Monday, May 26, 2008

My helmet museum

I always find it a little jarring to look at the collection of another helmet enthusiast only to see his helmets stacked upon one another, laid out on plywood shelves, or simply stashed away in ruptured cardboard cartons in various damp corners of the basement and garage.

Too often, helmet collections look about as organized as this:
(though there are some mighty tasty lids in this heap)

Well into my helmet collecting years, my wife and I remodeled our previous house and we set aside seventeen running feet of wall space specifically for the mounting and display of 75 helmets. The result was both satisfying, archivaly sound, and pretty darn dramatic. Lots of "oohs and ahhs" when friends came over.

Here's a movie from those days when my house and my waistline were much bigger:

I knew that I would miss that space when we eventually moved four years later. Now we live in Western Maryland, in a very cozy, and much smaller, cottage of a house. I designated one room in the basement as "my studio" and immediately started planning my new helmet display.

In the meantime I purchased large plastic tubs that were both dust and moisture proof for temporary/long term storage of all the helmets.

Inventory lists of each helmet were affixed to the tub lids, if you have to store your collection for any length of time I highly recommend listing the contents of each box, this will really minimize time wasted "rummaging around" for a particular helmet.

With a newly purchased home the priority list read like this:
1. tear out dog-pee'd carpeting
2. dig new drain field
3. screen in porch...etc.

Some time passed before the helmet project cycled up to near the top of the "to do" list, but finally its time came.

As in my previous display I wanted the helmets to appear to "float" against the wall, with the chinstraps fully extended (which can be so visually evocative of the face that had once occupied that space). I used a technique for mounting hats that I had learned during my previous 17 year museum career.

Steel rods bent at a 90 degree angle topped with a wooden ball wrapped with acid free muslin provided the mounting. These mounts were driven into mahogany furring strips screwed to the walls.

Every thing was painted a very neutral light blue, track lighting was installed, helmets were mounted, and below is the result.

And now, some details (click on photos for larger views):

French WWI Adrian, possibly my favorite.

One of the M1s that "followed me home" from the Navy.
Funny; I was a Radioman too.

Two more US Navy M1s. A damage controlman's helmet
(lamp still works) and an Executive Officer lid from
a U.S. Navy destroyer.

A nice M4-A1 flak over a leather USAAF flyers helmet.

Teutonic trio.

WWII Third Infantry Division M1

Early jet helmet , and yes...

that is his autograph! (a future post).

Although somewhat more cramped than my Michigan display, this one makes best use of the limited space and actually lets me display 14 more helmets than I was able to previously. This represents about 75% of my total collection.

I think part of the wisdom of buying such a tiny house was that it should naturally curb my helmet collecting...though there is the chicken coop, hmmmmm.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The plan.

Now that I've gotten back in the helmet blogging groove again, I plan on posting every Monday. I do hope that you continue to look in and I hope you will leave comments from time to time.

Stay tuned. And do check out my Park Ranger blog "My Year of Living Rangerously"

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Peoples Republic of China 1982 Paratroopers Composite Helmet

Did he just say "Red" Chinese?

Yes I guess I'm just an old Cold Warrior at heart, I spent most of my life with the commies in the role of the bad guys, now I can buy their product at Walmart. Who'd a thunk it?
This the sort of image I grew up with back in the "duck and cover" days...

and this...

and this...

and this from more recent memory.

Here is a really nice specimen that I received just today from an ebay auction. A very well designed, lightweight, attractive, and very durable (though non-ballistic) jump helmet for PLAAF airborne troops, no doubt jumping into Tibet to dish out a little more repression.

A closer look:

Side view

Interior showing efficient suspension and padding.

A pleasant surprise greeted me when I unscrewed the insignia, this red star is stenciled on the front.

Red star in detail, also showing mounting hole for insignia.

Three snaps on the headband attach a protective flap that is evident in the Marzetti book.

Size adjustment is quite rudimentary, simply adjust the lacing through the holes. I'm assuming that the leather is cowhide, although in a regime where the organs of executed political prisoners are routinely sold for transplantation, one can only hope.

Also of note is the rough peening on all of the interior rivets, the work of a malcontent slave laborer no doubt.

The screw-back for the insignia.

The liner and helmet have a paucity of markings, this beneath the cushion,

and this in the dome of the skull.

The frontal insignia is really quite a knockout.

This splendid helmet is now the favorite in my collection, as is always the case for the most recent of my acquisitions.

And now for the sexier side of the Asia-swallowing Red hordes - 

paratroopers unlike any you've ever seen:  (hello ladeez)

This view shows off the "Y" yoke and liner mounting rivets to good effect. Much like the Israeli paratrooper helmet, this one has no quick release of any sort on the chinstrap, which I've always found curious.

A fine view of that very cool PLA airborne insignia which here appears on the ballistic helmet.

I also suspect that this may be the earlier generation steel helmet of the 1990s, note the chin cup.

From these official PLA photos it appears that the Chinese military is trying to make tactical use of glamor...take a lesson Brazil!

Peoples Republic of China
1982 PLAAF paratroopers helmet.
Acquired 2008 (ebay purchase)
Purchase price :$29.99
Original in all respects.
Condition: excellent