Sunday, June 29, 2008

Schutzmutze: The West German tanker's beret/helmet

fourth in a series on tank helmet posts

Of all the helmets in my collection, this one is my wife's favorite.

For your consideration, the Bundeswehr padded tanker's beret. This natty little number is a testimonial to tradition, functionality, and rakish good looks.

The design is a direct descendant of the Baskenmutze of the Nazi era.

Now, I don't feel I'm going out on much of a limb here by opining that there were only three things the Nazis created that weren't outward manifestations of their black-souled demonic evil, and those three things were actually pretty swell. They are:

1. The autobahn
2. The Volkswagen Beetle
3. The Baskenmutze/Schutzmutze family of helmets

While this trio slowly roasts in hell (for those of you who believe in that sort of thing) their jaunty little padded berets continued to march on into the 1970s in the form of the Schutzmutze.

This side view shows to good effect the typically high-quality wool that forms the beret portion of the Schutzmute. Our first clue that this beret is unusual is the thick, protective bumper that runs the circumference of the opening.

Here, is the meat-and-potatoes of this helmet/beret.  When the beret is slipped off we are left with the protective element of this helmet.  Marzetti states that the protection is acheived through felt and foam rubber,

and,  when you pull back the inner fabric lining, some sort of plastic, ABS (like) or fiberglass hard shell is revealed, forming the rigid, non-ballistic,  bowl.  

As is so often the case with old foam rubber this foam has deteriorated into nothing more than a granular orange powder.

This particular Schutzmutze is abundantly marked.   Finding and interpreting the markings on a helmet is much of the fun of collecting.

Based on this label, if I had to guess, I'd say that this helmet was produced in January of 1963.  Here again, I remind readers that I always welcome corrections, clarification, and comments.  Any information that YOU can provide will simply make this a more valuable post to collectors and helmet enthusiasts, and I am always very grateful for your thoughtful, and factual,  input.

I'm guessing that this is the size.

These markings are stamped underneath the sweatband, I don't know what they mean.

The very cool insignia of the Bundeswehr graces the front of this very distinctive piece of military headgear.

Altogether this stout hard shell coupled with the surrounding bumpers provides considerable protection for the head of the tanker, all in a lightweight, well ventilated, and very attractive package.

Like I always say:  "Bundeswehr is fun to wehr!"

Just ask these three Leopard tankers.

For successfully incorporating both the beret AND androgney the Bundeswehr has no equal!

accession number: MOA hmar120.32.106
Schutzmutze: Tank Crewman's Beret/Helmet, West Germany 1970s
Acquired 1984, Lansing Michigan
Purchase price :$15.00
Condition: excellent

Next Monday, another tanker helmet.

Comments from readers include:

This authoritative laundry list from collector dirk r. festus festerling

great fun (like every week...), just some small additions:

The concept of the Autobahn (without actually naming it like that)
predates the nazis. post war chancellor Adenauer, then lord mayor of
cologne, a conservative hardliner but surely no nazi, and the prussian
Landeshauptmann (roughly: province chief executive officer...)
Johannes Horion, not accidently member of the same Burschenschaft
(Conservative student´s fraternity) as Adenauer, ran the project to
employ thousands of jobless people (the use of heavy building
machinery was forbidden whereever a man (or many) and a
shovel/wheelbarrow could get a task done.
as a nice side effect the BIG ford car plant in cologne got a high
speed test areal.
more fun details

the Nazis just spread the concept.

"Our first clue that this beret is unlike other Bundeswehr berets is
the thick, protective bumper that runs the circumference of the opening."

[change made to above text]

at that time there are NO other bundeswehr berets. non-armour wears
various versions of Schiffchen or Bergmütze caps.

56 is the size, indeed. the crossed sabers beyound the cokarde aren´t
the armour symbol, but the generic "army" one.
[change made to above text]
the only crossed symbol in armoured units is the crossed lances of the
Panzeraufklärer armoured scouts, but "your" beret was issued to all
armoured personnel regardless of designation. stories of PzAufkl
lining (at own cost) the inside of all of their uniforms including
pyjamas in gold satin to show they are the true heirs of cavalry are
greatly exagerated. never witnessed trouser inliners.

oh, and on the last but one tank helmet. nowadays and at least from
the ´80s onward bundeswehr armour was issued the same or rather very
similar padded headgear. i´ve been searching for very stupid foto of
chancellor Kohl wearing one of these while stuck in a Leopard turret
hatch in Munster, celebrating 30th bundeswehr anniversary.

the number of non-staged fotos with protective caps is neglectable.
whereever possible "true tankers", non-debarking Panzergrenadiers and
protected company Jägers will wear their issued black resp. green
berets without any serious protective qualities and put a comm headset
over it, only those stuck with non-camouflagous headgear couldn´t
prevent wearing these.
i still like my coral red beret.
and i´m a bit nervous about recent attempts to impress the afghan
public with superior haberdashery:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Soviet tank crewman's helmet: Cold War era

Third in a series of tank helmet posts

This post is to celebrate Russia's Euro 2008 soccer victory over Sweden (2-0) last week in Innsbruck, Austria.

