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Why are real USN helmets difficult to find?


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#1 Salvage Sailor

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 05:40 PM

Aloha Everyone,

I've been reading the posts on the board in regard to USN helmets and thought I'd share my own unsolicited opinions on a few questions. There are several posts asking "is this a real USN helmet", or "is this the right liner, suspension, grey/red/blue/yellow paint color," blah blah blah. Well, I'm not an expert on helmets at all, but I do know something about USN helmets, because I wore them and maintained them on several USN ships.

First off, I'm not even going to delve into what's a WWII, Korean, Vietnam era M1 helmet at all. If it was in the ready racks, it was a USN.

Paint? Whatever was in the paint locker at the time. Haze grey, deck grey, fire engine red (all with lead btw) - that's what we used. Multiple coats sloshed on by hand. We also did not keep them painted and shined up all the time. This was only done after coming out of a ROH (regular overhaul) before our INSERV inspections or REFTRA (Refresher training) drills. Even then, it was only the CO/XO/NAV etc helmets that were worn on the bridge that got gussied up. These officers usually kept their nice & clean helmets in their staterooms. We swabbies just grabbed whatever was on the racks when GQ sounded.

Now, about those racks.....they were open to the sea, rain, GU-11 bombers, and whatever else was flying about. They were about as clean as the Mae-West and orange Kapok life preservers in the lifejacket boxes next to the racks (but that's a topic for another thread). The racks were either stack-em-up types or lockers (think dumpster with no wheels or lid, just a triced down tarp).

All of the helmets were jumbled up in a pile atop each other. Many had no straps, one strap, broken clasps, etc. They all were scraped up, rusty under the liners, and 'salty'. No really, salty - encrusted with salt spray like a glazed donut - and corroded, just what a collector would expect on Ebay

The only 'nice' helmets were the MK 2 Talker helmets and they never, - never - had the nice chin straps on them that you see on Ebay - Just holes where they used to be, many, many moons before our time. The MK 2's were nice simply because they didn't have a rusty crappy suspension in them like the M1's did. They weathered better in the lockers.

So, would you like to see what 'real' USN helmets looked like circa 1960's 1970's ?

Here ya go.....

These came off of the USS GRASP (ARS-24) on March 31st, 1978. I know because I, uh, borrowed them, when we were decommissioned and the ship given to the ROK Navy.

Attached Images

  • Typical_USN_Helmets_001.jpg
  • Typical_USN_Helmets_002.jpg

Edited by Salvage Sailor, 06 June 2015 - 11:59 AM.


#2 Salvage Sailor

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 05:44 PM

Think they're nice? Think again......

Here's the DC (Damage Control) helmet

Attached Images

  • Typical_USN_Helmets_003.jpg
  • Typical_USN_Helmets_004.jpg
  • Typical_USN_Helmets_005.jpg


#3 Salvage Sailor

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 05:47 PM

Now that's a typical USN helmet. One strap, used to be OD but became Red. These would have been kept in the Damage Control lockers, and were usually in better shape than the Grey helmets.

Still, notice the rusty corrosion marks in the shell? That's because salt water would get between the liners and shells.

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  • Typical_USN_Helmets_006.jpg
  • Typical_USN_Helmets_007.jpg
  • Typical_USN_Helmets_008.jpg


#4 Salvage Sailor

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 05:49 PM

And how about that authentic grey beauty. When I first got this, the rim was not all rusty.....this is what salt water corrosion will do over time

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  • USN_Helmets_009.jpg
  • USN_Helmets_010.jpg

Edited by Salvage Sailor, 23 January 2008 - 05:50 PM.


#5 Salvage Sailor

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 05:50 PM

Inside......completely rusted out, the bails eventually gave way, and the helmet is basically a relic.

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  • USN_Helmets_011.jpg
  • USN_Helmets_012.jpg


#6 Salvage Sailor

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 05:52 PM

Nice suspension eh?

