Tag Archives: NIM

The Maine Thing

On February 18, 1898 the American battleship, USS Maine exploded in the harbor of Havana Cuba and catapulted the United States onto the world stage. Above is a photo of a porthole that was recovered from the wreckage and is on display at the National Infantry Museum.

Tensions between the US and Spain had been on the rise as the people of Cuba were fighting Spain for the freedom. America supported the rebels but was in such a position where they could not do so openly. In fact President McKinley sent the Maine to Havana, with permission from the Spanish government, to protect Americans in the country. When the ship inexplicably exploded that night over 200 American sailors lost their life and all any one could ask was why?

The initial investigation placed the cause for the explosion on a mine that had detonated underneath a powered magazine. When the results of the inquiry were made public, the American press immediately laid the blame on the Spanish and demanded that the US intervene in the rebellion on the side of Cuba. Before long the fervor for war grew and led to Congress declaring war on Spain on April 23, 1898. The war itself did not last long, Spain had long been on the decline and none of the other powers felt compelled to help. Before long the US Navy had all but obliterated the Spanish Navy while the ground forces took Cuba and the Philippines, among others.

Several years later, a follow-up inquiry into the fate of the Maine, contradicted the mine findings and instead suggested that the cause of the explosion was spontaneous combustion inside the power magazine. Even today the actual cause of the explosion is debated and serves as fodder for conspiracy theorists. It does seem mighty convenient that such an event occurred just when the desire to create and American Empire at the expense of a dying European power seemed the most, opportune.

To read more about the Maine click here.


A Rifle and An Old War Story

The following story was relayed to me by my father, William Hatfield, whose personal photos of his time in Vietnam make up a chuck of this collection. I will do my best to tell the story as he relayed it, he did like to exaggerate sometimes but upon going through my photos and seeing the image above, well it just reminds me too much to not give it a try.

William “Bill” Hatfield went into the Navy right out of high school and after a very short stint in submarines he found himself in Corps school and a few short months later was sent to Vietnam as a US Navy Hospital Corpsmen serving with a Marine unit in country. The story goes as such.

Being a Corpsmen Bill carried a standard issue pistol, most likely a 9mm. Being medical personnel they were really not allowed to carry anything else according to the “rules of war”.  After a few weeks and several fire fights Bill asked one of the guys in his squad if he could teach him how to use the rifle, you know, just in case. Everyone sort of laughed and suggested that they had no issue with Bill knowing how to use the rifle, but before he could use one he needed to know how to clean it. Performing such maintenance on a firearm is important, but in the jungle it takes on another level of necessity. Bill agreed and underwent field classes on how to take apart, clean and reassemble the rifle as pictured above.

There was one problem. Bill had a hell of a time getting the rifle back together. It became a thing. Whenever the men were on patrol, during the breaks they would hand Bill a rifle and watch as he skillfully tore it down and leaned it like he had been doing it for years. When the time came to reassemble it though, he never had much luck.

One day his patrol entered a small village that was considered friendly and the men spread out to take a rest. Dutifully one of the men handed Bill a rifle who took a seat on the ground in front of small hut and started tearing the rifle down. Over his shoulder he noticed a small boy, five or six watching him very intently. Bill got the rifle apart and cleaned it, with the boy watching all the while. Before he could start the painful process of assembling the weapon he heard shouts coming from the other side of the village. Bill dropped the rifle parts and took off.

One of the Marines was trying to get up close and personal with one of the young ladies of the village and found himself on the wrong end of an irate father. No one was seriously hurt from the misunderstanding, but the Marine required a few stitches.  Bill realized he left his medkit back where he was sitting and headed back to get it. Upon reaching the hut he saw a sight that stayed with him the rest of his life.

The little boy was just finishing re-assembling the rifle like he had been doing it for years. Bill walked over and the young man handed the rifle to him smiling from ear to ear. he checked it out and everything looked good. he patted the kid on the head grabbed his medkit and went back to where the men were gathered.

When they saw Bill walk up with the re-assembled rifle some of the men started hooting and hollering.

“Doc finally put it back together!” His friend said.

Bill confidently held up the rifle and said, “Wasn’t hard at all!”

The image of the kid putting the rifle together when he couldn’t would stick with him. From that day on he never carried a rifle, cleaned a rifle or tried to put one back together.  He also never told anyone about the incident until well after he was home. Seeing that picture above always makes me smile and think about that story.



M26 Modular Accessory Shotgun System

The M26 is a shotgun accessory for the M16 or M4 rifle. Yep, this little baby can attach to the underbelly of M16 or M4 and provides soldiers with increased capabilities. The shotgun can be used with solid rounds to blow locks off of doors, buckshot and slugs for anti-personal applications and can even fire tear gas canisters. Best yet with the additional pistol grip and folding stock it can be a stand alone weapon.

The shotgun is a 12 gauge caliber and is a straight pull bolt-action, the bolt handle can be placed on either side of the mechanism. Originally in development in the 1990’s it started being used in the field during the 2003 Iraq War where it was used by engineers and military police. With initial testing being  successful is looks to be on pace to replace the Mossberg M500 pump shotgun that has been in service since 1961.

