US M-1 Fixed Bale*

General Information: At the outbreak of the Second World War American soldiers were equipped with the M-1917A1, which was an updated version of the M-1917 helmet used by US armed forces in the First World War. Because of inadequacies of this helmet, the army sought to develop a new model. In late 1940 the US Army Infantry Board at Fort Benning was assigned responsibility for creation of what eventually was named the M-1. In early 1941 the army enlisted the services of personnel from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Arms and Armor Department which held a vast collection of ancient armor including headgear. The design of the M-1 was inspired, in part, by helmets from the MMA. After an experimental phase the M-1 was approved in June of 1941. The McCord Radiator and Manufacturing Company of Detroit began production in the summer of 1941. The Schleuter Manufacturing Company augmented production starting in 1943. By wars end the two companies had produced 22 million helmets.

The helmets were made from Hatfield Manganese steel and had a stainless-steel rim that was welded at a seam at the front. They were painted with olive drab paint mixed with cork to reduce reflectivity. A two-piece chinstrap made from olive drab #3 (lighter and less green than the later used, #7 olive drab) webbing was sewn to fixed loops on the sides of the helmet shell. The rigid loops proved to be prone to breaking and were replace by flexible loops starting in October 1943. A final wartime change to the M-1 was made in October of 1944 when the stainless-steel rims were replaced with non-reflective Manganese steel. At about this time, the helmet manufacturers started welding the rim seam in the back. Collectors refer to these as “rear-seam” helmets.

The liners for the M-1s were removable and could be worn separately as headgear in non-combat areas. The Hawley Products Company produced the first liners which were similar to the tropical helmets that they were producing at the time for the US Army. The Hawley liners are recognizable by the exterior cloth and the white rayon webbing. Hawley liners have cachet in the collector market, but were determined to be somewhat defective in the field. They absorbed water and tended to develop a ratty look, particularly at the edges. The Hawley type liners were replaced by plastic liners made from resin impregnated cloth. Seven companies were given contracts to make the new style liners. Five of these companies used high-pressure manufacturing methods and the remaining two used a low-pressure method. [1]

Displayed Example: This helmet surfaced from an estate in Rhode Island in 2015. The thing that drew me to this piece is the ¾” British-made camouflage net which is original to the helmet. This configuration was common on D-Day, but there are few surviving examples because the nets tended to get lost or discarded over time. Most examples found on the collectors’ market have nets that were married to the helmet post-war. An original ¾” net by itself is a difficult thing to find, but finding one still attached to the original helmet is especially rare.

The helmet is an early type “fixed bale” helmet with rigid chinstrap loops. There are numbers painted in black in the back of the helmet. Their meaning is unknown.

Collectors Notes: There are a great number of WWII vintage M-1 helmets to be found and a basic example is not very expensive. There is still some debate about the extent to which the “rear-seam” helmets were used during the war and these have less cachet and less value for collectors. WWII vintage M-1 helmets were reissued for decades after the war. These reissued versions also tend to fetch lower prices than unaltered WWII vintage pieces. Although the M-1 steel helmets themselves have not been reproduced, there are a great number of fakes and misrepresentations of painted helmets and rare types, like the paratrooper versions. Beware.

* Permanent Collection

[1] Raynosa 1996, pp10-24

Published by maplecreekmilitaria

I am a collector of military headgear from 1915-1945

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