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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

SCUBAPRO SUNDAY – The Battle of Normandy 6 June thru 29 August

Sunday, June 7th, 2020

When most people think of Normandy, they think about the invasion on 6 June, and leave it there. But the Battle of Normandy did not end until 29 August when the last German troops crossed the Seine river. The Allies had estimated the casualties on D-day could be as many as 40,000, but they were far fewer – around 10,000. Even on Omaha Beach, the Allies lost about 842 dead. But it could have been a lot worse. German casualty numbers on D-Day are not as precise, but estimates put them at a similar amount. By the end of the battle, the Allies would have over 2,850,000 soldiers on the ground in Europe.

Overlord was the code name for the invasion. The first six weeks had come to a stalemate, an operation on 18 July by the U.K. forces known as GOODWILL did advance them about 10 square miles, but it came at the cost of over 5500 Allies casualties, and about 400 tanks lost. The Germany losses were about 100 tanks and about 200 people captured. It is conceded by many the biggest tank battle fought by the U.K. 

General Bradley’s idea was named Operation Cobra, and it was put into motion on 10 July. It started with the carpet bombing of a 4-mile-long line in front of the Germans along the U.S. lines. As soon as the bombs were dropped, the U.S. 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions would punch a hole through the German defenders and finally break out of the peninsula.

 As the Allied forces advanced in all directions, the German divisions tried desperately to reorganize. Patton’s 3rd Army advanced towards the east of France during the weeks that follow, only being slowed down because they were outrunning their supply of fuel and ammo. Now the Allies could pursue the Germans into the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.

This battle would set the tone for the rest of the war, Germany lost about one battalion worth of man a week to death and injury as they retreated about 50,000 German soldiers. They also had approximately 200,000 men captured. The Allies lost more than 36,000 soldiers, and the fighting had also affected civilians living in Normandy; about 20,000 people killed, and around 300,000 homes destroyed.

Overall, the Normandy campaign was one of the most brutal of the war. The combined average daily casualty rate on each of the 77 days of the battle was 6,675: higher than the Somme, Passchendaele, and Verdun in the First World War. The Battle of Normandy was a decisive first step in the liberation of Europe.

###I want to add a note about the number and dates I have used for this article. You can ready about this campaign, and you will get different numbers and dates, depending on who wrote it and when. To this day, the numbers are still changing.  

USAF SERE Training Film – How To Catch A Fish

Sunday, June 7th, 2020

United States Air Force Film Training Aid FTA, 279Q. “Survival Training”. This is a 1950s, black and white military training film. The film is intended to show stranded persons how to catch fish through several means to survive. The film is narrated. Fishing. The film opens with a man fishing on the side of the river with a branch. A soldier is seen walking along the banks of a river 1:10. A man is creating fishing gear 1:40. A man fashions a hook from a key 2:09. A man makes a fishing pole out of a branch 2:34. A man digs for bait 3:12. Earthworms are found 3:22. A man fashions fishing lures out of regular items 4:00. Man fashions a spear from a branch and kills a fish 4:15. Man creates a gaffe 4:50. Man fashions a spear out of bamboo 5:00. Man creates a fishing trap out of his parachute 5:30. Man punctures trap to allow water to flow through 6:07. Man places bait into fish trap 6:23. Man creates mesh net to catch fish 8:35. Man ties weights to the bottom of the net to hold it in the water 9:06. Man places net across the river 9:38. The net catches fish by the gills in the riverbed 10:30. Man creates a trite line with several hooks along a single line 11:15. Produced by United States Air Force Photographic and Charting Service. (MATS). 1958.

“Changing Stripes” (a Tiger Stripe History Teaser)

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020

Sunday, May 31st we ran a SCUBA Pro Sunday article celebrating the birthday of the US Navy SEALs. You probably noticed a couple of interesting gear modifications and iconic camouflage patterns in the last picture of that article.

You know, the one right before you learned that SEAL Team 2 is older than Team 1?

That picture features both tiger stripe and ERDL pattern cammies like those worn by Vietnam era New Zealand SAS soldiers, current OPFOR role-players, and others (including Philippine SOF units).

Recently freelance journalist (and militaria SME) Peter Suciu wrote an article for the Breach-Bang-Clear crew about the history and development of tiger stripe camouflage on their “House Morningwood” site. In it he addresses both historical and contemporary use of the pattern.

