Friday, September 14, 2018

Nazi Germany, M.40 tropenhelm (sun helmet)

In the mid 1980s a dear friend's husband passed away, and she gave me a big box of the things that he  brought home from the war. The items were all German and included, a police shako (urban), map case, complete mess kit, swastika flags, banners and armbands, tinnies, etc.  When I protested that she could get considerable money for this box of treasure, she responded that if I didn't take it it was going out in the trash. 

Norma's husband was Clarence "Chappie" Chapman.  Chapman went overseas in November '44 with the 75th Infantry Division. He spent one month in Wales and then went to LeHavre France in December of '44.  His first action was on Christmas eve in Ardennes Forest.  He saw a considerable amount of action.

After VE day Chapman served in Reimes and was involved in occupation efforts, organizing units to go to Japan, and sending others home.  Along the way he had accumulated a large amount of souvenirs, including this nearly pristine m.40 tropenhelm.

Lightweight, effective, and handsome, the m. 40 tropical helmet was a popular item of headgear among the Nazi German forces fighting in tropical and arid climates, especially in North Africa.

Comprised of cotton duck covered cork this lightweight helmet provided cool protection against an unforgiving sun.

This helmet is particularly comfortable to wear and seems feather-light compared to a steel helmet.

The rear brim is longer that the front and provides good solar protection for the back of the neck.

It's a well-designed and well-constructed helmet with a great deal of attention to detail.

The lightweight but sturdy, green-dyed leather chinstrap is adjustable with a sliding square buckle.  I have seen many photos of this helmet in action, but never with the chinstrap deployed.

The chinstrap is easily removed by a hook attached to the liner band.

The tricolor shield is on the right side of the bowl...

and the  army insignia  is on the left.

Both shields are affixed to the bowl with brass wires that pierce the cork and cotton and are clinched tightly.

The headband is made of high grade leather.

The size and manufacturer are ink-stamped inside the band.

To provide air circulation (similar to the pickelhaube) there is a clever ventilator on the dome of the helmet.

It screws into the perforated receiver that communicates air to the inside.

The band is neatly stitched at the rear, and another indicator of size is apparent.

Felt provides padding behind the band.

The headband and felt are attached to a metal band that is affixed with loops and cotter pins.

The rim of the helmet is edged with high quality leather identical to that of the chinstrap.

And finally, here are some photos of the m.40 in action.

Here is the high-quality m.40 (right) contrasted with the cheaper, pressed felt m.42 (left).

Note the counterintuitive Magen David on this Kraut's Christmas tree.

Two nice manufacturing process photos.  Above, adhesive and duck being applied to the cork shell...

and the shields being applied to the finished product.

Check out the despondent member of the master race at the lower right.  It all looked so much more glorious on the recruiting poster, didn't it pal?

A heretofore unpublished photograph of Erwin Rommel - the "desert fox."

Clarence M. "Chappie" Chapman
US Army
75th Infantry Division, service company, 290th Infantry
France, Belgium, Holland, Germany. A participant in the "Battle of the Bulge" and a recipient of the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

See you next time with another cool sun helmet from the collection.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Nazi Germany m.38 Fallschirmj├Ąger combat helmet

The Fight of the Century!

(A premium seating ticket to the first Louis Schmelling fight)

American heavyweight boxer Joe Louis met with his German counterpart Max Schmeling twice.  In the first fight Schmeling won by a knockout in twelve rounds.  Adolf Hitler used it as an opportunity to trumpet Aryan superiority and German mastery in the ring as well as on the world stage.

The second matchup came on June 22, 1938; the results couldn't have been more different, Louis won by a knockout in 2 minutes and 4 seconds, Schmeling was only able to land two punches.  Louis was the heavyweight champion of the world, and the master race had been delivered a KO.

Louis towers over his vanquished opponent.

Hitler made great overtures to Schmeling, all of which the fighter rebuffed.  "I am no superman in any way" Schmeling said.  Further, much to Hitler's displeasure, when Schmeling was fighting in the U.S. he refused to fire his Jewish promoter, Joe Jacobs. 

With the outbreak of the Second World War, and Schmeling back home in Germany, he was drafted into the Luftwaffe and was accepted into the elite Fallschirmjager forces.

Schmeling on the cover of the German propaganda magazine Signal, wearing his m.38 fj helmet.  Schmeling was in no way sympathetic to the Nazi cause, and post-war anecdotes have him sheltering two Jewish children at the beginning of the war.

Wounded in the assault on Crete Schmeling was medically discharged and spent the remainder of the war participating in morale-raising exhibition bouts.
Joe Louis however, was a willing volunteer, joining the US Army early in the war.  In a highly publicized meeting with the president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt is credited with saying to the "Brown Bomber"; "Joe, we need muscles like yours to defeat Germany."

Louis spent the entirety of the war assigned to US Army Special Services where he participated in exhibition fights to raise morale and boost sales of War Bonds.

In a period of racial discrimination and so-called white supremacy, Louis was able to win over many whites with his whole-hearted support of the war effort and his much-reprinted and much quoted statement; "...we'll win because we're on God's side."
Frequently over the years, I have been the grateful recipient of helmets given to me as gifts. You can only imagine my delight, this Spring as a acquaintance gifted me with what is now a show-piece of my collection - the much coveted German m.38 paratrooper (fj) helmet.

Although the helmet lacks chinstrap and liner, the shell is in very good condition with the paint about 80% present and the decal wonderfully intact.

Just for the sake of display I added a reproduction chinstrap, and rather than compromise the helmet's originality by undoing the bolts to mount the straps, I merely tucked the ends of the straps under the liner band.  The result is, to me, visually pleasing.

The shell shape is essentially that of an m.35 with the brim and skirt removed.

The liner is secured to the shell by four robust screw and nut combinations.  These slotted screws represent the third and final production design of the m.38.

All that remains of the liner is the aluminum liner band, affixed  by the the screw and nuts...
which also secure the chinstraps, of which, here, only the ends remain.

The size, as in the m.35 family of helmets, is stamped
 inside the shell.
Another number, the significance of which is unknown to me, is stamped just above the rolled edge at the inside front of the shell.
Holes on the liner band allowed the leather liner to be attached.
The liner band is joined by solder at the front.
Most of the green paint remains intact.

The slightly misapplied decal gives this helmet some character.

And now, the usual gallery of the helmet in action:

Often FJ helmets were fitted with a fabric camouflage cover.

An FJ trooper decked out in a polka dot ascot and smoking a cigarette;
as if combat wasn't deadly enough.

And what of Joe and Max?

Here they are in 1971. 

These two champions developed a close friendship that lasted until Louis' death in 1981.   Schmeling was one of his old friend's pall-bearers.

 In 2005 at the ripe old age of ninety-nine, Max Schmeling went to his celestial reward, leaving behind the memory of his role in what became known as "The Fight of the Century"...perhaps a metaphor for that even greater fight of the century...

the Second World War.

See you next time with another cool helmet from the collection.