Although soldiers have been wearing head protection since at least the 26th century BCE, the modern military helmet is a fully 20th century invention.
And it's been a rapid evolution. Growing from its WWI origins, the standard issue Army helmet has transformed from a simple ‘tin hat’ into an impenetrable shell that can shrug off high-velocity bullets. What was once a simple piece of steel is now fabricated from space-age composites that can stop a AK47 round dead in its tracks.
Century - US - Army - Helmet - Army
Now, more than a century after the first U.S. Army helmet was introduced, the Army’s Program Executive Office for Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment is reimagining the helmet into a piece of gear more fitting today's battlefield.
This is the 100-year journey of the U.S. Army helmet.
Introduction - Gunpowder - Century - Infantry - Armor
With the widespread introduction of gunpowder in the 16th century, European infantry started ditching their armor. Pikes and swords were less of a threat than musket fire. Even heavy armor was of limited use against bullets, and soldiers had too much to carry anyway. Although a few cavalry units held on to helmets and breastplates, the infantry lost them long before the start of the First World War, and soft hats or caps were standard issue.
During WW1 though, one type of weapon proved particularly lethal: fragmentation shells exploding above trenches. In 1915, armies hurriedly introduced helmets, widely known as ‘tin hats.’ The soldiers found the new helmets comical.
Laughter - Hats - French - Soldier - Head
“We shrieked with laughter when we tried them on, as if they were carnival hats,” according to one French soldier, but they cut head injuries from 70 percent to 22 percent.
American troops were issued with the M1917 Kelly helmet, copied from the Brodie helmet developed by the British. The design was basic, just a sheet of manganese steel pressed into a bowl shape, weighing about a pound and a...
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