Jeeps, grease guns and steel pots

Published 8:58 am Wednesday, February 13, 2019

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I’m mighty happy to report that my old head is still crammed full of good old timey memories of various times, places, stuff and folks, but seems like I drift back to football of the ‘50s and ‘60s a heap and early army recollections, and today we’ll hit for a few minutes about army stuff that most living people don’t remember all that well.

Never know what might spark a column, but I just looked over at a model jeep by my computer, thus we’re writing about that jack of all trades work horse vehicle developed and built during World War II that just kept right on a trucking, and was still king when I joined up in the fifties, and was issued brown and not yet black boots, as well as the popular Eisenhower wool jacket and pants.

Most of the all terrain jeeps had canvas tops, but in the winter might or might not be equipped with canvas doors. Still mighty cold driving one down the road or through the woods in unpleasant weather. Speaking of woods, that vehicle looked like a tactical military vehicle sure ‘nuff when the top was stripped off, and the windshield laid down on the hood with the canvas wrapped around it to protect the glass, and prevent a glare being picked up by opposing aircraft flying over.

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Now, that little fellow was not bullet proof or mine proof, but it still had a fierce look about it with a 50 caliber machine gun mounted in the back seat area, or even fiercer with a 90 MM or 105 MM Recoilless Rifle set up back there. Shucks, you could hook up a canvas covered trailer behind that 1/4-ton utility vehicle, fill it full of stuff you might need, shift into four wheel drive, and take off for wherever you might need to be.

Now, let me tell y’all about that grease gun. Naw, had nothing atall to do with servicing the jeep. That was a compact 45 caliber submachine gun with a folding stock, which packed a punch and a half for short distances, and it looked more like a grease gun than a machine gun.   You pulled back on that trigger, and those 45 caliber slugs going out the barrel caused that little bugger to climb up toward the sky with all the bucking. When it came time to qualify on the range with that grease gun, I had it figured out. I fired one round at a time rather than holding the trigger back. After all these years, I still think the range officer and range sergeant were not happy to award me a sub machine gun bar for my expert marksman badge, but there’s my badge hanging on the wall right here over sixty years later, and one the bars flat out says “Sub Machine Gun.”

Most of you readers have seen enough war movies to probably know about the steel pot. Haven’t really been all that many years since it was replaced by the Kevlar German looking helmet. The plastic helmet liner and steel helmet fitted over it was developed soon after the Second World War started, and set American fighting men apart from the rest of the world for many years. It was a heavy sapper, but the steel helmet would slip off, and for parades and stuff soldiers would wear only the helmet liner. Other times that steel helmet would be removed was when the soldier needed to shave, heat up some chow for supper or wash his socks. There, my friends, is where that helmet got the treasured name of “steel pot.”

We talked about that jeep being a jack of all trades. Well, you might say the same about that good ol’ steel pot, and I remember it well. Matter of fact, my memory bank is smiling right now as I think back to traversing along over rough terrain in a jeep with a grease gun, MI Carbine or Ml Garand lashed to the seat, and a steel pot bouncing on my head.

— Tom Boggs is a columnist for the Demopolis Times and a native of Marengo County. His column,“Days Gone Bye,” appears weekly.

(This column originally appeared in the Wednesday, February 6 issue of the Demopolis Times.)