Quartermaster Corps




By Mark A. Reynosa

Excerpted from his book U.S. Combat Helmets of the 20th Century; reprinted with permission.

The Model 1917 U.S. Helmet

The United States entered into World War I in April 1917, at this 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 United States Army that a helmet was needed as a standard piece of equipment. In June 1917, the United States 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 United States Army, its United States production version was designated and standardized as the Helmet, M-1917. Until United States production of the M-1917 could begin, the United States 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 United States Army.

The M-1917 helmet was very similar to the British Mk. I helmet. The helmet was 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 10 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. The lining was also similar to that of the British Mk. I helmet and consisted of a number of items described below:

The lining was woven of cotton twine in meshes three-eighths of an inch square. This web, fitting tightly upon the wearer's head, evenly distributed the weight of the two-pound helmet, and in the same way distributed the force of any blow upon the helmet. The netting, together with the small pieces of rubber around the edge of the lining, kept the helmet away from the head, so that even a relatively large dent could not reach the wearer's skull.

The linings of the U.S. M-1917 helmet were produced by 10 shoe manufacturing companies. The lining, as mentioned above, consisted of cotton twine mesh surrounded by a circular piece of leather that held tubular pieces of rubber, and the mesh was covered by a piece of black oil cloth. Sandwiched between the lining and the steel bowl was also piece of felt.

The steel for the M-1917 helmet was rolled by the American Sheet and Tin Plate Company. The steel was then pressed and stamped into its bowl shape by seven companies, which were: Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Sparks, Withington Company, Jackson, Michigan; Crosby Company, Buffalo, New York; Bossett Corporation, Utica, New York; Columbian Enameling & Stamping Company, Terre Haute, Indiana; Worchester Pressed Steel Company, Worchester, Massachusetts; and Benjamin Electric Company, Des Plaines, Illinois. The steel was stamped with an austenite heat number and shipment number, which were used to identify the quality of steel and shipment lots. The metal helmets and woven linings were delivered to the plant of the Ford Motor Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, were they were painted and assembled. 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.

Helmet Clad Doughboys Receiving Decorations


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 United States 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. Production figures for the pressed and stamped steel helmets during World War I, were as follows:

Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Co. 1,150,775
Sparks, Withington Co. 473,469
Crosby Co. 469,968
Bossett Corporation 116,735
Columbian Enameling &
      Stamping Co.
Worchester Pressed Steel Co 193,840
Benjamin Electric Co. 33,600

Sources and thanks:

Crowell, Benedict, "America's Munitions", 1917 -1918, Report of United States Army War Office, Washington D.C. 1919

Lewis, Frederick J., Commander, MSC, USN, et al, Military Helmet Design, Naval Medical Field Research Laboratory, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, June 1958

Mark A. Reynosa's site on U.S. Combat Helmets http://www.helmets.mar-prod.com/ contains information on his other Helmet Historical works, as well as ordering information for his books.

Thanks to Ray Mentzer, Mike Iavarone and Herb Stickel for the various photos. MH

Presented the Great War Society

To find other Doughboy Features visit our

Directory Page

For Great War Society
Membership Information

Click on Icon

For further information on the events of 1914-1918 visit the homepage of

The Great War Society

Additions and comments on these pages may be directed to:
Michael E. Hanlon (medwardh@hotmail.com) regarding content,
or toMike Iavarone (mikei01@execpc.com) regarding form and function.
Original artwork & copy; © 1998-2000, The Great War Society