Original U.S. WWI M1917 Refurbished Helmet of the 1st Infantry Division - The Big Red One
Original Item: Only One Available. 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 US-Made M1917s differed slightly in its lining detail, and exhibited US manufacture markings, such as this example.
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.
This fine example has been restored with new paint by a master helmet restoration expert. It is a fantastic American Flag based design, featuring the insignia of the famous 1st Infantry Division known as the Big Red One in the front. It is complete with liner and chinstrap and has original period brown paint on the underside of the shell. The shell is maker marked with the stamping on the underside of the rim ZA 196. This stamp is a known US heat lot code, which along with the solid rivets, indicates that this is a U.S. manufactured helmet.
The chin strap for the liner is present, but unfortunately broken on both ends, and the liner has degraded over time. However, the oilcloth is still in relatively good condition, as is the underlying net. The felt padding under the liner and on the crown is also in very good condition, and the paper tag on the crown is still intact.
This is a very nice example of a genuine USGI Great War helmet from an legendary division of the US army, ready to display!
History of the 1st Division in WW1:
The First Expeditionary Division, later designated the 1st Infantry Division, was constituted on 24 May 1917, in the Regular Army, and was organized on 8 June 1917, at Fort Jay, on Governors Island in New York harbor under the command of Brigadier General William L. Sibert, from Army units then in service on the U.S.-Mexico border and at various Army posts throughout the United States. The original table of organization and equipment (TO&E) included two organic infantry brigades of two infantry regiments each, one engineer battalion; one signal battalion; one trench mortar battery; one field artillery brigade of three field artillery regiments; one air squadron; and a full division train. The total authorized strength of this TO&E was 18,919 officers and enlisted men. George S. Patton, who served as the first headquarters commandant for the American Expeditionary Forces oversaw much of the arrangements for the movement of the 1st Division to France, and their organization in-country.
The first units sailed from New York City and Hoboken, New Jersey on 14 June 1917. Throughout the remainder of the year, the rest of the division followed, landing at St. Nazaire, France, and Liverpool, England. After a brief stay in rest camps, the troops in England proceeded to France, landing at Le Havre. The last unit arrived in St. Nazaire 22 December. Upon arrival in France, the division, less its artillery, was assembled in the First (Gondrecourt) training area, and the artillery was at Le Valdahon.
On 4 July (Independence Day in the United States), the 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, paraded through the streets of Paris to bolster the sagging French spirits. At Lafayette's tomb, one of General John J. Pershing's staff said, "Lafayette, we are here!" Two days later, 6 July, Headquarters, First Expeditionary Division was redesignated as Headquarters, First Division.
On 8 August 1917, the 1st Division adopted the Square Table of Organization and Equipment, which included two organic infantry brigades of two infantry regiments each; one engineer regiment; one signal battalion; one machine gun battalion; one field artillery brigade of three field artillery regiments, and a complete division train. The total authorized strength of this new TO&E was 27,120 officers and enlisted men.
On the morning of 23 October, the first American shell of the war was fired toward German lines by a First Division artillery unit. Two days later, the 2nd Battalion of the 16th Infantry suffered the first American casualties of the war.
By April 1918, the Germans had pushed to within 40 miles (64 km) of Paris. In reaction to this thrust, the Big Red One moved into the Picardy Sector to bolster the exhausted French First Army. To the division's front lay the small village of Cantigny, situated on the high ground overlooking a forested countryside. The 28th Infantry Regiment attacked the town, and within 45 minutes captured it along with 250 German soldiers. It was the first American victory of the war. The 28th was thereafter named the "Black Lions of Cantigny."
Soissons was taken by the First Division in July 1918. The Soissons victory was costly - 700 men were killed or wounded. (One of them, Private Francis Lupo of Cincinnati, was missing in action for 85 years, until his remains were discovered on the former battlefield in 2003). The First Infantry helped to clear the St. Mihiel salient by fighting continuously from 11-13 September 1918. The last major World War I battle was fought in the Meuse-Argonne Forest. The division advanced seven kilometers and defeated, in whole or part, eight German divisions. The war was over when the Armistice was signed. The division was at Sedan, the farthest American penetration of the war, and was the first to cross the Rhine into occupied Germany.
By the end of the war, the division had suffered 4,964 killed in action, 17,201 wounded in action, and 1,056 missing or died of wounds. Five division soldiers received Medals of Honor.
The division's dog-mascot was a cairn terrier known as Rags. Rags was adopted by the division in 1918 and remained its mascot until his death in 1936. Rags achieved notoriety and celebrity as a war dog, after saving many lives in the crucial Argonne Campaign by delivering a vital message despite being bombed and gassed.
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