Original U.S. WWI USMC First Marine Aviation Force Painted Doughboy Helmet - Air Squadron

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This is a very rare example of an original U.S. Marine Corps “Doughboy” helmet that has a hand painted roundel on top signifying use by a pilot or crewman of the First Marine Aviation Force of WWI.

The first major expansion of the Marine Corps' air component came with America's entrance into World War I in 1917. Wartime expansion saw the Aviation Company split into the First Aeronautic Company which deployed to the Azores to hunt U-boats in January 1918 and the First Marine Air Squadron which deployed to France as the newly renamed 1st Marine Aviation Force in July 1918 and provided bomber and fighter support to the Navy's Day Wing, Northern Bombing Group. By the end of the war, several Marine Aviators had recorded air-to-air kills, and collectively they had dropped over fourteen tons of bombs. Their numbers included 282 officers and 2,180 enlisted men operating from 8 squadrons, with Second Lieutenant Ralph Talbot being the first Marine Corps aviator to earn the Medal of Honor, for action against the Luftstreitkräfte air arm of Imperial Germany on 8 October 1918. In 1919, the 1st Division/Squadron 1 was formed from these units and still exists today as VMA-231.

The underside of the rim is stamped FS 52, 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. The marking indicates that the helmet was produced using steel from Thomas Firth & Sons Ltd of Sheffield, batch 52. This is the company that originally developed "Hadfield" manganese steel.

The outer shell of this helmet does show service wear, however most of the original textured paint is still present. The roundel is retained at about 90% and does have some aging and chipping present to the paint. The interior paint is somewhat retained as well, with the usual areas of oxidation and dirt. The liner and chin strap are present, though the oil cloth on the liner is definitely degraded somewhat. The chin strap is intact, but quite delicate and dried out, with some cracks on the edges.

This is a wonderful RARE example of a genuine USMC Great War helmet, all original and ready to display!

Marine Corps aviation officially began on 22 May 1912, when First Lieutenant Alfred Austell Cunningham reported to Naval Aviation Camp in Annapolis, Maryland, "for duty in connection with aviation." On 20 August 1912, he became the first Marine aviator when he took off in a Burgess Model H given to him by the Burgess Company in Marblehead Harbor , Massachusetts.

As the number of Marine Corps pilots grew, so did the desire to separate from Naval Aviation, an objective realized on 6 January 1914, when First Lieutenant Bernard L. Smith was directed to Culebra, Puerto Rico, to establish the Marine Section of the Navy Flying School. In 1915, the Commandant of the Marine Corps authorized the creation of a Marine Corps aviation company consisting of 10 officers and 40 enlisted men. The Marine Aviation Company was commissioned on 17 February 1917 as the first official Marine flying unit, at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Ralph Talbot
Ralph Talbot (January 6, 1897 – October 25, 1918) was the first United States Marine Corps aviator to receive the Medal of Honor — for "exceptionally meritorious service and extraordinary heroism" while attached to Squadron C, U.S. 1st Marine Aviation Force, in France during World War I.

“For exceptionally meritorious service and extraordinary heroism while attached to Squadron C, 1st Marine Aviation Force, in France. 2d Lt. Talbot participated in numerous air raids into enemy territory. On 8 October 1918, while on such a raid, he was attacked by 9 enemy scouts, and in the fight that followed shot down an enemy plane. Also, on 14 October 1918, while on a raid over Pittham, Belgium, 2d Lt. Talbot and another plane became detached from the formation on account of motor trouble and were attacked by 12 enemy scouts. During the severe fight that followed, his plane shot down 1 of the enemy scouts. His observer was shot through the elbow and his gun jammed. 2d Lt. Talbot maneuvered to gain time for his observer to clear the jam with one hand, and then returned to the fight. The observer fought until shot twice, once in the stomach and once in the hip and then collapsed, 2d Lt. Talbot attacked the nearest enemy scout with his front guns and shot him down. With his observer unconscious and his motor failing, he dived to escape the balance of the enemy and crossed the German trenches at an altitude of 50 feet, landing at the nearest hospital to leave his observer, and then returning to his aerodrome.”

Second Lieutenant Talbot experienced a traumatic event which ultimately resulted in loss of life on October 25, 1918. Recorded circumstances attributed to an air crash near the Belgian front. He was 21 years old.

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