Original U.S. WWI M1917 Observation Balloon Service Painted Doughboy Helmet

Item Description

Original Item: One-of-a-kind. This is a fantastic genuine Great War hand painted helmet complete with its original liner. Helmet features a lovely "Bullseye" type circular stripe pattern on the helmet, using multiple colors on a white background. The front of the helmet has an image of a red observation balloon, indicating this helmet belonged to a member of the very valuable Observation Balloon Service. These groups would send up balloons behind the lines, to see what the enemy was up to.

The paint is very nice and vibrant, with great color retention, and a nice patina of age. There are some scratches and oxidation, as expected of a helmet that went through war over 100 years ago, but it still presents very nicely!  It also has a complete liner with chin strap, however it is quite degraded, as shown.

The underside of the rim is stamped HS 391, indicating that the shell is one of the 400,000 British manufactured helmets supplied to the U.S. at their entrance into the war. The split pin rivets attaching the chin-strap bales further confirm this. "HS" is the marking used by Hadfield Ltd of Sheffield, the company that invented the "Hadfield Steel" that these helmets are made of.

A wonderful totally original Observation Balloon Service helmet with an incredible paint job! Ready to display!

Observation Balloon Service in World War I

United States Army Balloon Squadrons and companies organized under the Aviation Section, U.S. Signal Corps and served overseas with the United States Army Air Service before and during World War I. There were also French, British, and German Balloon Corps.

The History of military ballooning includes the American Civil War era Union Army Balloon Corps and the even earlier French Aerostatic Corps.

At the start of World War I, the organization of the Air Service of the American Expeditionary Force included observation balloon units organized into companies, squadrons, and wings and each company was equipped with one balloon. Five companies comprised a squadron, and three squadrons made up a wing. By the end of the war 110 companies had been created. In the field Balloon companies were allotted to the ground units they supported as needed. In 1918 June, with squadron organization discontinued, company designations were numbered and organized into groups. Only 35 companies made it to France with the American Expeditionary Force (AEF). 17 companies served at the front, making 1,642 combat ascensions, while six other groups were en route to the front at the armistice.


More on the M1917 "Doughboy" 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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