Here's a good look at what becomes of them over time

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  • USN_Helmets_013.jpg
  • USN_Helmets_014.jpg


#7 Salvage Sailor

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 05:53 PM

Here's her DC sister ship.....a bit better for wear, but still a casualty to time.

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  • USN_Helmets_015.jpg
  • USN_Helmets_016.jpg


#8 Theorywolf

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 08:10 PM

Very interesting! Not sure that I agree that "all" navy helmets have this outcome. All the eggs are never in one basket when it comes to the condition of M1 pots! But, I'm sure your experiences share a pattern with many others! Interesting helmets, and we know where they came from! Thanks for sharing!

Mike

Edited by Theorywolf, 23 January 2008 - 08:10 PM.


#9 sigsaye

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 08:28 PM

Very interesting! Not sure that I agree that "all" navy helmets have this outcome. All the eggs are never in one basket when it comes to the condition of M1 pots! But, I'm sure your experiences share a pattern with many others! Interesting helmets, and we know where they came from! Thanks for sharing!

Mike


Salvage Sailor, Thank you, that's exactly what I was trying to say with my other posts. Thanks for having pics to illustrate. There was no simple "Navy" version, no standard color, marking, liner, straps, nothing, lots of "Frankenhelmets." Like you say, color was basically what ever was closest to the door of the paint locker, and they only got painted to cover up the never ending rust. Markings were what ever some LPO felt like putting on them. Sometimes to hopefully keep them from getting stolen, but my guys rounded up good helmets from other battle stations and repainted them quite often.

I remember useing the brown leather liner chinstraps on MK 2 Talker helmets. secureing them onto the helmets with zip ties. personnaly I hated those things, the rubber pads were always too small and hard. Usually the cloth had worn off ovewr the years, so there was decaying rubber rubbing on your hair and head.

As far as WW 1 & WW 2 colors for shipboard helmets, something to remember is that not all ships them were painted haze gray, some were deck gray, some were blue,a nd some were combinations of the three.

As for surviving, think about this. AS you can see from the photos, after a few years, exposure pretty much destroyes the helmets. When the 1917s were replaced with the M-1, there was a war on. Pretty good bet that the vast majority of the 1917s went into the scrap pile and were melted down into something more useful (M-1s?)

By the time WW 2 was over, pretty much the same thing, a bunch of trashed out M-1s went into the scrap market. It really does not take long for helmets to develop terminal rust, stress cracks, broken bails, and just be worthless, I know for a fact that many of the old M-1s were float tested (failed).

Steve Hesson

#10 gecko NZ

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 08:52 PM

very interesting thread http://www.usmilitar...tyle_emoticons/default/thumbsup.gif

#11 BOLO

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 10:05 PM

heres one of my damage control helmets marked REP 3

Edited by BOLO, 23 January 2008 - 10:08 PM.


#12 BOLO

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 10:07 PM

and another red damage control marked unit II

#13 BOLO

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 10:13 PM

here's one of my deck grey painted shipboard helmet with corroded hardware, the shell is made by Schlueter

Edited by BOLO, 23 January 2008 - 10:14 PM.


#14 sigsaye

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Posted 24 January 2008 - 04:17 AM

here's one of my deck grey painted shipboard helmet with corroded hardware, the shell is made by Schlueter

This is like the helmets I wore for years, the older WW 2 straps and all. Notice that there is a coat of haze gray under the deck gray. Eventually, enough of the older webbing straps would break apart and some one would poney up the funds to get new straps for these things. Usually because, as Salvage Sailor mentioned, there was some big inspection comming up and these were ppart of the inspection.

The DC helmets were the only ones that were painted a specific color with specific markings consistantly. But, these things also got recycled, as a ship went out of commission, helmets (and anything else of value) were transfered to other ships, to get another coat of paint (or not) and continue on until they were just so badley rusted, cracked or dented up as to be unservicable at which point they went for a swim.

