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Corpsman Helmet


Pro Libertate
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Pro Libertate

I know this will probably be treated with some scepticism, but I recently purchased a rear seam helmet online from a surplus militaria supplier; one of their "budget" options at $20. They have the ability to leave comments or instructions at checkout, and I asked if there was any way they might be able to secure a lid that was named, had insignias, or intact straps (or all of the above).

 

The shell came in the mail this afternoon, and I was initially a little bummed when I pulled back the packing paper to discover most of the finish peeled off the peak of the thing. "Just another salty helmet", I thought. But as I pulled the paper back further and caught a glimpse of those corpsman insignias, I was overjoyed!

I'd imagine this is probably Korea/Vietnam era, and not worth nearly as much as those examples from WW2, but I'm still pretty pleased. I'd greatly appreciate any information you could provide (regarding approximate date of manafacture, a possible identity of "E. Barker", etc.). Thanks in advance!

 

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I’m not a helmet expert by any means, and not sure what other sort of comments you’ll get about authenticity, but the age from what I see looks legitimate.  I think for $20, you got more than your moneys worth, and it looks like a fine helmet to me.

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Heat stamp of M 137A tells us this is a Korean War-era produced McCord. Neat helmet.

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WHY... do people sand off the  lot numbers!?!?!? Someone please stop the madness!!!!

 

Otherwise a nice mid-50's lid. Medic marking would need a hands on look, could be legit.

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Pro Libertate

I don't believe the lot number area was sanded, Bugme. I certainly didn't do it; there's similar finish wear all around the rim for which I don't have any explanation.

 

I don't have any questions regarding its legitimacy, as it came from a military surplus store that acquires products directly from government sources. In other words, it wasn't purchased from an individual that had any reason to alter it-- they would've had nothing to gain from that.

 

Anyway... I had a nice '52 dated  CAPAC liner laying around just waiting for the right lid. I think the crimson painted rim really sets it off!

 

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FT.Monmouth1943

Can't say I am a huge fan of the insignia, but if it is original, I would say it dates from the 60s to 80s given the two shades of green I'm seeing on the helmet and the use of sharpie for the name. Further more, that lot number is most definitely sanded down. That type of abrasion does not occur naturally with use, especially given how fresh the bare metal is compared to the paint around it. IMHO, this was most likely a reenactors lid that found its way into surplus (wouldn't be very expensive to pick up). Still makes for a decent filler piece.

 

- Jakob

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Blacksmith

I agree with Jakob.  I think mid-60s is the earliest the paint / insignia could be, with 80s being the most likely.

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Pro Libertate

I appreciate the assessment, guys, but I must -respectfully- disagree.

 

Personally, I believe it to be a transitional helmet. The heat stamp indicates that the helmet was made in the latter half of the 1950's, and so it's very plausible it was used pre-Vietnam and beyond. The Sharpie was invented in 1964, so I see that as a moot point. What's more, it wasn't uncommon for helmets to be used by multiple individuals throughout numerous conflicts until the M1's retirement in1985 (I have shells that sport multiple names and service numbers to support this). 

 

In any case, I've purchased several other helmets from this same outfit (ranging from the Korea to Vietnam-era), and four of them have had insignias of some sort. All of them have been filthy and rusty, as this one was.

 

I have yet to see any reenactor's helmet utilize the red tape that I've seen on authentic pieces-- reenactor's just don't typically go through that kind of trouble.

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Pro Libertate

I've included a photo of a similar helmet below (difference in the hue of green notwithstanding). Of all the reenactor's helmets I've come across over the years, every last one has favored the larger insignias (typical of WW2).

 

I also have a hard time believing a reenactor would have gone to the trouble of neatly outlining the crosses with red tape whilst neglecting to paint the helmet the proper shade for the period it was intended to reflect (Korea or WW2). 

 

The color of the helmet perfectly matches the three other Vietnam-era lids I have, so I guess I'm just having a hard time understanding where this notion of it possibly being as late as the 1980's comes from. Just my two cents.

 

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FT.Monmouth1943

I am going to have to disagree with that, and I would personally be wary of trying to pass this off as an original piece. The light sand texture and bright green first layer of paint is consistent with late Vietnam - post war repaints. Also, attached is a photo of reenactors from 2010 where one of them is wearing a helmet very similar to yours, so to say that it is original simply due to the size of the roundel is out of the question. What I personally think happened here is that either some reenactor sold his helmet to a surplus store and it sat for years in a stack of shells, or it came from a costume house and sat for years in a stack of shells. 

