Wednesday, January 25, 2017

East German Army Pioneer Shovel, DDR National Volksarmee Pionierspaten, NVA, Feldspaten - Field Shovel, FM logo

Well, I went and did it again......... I added two more shovels to the collection!  In my own defense, they were only sold in a "2-pack", with free shipping, and at a price I could not pass up.   Who could blame me?!

Pictured with a small NVA folding shovel and steel helmet for size comparison.

These shovels are a couple of "Cold War Classics" from the former East Germany.  They are what are commonly known as "Pioneer Shovels", or Pionierspaten in German.  These were the all-around utility shovels that were mounted on nearly every military vehicle in the East German Army.  They were also commonly used by Sapper and Engineer troops, and for just plain old garrison duty.

This style of shovel was used by Germany from before WW1, all they way up through the end of the Cold War, and the re-unification of the two Germany's.  Prior to the split up of Germany after WW2, the metal shovel blades were riveted together.  After the war, West Germany changed to a different style, but East Germany continued the "old-school" traditional shovels, with only minor modifications.

The East Germans started welding the blade to the shank instead of riveting, and the metal shank was secured to the wood handle with one or two screws on the back side.  This style of attachment is uniquely East German.  The wooden handle remained the same.

Both of my shovels appear at first glance to be identical, but on closer inspection, they are actually slightly different.  I am not sure if the differences are due to different production runs, or if they were built to two different sets of specifications.  

The metal blades and shanks are the same shape, but one is heavier and more curved than the other.  The heavier one also has a smaller logo and is fastened with one screw, instead of two.

The second, and slightly lighter shovel head, is flatter, with much less curve than the first one.  The logo is much larger, and the handle is fastened with two screws.

They both appear to have a darker, and flatter shade of green on the back side of the blade.  This seems to indicate that they may have been repainted with a brighter shade of green at one point.

The maker's logos are quite distinct, and large.  I have not been able to determine what company used this logo, or what the "FM" stands for.  That will be part of my ongoing research into these shovels (I'll add it to my long list of other "odds-and-ends" to research as well).

 UPDATE 8/28/17:  While researching another East German shovel, I ran across the civilian version label for the shovels with this logo.  Interesting!  I also discovered that the civilian shovels made in East Germany all seem to be painted this same shade of green.  This may mean that these pioneer shovels were actually civilian models...... or not.  The research continues until I can find some definitive answers!

These shovels are very well built, and solid.  I may throw one of them in my Jeep, and keep the other in the bunker.  Either way, they are an iconic bit of "German Military History" that I couldn't pass up!

Here are a few photos of these shovels in use in the East German Army during the Cold War years.

Shovel mounted on deck by turret.

Here is a shot of the WW2 version in use during the war.

And now, to finish things up, here is the album of these two "Cold War Classics".

Shovel #1, heavier metal, smaller logo, more curved blade, with one attaching screw:

Here is Shovel #2, lighter and flatter blade, larger logo, and two attaching screws:

Here are a few more "side-by-side" shots:

Monday, January 23, 2017

U.S. Marine Corps, USMC, Gerber E-Tool, Tri-Fold Shovel, dated 2000, Fiskars Entrenching / Intrenching Tool

Last week I had the opportunity to pick up a "veteran" United States Marine Corps shovel at an amazing price.  I snatched the shovel up and it is now resting honorably in the bunker!

This shovel is one of the first Gerber E-Tool shovels that were issued to the US Marines in 2000.  This shovel is well used and shows considerable wear on the edge bevel, at the shovel tip, indicating this shovel saw some serious field use during it's military career.  There is no telling what campaigns or theaters it served in, but I am sure it would have some stories to tell if it could talk!

In 1999, the US Marine Corps decided that it was time to investigate the current variety of folding entrenching tools that were available on the market, with the hope that a more modern, durable and lighter model could be found for the Marines.  This new shovel would replace the old tri-fold, Ames shovels that were adopted into service back in the mid-1960's.  You can see an example of the Ames shovel at my blog post here:

The task for evaluating and selecting a new shovel was given to the Department of the Army.  In January of 1999 the Army opened up the application period for any company that wished to submit their shovel for a competitive analysis.  The following requirements were specified by the Army.

Each submitted shovel must be:
  •  capable of operating in all terrestrial extremes and in all weather conditions.
  • collapsible (folding or telescopic) with a curved blade capable of being used as a shovel or pick when locked at 90 degrees.
  • made of corrosion resistant materials and durable to withstand use in a military environment.
  • weighing less than, and being no larger when folded, than the currently fielded Ames entrenching tool (2.3 pounds), and have greater durability than the Ames tool.
Each contributor was required to submit a technical proposal of 3 pages, along with commercial product literature, past performance information, price and two shovel samples.  After review by the Army, each selected competitor would be given a contract for 40 shovels.  These shovels would then be assessed and field tested.  Four proposals were received by the January 22, 1999 closing date.  In addition to the four submitted shovels, the Ames Company submitted a one page letter, but did not fulfill any of the required submission documentation.  Their "submission" was not deemed acceptable or complete.  In their letter, Ames argued that they could not submit a shovel with a lower weight than the current Ames shovel, because they made that shovel.........essentially the Army cut them out of the process from the start!

The Army then did an initial screening of the applicants.  The Army engineers determined that two of the submitted shovels would be removed from the evaluation list for various reasons.  They were left with the Gerber shovel, an additional brand's shovel, and the Ames shovel.  The Army decided to field test all three shovels with 94 Marines, over 6 weeks, with the Ames shovel being used as a "control shovel".

In September of 1999, after the field testing was complete, the decision was made to award the contract for the new US Marine Corps shovel to the Fiskars Company, maker of the Gerber Shovel.  There was a slight problem though..... Fiskars was from Finland and all of the shovel components were made in Finland.  To be awarded the US contract, the shovels needed to be made in the USA!  Fiskars agreed to ship all of the shovel parts to a new assembly plant in Oregon where they would be assembled into completed shovels.  The deal was done, Fiskars got the contract, and Oregon picked up some new jobs, and the US Marines got a new shovel!  It didn't end there though.  Ames was seriously NOT happy about the selection (and loosing the contract), so they filed a protest and appeal with the US General Accounting Office.  In short, they lost the appeal on all counts.  It was official, the Gerber Entrenching Tool would be the official, new shovel of the USMC.  The first shovels were delivered in 2000.

At this point it should be noted that the Gerber Entrenching shovel was first made for the Finland Army, then adopted by the Dutch Army before adoption by the USMC.  The Gerber shovel is NATO approved for issue to all NATO forces.

The Gerber shovel is a big improvement over the old Ames shovel, even though the two are very similar.  The three parts of the Gerber are fastened together with two bolts and nuts, making them very easy to repair and maintain in the field.  The shovel is still configured in the traditional tri-fold style, making it compact and easy to carry when folded.  

It is designed to be used as a straight shovel, or with the blade locked at 90 degrees as a pick-hoe.

The "tightening nut" is located next the the handle, instead of down next to the blade, as fund on all previous folding shovel models.  This keeps dirt and muck out of the nut and places it closer to the hands when using.

The handle is made of fiberglass reinforced nylon and is much lighter than the previous, all metal, Ames shovel.  It is also more ergonomically comfortable to use.

The shovel shaft is aluminum with a fiberglass reinforced tube cover and tightening nut.

The blade is made of hardened carbon steel with cutting serrations on one side.

The Gerber shovel is also lighter than the Ames shovel, with a total weight of less than 2 pounds!

Since 2000, the Gerber shovel has been a "field favorite" of the Marines in the field!

Now let's take a closer look at this modern shovel.