Original WWII USGI Captured 1st Infantry Division "Fighting First" Souvenir Painted German M40 Steel Helmet with Provenance - EF64
Original Item: One of a Kind. This is a fantastic USGI bring back souvenir German M40 Steel Helmet, captured by Members of the Legendary 1st Infantry Division "The Fighting First", and decorated on the front with their distinctive unit insignia. It was common for soldiers to personalize "bring back" helmets with their unit insignia. Paint was readily available, even close to the front, and soldiers often had spare time to make these lovely pieces of military art.
This example took a German M40 helmet, and completely overpainted it with white, adding the 1st Infantry division distinctive unit insignia to the front: an OD Green Shield with a "Big Red One" in the middle, in this case having a golden border. Under this is one of the mottos of the 1st ID, "Fighting First". The top of the helmet has has a German NSDAP swas insignia painted, while the sides of the helmet had a "National Colors" decal painted on the right and an ᛋᛋ doppelte Siegrune (Double Sig/Victory Rune) on the left. A Totenkopf "Death's Head" was painted onto the back, and it looks like all three of the liner pins originally had NSDAP insignia / designs painted on.
After this, the helmet definitely did see some additional use and wear, possibly during parades or other events. The paint around the bottom rim is worn away over much of the circumference. Additionally it looks like the helmet was sitting in water, or maybe had water dripping on it, for a significant amount of time. This removed the white paint on much of the left side, and caused rust damage to the outside of the shell, as well as to the end of the chinstrap. The helmet has a fantastic patina of age, and the paint is definitely WWII period.
With this helmet we received a small card indicating the name of the soldier who was purchased from, and presumably painted and brought it back. It indicates that the helmet was purchased from Cpl. / Sgt. Thomas Williams of the 1st Engineer Combat Battalion, Company B, 1st Infantry Division. This was definitely a unit of the 1st ID during WWII, making this a fantastic research opportunity for whoever purchases this wonderful helmet.
Aside from the decoration, this is definitely an original German WWII issued helmet, with all of the correct markings and components. The reverse, interior, neck guard apron is heat lot number stamped 11514 and the interior, left side, apron has the stamped manufacturer's code and size, ET66 indicating that it was manufactured by Eisenhuttenwerk AG of Thale, located in the Harz district in Saxony, Germany. Size 66 is a nice larger size that can accommodate liners from 58cm to 59cm or US 7 1/4 to 7 5/8. Size 66 shells are harder to find and are therefore more valuable to a collector.
All three liner retaining pins are intact, and retain a lot of the decorated overpaint, with some showing the original paint where the white has worn away. The interior of the helmet still has the original M31 leather liner, with all eight "fingers" still intact. It shows staining and wear consistent with period use, however the leather is still supple, with an intact top tie. Really a very nice leather liner. The galvanized steel liner band is marked 64 n. A. / 56, indicating that it is a size 56 liner for a size 64 shell. There is also a faint 56 stamped into the leather of the liner itself. The right side has the full maker information clearly stamped:
B. & C.
This liner was made by Biedermann & Czarnikow of Berlin in the year 1941, which fits right into the mid war period. This German company later moved operations to Łódź in occupied Poland to take advantage of the slave labor in the ghetto located there. NSDAP authorities renamed Łódź to Litzmannstadt in honor of the German General Karl Litzmann who had captured the city in the previous World War.
The chinstrap is intact, though it is definitely stiff from age and wear, with some cracking and gearing. The hardware is oxidized, so it does look like the chinstrap was exposed to moisture, probably when the damage to the finish on the left side of the helmet occurred.
Overall a fantastic USGI bring back item, as well as a great opportunity for further research! We very rarely find these original "Souvenir" repainted helmets available on the market, as they make fantastic display pieces. Ready to add to your collection!
The U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division in WWII:
Shortly after the German invasion of Poland, beginning World War II in Europe, the 1st Infantry Division, under Major General Walter Short, was moved to Fort Benning, Georgia, on 19 November 1939 where it supported the U.S. Army Infantry School as part of American mobilization preparations. It then moved to the Sabine Parish, Louisiana area on 11 May 1940 to participate in the Louisiana Maneuvers. The division next relocated to Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn on 5 June 1940, where it spent over six months before moving to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, on 4 February 1941. As part of its training that year, the division participated in both Carolina Maneuvers of October and November before returning to Fort Devens, Massachusetts on 6 December 1941.
