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Reason why WWII soldier did not connect their helmet straps

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In the latest issue of World War II, a question was asked why soldiers did not connect their helmet straps when under fire. The answer was that there were two reasons with one reason being superficially plausible but actually wrong. The wrong one surprised me because I had always assumed that was one of the reasons not to attach straps.

 

1) A man strapped in his steel bucket risked an attacker coming from behind grabbing his helmet visor to throw him off balance
2) Men also believed-wrongly- that if a shell or bomb went off nearby, a tightly fastened helmet would snap its wearer’s neck.

 

In response, the armed services issued the T-1 pressure release replacement bucket which in a blast automatically released the external strap, relying on the liner’s nape strap to keep the helmet in place.

 

...Kat


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Hi Kat,

Many years ago, I asked my late uncle, James Sweazy, who was a Platoon Sgt. in the 3rd Infantry Division, the helmet strap question. He confirmed that it was widely believed a buckled chin strap would break your neck, but he said when running, if unbuckled, his helmet would bounce off the bridge of his nose. Also, he felt if a shell landed close enough for the blast to blow your helmet off, you probably didn't stand much chance of surviving anyway. For those reasons, he said he always kept it buckled when in combat and wore the strap under the point of his chin. As a veteran of four assault landings (North Africa, Sicily, Salerno and Anzio) he was an experienced infantryman, ultimately with two Purple Hearts. As it turned out, the strap probably saved his life. At Anzio, he was hit in the jugular vein with shrapnel from an 88mm shell burst. Fortunately, a nearby medic was able to render first aid that saved his life, but he always felt he would have been killed outright if his helmet had not been in place to deflect other fragments from that shell. After recovering from his injury, he was sent home on leave and then spent the remainder of the war with Training Command teaching new infantrymen the tricks of the trade.

Best regards, Paul

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"...he felt if a shell landed close enough for the blast to blow your helmet off, you probably didn't stand much chance of surviving anyway."

 

So true: the belief was apparently that the helmet would act like a parachute and the shockwave would fill it and lift it abruptly and the force would break your neck. But, yes, a force that strong would kill you anyway.

 

In the Sands of Iwo Jima, John Wayne's unit is waiting to go over the side into the landing craft. A Marine standing next to him has his helmet strap buckled - Wayne points at his chin and the Marine unbuckles it.

 

I wonder how many men were killed or wounded because they lost their unbuckled helmet in the heat of battle and were hit by shrapnel?



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In discussions at the time, the reason given was always the blast. I've never heard of the first reason. Even that seems implausible - if they can sneak up and use your helmet like a steering wheel, why couldn't they just stick something sharp in your neck?


Looking for EXPERIMENTAL & PROTOTYPE HELMETS

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The T-1 connector was created to silence the unfounded rumor, it wasn't really needed but, they wanted the guys to buckle the straps without this unwarranted fear.You'll also notice that today's helmets do not incorporate the T-1 and are soundly snapped in place. So, like Bob said, you have to wonder how many guys died because of an unwarranted concern.


"There is no such thing as an expert, only students with different levels of education."
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I've heard the same was believed by many soldiers in WWI too.

 

Although the Navy clearly had the same concerns when designing the Mk 2 'talker' helmet. Of course that thing is a punch bowl in comparison!


"It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts."

*Sherlock Holmes in "A Scandal in Bohemia"*

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it must be a old WWII myth because all modern soldiers always use the chin strap now, you never see modern soldiers not using their chin strap

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A helmet worn without chinstraps with a sweatband raised up to the nape area is very comfortable and fits tight on the head -

even when running or jumping in a foxhole.

captur10.jpg


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No doubt the modern four-point chinstraps are designed to be worn at all times in order to provide better stability and protection, and the modern helmets do a great job at it. However, the WWII guys were a bit correct in their feelings of blast forces.