If you’re interested in that, check out,

Changing Stripes: a history of Tiger Stripe Camo.

And remember…you don’t wear tiger stripes in Japan.

By Dave Reeder, correspondent extraordinaire and magnificent bastard.

AUSA graphic novel – Medal of Honor: Daniel Inouye

Monday, June 1st, 2020

The Association of the United States Army is proud to announce the publication of a new graphic novel, Medal of Honor: Daniel Inouye.

I invite you to share this complimentary digital graphic novel with your readership.  Interested readers can view the work or download a free copy at www.ausa.org/inouye.

Daniel Inouye personally witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor and volunteered for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which became one of the most decorated units in World War II. As a second lieutenant, Inouye led an assault on the German defenses in Italy during the final weeks of the war, where he lost an arm but continued fighting the battle. He entered politics upon his return to Hawaii and became the first Japanese American elected to the U.S. Senate.

The AUSA Book Program recognizes these remarkable acts of valor with Medal of Honor: Daniel Inouye. This full-color digital graphic novel was created by a talented team of professionals:

Script: Chuck Dixon (Batman, The Punisher, The ‘Nam)

Pencils, Inks, Cover: Christopher Ivy (G.I. Joe, Avengers, Flash)

Colors: Peter Pantazis (Justice League, Superman, Wolverine)

Lettering: Troy Peteri (Spider-Man, Iron Man, X-Men)

The Association of the United States Army is a non-profit organization devoted to the US Army and Its Soldiers, and the book is being distributed free of charge as part of our educational mission. The new graphic novel is the first issue in the second volume of the Medal of Honor series, which launched October 2018 with Medal of Honor: Alvin York and continued with profiles of Roy Benavidez, Audie Murphy, and Sal Giunta. These graphic novels are available on Medal of Honor series page at www.ausa.org/moh.

This year’s graphic novels, in addition to Inouye, will highlight Sgt. Henry Johnson, the Harlem Hellfighter who fought in World War I; Dr. Mary Walker, a Civil War surgeon and the only woman to receive the Medal of Honor; and Cpl. Tibor Rubin, the Holocaust survivor who later fought in Korea.

To read Medal of Honor: Daniel Inouye online or download a free copy, please visit www.ausa.org/inouye.  

 

 

SCUBAPRO Sunday – SEALs Birthday

Sunday, May 31st, 2020

On 25 May 1961, President John F. Kennedy, addressing a joint session of Congress, delivered a speech that most people remember as his challenge to the country to put an American on the moon before the end of the decade. The most important part of that speech you seldom hear about. But, it mandated that the military broaden its numbers and the use of Special Operation in all branches of service: “I am directing the secretary of defense to expand rapidly and substantially … the orientation of existing forces for the conduct of … unconventional wars. … In addition, our special forces and unconventional warfare units will be increased and reoriented. …”

 

The East Coast and West coast teams have always joked about what team is older, Team One, or Team Two. Team Two says they are because of the 3-hour time difference, and the west coast says they are because they supposal received their message to commission first.  But this isn’t really about that. The SEAL Teams use 01 Jan 1962, the day the teams were commissioned as their birthday. But if you look through old messages, you can find about different dates that you could say should or could be the birthday of SEAL Teams. Before Kennedy gave his speech, the Navy and all the other branches had already started to plan for a new kind of warfare and a new group to fight it. The U.S. has just ended significant involvement in Korea and sent advisers to Vietnam around 1955, so we had an idea of what the next generation of warfare might look like.

“To augment present naval capabilities in restricted waters and rivers with particular reference to the conduct and support of paramilitary operations, it is desirable to establish Special Operations teams as a separate component within Underwater Demolition Units One and Two. An appropriate cover name for such units is “SEAL” being a contraction of SEA, AIR, LAND.”

– Vice Adm. Wallace M. Beakley,
Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, 05 Jun 1961

I love that the name “SEAL” started as a cover name, I am sure they never thought of what that name would come to mean. I say that in a good way and also a little wrong. I miss the days of being quiet professionals.

The Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Arleigh Burke, in a memo dated 11 Jul 1960, tasked Vice Adm Beakley with studying how the Navy could contribute to unconventional warfare. Beakley responded to that tasking in a memo dated 12 Aug 1960, saying, “Navy Underwater Demolition Teams and Marine reconnaissance units were the logical organizations for an expanded naval capability in unconventional warfare.” Beakley further recommended that a working group be formed to study how the Navy could “assist or participate” in covert operations. Then, on 13 Sept 1960, an Unconventional Activities Working Group was formed. Like the military now, the progress was slow, and on 10 Mar 1961, when the Navy’s Unconventional Activities Committee presented a mission statement for the new special operations unit and officially used for the first time the acronym “SEAL.” 

Beakley sent another memo saying, “If you agree in the foregoing proposals, I will take action to establish a Special Operations Team on each coast.” Burke wasted no time in giving the green light. On 05 Jun 1961, the CNO issued a letter notifying the commanders in chief U.S. Atlantic, U.S. Pacific, and U.S. Naval Forces Europe about the Navy’s intentions regarding SEAL units. So, if you look at all the about dates, you can choose 25 May, 05 Jun, 13 Sept, 10 Mar or 01 Jan.  I do not really care about what date that it happened on; I am just glad that it did, and I think it is good to look back at the process that went from idea to a finished product.

Oh, and Team Two is the Oldest Team.

SCUBAPRO Sunday – Memorial Day

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

Shortly after the Civil War, Memorial Day began as Decoration Day. The reason for that is because it was a day on which Americans, North and South, would decorate the graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War.

Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, who lead a group for Northen Civil War veterans, declared in 1868 that Decoration Day would be observed on May 30. The date was chosen only for the reason that it didn’t coincide with any battles fought. It was a day for the North and South to honor their fallen and decorate their graves. After World War I the holiday was broadened to include service members who died in all of the country’s wars, not just the Civil War.

Multiple cities claim to be the birthplace of this holiday, but President Lyndon Johnson formally gave the honor to Waterloo, N.Y., in 1966. Up until 1971, Memorial Day was observed on May 30, the date Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. In 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The same law also declared Memorial Day as a federal holiday. It did not go into effect until 1971.

Most people look at the Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial start of summer, mattress, and furniture sales or a day for cooking out. I know most of the people that read SSD will understand what the real meaning is. This is a day to remember the fallen man and woman of the military that have gone before us. Like most holidays in the U.S., it has been turned into just a weekend for sales and people to try and make money. But please take the time to think about the fallen, and their families that have as President Lincoln said: “Laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.” We truly are lucky to live in the greatest country in the world, where “the pursuit of happiness” is a garneted right. You are never asked to do anything for it other than maybe do jury duty. But some people chose to serve for whatever reason and some die because they chose to server.

There are a couple small things you can do. One is if you fly an America flag lower it to half staff until noon. Then at noon raise it all the way up until sunset. Second, in the year 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance was passed in Congress this says at 3pm local time take a moment in your own way to remember the fallen.

Memorial Day is not Veterans Day. I have heard so many people say, “oh this weekend, we should really thank a veteran.” This isn’t for us; it is for the people that never came home and their families.

Lastly, I wanted to say something about what to say to someone else on Memorial Day as a greeting. Please do not say “Happy Memorial Day”. This is a little thing but it’s like saying happy funeral day. So, if you feel like “Happy Memorial Day” isn’t appropriate, try saying, “I hope you have a nice/good Memorial Day,”.

Long Live the Brotherhood

 

Broken Arrow – Response to a Nuclear Weapons Accident

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

This 1980 informational film was produced by the Air Force to depict a Defense Nuclear Agency (now Defense Threat Reduction Agency) training exercise based on a nuclear weapons accident scenario and the steps that would be taken from the time of the incident to D+7.

A Lost History: 30 Years of the Eagle A-III

Saturday, May 16th, 2020

There are times when a backpack becomes a trendsetter because it is on the forward edge of a fashion trend, creating a bump for an entire industry of companies chasing the idea of “the perfect pack”.  They have cutting-edge styling and advertising campaigns that seem to push the boundaries of art.

Others meet at the intersection of a fitness craze and superb marketing techniques that hook the customer with an idea of quality and durability.

Then there are packs that are the sole survivor of gear purges because—as a veteran acquaintance said—they are like that favorite pair of jeans or broken-in jungle boots that you just can’t throw out.

Merrimack Webster defines the word icon as an emblem or symbol, and the Eagle Industries  A-III assault pack has become an icon of the tactical gear Wild West of the late 1980s, when the military began to veer away from designing equipment in-house and started to procure load-carrying solutions tailored to fit a broad range of requirements. Most veterans who have owned an A-III will tell you without hesitation that it falls into the same category as their favorite pair of jeans and jungle boots.

