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Cammo ww1 helmet question


normaninvasion
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normaninvasion

Forgive me if this topic has been covered. I read in Mark R Henry's Osprey "The US Army of WW1", that US helmets were rarely painted camo. I as well, have never seen a photo of a soldier wearing one. However, I see a fair amount for sale. Was the cammo done after the war during occupation duties? Are most fakes? Was it for parades? Or was it more common during the war than previously stated? Can someone enlighten me? think.gif

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I have collected WW1 militaria actively since 1976. From 1976 to 1984, I was unable to find a single example of a painted helmet. Talking to other collectors, I knew they existed, but they certainly were not common, nor easily available.

 

At the time, I subscribed to Steffan's, Manion's, and Flayderman's catalogs, and actively attended gun shows around Florida where there was a strong retired veteran population.

 

As you note, today, unpainted ones are harder to find than painted ones.

 

In my opinion, the overwhelming majority of painted helmets on the market today have been painted within the last 20 years. No doubt some are good, but how--short of very expensive chemical analysis--do you tell 1919 from 1991?

 

For these reasons, these days, I usually avoid painted helmets. Unless they come "righteous" with a complete named group, or are cheap and covered with dust and not sold at a very high premium because of the paint.

 

Chris

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I agree there are an abundant amount of painted WW1 helmets. these days.Some quite questionable.I will add that in the mid 1970s thru late 1990s when I was attending auctions and shows with my dad we saw and purchased many helmets.Most were all in a 100 mile radius of where we lived.Many were actually from estate auctions,flea markets and out of the way antique shops.Most all were painted with a divisional emblem and several were camoed.I had been told many of the soldiers did the art work as an after thought on the way home or for parades,VFW etc.This helmet was a trunk find along with a uniform from one of the off the beaten path shops my dad and I happened upon.The shop owner was a semi retired farmer and sold antiuqes,rough furniture,glass etc as a hobby.He had picked this up at an estate sale and had never taken the helmet or uniform out of the trunk.Maybe it is our area but we would find more decorated helmets than not.

 

 

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Returning to the original question, yes I believe Mr. Henry is correct, some Doughboys did camoflage paint their helmets but it was very rare. Most camo painted helmets were painted that way post armistice, and some last week!!!! Now for some evidence:

1. Photographic evidence, esp. in reviewing official AEF photos taken during the hostilities show virtually NO camo painted helmets. There are a few images which may be camo paint, but could just as easily be mud, dirt, etc. I have been collecting WW1 Doughboy images for over 20 years and have only 1 that shows has a soldier unambiguously wearing a camo painted helmet. He is a medical Corps major in a group shot with his enlisted medics, and it was taken post armistice. There are images of homeward bound soldiers embarking on transports with camo painted helmets on their packs, but obviously this is post armistice.

2. Harvey Dunn's painting entitled " The Machinegunner" shows a soldier with a camo painted helmet. The painting is in the Smithsonian collections. Dunn was one of the AEF official artists and painted from life. His work is generally very realistic, and I have no reason to think this was an emmbellishment.

3. Written evidence: GHQ AEF Bulletin No. 37 dated June 14 1918 discontinued the practice of pattern painting vehicles and rolling stock in camo colors based on scarcity of paint, and limited effectiveness. As a corollary- how much time and opportunity would the average Doughboy have had to fiddle with camo painting his helmet?

4. Finally a unit memoir from the Mehun General Ordnance shops, locomotive assembly section, entitled "Battle of Bolts and Nuts in the Sector of Cognac Hill" states that they did not even get issued helmets until just before shipping out for home, The Depot paint shop soon went into business custom painting helmets " all the colors of a Gypsie's shirt" . Next one of the metal shops joined the business by offering to apply custom shrapnel dents so you could have a tale to tell your grandkids. SO I'm wary of both painted and dented helmets. Hope this helps Steve McG

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SO I'm wary of both painted and dented helmets.

 

Wary? Why Wary? I don't think many of us are under the illusion that helmets like doyler's were painted like that in combat.

 

As far as I am concerned, they were all painted postwar. It's just a question of exactly when postwar.

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AEF 1917= We are in agreement, the question is WHEN postwar, wary only of seller claims that a camo helmet is a "Combat Veteran just as worn/ used in the AEF " or that the shrapnel dents are proof that the helmet saved Uncle Joe's life.... Now... if the dented helmet came with the letter from Uncle Joe describing his near miss with Death,,,, then I'd be intersted. Best to all Steve McG

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My opinion, after lots of stufy, is that virtually no helmets were painted before 11 Nov. At least in combat units.

 

Everything I have seen indicates it was AFTER the fighting, when waiting to go home that the stiuff got painted.

 

However I agree that a large % of WW1 helmets have been painted since 1970. There was a giuy in upsate NY that was cracking out scads of them and was finally discovered when he just had to brag he was fooling all the dealers.

 

This is especially true for divisional helmets, in which a large number of peopel MUST collect "one of each"

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normaninvasion

Thanks for info, question anwsered. But this leaves me with the problem as to why cammo helmets can be so much more expensive. I can understand why a painted M1, worn in combat is an extremly valuable item. But a WW1 helmet,painted after war, maybe a few years after war, and by god knows who, seems pretty questionable? It seam's like a real slippery slope area of collecting. I asume one has to really know what there doing?

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Maybe that's related to demographic factors and life expectancy? Probably very large numbers of WWI vets passed away in the 70's and 80's. In previous decades the painted helmets would be more difficult to find due to the fact they were still in the possession of veterans.

 

 

I have collected WW1 militaria actively since 1976. From 1976 to 1984, I was unable to find a single example of a painted helmet. Talking to other collectors, I knew they existed, but they certainly were not common, nor easily available.
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I have three WW1 helmets in my collection... one is a camouflage 82nd Div it is Id'ed and without question it is 100% correct. It has a very German geometric pattern. I would agree that most painted helmets are fake.... especially Marine WW1. I estimate that over 80% of all WW2 painted helmets in collections are fake. Just my opinion.

 

Forgive me if this topic has been covered. I read in Mark R Henry's Osprey "The US Army of WW1", that US helmets were rarely painted camo. I as well, have never seen a photo of a soldier wearing one. However, I see a fair amount for sale. Was the cammo done after the war during occupation duties? Are most fakes? Was it for parades? Or was it more common during the war than previously stated? Can someone enlighten me? think.gif
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Thanks for info, question anwsered. But this leaves me with the problem as to why cammo helmets can be so much more expensive. I can understand why a painted M1, worn in combat is an extremly valuable item. But a WW1 helmet,painted after war, maybe a few years after war, and by god knows who, seems pretty questionable? It seam's like a real slippery slope area of collecting. I asume one has to really know what there doing?

 

Camo helmets are more expensive because after a while, it gets really boring collecting plain, unadorned WWI helmets. :lol:

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Here's an example of a dealer trying to capitalize on one the most highly sought after painted helmets, the North Russian Expedition. The pictures are protected so I couldn't post them here but this link will get you to it. http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewI...em=220324954920 The fact that no bids are on it should speak volumes but, you get the idea as to what people are trying to do.

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Croix de Guerre
Here's an example of a dealer trying to capitalize on one the most highly sought after painted helmets, the North Russian Expedition. The pictures are protected so I couldn't post them here but this link will get you to it. http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewI...em=220324954920 The fact that no bids are on it should speak volumes but, you get the idea as to what people are trying to do.

 

 

Anybody ever see a liner like that either? I have seen some private purchase stuff but nothing like that.

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Anybody ever see a liner like that either? I have seen some private purchase stuff but nothing like that.

It also looks like new doesn't it? Check out the rivet heads also. think.gif

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normaninvasion

This type of stuff, turned me off to collecting TR stuff, years ago. I guess I have stay with the common helmets, my wife and wallet will thank me for that! But I feel like im stuck in a trench getting grenades thrown at me. There should be better laws to protect against this stuff. Fakes are big buisness.

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Well, here I go again, opening myself up to the wrath of the nay-sayers, but I can't resist. Our doughboys painted their helmets! - A very few during the war, but most were likely done at debarkation areas, shipboard, or immediately after coming home. Most any helmet painted up till about the mid twenty's is considered "original" by most WW1 helmet collectors (at least the ones I know). The 101st MGB of the Yankee Division were believed to be one of the groups to have painted their helmets (green diamond, front and rear) DURING the war. I believe it is mentioned in their unit history, if I'm not mistaken.

 

The 103rd Field Artillery of the Yankee Div. printed their unit insignia on heavy stock paper while on their ship home and applied it to the front of their helmet under a coat of varnish. Some were applied over CAMO painted helmets. I recently sold my YD collection that included a photo album of over 100 RPPC's of guys in this unit WEARING the helmets. All photos were Id'ed. There were over 125 names listed on the RPPC's.

 

I have posted a 1919 Co. E photo of the Marine Composite Regiment with painted helmets. I have also posted a wild Marine camo helmet from the post war period with the Marine wearing the helmet. I also have a WW1 Marine Corpsman in Virginia waiting for his discharge sitting with his painted helmet as well as the painted helmets of his fellow Corpsman.

 

I have also owned both known Maj. Gen. John O'Ryan's helmets that were painted. Both came directly out of his estates (New York & Maine). One was a British Brodies (rimless) with a custom cork and leather liner from a London hatter. See O'Ryan's Roughnecks on the internet.

