US M-1 Swivel Bale

US Marines on Okinawa*

General Information: Starting in October 1943 the M-1 helmets were equipped with flexible chinstrap loops. This was to address the tendency of the fixed chinstrap loops to break. As with the earlier M-1s web chinstraps were sewn to the chinstrap loops. Post-war the helmets were furnished with chinstraps that were removable rather than sewn. Collectors sometimes refer to the earlier and later wartime versions of the helmet as “fixed bale” and “swivel bale” respectively. (See also US M-1 fixed bale)

The camouflage covers were used by the Marine Corps. These covers were adopted in September of 1942.[1] The first version of the cover had no button holes. A second version had 16 button holes installed. The purpose of the holes was to accommodate camouflage elements from the environment.[2] Collectors refer to these as the “first type” and the “second type.”

Displayed Example: This is a post October 1943 M-1 helmet with flexible chinstrap loops. The liner was made by Firestone and has an “F” logo stamped in the top of the interior dome. The USMC cover is the first type without holes.

On the last day of one of the Show of Shows militaria show, somebody walked in with this helmet and sold it to Steve Kilma of M-1 Helmet Depot. I showed up a few minutes later to visit with Steve and bought the helmet from him. What drew me to the piece was that the cover has convincing looking field wear and appears to be original to the helmet. Most M-1 USMC helmets on the collector’s market have had the covers married to a helmet post-war.

Collector Notes: There were millions of M-1 flexible bale helmets made and used during the Second World War. They are relatively affordable additions to a collection, although ones with unit markings or other period modifications can be pricy. Some collectors are interested in liners made by different manufacturers. The early Hawley liners have particular cachet. Like everything else, there is a lot of fakery in high-end versions of the M-1. Things like medic, D-Day beach masters, or Ranger helmets are favorite objects to replicate and some of these are artificially aged and misrepresented as originals.

The USMC covers are also available as reproductions and are often presented to interested byers as originals. One thing to look for are perfectly parallel lines of stitching at the seams of the material. The originals were sewn with specialized devices that ran two parallel tracks of stitching in one run. On some of the reproductions the stitching was done by making two passes side-by-side, and sometimes there is a little wobble that makes the distance between the lines a bit variable. Another thing to look for are the camouflage colors that have no gap between them. On the originals most of the camouflage spots will have a slight space between them. A final thing to be aware of is that large numbers of WWII USMC covers were stamped after the war on the front in black ink with the Marine Corps EGA (Eagle, Globe, Anchor) symbol. The ones without stamps, in their original WWII configuration, command higher prices.


* Citation pending

[1] Reynosa. 1996.

[2] Armold. 1997.

Published by maplecreekmilitaria

I am a collector of military headgear from 1915-1945

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