 

One of the signature injuries of the GWOT is the Traumatic Brain Injury. Many of these victims have no physical injuries, however the blast pressure forces are caught inside the space between the head and shell and are not able to escape, causing dramatic pressure changes to the head. It has been studied as well as sensors have been placed in helmets of deployed units who were exosed to IED's and such in order to better understand.

 

This is a newer designed test helmet that was developed as a scalable system to try and combine multiple jobs into one series of helmets (Infantry, Armor, etc). After testing by the Navy, they were very surprised that although the helmet provided much better ballistic protection with the added armor, the blast pressure forces rose dramatically with each piece added. So much so they felt its design was unsafe to the wearer without further testing and improvements.

 

 

post-98601-0-43151000-1416607758.jpeg

 

Just some thoughts

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I have heard of both of the cases above, but I recantly talked to an old vet of the 1st infantry division. He was a replacement in the 16 infantry regiment and landed in the fist wave on Omaha.He told me that he never wore his chinstrap in action and had it buckled up on the brim behind his helmet. His reason for it was he just thought of the straps to uncomfortable and tended to get in the way. So definitely some interesting theorys about this

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As a side note it makes me think of a point I often think about and that is rarely discussed: A bullet entering an M1 helmet and spinning between the helmet and the liner.

I personally knew a vet to whom it happened and almost all 6th Corps combats vets I have interviewed had witnessed or heard of such a case. I know it's not in connection with the chinstraps but it might be worth a topic.


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As a side note it makes me think of a point I often think about and that is rarely discussed: A bullet entering an M1 helmet and spinning between the helmet and the liner.

I personally knew a vet to whom it happened and almost all 6th Corps combats vets I have interviewed had witnessed or heard of such a case. I know it's not in connection with the chinstraps but it might be worth a topic.

 

I've also heard of this too, if the shot was glancing and not a straight on hit.

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In the ETO, there actually was an order regarding the use of chinstraps:

 

 

post-2064-0-65216000-1416612289.jpg


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That whole order was based on hearsay and not on actual testing. Isn't it amazing how far these fears went down the chain of command?


"There is no such thing as an expert, only students with different levels of education."
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For the 29th on D-Day there was a direct order from Gen. Gerhardt to have the chin straps buckled as he was big on having them buckled.

 

-Dave


Collecting WWI 26th Division Machine Gun and Infantry related Helmets, Equipment, Groupings, Photos and Dog Tags!


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neck.jpg

 

It's too bad Myth Busters never tested this. Again, a shock wave with thrust that strong surely would cause fatal damage to internal organs, it would seem.



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attachicon.gifneck.jpg

 

It's too bad Myth Busters never tested this. Again, a shock wave with thrust that strong surely would cause fatal damage to internal organs, it would seem.

 

the soldiers necks that were broken while using chin straps would have probably still happened even if they didnt use the chin strap if the blast was that strong or close enough to cause that type of injury.

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I'm sure many of us have worn M1s over the years before the PASGT helmet (or as we called them the Kevlar helmet) was issued. As a combat engineer we were advised to wear the straps when dealing with land mines, as it was not good if the helmet were to fall on to the land mine. Conversely we were advised not to wear straps when approaching a demolition hang fire to reset the fuse; mostly because we were low-crawling up to the fuze with all that stood between us and the possible explosion was the helmet.

I often wondered if there was a better line of work, so then I took to jumping out of airplanes.


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Way back when in the 70s when I got my first job, my boss was a WW2 combat vet from The MTO. He'd been in the mud and cold of the close in fighting in the mountains. He said they cut off thier chin straps as the belief was if a German caught you from behind he could take the helmet and pull back at the same time forcing the back rim into the neck to snap it. I cut the straps off a perfectly good helmet because of that story trying to make it like he described.

