Japanese M41 Paratrooper*

Members of the Takatiho airborne unit 1944*

General Information: The Imperial Japanese Army fielded a small number of airborne units during the Second World War. At the end of 1944 these units were consolidated to form the First Raiding Group (Dai 1 Teishin Shudan) which had a strength of approximately 12,000 men.[1] IJA paratroopers were equipped with the Model 1941 helmet. There were two versions of the M41. The First Pattern M41 had a leather neck guard whereas on the Second Pattern M41 the neck guard was made of cloth. Another difference is that the First Pattern helmets lacked the pairs of air vents found on the Second Pattern helmets.

Displayed Example: I bought this helmet in 2013 from a collector of vintage athletic equipment. The helmet was part of a lot of old athletic gear that he had purchased. My guess is that because the helmet somewhat resembles an old-style football helmet it may have been accidentally been mistaken for something like that.

The helmet is an example of a First Pattern M41. On close examination, it is a beautifully made piece of headgear. There is a stamp on one of the leather suspension bands in the liner with that contains the Arabic number 17. This corresponds to the year 1942 in the nengō calendar system. There is a steel shell under the cloth cover. The metal is magnetic.

Collector Notes: At peak strength there were only approximately 12,000 men serving in IJA airborne units. Many of these would have served in administrative or support roles. Some paratroopers were issued regular IJA Type 90 helmets. The number of paratrooper helmets issued, therefore, must have been very small by World War Two standards. Certainly, there are few surviving Japanese helmets of this type. They surface very occasionally on the collector market and tend to command high prices.

The Tadao Nakata company made excellent reproductions of the M41 in the late 1970, reportedly using many original parts.[2] The Tadao Nakata helmets were non-magnetic, whereas the originals were magnetic. Undoubtedly, somebody, somewhere is artificially aging the reproduction helmets and offering them for sale as originals. In addition to the magnetic/non-magnetic difference, one way to tell the good from the bad is by smell. The originals have a strong smell of natural, 1940s vintage rubber, which is something almost impossible to reproduce nowadays.

* Deaccessioned

* ”WWII JAPANESE PARATROOPERS OF THE TAKATIHO AIRBORNE UNIT ORIGINAL PRESS PHOTO.” WorthPoint.  https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/wwii-japanese-paratroopers-takatiho-1818626801. Accessed December 31, 2022. [This well-known photograph was found in the files of a Manila newspaper after the liberation of the Philippine capital. It was originally published in Manila on December 8, 1944 and was later circulated by the Associated Press to various news outlets. The original photo caption from the Manila paper was, “Nippon paratroopers – members of the Takatiho air borne unit.” To date I have not found any additional record of a ”Takatiho” airborne unit, but this may be a variant spelling of the “Takachiho” paratrooper which fought in the Philippines.]

[1] Rottman, G. 2005. pp10

[2] ScottG (aka). “Japanese Paratrooper Helmet.” German Helmet Walhalla. December 11. 2015. https://www.ghw2.com/topic/37156-japanese-paratrooper-helmet/#comment-439703. Accessed December 30, 2022.

Published by maplecreekmilitaria

I am a collector of military headgear from 1915-1945

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