Original U.S. WWI 1917 Model 2 Experimental Helmet by Ford Motor Company with Liner

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. When the United States entered World War I in 1917 it had no steel helmet. The American military turned to Dr. Bashford Dean, an American zoologist and armor expert who served on the board at both the New York Natural History Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to help design a helmet for the soldiers heading to France.

One of the first so-called "experimental" patterns was the Model 2. Designed in June of 1917 this helmet aimed to protect more completely the sides and back of the head that the existing French or British helmets of the era. The Model 2 was based on the "standard" helmets of classical Greece and Italy in the 15th Century, and this particular design even saw limited field-testing during the First World War. The helmet was found to be comfortable to wear, and provided satisfactory ballistic results. Some 2,000 Model 2 helmets were produced by Ford Motor Company of Detroit, Michigan. Its failing was that it was too familiar. Deemed to be too similar to the German Model 1916 helmet it was discarded and taken out of consideration.

This example is one of the few known surviving examples. This helmet features much of the original textured paint, though it was "touched up" at some point with the correct OD Green. The original chin strap is completely missing, but the liner is almost complete, with the front pad having torn through long ago. It is still included, and has the padding on the rear still present.

Overall a very nice example of one of the most rare helmets from the Great War.

The industrialization and mechanization of war in the early twentieth century—which meant an increased use of artillery, tanks, and machine guns, and the advent of trench warfare—resulted in an unprecedented number of killed and wounded soldiers right from the outset of World War I in 1914. The large number of head wounds suffered by combatants soon made it apparent that metal helmets, though long out of use, were absolutely necessary on the modern battlefield and that other forms of armor also should be explored. Shortly after the United States entered the war in 1917, the government turned to Dr. Bashford Dean, curator of arms and armor at the Metropolitan Museum, to address the situation.

Dean was soon commissioned as a Major of Ordnance in charge of the Armor Unit and also was made Chairman of the Committee on Helmets and Body Armor of the National Research Council. Working from his knowledge of historical armor, Dean made a thorough study of armor used to defend against firearms from the Renaissance to his own time and applied that information to contemporary battlefield conditions of the Great War. Then, in conjunction with the Museum's armorer, Daniel Tachaux, and other members of his staff, Dean produced a series of prototype helmets and various forms of body armor designed to protect US troops. In addition to his museum duties and other commitments during 1917 and 1918, Dean traveled frequently to Washington for meetings and made trips to London and Paris to confer with members of the general staff of the British and French military.

Dean's principal challenge was to devise a helmet that would provide superior protection while being light and comfortable enough to wear for extended periods of time, and which could be mass produced efficiently and economically. By 1916, Germany had developed a helmet—the iconic Stahlhelm (literally "steel helmet)—that met all these requirements, so Dean faced the additional challenge of coming up with an equally effective design that would not be confused with German helmets on the battlefield. American soldiers at the time were wearing the standard British Brodie helmet, patented in 1915 and soon nicknamed the "tin hat" due to its shallow bowl and broad, straight brim. While not nearly as effective as the German helmet, it provided adequate protection to the top of the head and, due to its shallow profile, had the advantage of being easy to manufacture.

Designed in June 1917, the American Helmet Model No. 2 was Dean's first fully realized attempt to improve upon the existing German and British types. Its deeply drawn-down bowl was intended to give much more coverage to the back and sides of the head than the British helmet without impeding movement, vision, or breathing. Although difficult to manufacture because of the depth of the bowl, approximately two thousand examples were produced by Ford Motor Company in the fall of 1918.

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