Monday, February 25, 2013

People's Republic of China 1982 Paratrooper's Composite Helmet

Did he just say "Red" Chinese?

Yes I guess I'm just an old Cold Warrior at heart, I spent most of my life with the commies in the role of the bad guys, now I can buy their product at Walmart. Who'd a thunk it?
This the sort of image I grew up with back in the "duck and cover" days...

and this...

and this...

and this from more recent memory.

Here is a really nice specimen that I received just today from an ebay auction. A very well designed, lightweight, attractive, and very durable (though non-ballistic) jump helmet for PLAAF airborne troops, no doubt jumping into Tibet to dish out a little more repression.

A closer look:

Side view

Interior showing efficient suspension and padding.

A pleasant surprise greeted me when I unscrewed the insignia, this red star is stenciled on the front.

Red star in detail, also showing mounting hole for insignia.

Three snaps on the headband attach a protective flap that is evident in the Marzetti book.

Size adjustment is quite rudimentary, simply adjust the lacing through the holes. I'm assuming that the leather is cowhide, although in a regime where the organs of executed political prisoners are routinely sold for transplantation, one can only hope.

Also of note is the rough peening on all of the interior rivets, the work of a malcontent slave laborer no doubt.

The screw-back for the insignia.

The liner and helmet have a paucity of markings, this beneath the cushion,

and this in the dome of the skull.

The frontal insignia is really quite a knockout.

This splendid helmet is now the favorite in my collection, as is always the case for the most recent of my acquisitions.

And now for the sexier side of the Asia-swallowing Red hordes - 

paratroopers unlike any you've ever seen:  (hello ladeez)

This view shows off the "Y" yoke and liner mounting rivets to good effect. Much like the Israeli paratrooper helmet, this one has no quick release of any sort on the chinstrap, which I've always found curious.

A fine view of that very cool PLA airborne insignia which here appears on the ballistic helmet.

I also suspect that this may be the earlier generation steel helmet of the 1990s, note the chin cup.

From these official PLA photos it appears that the Chinese military is trying to make tactical use of glamor...take a lesson Brazil!

Peoples Republic of China
1982 PLAAF paratroopers helmet.
Acquired 2008 (ebay purchase)
Purchase price :$29.99
Original in all respects.
Condition: excellent

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Peoples Republic of China GK 80/A Steel Helmet (arny)

More from Red China:

Behold the helmet that finally established the institutional identity of the Red Army, the home-grown GK 80/A.

One of the things that makes Red China so slaphappy these days is its very long and very sad history of being the jailhouse bride to a passing parade of occupying thugs and bullies. After years of this degradation, a dazed (but still very much in love) Red China has stepped up to assert itself as a first-tier dictatorship among the greater community of third-rate nations, thugs and bullies. Full-circle! group hug!

Eschewing the trappings of centuries of colonial or outside influence, the Peoples Republic was happy to discard the Soviet Ssh40 steel helmet which characterized its participation during the Korean War (and other hot spots of the Cold War), for their very own, motherland-produced steel GK 80/A.

This Chinese manufactured helmet is simple, strong, asymmetrical, and ironically very similar the the M30-32 helmet of the Japanese forces that spent so much time in China doing all of those unspeakably nasty things that they (the Japanese) can't seem to remember to have happened at all... oh look over's Hello Kitty!

A testimonial to "form follows function" his helmet is mighty plain, design is not it's strong suit. But when you've got six hundred god-zillion troops to outfit; ease of production, speed of manufacture, and economical materials tend to drive the program.

The shell is simple and straightforward, with a slight upward tilt to the raw rim running forward ending in a very modest visor. Nice depth to the shell, you can protect a lot of head with this helmet.

The profile of the rear skirt really brings to mind that Japanese number from the dark days.

From the top this helmet has a distinct ovoid shape, narrowing at the front.

Marzetti notes that the liner is "odd but simple", and goes on to say that it is quite comfortable. This is a simple liner, almost to the point of being elegant. I like it very much.

Using mostly cotton web, the suspension is very similar to the American M1 of WWII days. The band is a strip of vinyl backed with a soft rubber shock absorber. The space between the shell and the wearer's head is about three quarters of an inch, again similar to the American M1.

Adjustment is easy with a buckle in the rear...

and a tie at the top, an obvious copy of the M1 system, embracing the foreign to further the revolution.

The Y-yoke chinstrap does not unfasten but is completely adjustable with a cam-style buckle.

Chinese-style "A" washers and rivets connect the suspension to the shell, and this reveals a weakness in this steel plain Jane...

those eight rivets communicate to the outside of the shell where they are machined flat, hard for the eye to detect but weak points ballistically.

