Sunday, January 18, 2009

U.S. Navy M1 Executive Officer's Helmet

"The exec is a prick!"
No offense is meant, that's just the way it was back in my Navy. Where the captain played the role of the aloof autocrat the exec was his second in command, his hatchet man, his ass-kicker, his...ahh...vice principal. Yikes!

Here's a surprisingly accurate Hollywood view of how the US Navy marked its M1 helmets. The executive officer ("XO") here, a cranky David Hedison (remember "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea"?), seems intent on the matter at hand in this still from the movie "The Enemy Below". A somewhat drowsy Robert Mitchum seems to have other things on his mind:

torpedos perhaps?  (Sorry moms and dads).

This helmet is the second from the "dumpster collection" series begun last week.

This beauty has seen some hard service as indicated by the multitude of stress cracks as well as the many layers of paint it sports.

This shell, as salvaged, was sans chinstrap.  I added this 1972-style chinstrap in later years.

What is it about the M1 that I never get tired of looking at them (sorry if you do).

Note the stress cracks as well as the subsequent rust leeching from below the paint.

More cracks on the side of the shell make it pretty obvious why this helmet was discarded.
Note the zinc chromate primer peeking out, typical of the mid-1970s.

Cracks viewed from the inside of the shell.  Also evident are the multiple layers, and hues of, gray paint applied to the shell, somewhat haphazardly.

The "heat of the steel" number appears on the inside front of this McCord manufactured shell.

The rear seam indicates this lid is of post 1944 manufacture.

Close-up of the swivel bail showing quite a bit of "saltiness" contrasted with the fairly ship-shape 1972 chinstrap.  Again, to be clear, I added this chinstrap later, merely so the lid would appear as the others in my collection (displayed with chinstraps).   Generally destroyer M1s suffered greatly from exposure to salt spray and corrosive gun ash, this pot is no exception.

Very little of the original texture remains, in this instance it appears to be sand which would further identify this shell as being from the very early 1960s as that is the period when sand replaced cork as the texturing material mixed into the paint.

Shipboard M1s carried a variety of markings.  Fortuantely (for the collector) for the most part Navy lids were free of mandated marking regulations.  Both of the destroyers I was on carried a wide palatte of custom-painted helmets from the staid to the sometimes zany.  Similar, I guess to the members of the crew.

Go here for a really cool Youtube featuring the U.S.S. Dehaven (DD-727) my first, and favorite, ship.

Humphrey Bogart and Robert Francis in one of my all-time favorites "The Caine Mutiny".

From destroyer, to dumpster, to Combat Helmets of the 2oth Century...

what a fine looking piece of Hadfield steel!

accession number: MOAharmoldv2. 182.2
United States Navy Executive Officer's M1 Helmet
Acquired 1974, Naval Station Long Beach, California
Condition: good

Next week, another cool Navy lid!


Saturday, January 17, 2009

U.S. Navy M1 Repair Party Helmet


This sailor coming down the ladder means some shipmate's about to be rescued from a very dangerous situation.

When there was fire or flooding aboard ships of the United States Navy it was the job of the men of the repair parties to save the ship. And the helmet they wore from 1942 until the early 1990s was the good old McCord M1.

The standard M1 shell painted red and labeled with concise information regarding the number of the team or repair party locker that the team was operating out of.  The larger the ship the more repair lockers and parties.

This photograph is from the 17th edition of the Bluejacket's Manual, the traditional handbook of the American sailor for over a century.   These black and white photos were copied from my BJM from 1970.

The sailors in this damage control party are preparing to enter a burning space.  Hoses are charged and at the ready, the men are wearing OBAs (oxygen breathing apparatuses) and are crouched below the smoke and heat level ready for the leading petty officer to undog the watertight door and send them in.  Although every sailor was trained for this duty, the shipboard parties were comprised of specialists, hull technicians, and damage controlmen.
Every other sailor, not a part of the party, stands by as a ready labor pool to be utilized as needed.


Damage Controlman

      Hull Technician

Nearly all repair party helmets were equipped with battery-powered helmet-mounted lamps.  Often these provided the only illumination in a space in which flooding or fire had shorted out the electricity.

The waterproof black hose connects the wiring from the headlamp to the waterproof battery box.

The battery box clipped to the sailor's belt.  This is a typical WWII repair party M1 in all respects.

This rear view provides a glimpse of the battery box and also identifies the helmet as belonging to repair party two, and stowed in repair locker two.  The repair lockers were located in strategic areas of the ship and were completely redundant in equipment.

Though not brilliant by the standards of today's technology, these little headlamps did help save ships for over 40 years.

This battery box is well marked, another in my collection is not.

