Sunday, March 1, 2009

U.S. Navy M1 Shore Party Helmet

When I first acquired this lid back in 1978, I was unaware of the significance of its distinctive markings, rather, as a recent Navy veteran I was attracted by the bold "USN" motif.  Fortunately the dealer at the particular gunshow were I discovered it was equally ignorant of the pedigree of this helmet.  I took it home for $14.00.

Probably, not until the film "Saving Private Ryan" did people other than helmet enthusiasts realize the breadth of U.S. Navy representation on the actual beaches of Normandy.   U.S. Navy Beach Battalions, Special Naval Amphibious Groups, Navy Engineers, Radiomen and others comprised many of the various "shore parties present during D-day operations.

So as not to be confused with Army personnel, sailors attached to these shore parties wore M1 helmets with distinguishing marks, standardized with at least a gray or blue-gray band painted around the helmet as well as the lettering USN.  Other variations are numerous, but generally these two design components were standard, though were applied in manners both precise and haphazard.

This example is a nice halfway meeting between those two extremes, with a rather thin coat of blue-gray paint brushed on in a distinguishing color band around the diameter of the shell with a rather jaunty "USN" hand-lettered, rather than stenciled, on the front in white.

Examples are abundant of Navy M1s with a solid color band as well as a broken-at-the-front band like the one pictured below:

Note that this sailor appears to have hand-lettered his helmet as well as his jacket.

(note the chinstrap in these outdoor shots is not the one which came with the original liner)

I've also seen photographs of the Naval Amphibious Forces insignia included in this marking combination as well as various colored arcs or "rockers" applied to the front designating special purpose personnel.  like the shipmate pictured below:

Indeed, one of my favorite things about Navy marked M1s is the dizzying non-standard nature of those markings as demonstrated by these D-Day photos of members of various Navy Beach Battalion members.

Note the sailor on right with a very subdued "USN" applied

Even sailors in the same unit, here Navy engineers, have helmets both stenciled as well as hand lettered.

More variety among the lids of these very relaxed Navy Radiomen.

Do click on all of these photos for much larger views and more detail.

This remarkable action shot from Normandy has Beach Battalion men scrambling for cover. Note the absence of any "USN" on their gray-banded only helmets.

The variations seem nearly endless.  Such a delightfully democratic bunch of individualists who brought the Nazi regime to its knees.

Now, more helmet details:

The liner is a Capac in very nice condition.    The removable liner of  the M1 distinguishes this helmet from all others and gave the American GI a particularly versatile helmet.  While wearing the liner the GI could use the helmet shell itself as many things including, a basin, a shovel, a bucket, a chair, a pot for cooking, a pot for less sanitary contingencies, a pillow (and uncomfortable pillow), a footstool, a desk, and...oh yes, a helmet.

This nearly perfectly designed helmet would be in use for some 45 years with American forces and remains the iconic symbol of the American fighting man of the 20th century.

Manufactured by Capac, this particular liner has a small ding in the dome of the liner.

The head band is marked by the manufacturer, in this case, "L&N Specialties".

The "S" on the inside front of the shell indicates that it was manufactured by the Schleuter company as are nearly all of the Navy lids in my collection.  Also visible here is the "heat of the steel" stamp.

Close up of the three-point spot-welded swivel bale mounting for the chinstraps.

The front joined seam of the helmet rim indicates that this lid was manufactured prior to 1944.

As with nearly all of my Navy helmets the chinstrap hardware shows the corrosion typical of the shipboard life of a seagoing M1.  A little "saltiness" does provide a great deal of character, in helmets as well as in people.

Pictured here is another specialist of the Naval Beach Battalions, in this instance an interpreter interrogating German prisoners.

A handsome helmet in all respects, and a tangible reminder that it wasn't just soldiers who were hitting the beaches in WWII but U.S. Navy sailors as well. 

Go Navy.


festus said...

bah. joining the navy and still getting stuck in mud combat ;-)

festus said...

bah. joining the navy and still dug in the mud ;-).

Pat & Marcus said...

You might find the Navy helmet depicted on this Society of the Military Horse thread interesting:

Anonymous said...

Great find, great bargain, great story, Ranger Mannie! And cool pic of dudes diving for cover. Noel

dutchhelmets said...

wonderfull collection of helmets!!! and a very nice blog too!! i also collect helmets, but only Dutch (used) helmets. you can see a part of my collection at:

i also have a page with links and would like to atatch your blog to this list. i hope you don't mind me doing so.

keep up the good work!!!