Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Model 1925 Regia Marina Shovel Cover M-25, WW1 WW2 Italian Shovel Entrenching Tool Cover, Afrika Korps, San Marco Marina

After I added one of the old WW1 - WW2 Italian entrenching tool, shovels to my collection, I started wondering about shovel covers...........  Nearly all of the photos that I found from the era, showed the shovel carried in a "shovel carrier / bayonet frog", with no actual cover for the shovel blade.

Then, several months later, I spotted an odd shovel cover on eBay.  The price was LOW, and it was something I had never seen.  It appeared to be similar to the British web gear, with a set-up like the old German pioneer shovel covers.  It was definitely old, and it was unmarked.  The price was low, so how could I pass it up? Well, I didn't!  I won the auction and then the investigation began.

After posting photos and inquiries online, over at the Wehrmacht Awards forum, I had my answer, thanks to a collector in Chicago.  The cover is a rare, original, Model 1925, Regia Marina, shovel cover.  The exact cover that I needed for my Italian shovel!  I stumbled on it by chance, and took a gamble that paid off.

In the mid 1920's, Italy started experimenting with a new style of web gear for the Italian Navy, based largely on the style and construction of the old British web gear.  The new gear was adopted in 1925, and for a short time before WW2, the Italians even had some of it produced by British companies.  The web gear was produced from 1925, and into WW2, for the Italian Navy Marines and landing parties, better known as the "Regia Marina", or Royal Italian Navy in English.

The shovel cover that I have, was designed to be worn two ways.  It could be hung from a hook on the rucksack, using the D-Ring on the cover, with the blade down / handle up, or it could be used as a shovel blade cover when the shovel was carried in the combo-bayonet frog.

The snaps on this cover are plain, painted black, brass.  They were also produced using a "Regia Marina" embossed snap.

You can see some great photos of the Italian Model 1925 gear over at this Italian forum site.  It is all in Italian, but the photos are great!  Down a bit on the web site, you will see a group photo of soldiers, and if you look closely, you will see several wearing their shovels in the bayonet frog with the cover installed.

When the mystery of the shovel cover was solved, I was beyond thrilled!  I figured that it would be very unlikely to ever run across one of these Italian covers here in the US.  I guess those gambles pay off from time-to-time.

You can read about the Italian shovels in two of my previous posts:



Now let's take a closer look at this cover.

Monday, July 8, 2019

U.S. Coast Guard 9D5 Dunker, USCG 1986, USCG Aviation Technical Training Center Elizabeth City, NJ, HH65A Dolphin Helicopter

I was recently digging through my old sea chest, looking for a few misplaced treasures, and I came across a very unique bit of US Coast Guard aviation history, and a snapshot out of my past.

I found the original 9D5 Dunker training pamphlet that was handed out to everyone in my Aviation Machinists Mate, Class "A" School class, back in 1986!  This was during my time at US Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Elizabeth City, NC. (between USCG Station Grays Harbor and USCG Air Station Borinquen).

A photo of  myself at USCG Air Station Borinquen, 1986

All US Coast Guard aviators must complete the 9D5 Dunker training in order to fly on any Coast aircraft as a pilot or air crewman.  The first time you "ride the Dunker" is during flight school, or "A" school.  After that there is a re-certification that occurs (or did occur) every 3 years for the guys who continued flying on helicopters.  Since I was in "A" school, this was my first time through the training.  If you didn't pass all the Dunker rides, you were out of the school and headed back to a ship!  

As a side note, I believe that all of the old 9D5 Dunkers have been retired, sometime around 2008, and replaced with a newer model.   You still have to ride a dunker, but the new one's look way nicer than the "metal barrel" we rode back in the 1980's!

At the time I was in the Coast Guard, the 9D5 Dunker was located at Aviation Survival Training Center (ASTC), Norfolk, Virginia, and was run by the US Navy.  When the appointed day arrived, we all loaded up and headed to Norfolk.  It was a full day of survival swim training (in full flight gear), and 5 rides on the 9D5, also in full flight gear.

Full flight gear means, flight suit, flight boots, gloves, flight helmet, and survival vest with weights in the pockets.............for the first ride that is.  After your first ride, then you got the black hood over your head, in addition to all your flight gear.  That way you would have zero visibility for the next four rides.  Sound like fun?  No?  Well there is more to it than that.

