  The helmet is still standard issue for the Vietnamese army and the post-war model is a very deep green.

The helmet is cheaply made and very lightweight.  Though non-ballistic it made operating in a tropical environment somewhat more comfortable for the wearer.

The disc bearing the insignia of the national Liberation Front is surrounded by an officer's wreath.

The ventilator cover.

The inside of the ventilator.
The helmets, worn by both the the NVA and the VC, were manufactured in North Vietnam and made their way south via the notorious "Ho Chi Mihn trail" - the indestructible supply route which day and night saw the transport of tons of food and materiel to the Viet Cong forces.

The size is inked on the label.

The rudimentary headband is adjustable by a cord and a series of holes in the plastic.

The chinstrap, which is of very inexpensive plastic, is adjusted by two sliding buckles and secured by a hollow rivet.

The liner is simple, cheap, and fragile plastic.

Female fighters of the Viet Cong have camouflage covers
on their helmets.

Bottom line? they won, we lost. End of story.

See you next time with another cool helmet from the collection.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Bulgarian M36/C combat helmet

"Old soldiers never die" 
(they just lose a whole lot of their paint)

Used between 1938 until the the last decade of the 20th century the m.36/C had a long life under more than one regime and great geopolitical changes.

An abundance of these helmets ended up on ebay as the m.36/C was an inexpensive glut on that venue for two or three years.

The design of the m.36/C was influenced by the German helmets of the era.  During the
Second World War Bulgaria was a nominal ally of Nazi Germany.

Both paint and tricolor decal are pretty beaten up leading me to believe that this particular helmet saw a lot of service over five decades or more.

The applied ventilator bushings are similar to the Italian m,33 but are more conical.

The ventilator bushings are secured by a large washer.

Split-pins affix the liner framework and the chinstrap bails.

A subtle crest runs the length of the crown of the shell

The only markings are a size indicator on the liner and, perhaps, the initials of one of the wearers.

The quality of the leather liner and chinstrap is inferior to the m.36/A (here).

Robust swivel bails secure the chinstrap halves.

Unlike the m.36/A the leather liner is supported by a metal frame, vaguely reminiscent 
of the Italian m.33.

Small split-pins secure the liner to the frame.

Here's a gallery of the M36/C in action:

A Bulgarian soldier with his "sort of" Nazi friend ("frenemies" as the young folks say today).

Who doesn't enjoy a little vino while on the march?

A mix of m.36/Cs and m.36/As. All three versions - A,B, and C were used simultaneously.

The m,36/C soldiered on through the Cold War era.

A Bulgarian soldier armed with an AK-47 supported by a Soviet-made T-34 tank.

Bulgarians of the Cold War, note the RPG launcher, ubiquitous to all communist countries of the era and still widely used today.

See you next time with another cool helmet from the collection,