 

So, there is my 2 cents worth. It's hard to refute period photographic evidence. I'm going with the "they did paint their helmets crowd". NOT all did but certainly more than a few.

 

Dennis

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Well, here I go again, opening myself up to the wrath of the nay-sayers, but I can't resist...

I don't think you opened yourself up too badly here Dennis, I happen to agree with you. So, now they can go after two of us. :rolleyes: There is quite a bit of documentation that shows that "most" of these helmets were indeed painted either in France while these guys waited to go home or as you stated at the ports of debarkation here in the States where artists had set up shop to personalize these helmets for the guys coming home. Most of our boys had seen the fanciful German camo paint schemes on their helmets and just went ahead and duplicated them on their souvenir M1917 helmets that they were allowed to bring home with them. I think it's fair to say that anything painted from the end of hostilities until about 1930 is a nice collectible and representative of the veteran who personalized it. A collector has to beware of the recent repaints but, I think if you employ the same method of inspection that we use on the M-1's we should do pretty good. I for one have not given up searching for a nice one to add to my collection. To those who have given up... thanks!, there are now more for me to have a shot at. ;)

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Here's an example of a dealer trying to capitalize on one the most highly sought after painted helmets, the North Russian Expedition. The pictures are protected so I couldn't post them here but this link will get you to it. http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewI...em=220324954920 The fact that no bids are on it should speak volumes but, you get the idea as to what people are trying to do.

 

I believe it's a tarted-up CD helmet. The white NRE helmets I've seen are usually still green on the inside. There are also a couple of very specific styles of stencil used for the "Russia", and this one doesn't match.

 

The polar bear should also look a lot less like a pig than that one.

 

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aef1917, thanks for posting the pictures, I couldn't seem to get them. I was trying to think of what the bear looked like also, I guess "pig" describes it best.

 

As mentioned before, there are old newspaper articles that detail the painting of these helmets post war(for the most part) below are just two of them.

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Wee're talking apples and oranges here. I break down painted hlmets intp these catagories

 

1. Wartime - Painted in France before 11 November

 

2. Occupation - Painted Overseas or on a boat before getting home and or before the unit big welcome home parade.

 

3. Veteran- Painted by or for the veteran up until about, say, 1930

 

4. (not sure what to call this Paintedfor some other legit reason such as a later veteran paint or family paint or replacement or something.

 

5. Fake - Repaints intended to Deceive

 

IMHO I DO NOT agree that post 11 Nov helmet should be called wartime- (and correct the date to later for Russia Etc. "Wartime" implies fighting. Occupation painted? OK. But the VAST majority of Doughboys did not wear painted helmets in combat

 

And so I stand with my statement that VERY VERY few helmets were painted before 11 Nov. The proof for them would be photos specifcally dated to, or placed without a doubt before 11 Nov. or a specific mention of when a unit painted their helmets in a written source.

 

Of course a number of them were painted up during the occupation and trip home. But do not forget that those vets tended to be patriotic and a large number of them went into the scrap drives of WW2.

 

As to painted helmets being far more plentiful now- I stand by that as well. I recall in the late 70's early 80's you could not walk around a flea market without bumping into WW1 uniforms or helmets. The majority had come out of the closet by that time. The better stuff (i.e. painted or patched) was quickly snatchd up for military shows where we would see them. Only a few people collected WW1 US then, and now it is more popular - meaning MORE collections out there - we see MORE of them for sale?

 

And they are not from old collections being broken up.

 

Collecting occupation helmets is fine. I have a few I've picked up over the years, but my collection focuses on wartime items, and so the painted tin hats are not that important to me.

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Marchville1918

I'm new to this board, but I have collected WW1 painted helmets for over 25 years. I agree with those who say that few if any US helmets were camo painted during the war (prior to Nov 11) and that few if any divisional helmets were painted prior to Nov 11. I think the divisional helmets were painted during the occupation and for parades coming home. There is a publication showing the various insignia for the Yankee Division regiments when they returned from France for a parade in Boston. I think the US camo helmets were strictly a souvenier item after it was decided that soldiers could keep their helmets (and gas masks which were also "arted up" sometimes). There were probably damaged helmets being scraped made available for painting too. I suspect that there were helmets painted and offered for sale at reunions after the war. Of course there are modern fakes, but I don't at all agree that most of the common division helmets found today are fakes. The real ones were so common why bother with faking 33rd or 37th or 89th or 35th. There were roughly 25,000 real ones each as of 1919 and other than just the joy that must come to a crook with a successful fraud why bother. Once you get into the high value ones like the USMC and other 2nd Div, etc then I agree you need to be careful. I may be kidding myself but I feel safer with the ones that are a little beat up. When you look at a lot of them over the years you get a feel for the colors used and the execution of the designs. Dave

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