A day later, on 7 December 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and, four days later, Germany declared war on the United States, thus bringing the United States into the conflict. The division was ordered to Camp Blanding, Florida, as quickly as trains could be gathered and winter weather permitted, and arrived on 21 February 1942. The division, now under Major General Donald C. Cubbison, was there reorganized and refurbished with new equipment, being re-designated as the 1st Infantry Division on 15 May 1942. Within a week, the division was returned to its former post at Fort Benning, Georgia, from where it was expedited on 21 June 1942 to Indiantown Gap Military Reservation for wartime overseas deployment final preparation. The division, now under the command of Major General Terry Allen, a distinguished World War I veteran, departed the New York Port of Embarkation on 1 August 1942, arrived in Beaminster in south-west England about a week later, and departed 22 October 1942 for the combat amphibious assault of North Africa.:75, 622
As part of II Corps, the division landed in Oran, Algeria on 8 November 1942 as part of Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of French North Africa. Elements of the division then took part in combat at Maktar, Tebourba, Medjez el Bab, the Battle of Kasserine Pass (where American forces were pushed back), and Gafsa. It then led the Allied assault in brutal fighting at El Guettar, Béja, and Mateur. The 1st Infantry Division was in combat in the Tunisian Campaign from 21 January 1943 to 9 May 1943, helping secure Tunisia. The campaign ended just days later, with the surrender of almost 250,000 Axis soldiers. After months of nearly continuous fighting, the division had a short rest before training for the next operation.
In July 1943, the division took part in the Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, still under the command of Major General Allen. Lieutenant General George S. Patton, commanding the U.S. Seventh Army, specifically requested the division as part of his forces for the invasion of Sicily. It was still assigned to the II Corps. In Sicily the 1st Division saw heavy action when making amphibious landings opposed by Italian and German tanks at the Battle of Gela. The 1st Division then moved up through the center of Sicily, slogging it out through the mountains along with the 45th Infantry Division. In these mountains, the division saw some of the heaviest fighting in the entire Sicilian campaign at the Battle of Troina; some units losing more than half their strength in assaulting the mountain town. On 7 August 1943, Major General Allen was relieved of his command by Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, then commanding the II Corps. Allen was replaced by Major General Clarence R. Huebner who was, like Allen, a decorated veteran of World War I who had served with the 1st Infantry Division throughout the war.
When that campaign was over, the division returned to England, arriving there on 5 November 1943 and secured Formigny and Caumont in the beachhead by the end of the day. The division followed up the Saint-Lô break-through with an attack on Marigny, 27 July 1944.
The division then drove across France in a continuous offensive, reaching the German border at Aachen in September. The division laid siege to Aachen, taking the city after a direct assault on 21 October 1944. the division was quickly moved to the Ardennes front. Fighting continuously from 17 December 1944 to 28 January 1945, the division helped to blunt and reverse the German offensive. Thereupon, the division, now commanded by Major General Clift Andrus, attacked and again breached the Siegfried Line, fought across the Ruhr, 23 February 1945, and drove on to the Rhine, crossing at the Remagen bridgehead, 15–16 March. The division broke out of the bridgehead, took part in the encirclement of the Ruhr Pocket, captured Paderborn, pushed through the Harz Mountains, and was in Czechoslovakia, fighting at Kynšperk nad Ohří, Prameny, and Mnichov (Domažlice District) when the war in Europe ended. Sixteen members of the division were awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II.
Total battle casualties: 20,659
Killed in action: 3,616
Wounded in action: 15,208
Missing in action: 499
Prisoner of war: 1,336
Awards and Prisoners taken
Medal of Honor: 16
Legion of Merit: 16
Silver Star: 4,258
Soldiers Medal: 100
Bronze Star: 12,568
Air Medal: 65
Prisoners taken: 188,382
The German "Stahlhelm" Steel Helmet
The first "modern" steel helmets were introduced by the French army in early 1915 and were shortly followed by the British army later that year. With plans on the drawing board, experimental helmets in the field, ("Gaede" helmet), and some captured French and British helmets the German army began tests for their own steel helmet at the Kummersdorf Proving Grounds in November, and in the field in December 1915. An acceptable pattern was developed and approved and production began at Eisen-und Hüttenwerke, AG Thale/Harz, (Iron and Foundry Works), in the spring of 1916.
These first modern M16 helmets evolved into the M18 helmets by the end of WWI. The M16 and M18 helmets remained in usage through-out the Weimar Reichswehr, (National Defence Force, Circa 1919-1933), era and on into the early years of the Third Reich until the development of the smaller, lighter M35 style helmet in June 1935.
In 1934 tests began on an improved Stahlhelm, whose design was a development of World War I models. The Eisenhüttenwerke company of Thale carried out prototype design and testing, with Dr. Friedrich Schwerd once again taking a hand.
The new helmet was pressed from sheets of molybdenum steel in several stages. The size of the flared visor and skirt was reduced, and the large projecting lugs for the obsolete armor shield were eliminated. The ventilator holes were retained, but were set in smaller hollow rivets mounted to the helmet's shell. The edges of the shell were rolled over, creating a smooth edge along the helmet. Finally, a completely new leather suspension, or liner, was incorporated that greatly improved the helmet's safety, adjustability, and comfort for each wearer. These improvements made the new M1935 helmet lighter, more compact, and more comfortable to wear than the previous designs.
The Army's Supreme Command officially accepted the new helmet on June 25, 1935 and it was intended to replace all other helmets in service.
The M1935 design was slightly modified in 1940 to simplify its construction, the manufacturing process now incorporating more automated stamping methods. The principal change was to stamp the ventilator hole mounts directly onto the shell, rather than utilizing separate fittings. In other respects, the M1940 helmet was identical to the M1935. The Germans still referred to the M1940 as the M1935, while the M1940 designation were given by collectors.
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