Original U.S. WWI M1917 32nd Infantry Division Doughboy Helmet Shell - "Les Terribles"

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This is a very nice example of a U.S. M1917 "Doughboy" helmet shell, with a great worn look. It also features some of the original period OD Green paint, and is marked on the front to the 35th Infantry Division, nicknamed "Les Terribles". This was a French nickname acquired during tough combat in France in World War I, referring to its fortitude in advancing over terrain others could not.

The shell is maker marked with a stamping on the underside of the rim that reads ZC 218. The solid rivets and heat lot number indicate that this helmet shell was produced in the United States. "ZC" is the code for Columbian Enameling & Stamping Co. of Terre Haute, Indiana, who made 268,850 out of the total 2,207,237 made during the war. The paint is in good service worn condition both inside and outside the helmet. The liner is almost completely missing, with just the top pad and a bit of the chin strap still retained. The shell is still in good shape, with a great patina.

The best feature of this helmet shell is definitely the original hand painted 32nd Infantry Division - "Les Terribles" emblem on the front of the helmet. The official logo for this division is a red arrow with a line shot through the middle, which gives rise to their other name, the "Red Arrow Division". The emblem symbolizes the fact that the 32nd Division penetrated every German line of defense that it faced during World War I. The paint is well retained, with the expected wear from use and age.

A great example of an authentic WWI "Doughboy" helmet from the 32nd Infantry Division, ready to display!

The 32nd Infantry Division in WWI:

The 32nd Division was activated in July 1917 at Camp MacArthur, Waco, Texas of National Guard units from Wisconsin and Michigan. Wisconsin furnished approximately 15,000 men, and another 8,000 troops came from Michigan. The division was made up of the 125th and 126th Infantry Regiments (63rd Infantry Brigade) and the 127th and 128th Infantry Regiments (64th Infantry Brigade), as well as three artillery regiments within the 57th Field Artillery Brigade. On 4 August 1917, Battery F, 121st Field Artillery regiment was the first unit to arrive at Camp MacArthur. The remainder arrived as soon as trains could be mustered for transportation.

After arriving in France, the Division took part in the following major campaigns:

  • Battle of Marne
  • Battle of Oise
  • Meuse-Argonne Offensive

It was during these actions that the Division gained the nickname "Les Terribles". The division fought in three major offensives, engaging and defeating 23 German divisions. They took 2,153 prisoners and gained 32 kilometers (20 mi), pushing back every German counterattack. During the drive to capture Fismes, they successfully attacked over open ground at great cost. The unit suffered 13,261 total casualties: KIA-2,250; WIA-11,011.

General de Mondesir, the 38th French Corps Commander, which the 32nd served under, went to the front to observe the fighting. When he saw how the 32nd cleared the Germans out of their reinforced positions with unrelenting and successful attacks, he exclaimed, Oui, Oui, Les soldats terribles, tres bien, tres bien! General Charles Mangin heard of it and referred to the 32nd Division as Les Terribles when he asked for the division to join his 10th French Army north of Soissons. He later made the nickname official when he incorporated it in his citation for their attack at Juvigny. 

History of the M1917 Helmet

The M1917 was the US Army's first modern combat helmet, used from 1917 and during the 1920s, before being replaced by the M1917A1. The M1917A1 helmet was an updated version of the M1917 and initially used refurbished WW1 shells.

The M1917 is a near identical version of the British Mk.I steel helmet, and it is important to note that when the US joined the Great War in 1917 they were initially issued with a supply of around 400,000 British made Mk.Is, before production began state side. The M1917 differed slightly in its lining detail, and exhibited US manufacture markings.

M1917 helmet liners typically show a paper label at the crown and the dome rivet head. The liner is set up as on the British versions, with an oilcloth band and net configuration, attached to a leather strap, riveted to the shell. The chinstrap is leather with steel buckle.

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