ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- One of Army’s most famous noncommissioned officers who has helped Soldiers for decades will be inducted into the Ordnance Corps’ Hall of Fame class of 2024.
Master Sgt. Half-Mast McCanick, known to many as the preventive maintenance and supply subject-matter expert in “PS Magazine”, will be inducted into the Historical Category. The induction ceremony is slated for May 2024.
He will join the ranks of 12 other people being inducted into the Ordnance Corps, including retired Gen. Ed Daly, former commanding general of the U.S. Army Sustainment Command, which is PS Magazine’s higher headquarters, who retired in 2023 as the commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.
Daly was nominated into the Exception Category. There is one other category called the Contemporary Category.
“I was deeply honored, as I think any inductee probably is,” said Half-Mast, the venerable but ageless senior noncommissioned officer. “It’s always nice to be recognized for what you do although that’s not the reason most of us do it. We do it because we love bettering Soldiers’ lives and making the Army all-the-more ready.”
It’s been a very long ride for Half-Mast, who began his Army career July 1, 1942, at Holabird Ordnance Depot, Baltimore, Maryland. This depot operated from 1917-1973 and was where the U.S. Army Intelligence School started before it moved in 1971 to Fort Huachuca, Arizona. The depot was renovated into an industrial park.
In the nomination packet, it stated McCanick, whose last name is rarely, if ever, used, and much better known as “Master Sgt. Half-Mast,” as a “national icon advocating for combat preparedness through preventive maintenance checks and services, proper supply procedures, safety and adherence to technical manuals.”
According to the ASC History Office it is believed that he is the only Soldier that has his first name displayed on his uniform versus his last as stated in the magazine’s website. The Historian Office spokesman said there have been instances where a first name and last name were displayed together on a name tag, but never just a first name.
“It’s because I started out as essentially an advice columnist in Army Motors magazine to whom Soldiers wrote with their maintenance and supply questions,” Half-Mast explained. Typically, advice columnists are referred to by their first name, such as ‘Dear Ann’ or ‘Dear Abby.’ In my case, it was ‘Dear Half-Mast.’ So, my first name became better known and the powers-that-be saw fit to put that on my name plate.”
Some have thought Half-Mast came in as an E-5 sergeant but his rank from the very beginning was master sergeant, as the original cartooning confirms. The ever-youthful NCO (the direct result of his fictitious character), whose expertise translates into tangible results Army-wide, can be found serving in the cyber world at https://www.psmagazine.army.mil
He was created by one of the cartooning world’s greatest sequential artists, Will Eisner. Eisner, who served on active duty during World War II as both an enlisted Soldier and warrant officer, was already a well-known cartoonist and would later contract with the Army to create and publish PS Magazine for nearly 20 years. He’s best known for the comic “The Spirit” and for popularizing the graphic novel.
Eisner tried numerous times during his service to be sent to the front, but his editing and artistic talents were deemed too important by his superiors, who could not afford to spare him by sending him into combat. He remained stationed in Washington, D.C., for the remainder of his war service, the magazine’s website states.
With Eisner’s creation, Half-Mast began his contributions to Army publications in 1942 with “Army Motors Magazine”, which lasted through 1945. He then contributed to 804 cartoon-illustrated issues of “PS: The Preventive Maintenance Monthly” from June 1951-November 2019. Since December 2019, Half-Mast has been contributing to the fully online “PS: The Preventive Maintenance Magazine”.
The induction packet stated that Half-Mast started out answering Soldier questions about proper care of their vehicles and equipment. While he still does this, his role expanded over the decades to serve as the most recognizable “face” of Army materiel readiness.
His goal, the packet stated, has always been to provide Soldiers – as well as members of other services – with the information they need to keep their vehicles and equipment combat ready at all times. This information has resulted in significant cost savings.
“It’s difficult to quantify the direct monetary impact of Master Sgt. Half-Mast and ‘PS Magazine’ have had, but it’s safe to estimate that it’s in the millions of dollars per year …,” the packet stated.
Half-Mast has also emphasized safety in the workplace over the years. Of late, he has shared information on mold remediation, COVID protection protocols and fentanyl avoidance, along with tried-and-true basic safety protocols, such as not leaving tools scattered around the maintenance bay.