During prior research on the history of the military pack, I uncovered bits and pieces of the story surrounding the A-III, but it was complicated by so much conjecture, third-hand knowledge and “I know a guy” commentary that I did not make mention of the A-III in the article. I knew it would have to wait for another day, when its full story could be told.


(Original version Eagle A-III. Photo by Steve S.)

I am a history junkie, so when I began the hunt for primary sources, it became difficult to discern the ground truth about a pack which was produced and sold in the hundreds of thousands over its lifetime. I’d come across chatter in tactical gear forums that the A-III was a knockoff of a Gregory design, so I’d spend time down that rabbit hole. Then I would hear whispers about the infancy of Eagle Industries and its relationship with the military, and drop into another rabbit hole for a while.

I caught my first break during a conversation with Kory Brown, product designer at Eagle Industries and owner of the tactical gear outfit Bergspitze Customs. He routinely interacts with some of the staff who were at Eagle when Carver was in charge.

He eventually walked out onto the sewing room floor one day in mid-2019 and spoke with one of the original seamstresses who had worked at the original 4,000 square foot facility in Webster Groves, MO. She told him that the first production model of the A-III was stitched up in November, 1989.

I had my first primary source!

Carver would eventually sell Eagle Industries to ATK/Vista after producing massive quantities of holsters, backpacks, rifle cases and assorted products for military and law enforcement customers during his stewardship of the company. It became the world leader in tactical gear and the industry standard for innovation, durability and functionality. He eventually moved on to other pursuits, opening a new company—Atlas 46—in Fenton, MO. This new venture produces tool storage, tool carriage, tool organization and personal workwear items, while also providing industrial design services. They even produce their own version of the A-III, the A3 Legacy, under the leadership of John’s son, Brian.


(Photo courtesy of Atlas 46)


(Photo courtesy of Atlas 46)


(Brian and John Carver – photo courtesy of Atlas 46)

The A-III was coming up on its 30th anniversary, but even armed with the date it was first stitched up, I wasn’t ready to write up a story about it. The online debates about the lineage of the A-III remained unresolved and this article missed the original publishing date, because I wanted to know the full story. A few knowledgeable folks in the industry had commented that the A-III actually evolved from a Lowe Alpine Systems design, but they could not remember what the original Lowe pack looked like, or how many modifications were made to make it meet military expectations. And there were still the folks who argued that it evolved from a Gregory pack.

The A-III is significant for being one of the first packs which were mass-produced for military customers without any design input from a military engineer, as was the process from years past. It is in fact a simple design, despite it sparking a revolution in load carriage across every branch of the military at the small unit level.

The key elements of the original are:

— A clamshell opening to the main compartment (approximately 16” x 20” x 7”) which allows it be opened about 3/4 of the way by dual zippers;

— A sturdy top carry handle;

— A 12” x 16” x 2” smaller front compartment which opens halfway down by its own dual zippers;

— Curved and padded shoulder straps;

— Side compression straps;

— Dual, covered openings on the sides of the carry handle which were sized to accommodate radio antennae (and eventually hydration bladder hoses)


(Photo by Steve S.)


(Photo by Steve S.)


(Photo by Steve S.)

A slim, zippered slant pocket at the front measures 12” x 16” and is designed for quick access to maps, notebooks and writing instruments. A long strip of loop velcro runs along the upper edge of the pocket and can be covered with a velcro-backed nametape or luminous tabs. An accompanying square of loop velcro on the face of the pack and several inches above the slant pocket is sized for a flag or similarly-sized patch. The removable waist belt is not often seen on original examples of the pack, unless the user is trying to keep the pack original to full specifications or carries a lot of weight in it on a regular basis.

The back panel on an original is occupied by an elasticized pocket that can hold a frame sheet if the user requires a more rigid shape. It worked with varying degrees of success, depending on the role that the user employed the pack in.


(Photo by Steve S.)

The original A-III was slick inside and out, but future iterations were produced with an internal webbing array to secure a long-range radio or similarly bulky item, along with side pockets and sections of webbing sewn to the outside to allow for canteens, binoculars, first aid kits, and ammunition to be attached by smaller pouches. More recent versions were updated with sections of Pouch Attachment Ladder System webbing, to accommodate Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment pouches.


