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.


Belaruski said...

Hello! Just found this blog by accident, and thought I'd comment on the protective qualities of these helmets.
A few years ago I had the privelage of having a ride in a T34 in the original gear for a discovery channel documentary. Basically as soon as the tank is moving the turret crew have to cling on for dear life and we found the best thing was to keep your head in contact with the turret walls, so it didn't get banged around going over bumps, ditches etc. The pads are actually well placed (although the wartime helmets had only 3 'ribs' on the top). I bruised my shins and knees much more than my head. Oh and the red star badge was never actually worn on these helmets, because they would be smashed against periscopes etc inside the tank. The only insignia on the front pad commonly seen is unit numbers painted on.

Anonymous said...

I served as APC crew using this headgear. It's nice and warm in the winters and comfortable for the most part, but adjusting size is difficult and I found my head a wee bit too tiny for the hat, which was only a problem when outside sound had to be isolated a lot (with the help of the earmuffs, which didn't close properly when not tight enough). Stretching the strap a bit with my mouth was the normal solution.
On the other hand, being isolated from sound got troublesome now and then when I needed to speak to a person not connected to the intercom... very troublesome when the message was urgent and removing the headgear was not an option (losing contact with the driver).
But, sitting inside as a driver or radio operator or any other role was good with this hat in wintertime since it kept one warm and it can be hung without strapping up (the way one will see any lazy comblock tank crew wearing the hat in a hollywood movie...)
Not strapping up if youre standing in the wind will make the wind scream through your throat microphones and the straps will flap around, giving a nice flag whip sound effect to the microphones.
Oh, yes, the throat mikes aren't comfortable or perfect, but work fine. I wish only i could tighten them more, half the time i had to hold a hand to press them to my throat. They were still very good, when working properly. Economical and functional, something an amateur electrician or physicist should fix without much trouble.
The protection was, yes, great for the head. One could hold on to a couple of handles in terrain and not have to worry about the head getting smashed to pieces. However, I'd rather use a standard infantry helmet and a headset adjusted to work for this purpose, as there is virtually no protection for the crew's head. Perhaps an overkill interpretation of the needlessness for a soldier to do only as he is told, and avoid thinking himself. My opinion is that a crew with the head blasted to pieces by splinters or a stray ricochet (helmets wont protect against direct hits), is a rather useless crew. Perhaps their equipment can be used, but there is nobody left to man the vehicle.
Final opinion from an experienced user: Put all these hats in a museum or sell them off as teletubby impersonation toys.
Use a normal infantry helmet (which will give very good protection from a bumpy ride) and instead use a headset intercom with adapter for connecting to a radio. This way the crew can switch roles between infantry and vehicle crew quickly without a time consuming need for switching headgear between the roles. Winters would be colder, but my solution to that would be a ski mask.

Mannie Gentile said...

Thanks for that great first-hand account!