Clearly marked "OFF", whatcha call "sailor proof".

Note the original green corked finish under the thick layer of sand and flat red paint.

Marking on the rear of the helmet.

A similar helmet I'll be posting at another date is a "REP-3" helmet (and now you all know what that means).   Marking the helmets in the rear made it handy to keep track of who was who in a smoky chaotic situation.

Close up of the front seam on this earlier M1.

You can just make out the heat treatment numbers.

This model has the swivel bales,

and some pretty "salty" (literally) hardware.  Seagoing M1s could be exposed to a lot of salt spray and corrosive powder smoke.  While I was on destroyers, I seldom saw a pristine M1.

The marking "UNIT 22" causes me to think that this helmet was from a larger ship.  The sooty grime and firefighting foam residue on the surface also leads me to believe that it has seen action.

These were the good guys,

and this trusty M1 was their helmet for nearly half a century.

See you next week with another Navy M1


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"They say its just like going to sleep."

pfc. Jarvess

       Ricardo Montalban

                   (with George Murphy in "Battleground" - 1949)

A first-rate performance in an outstanding film.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Danish M39 steel helmet

Again I ask, What's not to like about Denmark?
Though never having been there, I find Danish helmets nearly as cool as Danish culture.
Look at all of the wonderful things the Danes have given the planet:

The Little Mermaid,

delicious bacon,

the model for recent American foreign policy,

Classic looking palace guards,
(Click here for a Youtube of these guys marching around at Amalienborg Palace)

And a very cool and unusual looking helmet, the M39, known in some circles as the "Amalienborg" helmet.

For perhaps the very best exploration of this helmet, be sure to check out Joseba's outstanding site here.

With a profile nearly as unique as Brigitte Nielsen, the M39 helmet has a look unlike any other.
Deep bowl and very wide skirts characterize the very Danish design.

Originally a Police helmet, though now in Civil Defense livery, this helmet is often referred to as the Amalienborg helmet, in reference to its use by the guards of that magnificent royal residence. I don't know if that is true or simply a ploy to peddle these helmets.
Though the design of these helms is, in my opinion, selling point aplenty!
Providing very good over all protection, the M.39 doesn't seem to interfere with the wearer's peripheral vision as the Danish M. 23/41 could.

The top view reveals a very symmetrical oval shape with a generous all-around lip.

The liner and suspension are downright lush with no scrimping on either materials or engineering. I suspect that this helmet was a very expensive one to manufacture.

Split rivets secure the leather liner to the suspension system.

Similar to the Dutch helmets of the same period, the M39 (like the Danish M 23/41 ) has this hanging slot in the rear skirt.

The lugs securing the suspension to the shell are another feature unique to the M.39. For as highly engineered as they appear on the outside...

they are even more so on the inside. The padding and spacing of this liner provide outstanding protection for the wearer, with a good deal of adjustment available.

My model had, at one time, a police shield mounted on the front since removed and leaving only a trace, a tantalizing pentimento, a vague stromatolite, of that badge I do so wish it had. The badge, now removed, left its faint outline on the helmet which has been repainted from police black to civil defense gray, the badge mounting holes individually sealed with rivets.

Again, for outstanding views of the police and army insignias refer to Joseba's site here.

Here's the interior view showing the other side of those rivets.
One of the things I enjoy about many helmets are the many markings and mysterious clues to its former life and use. This one has an abundance of markings; including this one...

Mr. Rasmussen's head being a former occupant of this helmet, I presume.

Mr Nielsen also wore this helmet for a time, no doubt Brigitte's dad.

Another cryptic notation stenciled on the very fine quality leather liner.

When I pulled back the liner fingers I was greeted with this nice surprise...

a brass tag with two more marks. I'm assuming the "57" refers to the size of the liner. Again, the craftsmanship of this helmet is remarkable.

Again, I'm assuming this stamp on one of the liner fingers refers to the liner size.

The chinstrap is very straight forward with a high-quality roller buckle. Again, unique to this helmet are the cleated split pins securing the chinstrap halves.

The leather, like the hardware, is first-rate.

This is a marvelous helmet, such a unique design and so much evidence of prior use. If only this helmet could talk, fortunately most Danes speak English so my limited linguistic skills would not be overly-taxed.
An altogether unique and handsome helmet, fit to guard a royal family, if indeed that is the history of these so-called "Amalienborg" helmets. Perhaps a reader can enlighten me on this issue.  (See comments below)

Thus, ends my two-installment exploration of the Danish helmets of my collection. I hope to begin a fairly long series on U.S. Navy M1s with the next post.

I'll see you next week with a new posting. Thanks for stopping by.