Monday, December 24, 2018

Painted Battlefield Helmets during World War One

Above Allied soldier during WWI with a disruptively-painted helmet.


Anon, IN ART CIRCLES, in Long Beach Independent (long Beach CA), March 27, 1949, p. 10—

[A retired oil-field worker turned artist, Carl R. Walline’s] interest in painting dates back to the first World War, when he drummed up a lively business on a returning troop ship painting camouflage on the helmets of soldiers at a dollar a helmet.

With this leftover camouflage paint he did his first landscape.


Anon, SOLDIERS HUNT WAR TROPHIES, Camouflaged Helmet the Favorite But Another German Souvenir Will Do, COMING HOME LOADED DOWN, in Elwood Call Leader (Elwood IN), December 30, 1918, p. 1—

With the American Troops, Dec. 26—Pretty nearly every doughboy at the front has become a boche souvenir hunter and has annexed a quantity of excess baggage that in some cases is appalling.

The first impulse of a German soldier who decided to retreat or to surrender seemed to be to get rid of his steel helmet, beautifully or weirdly camouflaged. In any column of prisoners to be seen on any road behind the American lines not over five in any 100 are still wearing their helmets. All have donned the soft slouch cap that so detracts from their soldierly appearance.

Every Fighter Loaded Down
The helmets were dropped, thrown away in haste, and all but cluttered up the battlefield. Nearly every American soldier who has been fighting at the front either has a German helmet by now or has sent one home. For under a new rule by general headquarters it is now possible to paste a home address on a German helmet, drop the headgear into the mail box and send it to mother, sister or sweetheart. Just how many have gone home, ostensibly as the personal booty of the sender, it would be hard to say.

Many of the helmets are interesting to say the least. Many boche soldiers have in their idle hours painted and camouflaged their headpieces until they have a weirdly odd appearance. The German helmets have vastly more surface space than the American, the British or the French. It has protection for the ears and neck in the shape of a rim or extension, so that quite a little picture can be drawn on it.

Disruptively-patterned German helmet


Most Popular Camouflage
The most popular camouflage is a series of two-inch stripes that meet at the top of the helmet and extend like the ribs of a fan outward and downward to the edges of the hat. In other cases the entire surface space is painted into squares of yellow, green and gray, or in all the colors of the rainbow. The composite effect is startling. These are the most coveted of all souvenir helmets, and the doughbory who has not the opportunity of finding one on the battlefield gladly gives a sack of tobacco for one.

Shoulder straps make another interesting and portable souvenir though they are also a distinct military value because they help to identify the units that have been opposed to the Americans. Yet there are enough for this purpose and to spare, and they are eagerly sought by the solider who does not care to be burdened with a heavy helmet in addition to his own.


Anon, ORIZABA BRINGS LEATHERNECKS IN, Giant Troopship Has On Board 11th Regiment of Devil Dogs, in The Daily Press (Newport News VA), August 7, 1919, p. 3—

The transport Orizaba landed at the naval base yesterday with one of the largest groups of soldiers she has ever carried, when she brought home the 11th regiment of Marines. More than 4,000 men were aboard the transport…

Nearly all the Marines had their helmets painted with all the colors of the rainbow. The men said that a camouflage artist aboard was responsible for the tortoise-shell effects given to the tin hats.…

USS Orizaba in dazzle camouflage scheme