Pub Talk - Playing Position Left Out

Big Red here at me favorite waterin hole, Cohan's Pub.
Pull up a chair, have a pint.

Reading through period reports on liner development, one gets the distinct impression that the (OQMG) Office of the Quartermaster General was not a fan of Hawley. Perhaps this dislike was based purely on the performance of Hawley's liner, or maybe it was because OQMG did not think Hawley was the right choice for producing the liner they desired. Regardless, the Quartermaster seems to have only allowed Hawley to play in the liner game because he was the only kid on the block who owned a ball, and as soon as they found another ball, they sat him on the sidelines.

What I find interesting about the liner development story is that the same reports that expose the OQMG's apparent disdain for Hawley's inability to produce the liner they desired also reveal that the OQMG, although specific in their desire for a plastic liner, really didn't have any better idea on how to achieve this goal than did Hawley. Nevertheless, they moved forward with their newly assigned task with what comes off the page as a smug arrogance, which, in hindsight, created timely delays necessitating the need for constant re-examination of both the liner's manufacture and that of its component parts.

As the story goes, all parties involved with the new helmet made an investigation into the acquisition of a plastic liner and found the industry to be lacking. With time becoming critical, McCord Radiator and Manufacturing Co., on their own initiative, approached Hawley regarding a potential solution to the liner problem. Based solely on a promise of a possible sub-contract from McCord, who at the time had no formal contract from the Army, Hawley accepted the challenge and, at their own expense, began designing and producing tooling for a liner body that would slip-fit into a McCord helmet body. On April 3, 1941, Hawley provided the first round of samples required for Army field testing.

On April 28, 1941, the Office of the Quartermaster General contacted Hawley by phone to tell them their final design was accepted and to prepare their facility for large-scale production. On July 9, 1941, Hawley received a purchase order for a quantity of 950,000 liner bodies. Owing to the volume of liners required and the timeline on which they had to deliver, Hawley chose to make two significant moves, once again at their own expense.

The first was the decision to invest in a five-month-long venture wherein they constructed a new building and built assembly lines with an assortment of newly purchased equipment. The second was to install production equipment and provide supervisors to the General Fibre Company in St. Louis, with whom they sub-contracted to establish an additional production line to produce liner bodies.

Though procurement continued for a year, the fiber helmet liner was considered, by the OQMG, unsatisfactory from the start. It had extremely high moisture absorption, poor dimensional stability, low strength, and poor durability. The cloth outer layer was easily frayed, quickly worn through, and soon soiled. Despite the liner’s shortcomings, approximately 3,900,000 fiber liners were manufactured by Hawley on Quartermaster contracts from December 16, 1941, to mid-November 1942, when production was discontinued.

Hawley knew full well before they even began manufacturing on the first order that their liner would not stand up to all the requirements of the Bureau of Standards testing, except that it allowed the helmet to be worn. They understood that McCord was out of the picture as the Quartermaster Corps had taken over procurement and that the Quartermaster was looking into industrial firms that could be potential producers of a plastic version of the liner.

Hawley, therefore, had been in communication with the Standardization Branch of the OQMG prior to the culmination of the Ordnance contract they were sub-contracted under, offering assurances that they could switch to plastic liner production with their existing equipment within 24 hours’ time. It seems these overtures fell on deaf ears, as no contracts or seemingly any consideration was ever given to Hawley, the Quartermaster, choosing instead to leave them on the plastic liner sideline.

The shame of it seems to be that, in a critical moment of need, Hawley was approached with only a vague promise of a subcontract and left to their own devices to design and produce a workable solution, which, to their credit, produced a win. Based on the history of the trials and tribulations surrounding the development of the first plastic helmet liner, if not for Hawley and their Fibre liner, American soldiers and sailors would no doubt have entered the war wearing the old doughboy-style helmet.

Now it's time to stop jaw jacking and start some serious drinking……
Until next time, I bid ye a fond

2 Kommentare

  • LeRoy CARON

    Great background info that I wasn’t aware of . Can you just imagine the decisions that were made during the war years that no one knows. Very nicely written. Something else I didn’t know. Thanks Josh and Brenda

  • phillip d marritt

    what i dont understand is that the msa skullguard existed already since the 1930s. why were they never contacted until much later?

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