Monday, June 20, 2016

US GI Steel Pot Helmet - A Retrospective


I've always like the old M1 steel helmet. I've had several in my lifetime. It was already being replaced by the PASGT kevlar 'fritz' helmet when I was a little boy (which has, itself, also been replaced), though it was still the face of the US land forces in movies and TV long after it was gone in reality. While intellectually I know that the Kevlar successors are superior ballistic protection, the M1 has always given me a satisfaction in wearing it that is hard to explain.

The example shown here is actually my third. The first was a Korean war era, rough textured shell that my dad had in the garage, which he was (precariously) using to store reloadable brass cases. I asked him if I could have it, and he looked at me funny and asked why. When I told him because the neighborhood boys and I could use it to play war, he laughed, moved his stuff out and let me. Ah, the '80s! Needless to say, a 9 year old with an uncovered, unlined, adult size steel helmet took more dings from the headgear than anything it could have protected him from. Sadly, this little piece of my childhood was lost in our first big move when I was 11.

My grief was short lived however, as a few years later, I replaced it for the princely sum of $5 at the local Goodwill store. Said currency scored me a Vietnam era successor, this time with a smooth, reflective, darker painted finish. This was my first helmet to have a liner, and boy did I realize what I had been missing. Without the suspension of course, any impact to the helmet's surface is transmitted directly to the wearer's noggin, but I didn't know that as a kid. As I was growing out of 'war' playing in the yard at this point, I didn't really use that one much. I think I traded it away for a jacket or folding knife, neither of which would have lasted very long.

The pictured helmet was bought shortly after my marriage, from some surplus catalog or another. The price was right, about $10 after shipping, and including the liner, suspension, and cover. I was a little miffed when it arrived and the cover proved to have a big fluffy edged tear at the top. This was the days before online reviews for anything except Ebay. Still, it's a good piece, dating from just before the transition to the PASGT system, and like you would expect from the late '70s US army, is well maintained, clean, and in good shape. it has the old fashioned hook and bead chin strap, which is anachronistic on a helmet of its generation, but I'm not a stickler. Of anything. At all.

The reason I dug this out and am waxing poetic about it is that I recently went on a bit of an arms and armor kick. I know, you are going to have a heart attack and die of not surprise, right? Still, for once in my life, instead of deciding I needed a new 'thing,' and go looking for some overpriced replica of medieval nonsense, I went to my garage and got out the real steel. I actually priced these a bit online, and was shocked to see that a decent, usable, steel helm set up the way mine is has gone up considerably since I last bought one. Getting just a cover to replace the torn example you see would cost more after shipping than I paid for the entire set I have now. I will likely still do that, since mine is a bit shredded, but  it does make me feel a little happy to have found this old friend.

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