Helmetiana

Peter Andrews’s article “The New Army Helmet” in the August/September issue was both enjoyable and quite accurate. It reminded me of an anecdote, perhaps apocryphal, about the adoption of the M1. It seems that the flat World War I helmet was so unstable that it would flop down in front of soldiers’ faces as they rapidly assumed the prone position, which was embarrassing, to say the least. Near the beginning of World War II a staff officer made some mock-ups of the Ml helmet and demonstrated its superiority to Gen. George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff. The chief personally approved the change, and it was accomplished so fast that few World War II vets remember any other helmet. Contrast this with the present seven-year R & D effort that has yet to put the new helmet onto the heads of most soldiers, and you get a warm, nostalgic feeling for wartime procurement policies.

Although Fort Hood has yet to issue the new “Fritz” pot, I have had occasion to try one on. While I found it generally comfortable, I was shocked to find that I couldn’t hear a man speaking in a conversational tone thirty inches to my right. I realized that all the protection in the world is useless if you can’t hear the guy who’s telling you to duck. Troops on Grenada had the same complaint, but the response from the Natick lab was that there was no real hearing loss, only the perception of hearing loss. This is either a prime example of militaryspeak or a perplexing philosophical question, but I do think the matter deserves attention.