The M1 Helmet: The Soldier's helmet
By by Will RavensteinOctober 24, 2019
The helmet has been a staple of Army life in the field since being introduced in 1917 during World War I.
After WWI during the later part of 1918 to 1942, the U.S. Army wanted a helmet that looked more American and less British while also looking at how future conflicts would be fought, Smith said.
The Army designed the M1 Helmet and started production in April 1941.
"Over 22 million of these helmets were produced during the Second World War," Smith said. "They were not only given to the division, but all of the other U.S. divisions both in the European and the Pacific Theater."The M1 Helmet, with a slight brim on the front to keep precipitation off a Soldier's face and a slightly lipped rim all the way around according to a May 16, 2017, Smithsonian Magazine article "How the Military Helmet Evolved From a Hazard to a Bullet Shield." The helmet's sides also trailed down to cover half of a Soldier's ears before dropping down to cover the back part of a Soldier's skull."The Soldiers love this helmet," said Smith. "The 1st [Inf. Div.] vets that have come to the museum have talked about this helmet, which was used from 1941 all the way up to the mid-1980s."There was a lot of discussion about the chinstrap and how it was to be used, Soldiers had different recommendations on how it is to be used."Normally, Soldiers were advised to strap the helmet down," Smith said. "But they had worried and heard stories through other GI's, that wearing the chin strap, your head would pop back if you get near an explosion or if you were hit by small arms."In the inner portion of the helmet there was a lighter, plastic insert that Soldiers would use for ceremonies and parades.The outer portion was also used as a makeshift tool to dig hasty holes, it was strictly prohibited but soldiers dug with it anyway.
"You can use this as a wash basin and you can shave in it. You can soak your feet after a long road March in it. What was forbidden was that you should not put this over fire, which was largely forgotten by the Soldiers because you could make coffee in this."Soldiers appreciated the versatility of the helmet.As much as the M1 Helmet protected the Soldiers, there were some drawbacks to wearing it during combat operations."One of the problems that Soldiers noticed in combat with this helmet is when they fired their weapon in a prone position, this helmet had a tendency to slide down to cover part of the eyes," Smith said.Overall, the Soldiers and the Army liked the helmet so much it wasn't replaced until the mid-1980s when the Kevlar Helmet was introduced and issued to Soldiers, Smith said.
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