File No.: Battle Relic # 33
Title: "World War Two US Paratrooper Helmet found on Dutch scrap yard"
Investigation made at: The Netherlands
Period Covered: 17SEP1944 - 17JAN2023
Date:  19FEB2023
GPS Location: N/A
Case Classification: Description of a World War Two US Army M1 Steel Helmet
Case Status: Case Closed

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On 7JAN2023 this agency received a message through the contact form of its website from a Dutch man telling that he had found "a para helmet of the 82 airborne 504 pir". The helmet surfaced at a metal scrap yard near Nijmegen and it is in a perfect condition. The sender then asked if we were interested to see the battle relic.
After contacting the owner, whose identity will remain undisclosed here, he kindly invited us to come and see this remarkable item.

The owner had attached several photos of the helmet to his invitation to show the helmet.

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The helmet found on a scrap heap of a metal recycling irm in the South of the Netherlands

During our visit the owner stated that he works at a local metal recycling business. In 2020 he discovered an American M1 military helmet in a cart/bin with discarded metal objects that had been brought in. He then removed the helmet from the bin because otherwise it would have been crushed and recycled for its scrap metal value. He recognized it as a war-time model from the front seam in the helmet's rim and the fixed bale chinstrap attachments. The symbol on the steel helmet’s sides are from Headquarters of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment. On a photograph taken on Oranjesingel in Nijmegen shortly after the Regiment’s heroic Waal river crossing in late September 1944, an American paratrooper can be seen without a helmet. "Would this helmet be the one missing in the picture?", the owner asked himself. The owner has posted images of the helmet on a Facebook-page about American helmets and received several rather negative reactions and comments. He was accused of committing fraud with members even contemptuously remarking that the helmet must have been kept in an airtight preservation container for over 76 years and was cordially advised to read more books. This agency visited the owner on 17JAN2023 and was allowed to hold and behold the helmet, take photographs and write this Battle Relic #33 article about it.
Description of the Helmet
Like all American M1 helmets this one is part of a combination of two "one-size-fits-all" helmets: an outer metal shell and a hard hat–type liner nestled inside it with an adjustable suspension system. The outer shell should not be worn by itself. The weight of a World War Two–era M1 helmet is approximately 2.85 pounds (1.29 kilograms), including the liner and chinstrap.

Steel outer shell

In this particular helmet a factory number is stamped inside and the owner has recognized a figure 6 in it. In order to be able to read the other figures he would have to use destructive methods such as a scouring pad or sand paper and he decided not to do this. It is of the "fixed bale" type which means that the U-shaped rods to attach the chinstraps on are welded to the steel "pot" and cannot be moved. Later on in World War Two chin strap rods that could be moved or swiveled, hence "swivel bales", were introduced, making this an early war helmet. The pot also features a seam at the front of the helmet where the rim's ends meet typical of US helmets in World War Two.

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On both sides are symbols painted in white of a human skull above two crossed bones. It looks as if some details, such as the outlines of the skull and its facial features have been scratched in the paint after it had dried. It is unmistakably the tactical sign of Headquarters of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment attached to the 82nd Airborne Division during Operation "Market Garden" in the Netherlands in September 1944. 

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To complete the helmet, the owner bought a Westinghouse helmet liner from the Dutch "Marktplaats" website. He added A-yokes on the liner using pop rivets which he put through the liner’s wall. The liner is not an original part of the battle relic found in the scrap yard and will not be shown here.
Investigative leads

The units, regiments and battalions, that were part of or attached to the 82nd Airborne Division, like the ones of its sister division the 101st Airborne, used tactical symbols on the sides of the helmets worn by its troopers. This was done for tactical purposes. Airborne units typically get spread out after landing or being dropped behind enemy lines and unit symbols make it easier to regroup LGOP's (Little Groups of Paratroopers) into combat effective formations.

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Fig.: Helmet markings of the 82nd Airborne Division
during World War Two

Color code of tactical helmet symbols
The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment used the symbol of the skull and crossbones with a white version for Regimental Headquarters as featured in this Battle Relic article.
The excellent book "Paratrooper Helmets" by Michel DeTrez (ISBN 9782352501411) and the website of our best friends at Paratrooper Research Team show several other war-time helmets, and liners, worn by members of the 504th PIR with their distinctive pirate-like markings:

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Of interest is the fact that DeTrez noted that the 504th Parachute Infantry also used other tactical helmet symbols and that: "Besides the Ankh, two other symbols are also seen on period photographs showing paratroopers from the 504th PIR: "skull and crossbones", and "shooting star". The skull and crossbones motif is seen in red, blue, white and yellow. Yet, we remain unsure as to which battalion the color represents or if it even represents a battalion". - Page 89 -

On 18FEB2022 a well-respected Dutch expert on the subject of Battle Relics from the Area of Operations of the 82nd Airborne Division who has found countless items from this unit and also helmets belonging to members of the 504th explained the color codes for the battalions in the Regiment:
"Yellow is 3rd Battalion,
Blue 2nd
Red 1st
Asked how he knows this, he wrote: "All identified 3rd Battalion helmets I and other people have found had yellow skulls on them", "It is correct [what DeTrez wrote]. The Ankh [symbol] was seen in Italy in various colors. It is the 2nd Battalion. The star [symbol] was used by all three [battalions]", "By the way, these helmets [on the pararesearchteam website] are all mine.  All three with yellow [symbols] are from "I" Company and the red one from a 1st Battalion casualty from Cheneux [in the Ardennes]."

