U.S. ARMY ORDNANCE CORPS OFFICER'S CEREMONIAL BELT

Sometimes called sabre or saber belts, ceremonial belts for officers are worn with the Army Service Uniform and are manufactured in the appropriate branch colors—Crimson and Yellow for the Ordnance Corps—with gold braids on the top and bottom. The first-named branch color is in the center, with piping in the second-named branch color.

Ceremonial belts are optional purchase items, but officers of all grades who wish to convey their dedication to their career and their branch should definitely consider adding one to their dress-uniform wardrobe. The branch colors of the belt match the hatband of the service cap for the Army Service Uniform (ASU), and the gold braids complement the stripes on the trousers.

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As the Cold War began to accelerate into high gear in the late 1940s, the United States Army was faced with a major problem: how to staunch a Soviet invasion of Western Europe long enough to deploy significant forces in response. Part of the solution was the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which provided military assistance from all member nations in the event any one of them were attacked. But of the original NATO signatory nations, only the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, and France had military capabilities that would be of any consequence in a war against the massive Soviet army—and even then they would likely be overrun in the event of an overwhelming surprise attack from the east.

But in 1949, the Pentagon came up with a solution: an atomic artillery shell. An artillery shell with a atomic-tipped warhead could be delivered within minutes following the launch of a Soviet invasion, while waiting for the Air Force to deliver an atomic bomb could take much longer. The delays caused by the blast would provide valuable time for the U.S. and those NATO allies to assemble forces en masse rather than sending them piecemeal against the Soviets and being smashed by overwhelming numbers.

To design the weapon, the Pentagon picked Robert M. Schwartz, a former Navy officer who was serving at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey at the time. The problem facing Schwartz was not simply a matter of flinging a artillery shell with an atomic warhead far enough way that it wouldn’t immolate its crew upon detonation. First, he had to increase the size of the Army’s largest artillery shell by 17 percent to accommodate the new ordnance—then make the shell casing 4,000 times stronger than what had been designed to house the atomic bomb.

Critical to the success of the project was the work of Samuel Feltman, Chief of the Ballistic Section of the Ordnance Corps. Feltman assured the Pentagon that Schwartz’s team could develop a product that met the requirements that had been laid out when the weapon was first conceived—and he was correct. On May 25, 1953, the M65 atomic cannon was successfully test fired at the Army’s Nevada Test Site, marking the only time that an atomic shell was fired from a a cannon.

In a way, Schwartz and his team had overachieved, at least in terms of operational timelines. It wasn’t until December 1954 that NATO approved the first-strike use of atomic weapons, which would be the only realistic scenario in which the M65, nicknamed “Atomic Annie,” would serve its intended purpose.
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