Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Germany (Nazi) M.42 combat helmet (part one)

"Among my Souvenirs"

Recently (April 2010) , the collection acquired its 140th helmet; a Nazi German M.42.  The helmet is a garden variety "raw edge" from the late war period.  As helmets go is is a very nice specimen, as artifacts go it might seem singularly ordinary, as is the nature of all artifacts, however, what sets this object above the "ordinary" is that it is connected to a personal story.  It is only through a connection to people that artifacts have any value at all.

This is David Langbart, the donor of that most recent acquisition the German M.42 which he is shown holding.

He generously presented me not only the helmet as a gift, but also the story of the man who brought that helmet home from WWII, David's father...

Pfc. Joseph Langbart, U.S. Army
(This may, by the way, be the only photograph I've ever seen of a soldier actually having the leather chinstrap of his helmet liner deployed as a chinstrap.)

Langbart was a member of the 99th Infantry Division, the so-called "Battle
Babies" of the Bulge owing to their rookie status as they were rushed into
harm's way.

Langbart, a member of the Cornell University class of 1943 (as was fellow-GI Kurt Vonnegut), enlisted in the U.S. Army and went overseas in 1944, just in time for the
last great German offensive of the war, "The Battle of the Bulge".  

With his division thrown into line at the Elsenborn Ridge in Belgium, Langbart, as an artilleryman of the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery Division Artillery, reported that the Bulge represented the only time he actually saw what he was shooting at, so close was the proximity of the Germans to the howitzers of Langbart's battery.

The German offensive extinguished, the Americans and their allies continued the relentless push into Germany with the 99th Infantry Division, the first complete Allied division to cross the Rhine River, at Remagen, and winning the race to Bavaria.
(insignia of the 99th Infantry Division)

Upon the allied victory, Langbart spent some time on occupation duty prior to returning home and back to a law degree from Cornell in 1948 followed by a long career of public service as a government attorney at the Department of Justice, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Department of Labor, retiring as an administrative law judge adjudicating cases of coal mine health and safety.
As have so many of the World War Two generation, Joseph Langbart only recently passed on, much missed by family, friends, and associates.  He is representative of a generation of men, and women, to whom following generations owe a great debt.

The youthful Joseph Langbart also shared a trait of all young Americans in all wars since the revolution, a trait celebrated in prose and cartoon by the likes of Ernie Pyle and Bill Mauldin...

the collecting of souvenirs.

Here then, is one of Joseph Langbart's souvenirs of the war that defined the 20th Century, the German M.42 steel helmet.

This is a late-war M.42 finished in field grey without decals. Application of decals ceased on August 28, 1943 as a cost cutting and time saving measure reflective of the changing fortunes of the Reich.

Another austerity measure was "raw edge" - one of the features that characterized the M.42 and distinguishes it from the M.40 and M.35, both of which have the more finished-looking "rolled edge".

That raw edge, as well as the stamped ventilation hole (contrasted with the applied ventilation rivet of the M.35) are emblematic of the declining fortunes of the Third Reich as the tides of war were turning against Hitler and his evil minions.

The Nazi industrial base was becoming overtaxed by a multi-front war and impoverished by dwindling resources.

Mechanically rolling over the edge of a helmet brim and applying a machined ventilation washer represented additional steps in the manufacturing process that the German war machine could ill-afford.

Just as Hitler was rushing children to the front as soldiers, so too was the German armaments industry rushing simplified, cheaper to produce helmets into the ranks of the armed forces.  Though the M.42 was cheaper to produce it was still an exceptionally well designed helmet and one which provided superior protection for the wearer.

From the top the condition of the paint is shown to good effect.  A moderately thin application of greenish-grey that is about 80% intact with only scattered areas of very light surface rust.

The liner and chinstrap are quite complete, and, as with all German lids, this one is 
abundantly marked.

The size is stamped into the liner band, along with...

the manufacturer as well as the date of manufacture of the liner.

Not believing anything can be overstated, an additional size stamp appears
on the liner band...

and on one of the leather leaves of the liner itself.  Note the original drawstring,
in very fine condition.

Another ink stamping appears underneath the leather though I'm not able to make it out.

The size of the shell, E.T.64, is stamped inside the flare of the brim.

The name, rank, and number of the original owner appear to the rear of the flare along with the stamping "D412", the significance of which is unknown to me (can readers shed any light here?)

Even with a lighted magnifying glass the manufacturer's name is difficult to discern:
"Rahm u. Kampmann  Wuppertal."

The leather of the liner is affixed to the liner band with several split pins.

Save for one worn and split area to the rear, this liner is in generally very good condition...

and a very nice addition to the collection.

Many thanks to friend David Langbart for this fine helmet. and many more to his father and millions like him for this future which their sacrifices secured for the rest of us.

Now here's something that I added on to this helmet for my own enjoyment.
It was a farily common practice for German soldiers to utilize a bread bag strap
as a camouflage band.

A very bemused looking German soldier.

I found this original army bread bag strap on ebay for a very reasonable price. 
 I'm very pleased with the result.
See you next time with another cool helmet from the collection.



reinout said...

Wow Mannie you've seem to get it all covered. A free M18 shell and now a M42 ND with vet provenance. Good for you buddy!! :)

Mannie Gentile said...


What a delightful way to begin a new year.

Jaegermeister said...

Hi Mannie,

MHCC member Robert here.
Another very nice helmet showing. Way to go and great fortune in the new year also!



P.s. The "D" number at the rear skirt near the soldiers name is the metal stock lot number used to ID the production run of the helmet.

M55q said...

The Gefr. is an abbreviation for the German word: Gefreiter. Gefreiter was the lowest rank to which an ordinary soldier could be promoted. Is is not a "rank" so to speak, but the same as a Private in all the Western Armies. They still use it today. In the German, Swiss and Austrian armies.