Likelihood of identifying previous and subsequent owners
Battle Relics that can be traced to a specific unit have a certain attraction and almost scream to have their history researched; their provenance in detective jargon. Who was the original owner? Where was the item worn? What would this silent witness tell us if it could speak?
Tracing back the helmet to the person who threw it away to be scrapped is impossible as the current owner explained us. There is no record tracing back the origin of the batch of scrap metal with the helmet in it.
This blocks a lot of potential leads. The helmet has the markings of a PARACHUTE Infantry Regiment. The chinstraps aren't of the M2 paratrooper version which would feature longer straps with snap buttons for attaching the steel pot to the liner. This raises the questions if the owner was a qualified jumper or perhaps a replacement attached to the 504th after a previous campaign of the unit. Or perhaps had a jump qualified veteran lost his helmet before the Holland operation and received this regular M1 helmet as a replacement. We know from experience that it is very well possible to jump from a C-47 on a Drop Zone of the 82nd Airborne Division of the Holland campaign wearing a regular M1 helmet with a paratrooper liner inside, because we did this on 16SEP2022 in Groesbeek:

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Fig.: Battle Detective jumping (1st jumper on left photo) from C-47 "Pegasus"
on Drop Zone "Nan" near Groesbeek on 16SEP2022
wearing a standard M1 steel helmet with paratrooper liner.

The original owner therefore could have been a jumper, a non-jumper, a replacement and a veteran of previous campaigns. The fact that the helmet bears no other distinctive markings makes identifying the original owner even more challenging. There is neither a rank device or marking at the front nor an NCO or Officer's bar painted on the back of the helmet. With the working hypothesis that the helmet therefore belonged to a "buck" Private or a Private First Class, we checked the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment Roster of Regimental Headquarters (RHQ) Company (Partial) on the gigantic and complete website about US Airborne units in World War Two.
We discovered that the roster of RHQ has 184 members of which 144 with the rank of PVT, PFC or no rank listed. Of this selection 10 were KIA, MIA, DOW, DODY in Anzio, Sicily and/or Italy; campaigns prior to Operation "Market Garden". This still leaves 134 potential candidates for being the original owner of the helmet.

Photograph of paratroopers of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Nijmegen
On September 22nd 1944 men of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR) are photographed while they march back from the bridgehead north of the Waal River and pass the area where the 2nd Battalion of the 505th PIR fought for the south side of the bridge two days earlier. The second paratrooper from the right is reputed to be Sgt. Ross S. Carter of "C" Company, 504th, who wrote the book "Those Devils in Baggy Pants" after World War Two. It became a best-seller. The photo was taken by T/5 Poznac, whom we know from the Battle Study # 15 article, on Oranjesingel. It is the very spot where two days before Pvt. Harold E. Peterman of "F" Company, 505th, was killed. Three Dutch women stand at his field grave in the background.

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Source: Page 597 of Peter Hendrikx and Michel Detrez books
 "Burning Bridges" and "Bridges are ours"; ISBN 978-2-9540297-2-6

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The well-known photograph of paratroopers of the 504th marching down Oranjesingel in Nijmegen showing a bare-headed "All American" soldier, hardly renders new clues but is definitely a great conversation piece. Note also the letters "PAT" and "RAPP" scribbled on the jeep's fuel can at left. Unfortunately a search for these (nick)names in all rosters of the 504th yielded no additional clues for our investigation.

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Also of interest are three black vertical black stripes under the skull and crossbones on one side of the helmet.
Are these checkmarks made by the wearer to indicate achievements such as combat jumps or confirmed kills?
Readers are encouraged to contact this agency for their thoughts or to share facts about these and other distinctive features of this Battle Relic.

We are very thankful to the current owner of the helmet and consider it a privilege to describe and display it here as Battle Relic #33.

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1) 2)
1) The helmet and photograph of paratroopers of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in Nijmegen 22SEP1944
2) Right side of the helmet
3) The helmet placed on the Thompson Bridge monument at Grave close to the Drop Zone of the 504th (Photo by the owner of the battle relic)

Over the years personnel of this agency have held other examples of World War Two era American steel helmets with tactical markings painted on them. For a recent example please read the Battle Relic #31 article. 
We have met the current owner in person. We found no motive on his part or indications of post-war alterations of the helmet. We have no reasons at all to doubt the originality of this American M1 steel helmet shell and the fact that it belonged to a member of Regimental Headquarters Company of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War Two. We consider it a genuine discovery and a true Battle Relic.

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