In an uncharacteristic demonstration of restraint the Russians chose not to rape three quarters of the population.

"How nice, for a change" remarked an elderly Austrian woman who remembered the Russki victory romp of 1945.

Here then, is that marvel of fabric and horsehair; the summer tankman's helmet of the 1970s.

But first a glimpse at some propaganda pix of the Reds in Berlin in 1945.  Check out the classic Soviet tank helmets. 

Am I the only one who finds this picture disturbing?

I think these commie tankers have more than liberation on their ferret-like little minds.  

This Soviet tanker's helmet from 1974 is little changed from the days of WWII when the Red Juggernaut was rumbling toward Berlin.   

Unlike the fiber, leather, and metal AFV helmets of many other nations of the same era, this number is strictly fabric.  Now I don't know from personal experience,  but the strategically placed bumpers seem like they would provide somewhat inadequate protection  inside a jolting armored fighting vehicle.

If any readers have personal experience with this helmet I'd love to hear about it, that is if you're still with me after that "ferret-like little mind" crack.

The classic profile, with neck flap up.

Here the neck flap is in the down position.  The purpose of this flap is not known to me. Perhaps it prevents dust and grime from getting down the back of the tankers neck.

When properly adjusted this helmet is quite comfortable.

This adjustable strap across the dome allows the wearer the ability to customize the fit of the helmet.

Markings are abundant, crisp, and colorful.

These markings provide this non-Russian speaker with minimal information, however they do nicely nail down the date of manufacture - 1974, height of the Cold War, back when I was doing my bit to thwart the evil designs of the Red Menace.

                     Me against them - 1972.

Access to the rubber headphone cups is provided through hidden slash pockets.

Another adjustment strap located under the flap allows for a snug fit below the nape of the neck.

The use of leather is minimal in this economical helmet, only at the brow...

surrounding the earphones...

and on the short chin strap.

Integral fabric loops control and guide the headphone cables.

Only one nice piece of confection graces the front bumper pad of this otherwise proletarian helmet.

Our brave young tanker contemplates past Red Army victories against the fascists and dreams of future successes against...the Afgans?

до свидания и удача мои друзья

accession number: MOA hmar.v2.238.62.20
Helmet - Tank Crewman's Helmet, Soviet Union
Acquired 2005, ebay purchase
Purchase price :$4.50
Condition: excellent

Next Monday, another tanker helmet.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

USA, Combat Vehicle Crewman's helmet - Vietnam

second in a series of twelve

I saw this scrawled on more than one barrack wall:

As I slide down the long bannister of life I'll always remember Vietnam as a long splinter in my ass.

The Helmet

The non-ballistic CVC helmet was a lightly padded crash helmet for wear inside all US armored fighting vehicles during the Vietnam era.  This specimen, manufactured by Sierra Engineering in 1966, mounts integrated send/receive electronics emblematic of the advances of radio and intercom communications in the post WWII era.

The exterior draw string allows the wearer to snug up the earphone cup allowing a better fit.

This side view affords a good view of the boom microphone as well as the send/receive switch box.

This helmet provided very good overall head protection for the bumps and jars typical of AFV living.

The Suspension

The CVC suspension has components similar to the M1 liner.

The OD webbing, "A" washers, and adjustment buckles are typical of the M1, although this suspension is configured quite differently than that of the M1 liner.

Unlike the M1, the CVC leather sweatband is only a partial affair, contacting merely the forehead of the wearer.  Also note the 1/4 inch thick sponge rubber padding which lines the entire dome of the helmet.

The manufacturer's label, sewn into the rear of the head band, is very crisp and provides quite a bit of information.  This particular helmet was manufactured in 1966, back when many Americans still thought the war was "winnable".  Funny, the Vietnamese were thinking the exact same thing.

The electronics

The Roanwell Corporation, manufacturer of the CVC electronics, is still going strong.  Click here for their website.

The individual earphones are comfortable and heavily padded to provide maximum acoustic insulation inside the noisy environment of the armored vehicle.

Both earphones snap in and out of the shell, for ease of replacement.

The articulated boom on the microphone is remarkably adjustable and engineered for durability.

Close up of the microphone.  "Basher one, requesting sit-rep on the beach party question, over"

By the way, the GIs in the photos are off an armor website, these aren't guys I served with... I had my own problems.

All in all a fine piece of protective gear, much better engineered than MacNamara's exit strategy. 

accession number: MOA harmold1.279
Helmet - Crash Vehicle Crewman
Acquired 1979, Lansing Michigan.
Purchase price :$20.00
Condition: excellent

Next Monday, another tanker helmet.