(Photo by Steve S.)

An oversized version was eventually developed with input from both Army and Marine Corps subject matter experts, resulting in an airborne version that could be rigged to a parachute harness. This capability required the design to meet a set of exacting safety certification standards, resulting in a pack that looks markedly different from the original version.


(Photo credit, Eagle Industries)

Kory Brown confirmed that the A-III is not currently available for retail sale at the Eagle website. However, SSD reported on a possible 3-day assault pack prototype at the Eagle booth during this year’s SHOT Show, so hopefully an updated version of the A-III will return to the retail sales lineup in the near future.

The A-III became a hit among the troops because it was available in subdued colors as well as the standard woodland pattern camouflage of the era. It had lashing points at the bottom and its side compression straps allowed for a wide range of accompanying gear to be attached, giving troops a capability to patrol with it for short-duration operations without dragging out a standard-issue pack. It also had a chest strap that was superior to anything on the issued packs of the day, making it at least marginally more comfortable when worn over body armor.

“The Hizara Province” by Elzie Goldman, illustrates use of A-IIIs in the opening years of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan.

Even I owned an A-III, purchased from a postal exchange at Ft. Story when I was a junior member of the United States Marine Corps Fleet Antiterrorism (there is no hyphen) Security Team Company at Norfolk Naval Air Station in 1993. I eventually sold it some years later, either for beer or gas money and never acquired one again. The simplicity and clean lines of the pack stuck with me though and spurred me to learn the backstory behind this icon.

After almost a year of searching for contacts, nudging Mel Terkla (former lead designer at Kifaru and current owner of PocketUp) to make an introduction on my behalf to Carver, and multiple queries at the Atlas 46 website, I received an email out of the blue that Carver’s assistant would refer my queries to him at his Montana home. She forwarded my questions to John in the hopes that he could recall the A-III’s origins story, something created over 30 years ago.

I crossed my fingers and breathed a sigh of relief, even if ever so slightly.

I now had my second primary source, and what a goldmine of knowledge John Carver turned out to be! He sent me a document which laid out the history as best he could recall, and it filled in many of my gaps of knowledge about the A-III.

Over a series of emails, John laid out how the Eagle A-III came to life and I grew more excited that my search might be coming to an end. While he admitted that his memory has faded in patches, John distilled the information into a clear timeline, mentioning a few of the giants in the tactical gear world and the quiet professionals at the highest tier of American counterterrorism efforts who would use his packs.

John and his mother, Lorene Pyles, began operations in the basement of her St. Louis, Missouri home in 1974, where they produced nylon gear for motorcycle racing, including assorted bags, fanny packs, motocross pants, and a variety of other packs. By 1977, the company was building assault ladder covers for Arnold’s Welding Service (AWS) out of Fayetteville, NC for specialized Tier One military units and SWAT teams.

His memory gets a little less clear here, but as he recalls, Lowe Alpine Systems was a subcontractor to AWS for a pack which AWS in turn sold to satisfy equipment requirements for the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta. I know there are going to be eye-rolls out there, but yes, THAT Delta. Because this branch of the Eagle story no longer influences his connections to military sales, I have no reason to doubt his statements.

As John recalled, Lowe had moved components of its manufacturing to Ireland and could not make their usual pack in the four or five colors that Delta required. They needed to be produced in black, olive drab, khaki and other subtle variants, so as to not resemble a full unit deployment when carried by the operators during parts of a mission. Lowe’s minimum order requirements were just too high for Delta to meet, because the unit only needed small batches.

Enter Bill Arnold at AWS, who contacted John about making modifications to the Lowe pack, in the colors which were required. John did that and the A-III was born. The first packs were made with an AWS logo on it, because Arnold didn’t want customers to take notice that he didn’t have the in-house sewing capability to fill the purchase order contracts. At John’s insistence, the classic Eagle logo eventually found its way onto the pack.

(Photo by Steve S.)

The Eagle A-III started showing up everywhere and Eric Graves (owner of SSD) recalls that in the early 1990s, the black A-IIIs were called “Ninja  Bags” by the members of U.S. Joint Special Operations Command who were issued them. Other U.S. Army Special Forces veterans have recounted to me that their teams were outfitted with one or more of the bags per each team member. It eventually made its way into the general purpose forces, post exchanges and base clothing sales stores, ultimately becoming a pack that a slew of other manufacturers emulated, putting their own slant on the design with side pockets and cosmetic changes.

