|A Doughboy Reenactor in Authentic Gear|
The United States entered World War I in April 1917, and at the time the United States Army did not have a helmet for its troops. The adoption of a helmet by the French, British, and German armies convinced the U.S. Army that a helmet was needed as a standard piece of equipment. In June 1917 the Army selected the standard British helmet design for its use. This was the British Mk. I steel helmet. There were three main reasons for the selection of the British Mk. I helmet design:"the immediate availability of 400,000 ready-made helmets from England, the simplicity of manufacture from hard metal, and the superior ballistic properties." When the British Mk. I was selected by the U.S. Army, the U.S. production version was designated and standardized as the Helmet, M-1917. Until U.S. production of the M-1917 could begin, the Army purchased the 400,000 available British Mk. I helmets in England and issued them to the American Expeditionary Forces already in Europe. Production was begun on the M-1917 helmets in the fall of 1917. By the end of November 1917, large quantities of M-1917 helmets became available for the U.S. Army.
The M-1917 helmet was very similar to the British Mk. I helmet, basically an inverted bowl stamped out of a single piece of manganese alloy, which was made up of 13 percent manganese and was .036" thick. This differed from the British helmet, as the Mk. I helmet was made up of 12 percent manganese. Thus, ballistically, the M-1917 helmet increased protection for the wearer by 10 percent over the British Mk. I helmet and could withstand a .45-caliber pistol bullet traveling at 600 feet per second fired at a distance of ten feet. A rim was spot welded to the edge of the steel bowl, with the ends butted, as opposed to lapped, which was done on the British Mk. I helmet. Riveted to the steel bowl were two flexible guiding loops for the chin strap. Here again, the U.S. M-1917 helmet differed from the British Mk. I helmet. On the U.S. helmet the loops were secured by solid machined rivets, whereas the British Mk. I helmet used split rivets. An adjustable leather chin strap was riveted to the steel bowl and consisted of two halves, each joined together by metal loops which were secured to the ends of the leather halves by steel split rivets. Also riveted to the steel bowl was the helmet lining. To make the outside surface of the helmet anti-glare, the helmets were first painted, then fine sawdust was blown on the wet paint, and finally the helmet was painted again. To increase protective properties the helmets were painted in an olive drab shade.
|Machine Gunners of the 3rd Division at Château-Thierry|
During the fall of 1917 production was begun on the M-1917 helmets. By the end of November 1917, the first deliveries of large quantities of M-1917 helmets were being made to the U.S. Army. On 17 February 1918 approximately 700,000 M-1917 helmets had been produced. As United States involvement in World War I increased, the U.S. Army placed additional orders for the M-1917 helmet. By July 1918 orders for the M-1917 helmet reached 3,000,000, in August 6,000,000, and in September 7,000,000. In November 1918, when hostilities ended and American production was ordered to cease, U.S. manufacturers had produced a total of 2,707,237 M-1917 helmets.