Military History: The Beginnings
For over 100 years, we at Diamond Brand Gear have taken pride in our history with the U.S. military. Since WWI, we’ve supported our soldiers with handcrafted tents, packs and any number of accessories. With Memorial Day just around the corner, we wanted to share our long partnership with America’s armed forces with you.
In the 1940s, Diamond Brand jumped into the war effort alongside the rest of the country, supplying the U.S. military with top-notch canvas products from tents to packs. However, “For me, no one piece of gear that Diamond Brand has historically manufactured drives home the cost of war as does the stretcher,” says Gary Eblen, one of our earliest employees.
Diamond Brand workers would stretch sheets of canvas between two poles, often made of metal or wood. Soldiers would then use these simple yet durable contraptions to carry their wounded from the battlefield to the nearest field hospital (large and sturdy Diamond Brand wall tents). By the end of the war, Diamond Brand had completed 144 different government contracts.
Throughout the 1980s, Diamond Brand began working internally to perfect a four-man tent for the U.S. Army. The design was based off a recreational model known as the Southern Star, but with a much heavier tent frame and wall fabric. A military-grade model known as the Soldier Crew Tent went into production in 1989. The innovation came none too soon.
Just two years later, the Persian Gulf War began, and Diamond Brand once again jumped into the war effort. The U.S. government soon contracted Diamond Brand to produce tents for U.S. Army tank crews. By the end of the war, our workers had manufactured over 8,000 tents.This contract marked a big step in Diamond Brand becoming a significant contractor for the U.S. military.
Though our product and our focus varied, our commitment to quality and affordability remained the same in wartime and in peacetime. Gary Eblen puts it best: “Portability, reliability and durability have always been the guideposts for our products made for war and peace.”
Yet our history with the military also extended beyond just manufacturing. Throughout our history, government contracts have been a boon not just for us, but also for the local economy, allowing us to hire local workers who had suffered from major layoffs and plant closings the year before–including veterans. Gary Eblen remembers, in particular, the late Branley Owen.
Branley worked at Diamond Brand as a Tech-Rep in the 1980’s. Prior to his work in the factory, he served two tours in Vietnam with the 82nd Airborne. When he returned home from Vietnam, Branley solo-paddled a canoe from Brevard all the way to Natchez, hunting and fishing along the way. His thirst for adventure still not met, he then thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in just 73 days–a record at the time for fastest unsupported walk. Gary still has the ground cloth Branley made from fabric salvaged from the scrap dumpster.
So this Memorial Day, and every day, we thank Branley and all those who served and continue to do so. Thank you for your service and for allowing us to play a part.
Interested in learning more about our history? Check out these posts: