WWII German Helmets

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Information on WWII German Helmets  


Types of German Helmets

There are four main German helmets that were intended for combat use from 1935 through 1945.  It is generally thought that Transitional German helmets only were used during the build up to World War II.   However, I have seen a number of War War II photos where the German soldiers were still using the M1916-18 German helmet model that was used during WWII.   Many M1916s, 17s, and 18's German helmets were used well into the War.   

The M1916 German Helmet:   The M1916 was the first German Steel helmet and it was developed due to the number of head injuries from shrapnel in the trenches.  The earlier leather Pickelhaube helmet just did not provide the level of protection necessary for modern warfare.  The M1916 German helmet was used through the duration of WWI and shells were later reissued during the early Third Reich era.   The Austrian counterpart of the M1916 German helmet is often referred to as the M1917.    

World War I German Helmet

M1916 German helmet (World War I German Helmet)


The M1918 Transitional German Helmet:   The M1918 is the final German helmet used during World War One.  The difference between the M16-M17 German helmets and the M18 German helmets is that the lower Rivet toward the bottom of the right side and left side of the helmet are not present.  The German economy was in shambles during the 1930's and it was cost effective to refurbish the World War One German helmets.   Typically the transitional German helmets feature an M1931 liner as well, but you can find Early WWII German helmets with the early three pad WWI liners.   Many of the Transitional German helmets were used throughout the War.   I have had a number of Transitional German helmets that were US Vet captured at the end of the War.     

World War I German Helmet

M1918 Transitional German helmet


The M1935 German Helmet:  The M1935 German helmet was introduced in 1935, hence the name, M1935.   Compared to a Transitional World War I German helmet, the M1935 German helmet was much lighter and more compact, and offered more comfort.   The air vents were made of separately inserted hollow steel rivets.  The edge of the helmet was turned under or "rolled" on the undersides.  The shells were distinctly more oval in shape from front to back when compared to the M1940 German helmet.   The M1935 German helmet definitely brought a more modern look to the World War II German helmets.  

M1935 German Army Helmet

M1935 German helmet


The M1940 Helmet:  In 1940, the M1935 German helmet was modified into what is known as the M1940. The main difference between the M1935 and the M1940 is in the air vent holes.   The M1940 has a stamped air hole made to look like a rivet, instead of the actual rivet found on the M1935.  The M1940 was made of an improved steel made from manganese-silicon.  The M1940 also was manufactured through a process of hot stamping the metal.  The M1940 is like the M1935 with regard to the rolled steel edges.   

M1940 German Helmet German Air Force

M1940 German helmet


The M1942 German Helmet:  The World War II German combat helmet underwent a third modification in July, 1942.  As an economic measure the rolled edge was eliminated.    The edge of the M1942 is flared a bit and the edge is an unfinished edge.  Other than the lack of the rolled edge, the M1942 was identical to the M1940 helmet.   In August of 1943, the factories also ceased to apply decals.   This explains the lack of decals on many M1942's that have survived.  

M1942 German Helmet Army Heer

M1942 German helmet


The M1938 Fallschirmjager (Paratrooper) German Helmet:  The World War II German Paratrooper helmet is quite different from that of the typical shaped German Helmets from WWI & WWII.   They are more round in nature with a slight visor at the front.  The initial design was to allow for a more aerodynamic shape to prevent injury when jumping, especially from the violent prop blast that a Trooper would experience when exiting the aircraft.   These typically are manufactured by the ET firm and you will normally find these in size 66, 68, & 71.   

WWII German Paratrooper Helmet

M1938 Fallschirmjager German helmet


The M1934 Civic German Helmet  

In 1934, the Middleweight German helmet was developed for service in non-combat roles.  The M1934 German helmet was used many by the German Police & Fire personnel.    These German helmets typically are black in color with a Police decal on the left side and the National party decal on the right side.   The vent holes look more like what you see on a salt shaker with multiple small holes.   These are the most common of the WWII German helmets and don't enjoy the same values as the German helmets used in combat.  

WWII German Police Helmet

M1934 Civic Fire Police German helmet


The M1938 Luftschutz German Helmet  

In 1938, a German helmet was developed for service use by the Civilian Air Defense Corps known as Luftschutz.    The Luftschutz personnel operated search lights, air raid sirens, assisting civilians into bomb shelters, and provided support to Flak batteries.  This type of WWII German helmet is commonly referred to as the Gladiator helmet. These are the very common among WWII German helmets and the least expensive German helmets.

German Helmet Air Defense Luftschutz

M1938 Luftschutz German helmet


The M1935-40-42 Beaded Luftschutz German Helmet  

The Luftschutz German helmets can also be found in the beaded combat style.   The Beaded Luftschutz helmets are essentially the same helmets as the M1935, M1940, & M1942 German combat helmets.   Most of the Beaded Luftschutz German helmets are the M1935s or 1940s and they are occasionally found in the M1942 model.   They are just like the combat helmets with the exception of the added bead.   Some theorize that the beaded ring around the helmet was pressed into helmets that were rejected due to quality issues.   I am not sure that I subscribe to that theory as I have encountered very high quality beaded Luftschutz German helmets.    The Beaded Luftschutz German helmets are normally a really nice deep Blue paint color, and are the most desirable of the Luftschutz helmets.   

WWII German Air Defense Luftschutz Helmet

M1940 Beaded Luftschutz German helmet



World War II German Helmet manufacturing plants


World War II German helmets will typically have a marking that will identify the plant in which the helmet was manufactured.  Most original World War II German helmets will have the stamp either on the inside, back area, or on the left inside close to the chin strap.  If a helmet lacks the manufacturer stamp, it may be a Post War German helmet or a reproduction.  The Post War guard helmets are fairly easy to identify.  The Air Vent stamp is somewhat bigger than those found on the M1940 or M1942.  Also, the liner will have perforated holes in the front.   Note that some M1942 German helmets received very weak stamps due to what appears to have been a manufacturing issue.   Here are the correct factory markings to look for when evaluating a German helmet.


Marking  Manufacturing Firm  City

(FS or EF)-Emaillierwerke AG, Fulda, Germany

(ET or ckl)-Eisenhuttenwerke, Thale, Germany

(Q)-Quist, Esslingen, Germany

(NS)-Vereinigte Deutsche Nikelwerke, Schwerte, Germany

(SE or hkp)-Sachsische Emaillier u. Stanzwerke, Lauter, Germany

(Source: Baer, 1995)


In virtually all WWII German helmets you will also see the size stamp after the Manufacturing mark, such as Q66.   In this case, you have a helmet manufactured by the Quist firm, size 66 cm.   The sizes ran from very small of 60 cm, up to 70 cm.   The majority of the WWII German helmets were manufactured in size 62, 64, and 66.   Size 60 helmets as well as size 70 helmets are tough to find.   There have German helmets that have surfaced that are in a rare size 72cm.   


Shell Identification by Manufacturing Firm 


      (Chart by Nick Herpoel)


If you cannot find a maker mark in your German helmet, you may be able to identify the maker by the shape of the shell.   This is a bit more tricky but if you study the chart carefully and your helmet at the correct angle, you should be able to note the subtle differences. 




The Transitional German helmets and the M1935 German helmets typically had the National Colors decal on the right side of the helmet and the correct service decal on the left side.   The National Colors decal is a Tri-color decal with Black, White, and Red.   German helmets with decals on both sides are known as 'Double Decal' helmets.   Some M1940's had decals on both sides.   In March of 1940, the National Colors decal was discontinued through order of the German High Command.   Service decals remained on the left side of the German helmets until August of 1943.   The WWII German helmets with one decal on the left side are known as 'Single Decal' helmets.


M1935 German Helmet

National Colors Decal aka. Tricolor


The Service decals were placed on the left side of the German helmet.  The regular German Army helmets are known as 'Heer' helmets and are identified by the Eagle and Swastika in Silver.  The German Navy or Kriegsmarine service decal is exactly like the Heer decal, with the exception of the Eagle and Swastika are in a deeper Gold.   They are fairly easy to identify under a loop as the Gold flakes are very prominent.    The Kriegsmarine servicemen primarily served on ship board, submarine, and coastal artillery batteries as well as provided land based support roles.   However, many Kriegsmarine units were activated into Front line combat.   Only about 1/10th of German helmets manufactured were issued to the Kriegsmarine, thus making the Kriegsmarine German helmets rare.  The Kriegsmarine was also very successful in procuring the M1935s German helmets when they became available in 1935.   The speed in which they adopted the M1935 led to very few Transitional Kriegsmarine German helmets remaining in service.    The Transitional Kriegsmarine German helmets are considered to be one of the more rare surviving World War II German helmets.



Early Gray Lined Heer Decal                     Big Foot "Q" Decal 


Luftwaffe German helmets are easily identified by the Eagle with Wings spread, with the Swastika being held in the right talon.   The placement of the decal is also on the left side of the German helmet.   The Luftwaffe units served in many capacities but were primarily Air Field personnel and Anti-aircraft batteries.   As German resources became stretched thin on the Eastern and Western fronts, many units of the Luftwaffe were activated into Front line combat infantry roles, as were Kriegsmarine units.   The Luftwaffe units are often referred to as Luftwaffe Field Divisions.  


WWII German Air Force Helmet                                 M1935 German Air Force helmet

Second Pattern Luftwaffe Decal                     First Pattern Luftwaffe Decal


The SS German helmets are identified by the Runes SS decal on the right side of the helmet.   Early Double Decal SS German helmets were typically M1916s, 1917s, &  M1935s.   You can occasionally find M1940 German helmets in double decal configuration.   Virtually all of the correct known examples of M1940 Double Decal SS helmets are those that were manufactured by the Quist firm in Esslingen, Germany.    The left side of the helmets had the Nazi Party decal.  The Party decal was a Red Shield, with the Swastika in the middle.   Foreign volunteers made up close to half the the Waffen SS troops, and usually placed the SS Runes decal on the left side of the German helmet.  There were also helmets used by volunteers with SS decals applied on both sides of the helmets.   Waffen SS troops role were mainly front line combat, however they were also involved in concentration camp operation.   

There are five variations of SS decals.  With the exception of the decals by the CA Pocher (pronounced Poker) the SS decals will be based on the factory that issued the helmets.   The Early SS German helmets regardless of the plant were normally issued with the decal known as the CA Pocher (poker).  The CA Pocher SS decal was also used on most factory and field reissued German helmets.   It is unusual to see a CA Pocher on an M1942 German helmet, so be careful.   The ET style decal is sometimes referred to as the second pattern SS decal.   The industry has evolved to the point that the ET decal is referred to as just that, the ET SS decal.   German helmets manufactured by the ET (Eisenhuttenwerke firm, Thale) and German helmets manufactured by the SE (Sachische Emaillier und Stanzwerke firm, Lauter) will normally have the ET type SS decal applied.   The ET decal is occasionally found on the EF (Emaillierwerke AG firm, Fulda) manufactured German helmets.   A good estimate is 10-15% of the EF helmets received ET type Runic SS decals.   There is not any information available that would explain this.   I have had several EF made helmets with ET decals and most found with the ET decals were M1942 German helmets.  


The Q made German helmets had their own unique style of SS decal similar to the Pocher.   The Q (Quist firm, Esslingen) decal is distinctive and often has bronze pulver in the shield, creating a beautifully toned decal.   The EF firm used it's own style of SS decal on the German helmets they manufactured.   The EF decal is a collector favorite and had nice jagged angular Runes.   Normally these will be found on M1940 & M1942 German SS helmets.   There is no data to support any EF type decals on M1935s.   The EF SS German helmets manufactured prior to 1940 normally have the CA Pocher decal.  


Waffen SS German Helmet                   Waffen SS German Helmet                Waffen SS German Helmet

SS Decal (Pocher) Early & Reissue helmets    SS Decal - ET & SE  helmets                       SS Decal - EF helmets M40s-M42s


Waffen SS German Helmet                              Allgemeine SS German Helmet

SS Decal - Quist helmets                                        Party Decal (Pocher)


Most of the earlier SS German helmets (M16-18, M34s, M1935s) were issued as Double Decal helmets with the Party decal on the left side.   The party decal is characterized by the red shield with the canted swastika and white circle.    The SS German helmets with both decals are very desirable and very scarce in comparision to the later issued Waffen SS German helmets with the single SS decal on the right side.   Typically you will find the SS helmets with just one decal on the right side on the M1940 & M1942 German SS helmets.   

The early SS helmets were painted black and normally issued to the Allgemeine SS and SS-VT organizations.    The SS developed combat divisions as WWII approached and the organization became known as the Waffen SS.   The earlier pre-war SS German helmets in black should be simply called SS helmets, or perhaps Allgemeine SS if attributed to that organization.   The War time SS German helmets used by the Waffen SS received the same paint colors as the Heer (Regular Army) and are normally found in Field Gray with variations in color based on makers.   The field gray also is somewhat of a misnomer as many are different shades of green.   The later made M1940 & M1942 German helmets are often found with very dark green paint, whereas the M1935s are often a lighter shade of green (ie, Apple Green & Pea Green).   

In Front line combat, many fought with valor.   They also were responsible for the carrying out of Hitler's final solution with the extermination of the Jewish people.   In spite of this fact, the combat reputation of the Waffen SS troops, has led to the Waffen SS German helmets being the most sought after by collectors.   There are five distinct patterns of SS decals found on the period correct SS German helmets.    Above you will see the five types of SS decals commonly found on the associated manufacturer.  SS German helmets are the most heavily faked German helmets in the marketplace.   I recommend only buying SS German helmets that have been authenticated by an expert.   A very high percentage of SS WWII German helmets on the market are fakes.  Don't let your desire for one cloud your judgment.   



Bordered Combat Police Decal               Un-bordered Combat Police Decal

Combat Police decals can be bordered and un-bordered.   They are a number of variants of the Combat police decal.   Police decals can also be found on Civic versions of the Police helmet, as well as the Military Police versions which were typically Combat helmets.   

Decal German Helmet Kriegsmarine

Kriegsmarine (German Navy) Decal

Kriegsmarine decals are very close to the Heer decals with the exception that they are a very deep gold.   Often, Lacquer toned Heer decals are mistaken for Kriegsmarine decals.   The Kriegsmarine decal found on WWII German helmets is very distinctive and is easily identified as Kriegsmarine due to the deep Gold.   Also, if you notice, the Eagle is layered onto the black shield on a great number of known examples, especially on the earlier M1935s.  You will not see this type of layering on a Heer decal.

Another good resource for decals is the database that has been compiled on the German Helmets Walhalla Forum.   Just follow the link:  http://www.walhalla.se/forum/76-original-decals-chinstraps-and-lotnumber-database/


Glossary of Terms   

As new or beginning collectors of German helmets you will find a World of Terms being thrown around that you will be afraid to ask what they mean.   The more advanced WW2 German Helmet collectors will assume you know what they are talking about.   I thought a glossary of Terms may come in handy.

SD - (Single Decal)-quite simply put, it's a German helmet with only a decal on one side.  Typically the Single Decal SS German helmets will have the single Runic decal on the right side, with the Heer, Kriegsmarine, and Luftwaffe single decal German helmets having the decal on the left side. 

DD - (Double Decal) - again, maybe stating the obvious but the DD German helmet is one with a decal on each side of the helmet.   Typically the DD German helmets are M1935s as in Mid 1940 the German high command ordered a cessation of the Tricolor on the right side of the helmets.   You will find a few German helmets that were early M1940s in a DD configuration during the transition but I can assure you that those are very scarce.   You will also find the occasional SS German helmet that is an M1940 with Double Decals.   That is rare and you will note that these normally come from the Quist Firm.   As a side note, the Combat Field Police German helmets were Double Decal through the entire WWII period.  So you will find M35s, M40s, & M42s in DD configuration on Combat Police German helmets.

Reissue - you will often hear of a German helmet being a nice "reissue".   These most often are M1935s that were brought back in from the field to either the depot or the factory, and were repainted with a dull rough texture field gray paint.   Most M1935s German helmets issued before the War had a factory parade paint, which in many cases was polished to a shine, for parade use.  In combat, the parade finish was reflective creating a dangerous situation for the wearer of the helmet.   In virtually all "reissue" German helmets the National Colors decal (Tricolor) was completely painted over.  Some reissued German helmets retained their original branch decal on the left side and the decal is painted around, some received a new branch decal on the left side, and some were just completely painted over and became a "No decal" helmet.    Quite simply put, a reissue helmet normally is an M1935 German helmet with an overpaint, and often times, a 1940 type configuration with regard to liner, ie, a 1940 dated Steel banded liner.   

ND- (No Decal) - this one is fairly self explanatory.  These are for the most part, the later War M1942 German helmets that never received a factory branch insignia.   You will typically find these with a 1943 or 44 dated liner band, with a higher lot number. 

Camo - Camouflaged helmet - German helmets referred to as a "Camo" are those that have been painted in the field, most often by the German soldier himself.   There are a number of known variations of camouflage paint schemes that were applied during the War.   

