Jump to content


Photo

WWI Pre-Armistice painted Helmets.


  • Please log in to reply
49 replies to this topic

#1 David D

David D
  • Members
    • Member ID: 151,093
  • 4,752 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New England

Posted 23 July 2017 - 08:20 AM

While there has been various threads on painted WWI helmets and the use of possible camouflage helmets being used pre-armistic, I have yet to find a thread about Divisional or unit painted helmets being used Before November 11, 1918. So i figured I would start a discussion about it. I am hoping other, more knowledgeable members who focus on the AEF  will also contribute here. 

 

Anyways I will start things off with the 26th Division. Which is my prime collecting focus. 

 

In March 1918, the 101st Machine Gun Battalion was ordered to apply a green diamond to the front of their steel helmets.

(See photo #1) which is mentioned in their post war unit history.

 

1

19850861_10211759797764427_46990624_o.jpg

 

Around the same time I am guessing, the 102nd Machine Gun Battalion was also ordered to do similar but instead they were ordered to paint a red 5 pointed star on both the front and rear of their steel helmets. While the unit history fails to mention when, one can assume it was early in the war as it was done at the same point they were issued dog tags. See photo # 2 which was taken from the 102nd's post war history.

 

2

20049233_10211759405794628_1048657676_o.jpg

 

I have also included a photo of members of the 102nd MGB advancing to the front line at Chateau Thierry in July 1918 (photo #3). It appears the soldier in the center has some sort of marking on his helmet but it is far to unfocused to ever really figure out if it is in fact a red 5 pointed star. 

 

3

20106447_1838888009761885_430066387491895736_n.jpg

 

Photos 1,2 and 3 courtesy of A.M. Crane 



#2 David D

David D
  • Members
    • Member ID: 151,093
  • 4,752 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New England

Posted 23 July 2017 - 08:24 AM

Here is an example of a what I believe to be a war time painted helmet in my collection from the 102nd Machine Gun Battalion. As the insignia is actually painted on both the front and back as most examples I have seen only show insignia painted on the front, which is against the Spring 1918 order. Another interesting thing about this helmet is that the insignia is also carved into the heavy sand finish of the helmet. 

 

Front 

19961122_1838887979761888_345741459283899838_n.jpg 19989350_1838887993095220_5698192660488270706_n.jpg

 

Back 

 

19989796_1838887999761886_7956249548665970489_n.jpg



#3 gomorgan

gomorgan
  • Members
    • Member ID: 75,820
  • 1,040 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 23 July 2017 - 08:34 AM

A great helmet and a great informative thread, keep it up..George



#4 hink441

hink441
  • Members
    • Member ID: 10,825
  • 4,406 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Virginia

Posted 23 July 2017 - 08:41 AM

There is a good thread regarding WW1 80th Division painted helmets.

http://www.usmilitar...t-markings-wwi/

#5 David D

David D
  • Members
    • Member ID: 151,093
  • 4,752 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New England

Posted 23 July 2017 - 10:46 AM

Thanks guys, did the 80th paint them before the armistice?

#6 Ronny67

Ronny67
  • Banned
    • Member ID: 153,625
  • 1,741 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Secret Lair

Posted 23 July 2017 - 11:21 AM

This is really cool. I have always been interested in WWI painted helmets, but the truth that almost all of them were painted post-war has kept me away. 

 

Thank YOU for this thread. I wish I could contribute. Very refreshing to see an original topic with research... 



#7 hink441

hink441
  • Members
    • Member ID: 10,825
  • 4,406 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Virginia

Posted 23 July 2017 - 12:53 PM

Thanks guys, did the 80th paint them before the armistice?


Well I believe that is still being debated. The 80th Division historian says they started in April of 1918. Others say no. It is discussed on page 2 of the linked thread.

Here is a photo of a 35th Division document that details the designs of each unit's design to be used to mark all equipment. This document is from March 1918.

image.jpeg

#8 David D

David D
  • Members
    • Member ID: 151,093
  • 4,752 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New England

Posted 23 July 2017 - 01:07 PM

This is really cool. I have always been interested in WWI painted helmets, but the truth that almost all of them were painted post-war has kept me away. 
 
Thank YOU for this thread. I wish I could contribute. Very refreshing to see an original topic with research... 


I really appreciate the positive feedback, Ronny! Glad you enjoyed it!

#9 David D

David D
  • Members
    • Member ID: 151,093
  • 4,752 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New England

Posted 23 July 2017 - 01:08 PM

Well I believe that is still being debated. The 80th Division historian says they started in April of 1918. Others say no. It is discussed on page 2 of the linked thread.

