Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The 1881 Cavalry Helmet finds a great home

Some of you may recall my somewhat spectacular Model 1881 U.S. Cavalry helmet (above) featured on this blog some time ago (click here).

For as much as I enjoyed that particular helmet it was becoming increasingly the "odd man out" in my collection of 20th century lids.  Reluctantly, a few months ago, I decided to part with it. I auctioned it on ebay with a very reasonable reserve, and it got snapped right up.

What's really cool about this whole transactions is where it ended up and what its new mission is.

That helmet is now on display at Farmington High School (link here)
in Farmington CT as part of a larger display of militaria belonging to the High School Military History Club. How cool is that?

Here's a recent email I got from my winning bidder and fellow teacher, Bob:

Hi Mannie,

Our high school is Farmington High School, in Farmington, CT. We formed the military history club about 5 years ago. We found many students wanted to know more about the military side of history that is omitted from from many history classes today. They asked myself, a math teacher and 28 year veteran of the US Army and West Point Grad Class of '73, and a Social Studies teacher, Farrel, who has a vast background in the military acqusition side of several defense contractors if we would sponsor the club. We try to take periods the students are studying in class and explore the military history (Weapons, tactics, strategies) of the time period and relate them to events of the period. Students research topics and we facilitate discussions. What amazes both Farrel and myself is the knowledge and interest these students have about military history. Our club has about 30 members out of a high school population of about 1200 students, one of the largest clubs in school.

Thanks for your interest.


                    (home sweet home)

What a satisfying way to part with a favorite helmet that's been a centerpiece of my collection for over 20 years.

Here's to happy endings... Cheers!


Sunday, September 28, 2008

United States Civil Defense "OCD" WWII

second in a series of five civil defense posts

"Don't Scream", is always good advice

The World War Two homefront in the United States had already learned a lot from our friends in Britain regarding air raids and civil defense.

These spotlights and tracers converge on a false alarm high in the sky over Los Angeles.

Early on in that war there was already an organized structure of roles and responsibilities in place for trained, enthusiastic civilians.

Every specialized job had its own identifying insignia, quite a dazzling array!

I think the pinetree insignia had something to do with automobile deoderizers.

Pictured here from the homefront of Grand Rapids, Michigan is the typical "Office of Civil Defense" steel helmet of WWII.

The generic CD insignia is a slide-on water transfer.

Although many US M1917 helmets were recycled for the Civil Defense role, these "OCD" helmets were unique and had, as evident here, a much deeper bowl than the "tin lid" of WWI.

This symmetrical helmet, stamped out of steel may have come from the same Detroit machinery that was stamping out automotive hubcaps prior to US entry into the war.

Don't mess with the "Arsenal of Democracy".

The interior shows a suspension system very similar to the US M1 helmet liner.

The property stamp on the underside of the brim.

Simple size adjustment provided a snug, custom-fit for the owner, in this case a woman from...

Grand Rapids Michigan.

The chinstrap (and suspension) is a cotton twill, secured to a spot-welded bail.

Close-up of the generic Civil Defense insignia.

Our aunts and uncles, moms and dads who donned these helmets in WWII did their bit to keep America safe from the Japanese...

and return to those Auto plants to once again produce gas-guzzling cars . Until we got rescued, that is, by fuel-efficient Japanese technology.

accession number:
United States Civil Defense OCD helmet, WWII
Acquired 2002, a gift

Condition: good

Sunday, September 21, 2008

United States Civil Defense M1 Helmet Liner

Here's the question we were all asking when I was a kid:

We all knew that the Commies were the bad guys and it could all go up in flames at any time.

Fortunately there was protection afforded us from total nuclear holocaust...

in the form of our wooden school desks (thanks American Seating of Grand Rapids Michigan), ...

as well as our municipal fallout shelters, which provided both protection as well as ready made tombs for hundreds of thousand of incinerated Americans.

When you begin to hear these...

Responsible members of the community would clap on these:

The Civil Defense helmet, in this case a recycled M1 Westinghouse helmet liner.  This example is emblazoned with the hand painted CD insignia, location, as well as the status of the wearer.  The director has the flashy gold band painted on his lid.  Rank has its privileges.

From the side we have the typical profile of the good old M1.

Top view shows the scuffing and scratching that typically results from exposure to the thermonuclear fireball.  One can only imagine that the director's Paris Township shelter served him well.

Suspension is typical for the WWII era M1 liner with the lighter herring bone webbing.

The metal furniture somewhat corroded by plutonium exposure no doubt.

The Westinghouse logo stamped in the dome.

The insignia grommet is very visible in the front view close-up as is the custom paint job.  No simple slide on decal for the boss, nosirree!  Actually I find this meticulous paint job emblematic of the pride this individual must have felt in his position of leadership and responsibility.  Though it must have been mighty fatiguing to have spent nearly two decades in a constant state of vigilance.
Fortunately the wall came down and all of this became a distant memory...
Until Putin, that is.

accession number:
United States Civil Defense M1 helmet liner
Acquired 1999, Flat River Antique Mall, Lowell Michigan.
purchase price: $10.00
Condition: fair/good

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Soviet Union Ssh68 Steel Helmet - "high dome"

Here then, is my final installment on the Soviet helmets of the 20th century, ending, appropriately enough, with the last installment of Soviet steel helmets; the Ssh68. Soviet troops providing an early example to the U.S. Department of State on how to achieve victory in Afghanistan.  Note their "high-dome" (sometimes called "conehead") helmets. The front view of this lid makes very evident its unusual height. In profile the dip over the ear is reflective of the earlier generations of Soviet helmets.
The right side demonstrates some sort of unit or tactical marking, seen here... in close-up.
The four split rivet heads which secure the suspension are clearly visible in this view.
These four synthetic leather pads with a simple but ingenious cotton cord provide a highly adjustable padded suspension keeping the wearer's skull well out of contact with the helmet shell. The sheet-metal "T"s which provide a sprung mounting for the liner remind me of the old Adrian system.
A close up of the split rivet which secures the suspension.  The horsehair backing of the liner pad is also evident.
The leather chinstrap is well made though that buckle seems quite un-martial in appearance.
The texture is roughened with (I think) silica and painted a rich medium olive.
Like most red helmets this one is abundantly marked:
in the dome...
stamped on the rim...
and under the skirt.
Though, to my eyes, slightly incongruous in height and balance, this particular example is in outstanding condition.  Where it not for the tactical marking I'd say that this one was never issued.
Back to that ill-fated Russki adventure in Afghanistan... Vlad the impaler toasts the Americans' turn at bat.
provenance: accession number: MOA hmar236.62.13 Ssh68 Soviet Steel Helmet Acquired 1999, a gift from a friend visiting Russia. Purchase price :$20.00 Condition: excellent