10 historic combat helmets

The origins of the modern combat helmet go back 100 years to the trenches of the First World War. These helmets show how helmet technology developed on the battlefields of France.

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    French Experimental Helmets

    From the 1890s to 1912 the French military considered a number of experimental helmets, but all were rejected and never adopted into use (Collection of Francois Stouvenot)
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    French Skull Cap

    The first attempt to provide protection to a soldier's head came in early 1915 via a skull cap that was meant to be worn under the kepi. It likely was so uncomfortable that it was used as a mess bowl and gave rise to the myth that soldiers wore soup bowls for protection (Imperial War Museum)
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    German Spike Helmet

    The leather "pickelhaube" was introduced in the Prussian Army in the 1840s and remained in use until 1916. This wartime example (Model 1915) featured removable spike and steel hardware. In the trenches a cover was worn over the helmet. (Collection of the author)
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    French Adrian Helmet

    The Model 1915 was developed by Intendant-General August-Louis Adrian. It was based on the Parisian firemen's helmets. This style helmet would be updated in 1926 and was used throughout World War II. (Collection of the author)
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    British MkI

    The British MkI helmet was based on a design by John L. Brodie, who based it on the medieval "kettle hat" worn by the infantry. Like the French Model 1915 the British MkI was updated and used throughout World War II. The pattern was also adopted by the American Expeditionary Force as the Model 1917 and used until the beginning of the Second World War. (Collection of the author)
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    German WWI Model 16

    The German Model 1916 "Coal Scuttle" or "stahlhelm." It has been considered a superior design as it offered more protection than the French or British patterns. It was updated in 1935 following the rise of the Nazis in Germany and used in World War II. (Collection of the author)
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    American Model 2

    Designed in June of 1917 this helmet aimed to protect more completely the sides and back of the head. It was based on the "Standard" helmets of classical Greece and Italy in the 15th Century. This experimental helmet saw limited field testing during the First World War, but it was deemed to be too similar to the German Model 1916 helmet. Only some 2,000 Model 2 helmets were produced. It is one of the rarest American experimental helmets as a result. (Collection of the author)
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    American Model 5

    This helmet was designed to provide the virtues of the Model 2 with the ease in production of the British MkI. Its dome protected the wearer's head while not impairing the vision. About 2,000 of these experimental helmets were produced by the firm of Hale and Kilburn Company. This helmet design actually saw limited testing in the trenches in France at the end of World War I. In the end it was deemed to look too much like the German M16 helmet and thus not adopted by the U.S. Army. (Collection of the author)
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    America Model 8

    This experimental helmet features a visor to protect the wearer's face almost completely. The manufacture of this helmet, the Model 8, was undertaken by Ford Motor Company in November 1918. About 1,300 helmets of this model were produced. (Collection of the author)
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    American Liberty Bell

    This experimental helmet was deemed "The Liberty Bell" because of its unique shape. It was designed by Major James E. McNary and submitted to the American Helmet Committee for consideration as a replacement for the Model 1917 helmet. It was initially accepted but was reportedly disliked by the troops. The helmet was officially abandoned as a replacement helmet in 1920. (Collection of the author)
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    Bashford Dean

    Dr. Bashford Dean, curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, was given the rank of Major and charged with developing a helmet for the U.S. Army. (Collection of the author)
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