Here is a photo of a 35th Division document that details the designs of each unit's design to be used to mark all equipment. This document is from March 1918.

attachicon.gif image.jpeg


Thanks for the contribution on the 35th division. I will have to research their helmets and add to the post later this week. I will also look into the 80th division too.

#10 Bellumbill

Bellumbill
  • Members
    • Member ID: 661
  • 737 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Midwest

Posted 23 July 2017 - 01:32 PM

Question just to clarify - Are we talking about insignia painted on helmets or Camouflage patterns painted on helmets?  I think we are talking two distictly different things there.   I think it was also be helpful, at least to me, to clarify what we are seeking here - evidence that any, even a single helmet, was painted with divisional symbols and or camouflage versus large numbers (which in itself requires clarification) of helmets.  Also, it might be germane to point out that orders on a piece of paper don't always equal 100% conformity to the order.  

 

The British began using recognition symbols on the uniforms, as we all likely know, at the Somme in 1916 - It stands to reason that the US Army would have seen that and thought it made sense and some divisions took up the practice at least on their helmets.  Further, the BEF had roughly a two year period with which to experiment with the process and it would stand to reason they would have shared their knowledge with US high command.  

 

Camouflage is a different story as I think the Germans were the first to paint camouflage patterns on their helmets - most information I can find is orders from Ludendorff in July of 1918.   But it doesn't seem that large numbers of these were seen on the Western Front until the late summer and/or early fall of 1918.  So, to what extent the allies were able to see the German camouflage patterns and decide they were a good idea and then for that idea to diseminate back to any higher division or corps level decided upon and then passed back down to the rank and file soldier in any large group remains slim.  I suppose absent any discovery of any official primary documents the truth will remain unknown.  

 

Interesting discussion, I appreciate the posting of primary information on division and other markings on US helmets.  It seems you really have to go on a division by division basis looking for specific mention of the use of the practice.  

 

Best,

 

Bill K.


Edited by Bellumbill, 23 July 2017 - 01:42 PM.


#11 David D

David D
  • Members
    • Member ID: 151,093
  • 4,752 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New England

Posted 23 July 2017 - 01:39 PM

Bill,
I made the thread to talk about distinctive unit painted helmets. I was referring to WWI Nerd's topic about frontline camp painted helmets and how there isn't anything about unit marked helmets being used in the combat periods. I think you just read it wrong?
Anyways, glad you find this interesting and if you have anything of this nature please feel free to contribute :)
Thanks
Dave

#12 Bellumbill

Bellumbill
  • Members
    • Member ID: 661
  • 737 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Midwest

Posted 23 July 2017 - 02:08 PM

Dave -

 

Ah, just re-read it and see you are correct I did misread.  Well the part about the divisional insignia on helmet still applies to my post - forget the other stuff.   :) 

 

I have always thought there were without question painted helmets pre-Armistice - my question was always how widespread was the practice?  Always willing to learn more!

 

Best,

 

Bill



#13 David D

David D
  • Members
    • Member ID: 151,093
  • 4,752 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New England

Posted 23 July 2017 - 04:47 PM

Bill,
To answer your question, it defenetly seems as if it was done more at a unit basis by no means was it a wide spread thing. So far it seems like we have ID'd 2 definite divisions tha used painted helmets to some degree. While there was over 20 divisions active in the AEF. Which is why I find it interesting because it is pretty rare to find unlike WWII where almost every division painted insignia on their helmets.
Dave

#14 solcarlus

solcarlus
  • Members
    • Member ID: 241
  • 991 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Pinard land

Posted 24 July 2017 - 05:34 AM

Bonjour.

In the period photos, we don't catch a lot of helmets with painted badges. We see it especially after the armistice. The helmet of the 7th Inf. Div. was found in a small village south of the salient of Saint Mihiel.

IMG_2724.JPG

#15 David D

David D
  • Members
    • Member ID: 151,093
  • 4,752 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New England

Posted 24 July 2017 - 07:16 AM

So I guess we can add the 7th division to the list. As it seems Atleast to some degree they were painting their helmets as early as September 1918.

So far we have
- MG battalions of the 26th division
- 35th Division
- 7th Division
- 80th Division???

#16 David D

David D
  • Members
    • Member ID: 151,093
  • 4,752 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New England

Posted 27 November 2017 - 03:31 PM

Hoping to bump this up just in case anyone has any more info to shed.

