Military Helmets at the Station



M1917 Helmet

Helmets were not used by the American military prior to the country’s entrance into World War I in 1917. Before that, standard battle headgear was a brown fur felt campaign hat. The introduction of high explosive artillery shells and hand grenades caused the adoption of a metal helmet to prevent injuries from shrapnel.  The first American helmet was a near exact copy of the standard British design.  In fact, until American companies could produce the helmets in the United States, more than two million helmets were purchased from British companies.

The American produced helmet was titled the M1917. Although the helmet provided good protection, it had its shortcomings, mostly concerning the fact that parts could not be replaced in the field. Any maintenance required that the entire helmet be returned to a repair facility. Later models of the M1917 addressed these problems, and the helmet served American forces into the early days of World War II when the original American designed M1 made its debut.


US Army 3rd Infantry Division Insignia

The M1917 helmet pictured above is on display at the museum and is identical to those worn by Coast Guardsmen at the station prior to issue of the M-1 helmet.  This helmet was donated by former Port Orford fire chief George Gehrke and was worn by a member of the Fields family in combat in Europe during World War I.  The insignia indicates that the wearer belonged to the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division.  The 3rd Division became famous during World War I for its refusal to retreat in the face of overwhelming German attacks, earning the nickname the “Rock of the Marne.”

Today the division is headquartered at Fort Stewart, Georgia – much of it is deployed to the Middle East.


M1 Helmet

Perhaps the most recognizable item of the American military uniform has been the M1 steel helmet. The M1 helmet was developed in the early 1940’s and standardized in 1942. It uses a separate, slip-in liner containing all the suspension webbing. This helmet was in continuous use through the early 1990’s when it was replaced with the current Kevlar helmet.

The Coast Guardsmen at the Port Orford Lifeboat Station were issued the M1 helmet during World War II. Many photographs in the museum show the men training while wearing the “steel pot.” One of these helmets is on display in the World War II case.


USN-USCG MK-2 Talker Helmet

A specialized helmet, the MK-2, was developed for use by personnel who were required to wear headsets while performing duty in area subject to hostile fire. Its main feature is the oversized shell to accommodate the headsets. An MK-2 is on display at the museum in the Signaling display.