With each email I exchanged with John, I sensed his pride swelling when he mentioned his staff at the original Eagle facility. He was happy to retell the story of an amazing symbol of American entrepreneurship and dedication to customer service. He was remembering the heydays of a good company and good people.

Unfortunately, the discussion sent me back down another rabbit hole because I was left with the core question which I still felt compelled to answer: what inspired the A-III 30 years ago?

Claims by outside observers that Eagle had copied the Lowe pack still nagged at me, so I reached out to Lowe Alpine to see what someone there could say on the matter. I was assisted by an enthusiastic gentleman who informed me that Lowe had fallen on hard times through mismanagement at several points and was purchased by the company he now worked for as a customer service representative. Unfortunately, the last standing Lowe Alpine System employee had left two years prior to our discussion and he might not have even had knowledge of Lowe’s relationship with special operations units from that era.

I ended the email exchange with the Lowe rep feeling a bit defeated and frustrated. I had come so far, discussing the history of the A-III directly with the former owner of Eagle Industries, but was now left standing at the base of a very high wall.

I went back to John Carver with several photos of 1970s and 1980s Lowe designs, but none of them jogged his memory. The bag he had been asked to modify by Bill Arnold looked very much like the first A-IIIs which Eagle eventually produced. None of the product pictures we talked about came close enough.

On a cold and rainy April day in 2020, I used the collaborative capability of an internet chat tool to have a discussion with three giants in the tactical gear world: Darin Talbot of Extreme Gear Labs, Stephen Hilliard of Blue Force Gear and Eric Graves of SSD.

They knew that I had been on the hunt for the full story behind the A-III and each had contributed a breadcrumb here and there along my three-year path to enlightenment. They also knew my frustrations and had often witnessed the moment when I hit a dead end in a backpack forum, while trying to elicit details on the pack.

As we chatted, I described my communication with the Lowe rep and Eric began digging into his computer to produce some really old catalogs that are now hosted on vintage outdoor gear websites. He linked in the Lowe catalog from 1988 and flashed an example of a blue pack that was rectangular, but only had a few features similar to the A-III. We looked at it for a moment but decided it was too different to have inspired the Eagle version.

We had a nice chat and I decided to take a nap, feeling a bit tired from once again concentrating so hard on the Lowe angle of my search that seemed like just another dead end. Before I shut down my iPad, I went back to the link Eric had provided and started browsing, intrigued by just how many bright blue packs Lowe used to make back in the day.

I flipped a few pages, pinched the screen and zoomed, then flipped another few pages. There were a lot of boxy packs made in the late 1980s, worn by young backpackers wearing tube socks and really shiny nylon shorts.

I yawned, flipped another page and then froze. It couldn’t be. But there it was, on page 15. Offered in black and gray and coming in at 2,190 cubic inches and a weight of 2 lbs, 14 oz, the unmistakable teardrop shape and slant pocket of the  “Adventure III” was staring back at me.

Lowe Adventure III…Eagle A-III. I felt a bit like Indiana Jones and went back to the chat to share my discovery. Everyone agreed that I had found the ancestor to the A-III, and the connection was now indisputable, settling all of the forum debates once and for all.

(Source:1988 Lowe Alpine catalog hosted at Larsonweb.com)

I emailed a picture off to John Carver immediately and he concurred that I had finally found it.

So what have I learned along the way during this three-year expedition into the history of a pack that became an icon, surviving for over 30 years and continuing to be held in the highest of regard by veterans who own one?

John Carver and his old Eagle team are another example of what I like to call “essential patriots”. They delivered a product that met the customer’s needs and became an example of American manufacturing along the way. Thousands of American warriors went to war with this pack slung over a shoulder, conducted combat missions and used it during their off-duty hours when they were safely back at home.

John closed one of our email conversations by adding a note that every modern soft goods manufacturer should follow:

“Listen to the customer, build what he asks for, build it to last and sell it at a fair price.”

The A-III lives on because an essential patriot listened to his customer.

I want to thank everyone who reads this article and knows that they assisted me along the way, even in what they may have thought was a minor aspect. It would not have been possible without your insight and patience.

Jon Custis is a veteran Marine infantryman who writes on a variety of tactical equipment, training, and leadership topics.