#17 MAW

MAW
  • Members
    • Member ID: 2,778
  • 1,560 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Ohio

Posted 27 November 2017 - 05:17 PM

The early divisions to reach France did have regimental insignia that was color coded by battalion. I know the 1st and 2nd divisions did...and by the account above, it appears the 26th did as well. I've not yet seen any evidence of the 42nd division having a similar system.

These insignia were based on the British battle flashes that were in use, and worn as shoulder patches in combat...although I do not definitively know when that practice stopped.

I doubt that the helmet above is pre-armistice paint; rather I believe it falls in to the regimental system that was developed later in the war.

#18 David D

David D
  • Members
    • Member ID: 151,093
  • 4,752 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New England

Posted 27 November 2017 - 06:48 PM

The early divisions to reach France did have regimental insignia that was color coded by battalion. I know the 1st and 2nd divisions did...and by the account above, it appears the 26th did as well. I've not yet seen any evidence of the 42nd division having a similar system.

These insignia were based on the British battle flashes that were in use, and worn as shoulder patches in combat...although I do not definitively know when that practice stopped.

I doubt that the helmet above is pre-armistice paint; rather I believe it falls in to the regimental system that was developed later in the war.


Thanks for your insight. I have seen the shoulder flashes used by the 2nd Division AEF during the St. Mihiel campaign, can you please fill me in in the similar 1st Division practice? And the helmet you are doubting is the 7th Division helmet?

#19 MAW

MAW
  • Members
    • Member ID: 2,778
  • 1,560 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Ohio

Posted 29 November 2017 - 08:53 AM

I remember the system of patches is mentioned in the memoir "Let's Go!" by Ranlett..... he describes the 2nd div. insignia in some detail.

 

I believe there is also a reference for the 1st Engineers of the 1st Division....perhaps in their regimental history.  I'll try to go back through my books and notes....this has been an area of interest for me for some time.



#20 David D

David D
  • Members
    • Member ID: 151,093
  • 4,752 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New England

Posted 29 November 2017 - 05:56 PM

There is a thread somewhere about the 2nd Division SSI used during the St. Mihiel campaign. I'll post the link later.

#21 Dave G

Dave G
  • Members
    • Member ID: 4,484
  • 124 posts

Posted 30 November 2017 - 06:00 AM

Wasn't most, if not all U.S. Army divisional insignia made official at the very last stage of the war, some as late as the October-November 1918 time frame? Were the designs being used unofficially until that point and this late adoption essentially a pro forma move? Interesting topic. 

 

Dave 



#22 MAW

MAW
  • Members
    • Member ID: 2,778
  • 1,560 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Ohio

Posted 30 November 2017 - 07:01 AM

I do not have a database or list of dates when insignia were adopted or designed for various units....but generally speaking they do not show up in photographs until the post-armistice period/occupation.

 

Logically, it makes sense that the early versions of insignia that were actually used in action followed an established British pattern, and the more elaborate designs came much later.



#23 aef1917

aef1917
  • Members
    • Member ID: 270
  • 1,853 posts
  • Location:Hellaware

Posted 30 November 2017 - 08:37 AM

 

Logically, it makes sense that the early versions of insignia that were actually used in action followed an established British pattern, and the more elaborate designs came much later.

 

This is one reason I suspect the 80th painted theirs before the Armistice.



#24 David D

David D
  • Members
    • Member ID: 151,093
  • 4,752 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New England

Posted 03 December 2017 - 03:34 PM

 
This is one reason I suspect the 80th painted theirs before the Armistice.


Agreed. The pattern seems that every unit marking used pre armistice has similarities to the British markings. Ex. 26th Division MG bn. Helmet paintings, 2nd Division (regular) shoulder flashes and 80th division helmet paintings.

#25 world war I nerd

world war I nerd
  • Members
    • Member ID: 5,143
  • 5,348 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 02 January 2018 - 02:48 AM

Here are a couple of still shots I saved from online video footage said to have been filmed on November 11, 1918. In it men of the 89th Division are "burying the last Boch shell, a dud". A close inspection reveals that several of the men have division insignia painted on at least one side of their helmets.

 

It's possible that the footage was staged weeks or even months after the day the Armistice was signed, but the dress and appearance of the men look as if the filming took place while the men were still in a combat environment.

 

Attached is an overall shot of the scene and a closer view of some of the men.

Attached Images

  • Armistice Day Painted helmets 89th Div .jpg
  • Armistice Day Painted Helmets B .jpg

Edited by world war I nerd, 02 January 2018 - 02:52 AM.



1 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 1 guests, 0 anonymous users