Original U.S. WWII Red Ball Express M1 McCord Fixed Bale Front Seam Helmet with Hawley Paper Liner

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This is a very nice early example of a genuine WWII Front-Seam Fixed Bale M1 Helmet made by McCord Radiator, with an extremely rare Hawley pressed paper liner, that has a red circle insignia painted on the front representing the RED BALL EXPRESS. Hawley liners are quite delicate, and often were replaced during the war, making them very hard to find.

The Red Ball Express was a famed truck convoy system that supplied Allied forces moving quickly through Europe after breaking out from the D-Day beaches in Normandy in 1944. To expedite cargo shipment to the front, trucks emblazoned with red balls followed a similarly marked route that was closed to civilian traffic. The trucks also had priority on regular roads.

Conceived in an urgent 36-hour meeting, the convoy system began operating on August 25, 1944. Staffed primarily with black American soldiers, the Express at its peak operated 5,958 vehicles that carried about 12,500 tons of supplies a day. It ran for 83 days until November 16, when the port facilities at Antwerp, Belgium, were opened, enough French rail lines were repaired, and portable gasoline pipelines were deployed.

Use of the term "Red Ball" to describe express cargo service dated at least to the end of the 19th century. Around 1892, the Santa Fe railroad began using it to refer to express shipping for priority freight and perishables. Such trains and the tracks cleared for their use were marked with red balls. The term grew in popularity and was extensively used by the 1920s.

The need for such a priority transport service during World War II arose in the European Theater following the successful Allied invasion at Normandy in June 1944. To hobble the German army's ability to move forces and bring up reinforcements in a counter-attack, the Allies had preemptively bombed the French railway system into ruins in the weeks leading up to the D-Day landing.

After the Allied breakout and the race to the Seine River, some 28 Allied divisions needed constant resupply. During offensive operations, each division consumed about 750 tons of supplies per day, totaling about 21,000 tons in all. The only way to deliver them was by truck – thereby giving birth to the Red Ball Express.

At its peak, it operated 5,958 vehicles and carried about 12,500 tons of supplies per day.

To keep supplies flowing without delay, two routes were opened from Cherbourg to the forward logistics base at Chartres. The northern route was used for delivering supplies, the southern for returning trucks. Both roads were closed to civilian traffic.

    The highways in France are usually good, but are ordinarily not excessively wide. The needs of the rapidly advancing armies, consequently, promptly put the greatest possible demands upon them. To ease this strain, main highways leading to the front were set aside very early in the advance as "one way" roads from which all civil and local military traffic were barred. Tens of thousands of truckloads of supplies were pushed forward over these one way roads in a constant stream of traffic. Reaching the supply dumps in the forward areas, the trucks unloaded and returned empty to Arromanches, Cherbourg and the lesser landing places by way of other one way highways. Even the French railroads were, to some degree, operated similarly, with loaded trains moving forward almost nose to tail.
    — For Want of a Nail: The Influence of Logistics on War (1948) by Hawthorne Daniel

Only convoys of at least five trucks were allowed, Convoys were a primary target of the German Luftwaffe but by 1944 German air power was so reduced that even these tempting and typically easy targets were rarely attacked. The biggest problems facing the Express were maintenance, finding enough drivers, and lack of sleep for the overworked truckers.

To control traffic and provide security for the route, the 793rd Military Police Battalion, activated December 1942, was sent to the Red Ball from August through December 1944. The early beginnings of the battalion are commemorated on the distinctive unit insignia, with two red balls on a diagonal line of yellow, with a field of green behind (green and gold are the colors of the U.S. Army Military Police).

The U.S. WWII M-1 helmet was only produced from 1941 to 1945. The first production batch resulted with over 323,510 M-1 helmets before the start of the American involvement in the war.

The Ordnance Department selected McCord Radiator and Manufacturing Company of Detroit Michigan to produce the steel M1 helmet bodies. These bodies were made from a single piece of Hadfield Manganese steel that was produced by the Carnegie-Illinois & Sharon Steel Corporations. Each completed raw M-1 helmet shell weighed 2.25 lbs each.

The early M-1 helmet shells had a set of fixed chinstrap loops called "bales" and a stainless steel rim. These rims were both rust resistant and had "non-magnetic qualities" that reduced the chance of error readings when placed around certain sensitive equipment (such as a compass).

This helmet is a fine example and still retains all of its original WWII parts and the shell has all original paint with front seam and fixed bales. The chin strap is the correct OD Green #3 with cast blacked brass hardware.

Condition of the shell is quite nice, with just a few rim dents/ripples, and the paint retained well. There is also still a lot of paint on the Stainless Steel rim, which was prone to wear. The shell does have a few stress cracks, common due to the "high dome" design of the M1. The liner is in fair condition, typical as the Hawley liners were made of paper, and unfortunately not nearly as resistant to wear as the "high-pressure" type. It is slightly deformed, and has some areas missing. The web suspension is present, though the sweatband has deteriorated quite a bit. The leather is crumbling, and the sweatband webbing is now very delicate. The underlying webbing attached to the liner present.

This would make a worthy addition to any WWII or Helmet collection. Ready to display!

Features a RARE Hawley Liner:
The shape and characteristics of the Hawley liner were identical to those of the fiberglass counterpart. The differences were the material of construction and the absence from the front metal grommet, which is where insignia could be placed. The suspension was made of a series of canvas straps. The sweatband has a leather cover. The whole assembly was riveted to the body of the liner. Small buckles were provided to adjust the suspension. However, doing so was difficult and very clumsy. The Hawley liner was issued in very small numbers during the early days of World War Two.

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