General Information: The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) had procurement lines that were different from those used by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA). Both armed service branches used the Type 90 steel helmets, but there are differences in how their respective helmets were configured. The most prominent difference is that the IJN helmets had metal badges representing an anchor with a stylized cherry blossom. Some of the late-war helmet had painted yellow anchor emblems in lieu of a metal badge. The army helmets, in contrast, had five-point stars. In addition, many of the IJN helmets were painted “shipboard grey” although most were painted brown like the IJA helmets. Some were also painted green. The IJN helmets typically had white painted characters in the dome which indicated the location of the wearer’s service station, which could be the name of a ship, or an assignment within a ship, like engine room or artillery. It should be pointed out that not all of these helmets were used on ships. Frequently they were used by land-based naval troops such as those assigned to guard duty, detached to aviation units, or Special Naval Landing Forces (SNLF). Land-based IJN troops serving in combat roles would have mainly used brown versus shipboard grey helmets. Like the army helmets, the navy helmets were often worn with cloth covers. The IJN covers had oval badges made of cloth with yellow anchors. IJN helmets were often worn with camouflage nets. This configuration would typically have been used by naval troops assigned to combat roles, like the SNLF.
IJN helmets that were originally painted factory grey can sometimes be found with period-done brown repaint. The reverse is also true; factory brown painted helmets were sometimes repainted grey.
For more detail about the differences between IJN and IJA helmet, please refer to the “Japanese IJN/SNLF” post.
Displayed Example: I acquired this piece several years ago from Regimentals in the UK. It is a factory-painted shipboard grey helmet with a metal IJN badge. These helmets typically had leather liners, but this one has a less common canvas liner. As is standard for IJN helmets, this one has white painted writing in the dome. The diamond shaped stamp with an “S” in the middle embossed on the back of the interior visor section indicates the shell was manufactured by the Kobe Steel plant. The helmet is complete but for liner cushions which are lacking on this specimen.
Collector Notes: The IJN Type 90 helmets are much scarcer than the IJA helmets and they tend to command higher prices. As I have pointed out elsewhere, higher prices breed forgery. It is unfortunately common to find IJA helmets post-war modified by collectors to appear to be higher-value IJN helmets. Some of these fakes can be very convincing looking. Fortunately, there are several, fairly subtle differences between the IJN and IJA helmet components that can help collectors tell the good from the bad. Refer to my IJN/SNLF post to learn about some about some of these differences. When evaluating IJN helmets, be aware that there are somewhat different versions of the metal badges.