How his friend, standing nearby, heard a shot and thought he’d been hit… but it turned out that the bullet had been caught by his helmet. (The round had raced around the inside of the metal “pot,” and while he was left with a significant flesh wound, he was spared major injury.)
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I really realized the significance of where he’d been, what he had seen, and what he had done during those long years of WW2.
As long as he lived, his small home was filled with reminders of that era — including the helmet he wore during some of the darkest days of battle.
Below, you can take a look at his original, Army-issued combat helmet from the 1940s, which served him through D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, and events both before and beyond.
About these combat helmets
The M1 helmet was a combat helmet used by the United States military during WWII and for a few decades afterward.
The M1C helmet seen here was designed especially for paratroopers. It had chinstrap holders (bales) that swiveled, instead of being spot welded. This made them less likely to break off, which was one big thing that set them apart from the M1 helmet.
(Note: The helmet type identification is mine, made with the help of several sources, including this one. My grandfather and I never discussed the finer points of helmet construction. ;-) If I’m wrong, please feel free to leave a comment to let me know!)
Unlike many of today’s bicycle helmets and other sporting headgear — often made with lightweight materials such as fiberglass and polystyrene — this helmet was heavy. It was made out of a single piece of pressed steel, and weighed nearly three pounds.
Vintage WW2 M1C military helmet: Rank
The symbol on the front of the helmet is the rank insignia — in this case, it means Captain.
The same identifier appears on Tom Hanks‘ helmet in the movie Saving Private Ryan (as the character Captain John H Miller).
MORE: 100+ D-Day pictures: See WWII’s Operation Overlord in June 1944, plus get historical insight from 25 years later
WW2 M1C helmet: Officer identification
The vertical bar on the back of the helmet, as seen here, denotes an officer.
What’s the mesh on the outside? The Army often used netting to help reduce the helmet’s shine (minimizing its visibility to the enemy), and also to make it easy to add leaves, branches, etc. to help create camouflage.
WW2 helmet: Paratrooper regiment symbol
The side of the helmet shows a couple of lightning bolts. These are “Double Firebolts,” designating a member of the 508th PIR (Parachute Infantry Regiment), 2nd Battalion.
Vintage WW2 M1C military helmet: Inside
The inside of this M1C helmet has straps and padding to help keep it in place even during the most rigorous combat.
Then, in August 1944, he became the Regimental Liaison Officer between the 508th and the 82nd Division Headquarters. In 2009, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor medal.
MORE: See how the world joyfully celebrated WWII’s V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day) back in 1945
That is a very nice helmet you have there and some amazing stories. I am 15 and really interested in WWII and the people that fought in it. It has always been a dream of mine to own a helmet from a paratrooper. So please, if you would ever think of selling it, please keep me in mind! Just offer me a price, and we can go from there!
BTW, thank you for your grandfathers service.