It used to be that soldiers in the field would be forced to chose one weapon or another, or else be weighted down with a ton excess equipment. Making a modular system like this, and there are other attachments that can be added to the M16/M4 chassis, give the soldiers more flexibility and less weight. Advances like this are what will take the US military into the conflicts of the future. Until then this is by far one of the most effective skeleton keys available to the troops.

The M40 Series Field Protective Mask

The M40 Series Field Protective Mask has been the protective mask of choice for the US military since 1992. It can protect the user from fifteen nerve, choking and blister agents as well as two different blood agents. It works by using an external C2  canister which can be attached on either side of the mask unlike the older M17 model which used internal filters. It also contains voicemitters to help with communication and a drinking system in case you needed to leave the mask on for a long period of time.
Ready for a little trivia?

The first gas mask has been traced back to 9th Century Iraq and was used to protect workers in polluted wells.

During the Middle Ages a variation of a gas mask was used to protect doctors from the plague. The masks had long bird like beaks that stored different herbs and other preventatives. (Also sort of helped with the smell of all the dead people.)

Masks with primitive respirators were used in Prussia in the late 18th Century for mine workers.

On April 22, 1915 though the true a terrible of the gas mask was finally found. On that day in the  village of Ypres on the Western Front of the quickly spiraling WWI the German Army used poison gas for the first time against Canadian and French colonial troops. At the time only cotton mouth pads were available for protection. With no sign that gas was going to leave the battlefield the war became a race to develop the best protection.

The M40 above is a direct ancestor of the masks developed all those years ago. The M40 is now being replaced by a new model, the M50. Protection must always evolve against the potential threats.

100th Post Old Glory

This the monumental 100th post on this blog. That means we have reached almost a year of telling stories and sharing some of the military of this great nation. Thank you all for your support.

Flags have been in the news a lot lately, and oddly enough  if you look back through you will see that we have been talking about flags before it became fashionable. See, flags have meaning, they are symbols. The problem is that sometimes the symbols don’t mean the same thing to everyone.

The flag in this photo above should be very familiar to you. Take a close look though and you will that it is a little different.

Did you see it?

There are 48 stars. See this flag is from the WWII era and for the most part during that time if you saw this flag it meant one of two things.

To our friends it was a symbol of hope, it was a symbol that the big dog had entered the fight and we were going to be doing everything possible to win the war. For ourselves, for our friends and for the sake of the world. Many Americans and our allies died for that flag and many more since have for the very same reasons.

To our enemies it was a symbol of dread. They say the flag and knew that the fight was on. We would not quit, we would not stop until they were defeated. Early in the war our enemies underestimated us and that was to their detriment. Many enemies died in the shadow of that flag, and they still do today.

So same flag different meanings. Weird how that happens, eh?

Thanks for the first 100. Stay tuned for the next 100.

So That Happened…


That is a Nazi armband. It was worn by an actual Nazi soldier during an actual war. Very seldom in the course of writing for this blog have I allowed much in the way of personal feelings, but there is something going that just needs stopped. People here and elsewhere are going through an unbelievable amount of effort to pretend that the Nazis never happened and by doing so allowing them to be swept under the rug.

Last summer a 93-year-old man in Germany was charged as an accessory in 300,000 murders for his role as a prison guard at Auschwitz. That trial is currently under way. but it is getting less press, especially in the United States than the Apple iWatch (or whatever they are calling it). This man was a Nazi, this country went to war to stop them from carrying out their plans. That man, even at 93, is only coming to justice because what we did to end the war and end the regime that he was a part of.  and this story gets barely a mention.

This is the thing. What they did was terrible and that sort of thing, not just in terms of the Holocaust, not just in the number of Jewish, Romanian, Polish, Russian, and all other races they felt unclean must never be allowed to happen again. The way to stop it i not through laws, nothing international agreements, not through erasing part of our collective history, but through remembering what they did. As each generation gets farther and farther from that truth, from that evil, it will take work to remember.

See that symbol in the picture above. That is the Nazi symbol. That armband was real and was worn by a real person that carried out their evil. we must never forget.

A Typical Day


This schedule is posted at the National Infantry Museum and is there to show what a typical day in boot cam would look for a member of the US Army. Nowadays though it is called Basic Combat Training. A ten week course that is designed to take men and women that walk in off the street and turn them into soldiers.

Over the course of the training the individual learns how to work like a team and think like a soldier, which sometimes requires a lot of adjustments on their part. Not everyone is cut out for it, but those that succeed embark on a career that is frankly thankless and dangerous.

The ten weeks are divided up into three phases.

Red Phase: The focus is on learning teamwork. This phase comes after their initial reception and starts teaching them the basics of training and field work.

White Phase: Among other skills marksmanship and rappelling are taught in this phase. Recruits are exposed to many new skills and abilities that will serve them during their career.

Blue Phase: Building on everything that has come before the recruits are exposed to more advanced weapons and push themselves to their physical limits.

Passing through all these phases and they have learned the skills needed to be effective in and out of combat.  With such a harrowing schedule as laid out above it is amazing that anyone makes it out.  But with almost 1.5 million men and women serving in the US military, at least that many have found a way. Just for fun one day why don’t you try to follow the schedule and see how you do?