 

- Jakob

 

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Pro Libertate

I'm sorry, but I don't see the second layer of paint that you're referring to. I realize photographs can sometimes give a skewed representation, and I think it's the reflected light and disparity between the light fall-off and ambient light that you're seeing, giving the impression of lighter and darker shades of green; however, I can only distinguish a single layer.

 

In the photograph you included, the roundels are half again as large as the ones on my helmet, but I digress. I'm not saying that alone is indicative of the genuine article, but I think it could certainly be factored in.

 

I spoke to the buyer at the surplus store, and they assured me they buy these helmets direct from a government source (delivered by the crate-load), for whatever that's worth.

 

 

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M-137A would indicate the shell was manufactured in the early 1950s by McCord, the shell would have sand texture and dull OD paint that would almost appear grey. The paint currently on it is not the paint it was originally manufactured with, it looks like it was completely stripped, and repainted, I agree with the other statements that the shell paint is most likely from the post Vietnam era, maybe late 70s or 80s.

 

For $20 it is what it is. 

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Blacksmith

Also with all due respect, very similar storyline here.

 

You post a helmet, asking for opinions - from some of the most mature US helmet collectors there are (not me), and want to debate what they’re telling you - because you don’t like it.

 

You are entitled to your opinion, and 100% encouraged to disagree if you do, but these are the folks that buy these types of helmets - so their opinions matter.

 

I get it, folks want to find the “Holy Grail” helmet lurking in some surplus store back room, garage sale, etc.  

 

1964 Sharpies, arguing paint layers, etc - the helmet speaks for itself.  The more somebody needs to speak for it, the more reservations I have.  
 

The exit quote that I’ll leverage here is, “as long as you’re happy with it, that’s what matters.”

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Pro Libertate

To be honest, I wasn't seeking opinions regarding its authenticity-- to me, that was never in question. Had I intended to do that, I would've posted it in the "Real or Not?" sub-forum. I don't mean any disrespect, but I don't have a clue as to what anyone's credentials are, so I tend to take what I read with a grain of salt. Being an avid helmet collector doesn't make someone an expert.

 

I've been doing business with this outfit for years, and if they tell me they get their helmets directly from the government, I have no reason not to believe them... which begs the question: what would a reproduction/reenactment helmet be doing in a government warehouse?

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Blacksmith
21 minutes ago, Pro Libertate said:

To be honest, I wasn't seeking opinions regarding its authenticity-- to me, that was never in question. Had I intended to do that, I would've posted it in the "Real or Not?" sub-forum. I don't mean any disrespect, but I don't have a clue as to what anyone's credentials are, so I tend to take what I read with a grain of salt. Being an avid helmet collector doesn't make someone an expert.

 

I've been doing business with this outfit for years, and if they tell me they get their helmets directly from the government, I have no reason not to believe them... which begs the question: what would a reproduction/reenactment helmet be doing in a government warehouse?

 

I'd recommend you re-read your original post.

 

You started this topic by acknowledging that it would be treated with "scepticism"(sic), and finished by saying you'd "appreciate any information... regarding approximate date of manafacture (sic)".  

 

That's precisely what you got, in my opinion.  

 

Welp, I'm moving on, enjoy your helmet.

 

 

 

 

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Pro Libertate

I would like to point out that there was a relatively recent thread on the forum that provides evidence of the Geneva Cross being utilized during Vietnam, particularly in field hospitals and aid stations. It's not unreasonable to think that the aggregate (of which some is still present towards the helmet's base) could have wore off and the helmet repainted in the field. 

 

I guess I just don't understand how anyone could be so dismissive of it based upon a few photos. This baffles and concerns me.

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BEAT_NAVY

While that may be true, how often would that really happen? And would someone really take the time to re-paint their whole helmet while in the field?  

 

CalvaryCombatant might have a good view on this helmet too.

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Pro Libertate

I appreciate you doing that, Blacksmith.

 

You've made some assertions (ie. "[m]id-60s is the earliest the paint / insignia could be, with 80s being the most likely") without really expounding on why you feel that's the case. How could one possibly gather from the few photos I've provided that the helmet was likely painted in the 1980's? I don't mean to insult, but is there some sort of mysticism at work here that I'm unaware of? That's kind of a wild claim.

 

You guys are welcome to speculate and offer your opinions here. I welcome them. The fact of the matter is, the study of M1 helmets is ongoing, and there's a lot that we don't yet know, and so I think folks need to keep an open mind and not be quite so cynical and dismissive of helmets that don't fit neatly into their own little box of limited experience.