The few storage scuffs on this otherwise "unissued" looking helmet indicate how very thin the olive green finish is. Fortunately the ballistic value of paint is negligible.

The only confection that came with this very proletarian helmet was the heavily enameled (and somewhat chubby looking) commie star on the front, affixed with some sort of Epoxy. Otherwise the helmet is free of any makers or inspection marks of any sort, all glory going to the people, and the chairman, I suppose.

Representing the last generation of the venerable steel helmet this example is a nice first stab by China at establishing a unique look for its forces and restoring some self-esteem for its National Psyche.

Overheard exchange:
Red Guard: China is not imperialistic!
Gunboater: Want ta bet?

accession number: MOA hmar.46.17.13
Peoples Republic of China GK 80/A helmet.
Acquired 1984, Lansing Michigan.
Purchase price :$50.00
Condition: excellent/unissued

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Nationalist China M1 Steel Helmet

“I had never expected that the China initiative would come to fruition in the form of a Ping-Pong team.”
Richard M. Nixon

Well, yeah, that, and throwing over Nationalist China in favor of cheap crap with which to stock Wal-Mars.

The helmet is a straightforward copy of the good old US M1. The backstory, however, is a sordid saga of the United States unwisely propping up the wrong side - to the hilt - and then turning its back on that marionette of a partner, no, I'm not talking about Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, or Panama, or...gosh, we seem to have a long history of that sort of thing...No I'm talking about Taiwan...You know...the GOOD China!

Here's a graphic to help put things into perspective:

The good China is on the island of Formosa, known as Taiwan, or ,until recently "Nationalist China". It was established shortly after World War two by this guy:Warlord Chiang Kai Check, a brutal anti-commie, anti-Japanese, bully who fled with his makeshift Nationalist "government" to the island where he enjoyed the fawning support of the free world and was held up as a shining example of courage against the Reds and their "Bamboo Curtain".

Lots of American surplus military hardware started flowing into Taiwan -
the full roster of cool hardware:

surplus tanks,

really nice destroyers,

retro jets,

This hardware also Included the always fashionable and effective U.S. M1 helmet. What better way to signify a link of common democratic values than to eqip your barefoot soldiers with the steelpot of the American G.I.?

Eventually manufactured in South Korea, (our other "bastion against Communism" buddy over there), this M1 clone varied little from the venerable U.S. M1

From the front this clone has the typical "Willie and Joe" look of the M1. Subtle Differences become apparent under closer scrutiny (we'll get there).

The top view also presents no surprises, the ovoid shape is distinctly M1.

Our first glimpse of non US manufacture comes with the liner. Neither fiber nor composite, this liner is some sort of heavy vinyl or perhaps ABS through and through. The suspension and rigging configuration is straight out of the final generation US M1 of the 1980s.

The non-reflective surface treatment relies on silica sand in the olive paint. You can do your nails with this pot!

Tricked out in its Nationalist Chinese livery the liner profile is again, distinctly M1 of the 1980s.

Both the shell and the liner are completely without any dates, numbers, or makers marks. Only one label, left tantalizingly blank, appears underneath the suspension webbing.

And now, for the gory details:

The swivel bail as well as the chinstrap and chinstrap fastener begin to reveal the cheapness and lack of finish of this helmet compared to the US version. Metals are lighter, spot welds are cruder, placement is somewhat slipshod, and there are lots of rough or sharp edges on the metal. The chinstrap webbing is also very light and cheap feeling.

In close-up the rear rim joint reveals the lack of polish to this helmet. from the heavy handed spot welding to the misaligned and often wavy rim component, this helmet would not have passed muster for service with US forces.

Similarly, the chinstrap fastening hardware, although, identical in appeareance to the US version is rough, cheap, and poorly finished (remarks often directed toward me by an ex in-law).

Hats off! to a fine effort to bring a little G.I. to the forces of non-communist, non-mainland, and (possibly) non-viable Nationalist China.

Needless to say that as time, fashion, and politics have passed and matured,the United States no longer seems to remember knowing Taiwan, let alone going to the prom with her, and now the US seeks a much more sensible and lucrative (for China) relationship with mainland China, that is, the Peoples Republic, formerly known as "the bad guys".

Now, as far as American foreign policy is concerned, this is how we'd prefer to think of the country formerly known as Nationalist China, its "happy hour" a thing of the past:

Part of me feels hopeful that one day America will again turn her favor toward the best little buddy it ever had, that island beacon of ...well certainly not democracy...but certainly anti communism, the tiny giant -


My China Syndrome is now at an end. It is once again safe to leave your shelters. Thank you for your cooperation.

See you next time with another cool helmet from the collection.