Basically the Dunker is a big barrel shaped, mock helicopter, equipped with a cockpit and crew seating in the cargo area.  All the windows have welded steel mesh over them, with the exception of the cockpit side windows and the cargo side door.  It is equipped with seats that have standard 5-point harnesses, just like the ones in use on the helicopters.

The Dunker is suspended about 20 feet above a deep pool, with cables.  After a full crew is loaded up and strapped in, (two in the cockpit, and four in the crew area), it is dropped into the water.  As soon as it hits, it starts to roll over and sink.  This is when it get "real"!
Depending on what side you are on, you either immediately go under water, or have time to think about it as you roll over and then submerge.  
After grabbing a short breath, you hang out in your seat, strapped in, and upside down, until the water stops surging.  Then everyone releases and egresses from the upside down and submerged "helo".  Everyone makes their way to the side cargo door, hand over hand, and then out the door, in an orderly manner.  After you are out, it's up to the surface, and that welcome breathe of fresh air.  Oh yes, did I say that 4 of the 5 rides you are wearing a hood over your head?  That is the panic, disorientation, "I feel like I'm about to drown", water rammed up your nose and into your sinuses, part of the "ride".
Basically you have to control the panic urges, and trust me, it feels like you are right on the edge.  For anyone who "freaks out" and panics, there are US Navy Divers in place to drag your water-logged butt out, so you can try that ride again!  Trust me, you do not want to "freak out", and give those divers a reason to do their job.  If you release your harness too early, then you get sucked back to the end of the  Dunker where you are pressed against the end steel mesh by the surging water, until you drown, or until a Navy Diver saves you........... just a little added incentive to not screw things up!

Passing the Dunker is one of those very significant milestones you pass on the way to your Naval Aviator or Air Crewman Wings (pilot or crewman).  For those who don't, or can't, pass the Dunker, it's the walk of shame, and back to a cutter you go.  We actually lost a couple of guys from our class because they couldn't complete the rides.  It was sad to see them go.

For those of us who went on to fly on helicopters, we could look forward to more yearly "Dunker-style" training at our air stations to qualify to use the Underwater Escape Re-Breather vests that we all wore.

Before we take a look at the entire pamphlet, you can take a look at my earlier posts about my time at USCG Air Station Borinquen, Puerto Rico, and the gear I wore:




Here is the entire pamphlet.  For those of you who "rode the 9D5 Dunker", back in the day, it'll bring back a few memories.  For the rest of you, here's a glimpse at what it takes to get your wings.  You can click on any of the photos to get a larger, full screen view.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Orginal Swedish Army Kåsa Cup, Kuska Cup for Swedish Mess Kit, Old compared to New Cup, Stellana Laxa, Three Crowns

After my previous blog posting showing my new-made, Wildo cups, I made a concerted effort to track down an original Swedish Army cup.  I succeeded! 

I located a stash of original Swedish Army Kåsa Cups being sold by a company in Finland.  The price was quite good, so I picked one up.  Now I have an original to display with my Swedish kits, and a new Wildo cup for field use.  The best of both worlds.

Here is a link to the original posting about the Wildo cups:

Let's take a look at the original Swedish issued cup and then we'll do a side-by-side comparison with the Wildo cup.

The original Swedish issue cup is made of a very hard plastic, in an olive drab color, with a smooth finish.

The cup is marked on the underside of the handle with the Swedish Three Crowns, the manufacturer's name, and the numeral 10.  

The company name is STELLANA LAXA.

The cup is designed to fit inside  the Swedish Mess Kit.

When the original cup is compared to the new-made, Wildo cup, there are a few obvious differences.

The first difference is the color.  The Original is an olive green color, and the new Wildo cup is more of a evergreen green color.

Wildo cup on left, Original on right.

The plastic is rigid  and hard on the original, and softer and flexible on the Wildo cup.

The bottom of the original is quite rounded, with a slight flat area in the center.  The Wildo cup has a larger flat area.  Between the two, the new Wildo cup is much more stable when sitting on a flat surface.

Wildo cup on left, Original on right.

Of course the names and stamp marking as different as well.

I think for everyday, modern bushcraft, or camping uses, I would have to choose the new Wildo cup.  It is made from BPA free plastic, and is slightly flexible, both positive attributes.  Another big plus is the fact that the Wildo cup has a flatter bottom, making it more stable when sitting on its own.  Other than that, they are both very similar, and you wouldn't be disappointed either way!

Let's take a look at the cups, side-by-side.  Just to re-cap, the Original Swedish Cup is olive, and the new Wildo cup is evergreen.  Here they are.