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13 minutes ago, Pro Libertate said:

How could one possibly gather from the few photos I've provided that the helmet was likely painted in the 1980's?... That's kind of a wild claim.

 

The fact of the matter is, the study of M1 helmets is ongoing, and there's a lot that we don't yet know, and so I think folks need to keep an open mind and not be quite so cynical and dismissive of helmets that don't fit neatly into their own little box of limited experience.

 

And the further we get from those who were there and used such helmets, the LESS we will likely discover that would shine a light on your M-1. Speculation is indeed one thing but you appear to be speculating more than those offering advice. Objective observations like the underlying texture, colors of the paint, the numbers of layers of paint, the levels of gloss of the various layers, and the method of application of that paint(and who might have done it with what equipment under what conditions), somewhat the wear, and all this again for the insignia(arguably the most commonly applied by non-military hands), along with the mfg date of the helmet and its likely time of issue, what was going on during that time, and how medical units were marking their helmets, if at all, *deep breath* is not really a "wild claim." Those who have done this a while just understand all of that without having to verbalize it.

Finding other M-1s with somewhat similar markings(not really like yours but with medic markings), unless exactly like those to a specific unit, place, or conflict, doesn't do much to clear things unfortunately.

Not mad at anyone but this is a common type of discussion for those with high hopes.

$20 isn't much so you are not out anything but there just isn't likely much to discover here.

Be careful with too open a mind in helmet collecting - there are plenty of characters out there who will attempt to fill it up with hopes and dreams.

JMO,

Dave

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Pro Libertate

You know, Dave... I never had the intention of getting into an argument over the legitimacy of this helmet.

Let's break it down, okay? FT.Monmouth1943 asserted, "I would say it dates from the 60s to 80s given the two shades of green I'm seeing on the helmet and the use of sharpie for the name." Blacksmith declared the same. I own three other Vietnam-era lids (late sixties to early seventies, none exhibiting signs of being repainted), and all of them match this one exactly in color... so I'm just trying to understand where this notion that this shade of green didn't appear until the 1980's comes from. THAT is what I'm objecting to as being a wild claim. I don't think it's out of line to ask why someone should think this is a 1980's re-enactment piece, versus being one that was produced in the 90's, 2000's, 2010's, etc. Did they just pick that number out of a hat, or what?

 

Regarding the whole "Sharpie" thing... we've already established that they were made as early as '64, before U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, and that helmets could see numerous owners throughout their lifespan.

 

I just don't think either has offered what I feel is compelling evidence to dispute the helmet's authenticity, so I can't help but wonder why they felt the need to do so in the first place.

 

 

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I get it. As said, as long as you enjoy it. Nobody is mad at anyone here. I'm glad I don't specifically collect M-1s!

Dave

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You asked for input and you got it.

 

I'll just add to one part of this that stands out to me.  

First let me acknowledge that you did say this supplier gets their helmets from "government sources", AND also that you said you didn't think the heat stamp was sanded because there is wear around the inside of the helmet.  

 

1- When I look at that picture of the heat stamp the wear looks absolutely nothing like the normal wear I see in any of my M1s, and VERY much like the hallmark scars of someone trying to better see a heat stamp.

2- Outside of initial manufacturing - absolutely no one cares about heat stamps.  Except collectors.  No one in the service is trying to uncover or read those numbers - only collectors (including re-enactors, and fakers)

 

I'm just going to say that no matter what a seller tells me, I can't ignore things like 1 and 2 above.  

 

My turn to speculate;  Perhaps this seller gets the vast majority of their stock from government surplus of some sort, AND the occasional item from other sources finds it's way into the supply chain either on the sellers end, or before whatever surplus source delivered it to them.  Keep in mind, M1s have been out / phasing out of service since about 1985. I lot of things can happen with a pile of rusty helmets in 30 plus years.  

 

It can be very tempting to speculate with items like this.  My guess is as good as yours - a guess.  I think we call all agree, you didn't get burned at $20.  

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Pro Libertate

You know, man... I'm not so much trying to defend this helmet as being the genuine article as I am the integrity of the outfit I buy from. They offer fixed bail helmets for $80, front seam helmets for $40, and rear seem (typically either Korean or Vietnam-era) for $20. Once again, these are purported to have been purchased directly from the government as military cast-offs. I've exhibited some of the more unique ones (like my SP/4 or named sergeant's helmet) here on the forum, and this is the first time doubt has been cast, so I guess I'm a little guarded, sure.

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