Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Story of Two Helmets

Returning to my roots in a way, I picked up two Second World War M-1 helmets a week apart from each other.  I hadn't found a decent WW2 era M-1 in the wild for a couple years, so this was a good break in the drought.

The M-1 helmet is famous.  Adopted into service by the U.S. armed forces in 1941, the M-1 served for four decades with the U.S. military in multiple forms until it was replaced by the ballistic kevlar helmet in the 1980s.  It had served its wearers well, often protecting against artillery and grenade shrapnel and, rarely, it would even stop the occasional stray bullet.

Below are the two M-1 helmets I found, both from antique shops for roughly $70 each.

This first one is an early to mid-war helmet.  It has a front seam (the seam in the brim edging of the shell is at the front; it was switched to the back by late war), fixed bails (early to mid-war chinstrap bails were solid but often broke and were replaced mid- to late war by swivel bails), Olive Drab #3 chinstraps (changed to the greener OD #7 later in the war), brass chinstrap hardware (late-war variants had steel hardware), and a stainless steel brim edge (changed to non-stainless metal as stainless tended to lose its paint).  It also has a matching mid-war Westinghouse liner in nice condition.

There's some scuffing around the front of the shell, paint speckles on the side, and the liner chinstrap is dry and broken, but this is a nice example of an early M-1 helmet.  The cork texture is excellent on this one.

click images to enlarge

The shell and liner chinstraps have matching laundry numbers, showing these two pieces have been together since the beginning.  Looking up the number and name, I found this helmet belonged to a soldier from Pennsylvania who was a widower and joined the U.S. Army in 1939.

Like the helmet above the U.S. Marine Corps helmet below is early to mid-war: front seam, fixed bail, OD #3 chinstraps, brass chinstrap hardware, and stainless rim.  It too has a mid-war Westinghouse liner with a dry and broken chinstrap.  Unlike the helmet above, this helmet has a well-used third pattern USMC cover.

This is a salty helmet and has that 'been there' look to it.  The helmet and cover look like they've been together forever.  Who knows what this helmet has been through and to whom it was issued, but one thing is for sure: it is a veteran WW2 USMC helmet.

Helmets like this USMC helmet are getting more difficult to find in the wild but as this one has shown, they are still out there.  These two helmets will be staying in my collection and thus far the USMC helmet is the centerpiece.

Below is the USMC helmet with another one of my M-1 helmets, a mid- to late WW2 shell with a miss-matched Korean War-era CAPAC liner.

These old helmets are quite intriguing, are great 'monuments' to the brave men and women who wore them, and are fun to collect but like everything else, they can be quite expensive and fakes abound.  If you wish to begin collecting M-1 helmets enjoy the history behind them but beware, fakers are getting very good at what they do and it is easy to sink a lot of dough into a single shell.  Be patient and informed.

Remember our veterans.

A Suit to Die For or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Enjoy

About a month ago I found a wonderful suit.

Double breasted, a rich brown color, with elegant chalk-striping.  Dating from the late 1930s to early 1940s, it was in very good condition for its age.  A small hole here, some wear on the the lining there.  Nothing major, all of it easily repairable.  The peaked lapels had a nice shape and generous belly to them, giving them an attractive appearance.

And it was a decent price, so I purchased it for myself.

click images to enlarge

The only problem: after I brought it home I found that it didn't fit me right.  Just a tad too big around.  The trousers and jacket arms were long enough (a rarity for me) but the waist of both the jacket and trousers were too big around.  Alas, I didn't notice it when I tried it on at the shop.  Maybe I was delusional with awe of having found such a cool suit, who knows.

No big (monetary) loss, I just threw it on my Etsy shop and resold it to a very happy buyer.  But historically and maybe even emotionally it was a big loss.  Rarely do you find a suit like this in condition like this at a price for which this one was available; it hits you hard, brings you down from your high when (perhaps) the find of they year doesn't fit you.

And that brings us to the lesson of the night: don't form an emotional attachment to these physical things, no matter how cool they are, because sometime or another they will go away.  They are just things.  Enjoy them while they last, but don't make them your life.

So while this suit slipped through my fingers, I enjoyed it while it was in my possession and passed it along to someone else who is currently enjoying it even more than I ever could.

That's what it's all about: whether it be a physical item or knowledge, pass it along for others to enjoy.  And that's the main reason this blog exists, to pass along knowledge and experience.


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