 

More recently a Utah beach D-Day vet said along with the concern about concussion, it was also to avoid getting choked if they went into too deep of water when they landed. He said his straps were always hanging as they didn't have enough length to hook at the back.q


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My service was 1955-1975. The M-1 helmet was the standard during my time. My memory was that the chin strap was just plain uncomfortable when buckled. I'd leave it unfastened whenever possible. :)

 

Paul

Salome, AZ

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I just came across this and thought it was germaine. This comes from a document listing training tips derived from experiences in the Sicilian Campaign, and is dated October 1943. This seems plausible if the man was unconscious.

 

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Looking for EXPERIMENTAL & PROTOTYPE HELMETS

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Most of the vets I have talked to have said they didn't buckle chinstraps because it was uncomfortable and they would take the helmets off so often to sit on them, cook, eat, shave, wash, urinate, etc. that it was just more convenient to leave them unbuckled.

 

Rob


Exhausting & Dirty Work



Interested in buying identified or re-searchable Korean War uniforms, groupings, medals and more.

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Myth or not the Army took it seriously. This Army medical journal on wound ballisitcs covers this "myth".

 

http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/wwii/woundblstcs/DEFAULT.htm

 

MEDICAL DEPARTMENT, UNITED STATES ARMY
WOUND BALLISTICS
Prepared and published under the direction of
Lieutenant General LEONARD D. HEATON
The Surgeon General, United States Army
Editor in Chief
Colonel JAMES BOYD COATES, Jr., MC
Editor for Wound Ballistics
Major JAMES C. BEYER, MC
OFFICE OF THE SURGEON GENERAL
DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
WASHINGTON, D.C., 1962
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
CHAPTER XI
Personnel Protective Armor
Maj. James C. Beyer, MC, William F. Enos, M.D.,
and Col. Robert H. Holmes, MC
The development and field usage of helmets and body armor in warfare before World War II has been adequately documented by a number of excellent books and reports.1 Most of these references have been utilized in the preparation of this chapter, and in many instances they have provided the sole source of available material.2

Page 644 para 2
During the course of the North African campaigns in 1943, the rigid hook fastener of the chinstrap was found to be a source of potential danger by remaining intact under the impact of a blast wave resulting from a nearby detonation and thereby jerking the head sharply and violently with the production of fractures or dislocations of the cervical vertebras. Therefore, it was necessary to redesign the helmet strap with a ball-and-clevis release so that it would remain closed during normal combat activities but would allow for. a quick voluntary release or automatic release at pressures considerably below the accepted level of danger. Following extensive tests by ordnance engineers, a new release device was developed which would release at a pull of 15 pounds or more. This device (fig. 308) was standardized in 1944

 

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I just came across this and thought it was germaine. This comes from a document listing training tips derived from experiences in the Sicilian Campaign, and is dated October 1943. This seems plausible if the man was unconscious.

 

attachicon.gif1943-10-25 Training Notes from Sicilian Campaign.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Sorry to dig up this old conversation, but as a novice to M1 helmet research, I found this 10-25-43 training note interesting in that this battalion had "cut the liner straps off."

 

I've seen many WWII photos of G.I.'s where their liner straps are not seen wrapping around the front lip of the helmet shell. Since the liner strap helped secure the shell, would it be an issue not to use it?

 

Thanks!

James

 

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1) A man strapped in his steel bucket risked an attacker coming from behind grabbing his helmet visor to throw him off balance

 

 

...Kat

This one likely has some merit, or at least very well could, as similar reasons are what originated the male grooming regulations. Alexander the Great didn't allow his troops to grow beards or have long hair so that they couldn't be grabbed during hand to hand combat.


-Brig
GySgt/USMC/0369
RSU-Quantico


"FOR OUR TOMORROWS, THEY GAVE THEIR TODAYS"
RIP
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Sgt John P Huling
Cpl Carlos 'Gilo Monster' Gilorozco
Cpl Stephen C 'Socks' Sockalosky
LCpl Joshua A 'Scottie' Scott
LCpl Jason Lee 'Birdman' Frye
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LCpl Jon T Hicks
LCpl Osbrany 'Oz' Montes De Oca
Pvt Lewis T D Calapini
'The SOI 5'

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