Steve Hesson

#15 BOLO

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Posted 13 February 2008 - 10:55 PM

heres how the helmets were stacked in the USS HORNET [CVS 12]

#16 sigsaye

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Posted 14 February 2008 - 04:23 AM

heres how the helmets were stacked in the USS HORNET [CVS 12]

And that's neat and squared away. Usually thei are in a steel rack out on a weather deck exposed to the elements. Sometimes if there was room we would hang them by the straps up in the overhead to get them out of the way.

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#17 gecko NZ

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Posted 14 February 2008 - 04:59 AM

Sometimes if there was room we would hang them by the straps up in the overhead to get them out of the way.

Steve hesson


you mean if they still had straps lol

#18 gecko NZ

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 03:16 AM

Eventually, enough of the older webbing straps would break apart and some one would poney up the funds to get new straps for these things. Usually because, as Salvage Sailor mentioned, there was some big inspection comming up and these were ppart of the inspection.

Steve Hesson


i take it when someone finally did poney up with some new chinstraps they were the kind that were attached to the bails with metal clips and not sewin onto the bail like a factory WW2 M1 fixed bail?

#19 collectsmedals

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 04:30 PM

Another reason there are not as many Navy helmets around is there were not as many to begin with. I was on an aircraft carrier (U.S.S. Nimits, CVN-68) there were over 5,000 sailors on board but I doubt there were more then a couple of hundred helmets. Guys like me who worked below decks in the engine rooms or reactor spaces never wore them.

#20 sigsaye

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Posted 15 February 2008 - 09:27 PM

i take it when someone finally did poney up with some new chinstraps they were the kind that were attached to the bails with metal clips and not sewin onto the bail like a factory WW2 M1 fixed bail?

yep, the clip on nylon ones. And we were happy to get them. They har the forked chin piece and snaps rather than the hook affair. Much more functional that the WW 2 rig. Them stood up to the weather much better and were not a fragile. We also made chin straps from orange nylon shot line or OD parachute cord.

Steve Hesson

#21 Salvage Sailor

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 02:30 PM

Now, about those racks.....they were open to the sea, rain, GU-11 bombers, and whatever else was flying about. They were about as clean as the Mae-West preservers in the lifejacket boxes next to the racks (but that's a topic for another thread). The racks were either stack-em-up types or lockers (think dumpster with no wheels or lid, just a triced down tarp).

All of the helmets were jumbled up in a pile atop each other. Many had no straps, one strap, broken clasps, etc. They all were scraped up, rusty under the liners, and 'salty'. No really, salty - encrusted with salt spray like a glazed donut - and corroded, just what a collector would expect on Ebay :w00t:


Found another period photo for illustration

I was shooting a photo of our tow and happened to catch the helmet ready rack attached to the stack on the Signal Bridge, USS BOLSTER (ARS-38), life jacket locker in right foreground.

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  • Bolster_Helmet_Rack_Signal_Bridge.jpg

Edited by Salvage Sailor, 11 December 2016 - 12:27 AM.


#22 jkash23686

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Posted 22 February 2011 - 06:28 PM

I just got my hands on what seems to be a navy lid and the thing is in rough shape. One bail is left and its rusted to high heaven.

http://www.usmilitar...mp;#entry753576

#23 groserm

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Posted 15 August 2018 - 08:05 PM

I saw a WW2 picture of helmets stored in the berthing area near the racks. Makes sense you didn't want to be scrambling around for a helmet when general quarters was called. I wish I could find it

#24 Cap Camouflage Pattern I

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Posted 16 August 2018 - 07:43 AM

Navy helmets seem to share a lot with Iraqi helmets, old, beat up, multiple layers of paint, missing or damaged parts, improvised repairs. Interesting stuff.



#25 644td

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Posted 16 August 2018 - 08:14 AM

I have this Vietnam era navy Chaplains helmet. It was probably reissued to other Chaplains with rotation changes but it is pretty beat up.

Marty

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  • 55BE0D4C-191D-49F0-8B55-072A47C83CB2.jpeg

Edited by 644td, 16 August 2018 - 08:15 AM.



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