The most popular are as follows:

DAK-Africa Corps/aka Tropical - these are German helmets that were worn in the fighting in North Africa and are characterized by a single coat of Tan paint.   The Germans often used the same paint that the ME109 fighters were painted with, called Tan 79.  This is a Tan paint with a nice pink hue to it, and is most often found on Luftwaffe German helmets.   The German helmets worn by the Afrika Korps have been found in a number of shades of tan.   Heer German helmets were also painted in DAK camouflaged paint as well.   Of all the German camouflaged helmets, this is perhaps one of the hardest to find. 

WWII Afrika Korps German Helmet 

Normandy (Three Color) - during the Normandy campaign (1944), a good number of German soldiers, Heer & Luftwaffe were applying a three color camouflage paint scheme to their German helmets.  Normally it consists of a tan base, either spray or brushed on, with greens spray camo in spots, as well as a dark red.  It is worth noting that sometimes the red was more of a brown color.   A common misconception is that all three color (tan, green, & red) camos are "Normandy" campaigns.   It is most correct to refer to these types of camouflaged German helmets as Three Color camos, unless you know that the German helmet can be directly attributed to the Normandy campaign.   Below is a nice example of a Normandy German helmet captured around D-Day in the Omaha Beach sector.   Click on the helmet below to read more about this fabulous and rare WW2 German helmet.

M1940 Normandy Camouflaged German Helmet

Winter Camouflage - this one is simple.  During the winter campaigns, the German soldiers often painted their helmets with a white over-paint.   These normally are brush applied paints and often were what was called a "white wash" or "milk paint", which would scrub off in the spring.   There are also examples of Winter camouflaged German helmets in which lead based white paint was used.  The German helmets found with Winter Camouflage are rare and are highly desirable in the collecting community.

Winter Camouflaged German Helmet

Italian Campaign Camouflage - the German helmets used in the Mediterranean or in Italy were often painted tan, and many would also have some lightly sprayed areas of green or brown.   They could also just one base coat of Tan.     

Regiment 6 FJ Camo - this is a unique camouflage paint scheme that was pretty much limited to use by the German Paratroopers with the Regiment 6 Fallschrimjagers, stationed in Normandy, France.   These German helmets are characterized by a tan base with sawdust and/or wood chips with a green paint in spots.  Typically they were larger areas of green paint and not real spotty.   The green can be spray camo or brushed on.   These are very distinctive and for the most part only found on the Reg 6 M1938 Paratrooper German helmets.   Really a great scheme by the way.  These are some of the most sought after WWII German helmets.

Half Basket Chicken Wire - these are German helmets that have had a period chicken wire cut out and affixed to the helmet by one larger gauge wire going around the middle of the helmet.   The larger wire normally attaches to the German helmet by a larger piece of wire in three places, the right side, left side, and back.   You will almost always find the correct wire helmets with the European chicken wire.   The wire should be zinc galvanized and should show some oxidation and some marriage with the surface of the helmet.    The German soldiers would stick branches and foliage down into the chicken wire.   Below is a good example of the half basket chicken wire German helmet and you can learn more about this helmet by clicking on the picture below.

Full Basket Chicken Wire - These are also German helmets with Chicken Wire attached, but in this case, the Chicken wire covers the entire helmet, and simply folds around the edges.  In some cases the wire is attached to the inner liner band.    

Wood Chip Camouflage - These are German helmets with a camouflaged overpaint in which sawdust/wood chips are mixed into the paint.   These can be found in various colors of paint, from standard field gray to three color Normandy pattern.  They do make for a really nice texture and patina.     

M1942 Wood Chip Camouflaged Heer German HelmetM1942 Wood Chip Camouflaged German Helmet


I know many of you own German helmets or other German WWII items that are named.  The named aspect of a piece definitely adds to the collector appeal.  Especially when the individual soldier can be identified through research.  Suddenly the piece goes from being a piece of 65+ year old metal to a piece of history.   I recently have made positive contact with the Westmoreland research group,  based in Alexandria, VA.   If you have a named piece, these guys may be able to help you find specific information about the German Soldier that wore the helmet or item in combat.   I have seen their research first hand and it is very impressive.   They can not only provide full name and service information, but often can give you copies of original photographs of the soldiers.   Here's the link to the Westmoreland research group:   http://www.westmorelandresearch.org/


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